Let’s get the dry (excuse the pun) part of Lay’s and Tostitos Dip Creations out of the way first: they are Dry Dip Mixes, or Seasoning Mixes, depending on if you’re reading the packet or Frito-Lay’s website. The packets say Seasoning Mixes, so I’ll go with that. For Lay’s Country Ranch and Garden Onion, you add the seasonings to 16 ounces of sour cream. For Tostitos Freshly Made Guacamole, you add them to three mashed up avocados.
Pretty straightforward. Now we’re all on the same page, right? Okay, good. Now we can get to the part where I overanalyze Frito-Lay’s marketing strategy and mock innocent bloggers.
Here’s the thing: Lay’s already sells ready-made Smooth Ranch and French Onion dips in jars. They are essentially competing with themselves; furthermore, they are competing with a product where all you have to do is twist a cap off. Tostitos surprisingly doesn’t already offer a jarred guacamole, but they’re putting their Dry Dip Mix up against products like Wholly Guacamole, which requires only that you snip the tip off a plastic bag and squeeze it into a bowl (or your mouth, you freak). It’s also made with real avocados and no preservatives.
So what’s the spin? What angle could Frito-Lay use to make Dip Creations appealing to the masses? To answer these questions, we need to go to F-L’s blog/transparently promotional tool, Snack Chat. Alexia, one of the resident bloggers, was put in charge of trying to convince me to buy Dip Creations, and this is how she did it:
“This year, I’m making a real commitment to improve my cooking skills. I’ve found some great products that are helping me with this goal, like pre-marinated chicken meat — the key to flavorful fajitas and salads. Another helpful product is one we just introduced at Frito-Lay. It’s a line of seasoning mixes called Tostitos and Lay’s Dip Creations.”
Sit down with me, Alexia. Let’s have a real snack chat. Ready? Okay. ADDING POWDERED SEASONING TO SOUR CREAM AND AVOCADOS IS NOT A FORM OF IMPROVING YOUR COOKING SKILLS. Yes, I can see it now: one minute you’re mixing ranch powder into sour cream, the next you’re head chef at a Michelin three-star restaurant. James Beard award, here you come!
But wait, Alexia isn’t done yet. “I’ve tried them all, and all three make pretty amazing (and easy-to-prepare) dips -â€“ the kind people might think came from a family recipe.”
You know what the family recipe is for onion dip? Lipton Onion Soup Mix and sour cream. True inspiration, there. And if you waved a packet of Tostitos Dip Creations Freshly Made Guacamole Seasoning Mix in the face of someone’s abuelita and told her it was just like her cherished homemade guacamole, she would throw a bowl of steaming hot refried beans in your face. That’s just insulting.
I only picked up Garden Onion and Freshly Made Guacamole (a sketchy name for a seasoning packet) and not Country Ranch because a.) I know onion dip like the back of my hand and Lipton has always ruled the school, b.) I want to see Freshly Made Guacamole either fail horribly or blow away my expectations, and c.) I don’t need two tubs of sour cream in my fridge, and besides, I feel like making Country Ranch dip would be insulting to the ever-present bottle of Kraft Ranch Dressing that helps make my pizza crusts edible. Just wanted to clarify, in case anybody wants to scream “WHERE’S THE RANCH?” Don’t mess with an old lady’s schtick from 1984.
The instructions, or “cooking skills improvement guide” as Alexia might call them, are simple and obvious: blend 16 ounces sour cream with one packet of Garden Onion, let it sit in the fridge for one hour. I usually let my onion dip set up for at least six hours, so I had some doubts about such a short time for letting the powder blend into the sour cream, allowing the flavors to meld. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, after the allotted hour, the powder seemed completely dissolved.
The flavor will probably improve after a longer gestation period in the fridge, but after such a short time, I was a little disappointed in the level of onioniness (stare at that made-up word for a while, your eyes will cross) in my Garden Onion dip. The distinctive onion flavor was still there, but it was much more subtle than a dip made with Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix.
I was surprised to find little crunchy bits of onion spread throughout the dip. They added an extra dimension of onion and you could feel the crunch, even with the crispiness of the potato chip I was using as dip delivery device. I’m left wondering if the little bits of dried onion will soften as the dip sits longer, but I hope they don’t, because it was a nice contrast to the smoothness of the sour cream.
Freshly Made Guacamole
Again, simple instructions: mash three large avocados, mix in seasoning, let sit for 30 minutes. It’s not often that I have to handle fresh produce for a review. I found myself in a strange section of the grocery store that had food that wasn’t in a bag or a box.
“I hear this shit comes from the ground, what the hell,” my husband said.
“That’s gross,” I replied.
Despite my revulsion at having to handle something that doesn’t contain 17 different unpronounceable chemicals, I needed to get the avocados for the review, so I put on a brave face and got through it. This “recipe” takes a bit more work; after stirring the Garden Onion, mashing the avocados, and then stirring in the guacamole seasoning mix, my hand was as tired as a desperate hooker’s after giving handjobs at the bus station all day.
I was even more worried about this dip than the onion dip, because the powder looked much chunkier and the instructions called for an even shorter set-up period in the fridge. Once again, however, I was pleasantly surprised; the guacamole was smooth â€“ well, as smooth as I got it before I gave up pulverizing the meat of three avocados with a fork.
Even more surprising was the flavor. I didn’t want to like it, but I couldn’t deny it. It was darn tasty. The onion and garlic flavors were prominent, and while I couldn’t detect any heat or flavor from the jalapeno pepper, there was something in the seasoning mix that gave it that guacamole twang. I kept eating it, trying to find a reason not to like it, but my only objection was the lack of jalapeno.
I wanted to hate Lay’s and Tostitos Dip Creations Seasoning Mixes. I’m not sure why; I guess all of Alexia’s talk of cooking improvement and family recipes got me all wound up. Lay’s Garden Onion didn’t really do it for me; I liked the crunchy bits, but the onion flavor just wasn’t strong enough. I’ll stand by my Lipton’s, but if you like a milder onion flavor, Lay’s could work for you. To save myself from having someone’s abuelita break into my house and scald my face with beans, I will say, there’s no substitution for chopping up your own vegetables and making fresh guacamole. However, I am a lazy, lazy person, and Tostitos Freshly Made Guacamole manages to hit the spot in a surprisingly sufficient way. I was disappointed by the lack of jalapeno, but I can add some hot sauce to give it some heat. In the end, I have to admit, Dip Creations is a solid product line for someone like me who wants to make dip without a lot of effort.
(Nutrition Facts – 1/16 package – Lay’s Dip Creations Garden Onion Seasoning Mix – package â€“ 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, 0 grams of protein. Tostitos Dip Creations Freshly Made Guacamole Seasoning Mix â€“ 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, 0 grams of protein.)
Item: Lay’s Dip Creations Garden Onion and Tostitos Dip Creations Freshly Made Guacamole Seasoning Mixes
Size: 1 oz. packet
Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Lay’s Dip Creations Garden Onion)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Tostitos Dip Creations Freshly Made Guacamole)
Pros: Guacamole had great onion and garlic taste. Taking out my anger on avocados. Garden Onion had tasty crunchy bits. Angry abuelitas. Dips set up quickly in the fridge.
Cons: Garden Onion wasn’t oniony enough. Alexia and her cooking skills. Guacamole lacked jalapeno flavor and heat. The big scary produce section. Bus station handjob syndrome.