Unless you were living on the planet Uranus and happened to miss the Super Bowl and all of its commercials, you no doubt know that a truck can change the way people feel about a guy. But can a truck also change the way people feel about a chicken taco-flavored crisp which is approximately only 42 percent potato?
Such is the question posed by the latest Pringles innovation, Food Truck Flavors Kickin’ Chicken Taco.
To give you some perspective, I guess I should start out by saying I like, but do not love, Pringles. I’ve always found them a serviceable crisp, but let’s be honest, anything you can buy in a can for under two bucks probably isn’t going to conjure up adjectives like “artisan” and “game-changing.” The plainer flavors tend to have an off and fake potato aftertaste, while inconsistent spice coverage always seems to leave the more inventive seasoned crisps falling short.
Yes, a chicken taco from a food truck sounds great, but could chicken taco be any more ambiguous? I mean, chicken taco encompasses quite a spectrum of possibilities; anything ranging from Taco Bell’s “grilled” chicken in a hard shell with iceberg and cheap cheddar cheese to fried and crispy breast tenderloins doused in a bulgogi-style sauce from an up-and-coming fusion chef. The vagueness of it all is enough to make a guy wonder if it’s just another variation of sour cream and onion with a dash of back heat.
Julius K. Pringle clearly had other ideas in designing these crisps because they more than lived up to the unique mashup of flavors that make food trucks such a hit. The first flavor to hit my tongue is the unmistakable taste of braised and specifically dark meat chicken. Intrepid and worldly snackers have seen chicken-flavored crisps before, but unlike Lay’s somewhat recent rendition of Chicken & Waffles, the deep, unmistakably meaty taste isn’t offensive or fowl, at least not as foul as the egregious poultry-themed pun I seamlessly worked into this review.
After the initial blast of braised chicken, a veritable Williams-Sonoma catalog of spices hits me. At first there’s a strong taste of cumin and coriander, with a peppery, cayenne-like back heat which slowly builds. The heat reaches a crescendo, however, and gives way to a slightly floral and acidic note. I hesitate to proclaim it cilantro (or is it parsley?), but there’s definitely an element of relief from the earthy heat of the spices in the seasoning powder. That seasoning gets good coverage overall, appearing on both sides of the crisps.
They end on a distinctly citrusy and curiously sour note, in this case the unmistakable association of a squirt of fresh lime or lemon juice. Maybe the best part is that overly fake potato flake taste is completely absent.
Needless to say, my taste buds have been blown away. There are multiple influences of street food at play on each crisp, ranging from the aggressive spices and slow roasting of the Middle East’s shawarma, to the classic back heat and citrusy relief of your more traditional shredded chicken tacos from Latin America. If combining those two influences in a fusion-style taco was their goal (and seriously, I can pull up a Google search of dozens of food trucks around the country doing this) then Pringles has nailed the flavor with uncanny accuracy.
In 26 years of Pringles eating, this is, unequivocally, the most complex Pringle I have ever tasted, and probably the most realistic mashup of the fusion-inspired food truck flavors a snack food could ever hope to capture. It’s definitely changed the way I feel about Pringles, but is it for the better?
Truth be told my taste buds are confused, caught off guard by flavors I probably wouldn’t seek out had I known they’d be so authentic. Whether or not you find them satisfyingly addictive or unnervingly too accurate probably will depend on your attraction to the combination of assertive Latin and Middle Eastern spices, but one thing’s for sure. This ain’t a trip through the drive-thru and it will definitely leave you with a new perspective on Pringles.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz./about 15 crisps – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)
Item: Pringles Food Truck Flavors Kickin’ Chicken Taco
Purchased Price: $1.50
Size: 5.96 oz. can
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Multilayer seasoning shows evolution in flavors from meaty to earthy to piquant to cooling. Strong poultry taste reminds me of pulled adobo marinated chicken thighs. Uncanny resemblance to Middle Eastern and Latin fusion flavors in taco form. Everything’s better with a truck.
Cons: Not the most craveable flavor. Lacks broad appeal of “simpler” seasoning. Could probably be better as a Pringles Tortilla flavor. Tastes about 0.5 percent potato.