REVIEW: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

It’s fair to say I’m not the healthiest eater, a regrettable side effect of unrelenting stubbornness meeting finicky taste buds. As a result, I’m even more desperate than most people for reasonably healthy food that actually tastes good. And man cannot live on Pirate’s Booty alone, so when SunChips’ new Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor hit grocery store shelves, I was all over that like, well, me on frozen yogurt.

The front of the bag really tries to sell you on the complexity of the tastes you’ll soon be mouthfeeling, showing the chips leaning against a dipping bowl of barbecue sauce, alongside chili peppers and that weird utensil that seems to be used exclusively to drip honey. (Or “hunny,” if you’re a silly ol’ bear.) It’s an intriguing montage that creates the expectation of a great pairing, like brownies and ice cream or Spider-Man and Optimus Prime.

In keeping with the health-conscious branding of SunChips, the label reminds you that they’re multigrain and a stamp emphasizes the all-natural ingredients and lack of MSG, preservatives, and artificial flavors. No complaints from me — their marketing strategy has always revolved around being healthier than the competition (30% less fat than regular potato chips, apparently), and you’ve gotta dance with the one who brought you.

The back further expands on the flavor explosion you’re apparently about to experience. It promises “a bold and unforgettable taste” that will “start the sweetest, sauciest fire in your mouth,” which hopefully is an exaggeration because hey, SunChips… flattered, even curious, but married. It also encourages you to check out their Facebook page, being updated by some eager, unpaid intern even as we speak. Yes, this is why you went to Brown for four years, Sarah. Working your way up!

But enough talk! Let’s talk about the actual chips themselves. Opening the bag releases a pleasing smell, like a somewhat muted aroma of barbecued ribs or chicken. It’s enjoyable without being overpowering, even if you stick your nose in the bag, although why would you do that unless you’re a weirdo food reviewer? In terms of appearance, you’ve seen SunChips before; these look identical except for a slightly darker, more orange shade than the plain variety. Given their focus on all natural ingredients, I’m assuming that is genuinely due to the barbecue coating, not just food coloring to differentiate them in your mental food rolodex.

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks Closeup

With respect to texture, they’re definitely crunchy — if you’ve never had a SunChip of any kind before, basically they feel just like any regular potato chip, possibly even slightly crunchier. But ultimately that doesn’t matter a whit if they taste terrible, now does it? Well, the good news is, they don’t taste terrible; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. The sweetness comes through loud and clear, more like molasses than super sugary, although it doesn’t linger for long. Still, I have a hard time imagining many people disliking the taste, even if it doesn’t absolutely blow you away.

However, I do have a bone to pick, which is simply this: I have tasted spicy before. I know from spicy. And this, my friends, is not spicy. Remember that business about the bold and unforgettable taste? I can’t give it the response it deserves, but suffice to say in gentleman’s terms, that’s a crock of horseshit.

This is as edgy and in-your-face as men piercing their ears nowadays: it still might slightly intimidate young kids, but nobody else is going to be impressed. (And yes, I had three piercings in college. Swimmers are pretty hardcore, you know.) The heat is conspicuously absent, and while I’m not looking to scorch my lips off, the word “spicy” evokes certain expectations that are simply not met. Compared to the sweetness, the spice is like unto a phantom flavor, evident in some pale shade but so insubstantial as to make you question your senses. And that’s the last time I read M. R. James before writing a review.

(Full disclosure: while the upper chips in the bag were almost entirely devoid of heat, around the halfway mark there started to be a tiny bit, presumably due to the spices settling downward. Still not much, but it at least approaches the heat of a typical “mild” flavor.)

Even without more spice, this is still a good flavor that I have no trouble recommending; it’s just that it could have been even better if the spice were commensurate with the sweetness. I don’t know if that would have made them less healthy or if artificial flavors are needed to really crank it up to 11, but it’s a missed opportunity. Even so, try not to let these slip away without giving them a shot; they might not knock your socks off, but they are good.

(Nutrition Facts — 1 oz (28g/about 15 chips) — 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Other Sun Chips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Chips reviews:
Chip Review

Item: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: If you’re going to eat chips, these are among the least ass-fattening. Barbeque smell. Good texture. Effective degree of sweetness without being overly sugary. Spider-Man and Optimus Prime: great team-up, or the greatest team-up?
Cons: An Ivy League English degree is still useless. Misleading ad copy. As much heat as Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman. Letting someone see you sticking your nose in a bag of chips.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Special K Popcorn Chips (Butter & Sweet and Salty)

Special K Popcorn Chips

I had to call my cable company regarding some serious internet connectivity issues over the weekend. For those of you who have ever had the misfortune of having to contact your cable provider for any reason, I don’t have to tell you that it was a long, tedious process, fraught with drama. There was shouting, pleading, whining, and some profanity, and that was before I even spoke to a person. The automated system kept misinterpreting my voice commands, putting me on hold, and then kicking me out to the main menu in an endless loop of broken promises.

What kept me sane in those terrible moments before I finally broke through to an actual human being? Some crispy, corn-based snacks in the form of geometric shapes. Special K’s new Popcorn Chips are crunchy baked snacks that taste like tortilla chips but look like Styrofoam triangles. And they are the one thing that kept me from crossing completely over from blissful, crunchy serenity waiting on hold for 20 minutes to completely losing my shit on some innocent customer service representative who probably hates their job as much as I hate their company’s chirpy, ad-filled phone queue soundtrack.

Special K Popcorn Chips are made from corn (natch), and they taste like it. However, I never got the sensation of eating popcorn. It was more like I was eating tortilla chips. By referring to these thingies as “Popcorn Chips,” Special K may have wanted to emphasize how their snacks are baked and are similar in texture to Pop Chips. Like Pop Chips, Special K Popcorn Chips are low in fat and present a healthier option for those in need of a crunchy, convenient snack. Unlike Pop Chips, they have no association with Ashton Kutcher. See? Special K Popcorn Chips are already winning at life. They also appear thick enough to withstand some dipping as well, so if you’re curious as to whether a Popcorn Chip mixes with ranch dressing or nacho cheese and don’t care about fat, have at it.

Special K Popcorn Chips Closeup

I sampled two flavors of Special K Popcorn Chips: “Sweet and Salty” and “Butter.” Sweet and Salty was the chip flavor that kept me from crossing over into the Danger Zone during my telephone adventure. They’re very lightly sweetened, which makes their flavor profile a bit more complex than I first expected it to be. The sweetness mingles nicely with the saltiness, which provides a pleasantly addictive snacking experience. It makes me glad a single serving size of these Popcorn Chips is 28 chips and not something more restrictive and ridiculous like 10. But let’s not kid ourselves, I could totally go to town on these and eat half the box. What can I say? I like crunchy snacks… especially if the crunching drowns out the umpteenth repetition of some perky bimbo’s invitation to ask my customer service agent for more information on bundling telephone service with HD cable and high-speed internet.

The butter-flavored Special K Popcorn Chips, on the other hand, are actually pretty nasty. Special K… if you’re going to go so far as to create a corn snack reminiscent of POPCORN, you really need to hit the mark with the BUTTER-FLAVORED ones. It’s not rocket science. Just use the fake butter everyone else uses on microwave popcorn. Duh. The disturbingly rank artificial butter flavoring is so strong that it comes off tasting more like fake cheese than butter. And I don’t mean the good fake cheese. This is terrible fake cheese. Like the kind that comes in off-brand, plastic dip cups with stale cracker sticks, which would somehow always be lurking in the office break room at the bottom of the kitchen “snack bowl”… dusty and ignored for what seems like centuries. I’m so glad I didn’t try the Butter Popcorn Chips while on the phone. You’d all have heard about the first-ever long-distance throttling via fiber-optics on the morning news. A real triumph of science. For me, not for the cable company.

Special K Popcorn Chips Single Chip

The Butter Popcorn Chips don’t look all that differently from the Sweet and Salty ones, but you can actually see the fine dusting of “butter” seasoning on each chip. The inherent popcorn flavor of the Butter Popcorn Chips is overpowered by the funky fake cheese flavoring, so I can’t help but wish that they’d toned it down a bit. I don’t know what kind of butter they were thinking about when they created this variety, but it was probably left out in the sun for a while. It tastes like a foot. The butter’s gone bad.

Special K Popcorn Chips are crunchy and flavorful. It’s just too bad that only one flavor is good. They made a serious error with the Butter Popcorn Chips, but I’m not about to give them a call to complain about it. At least not without the Sweet and Salty Popcorn Chips within snacking distance.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 chips (28g) – Butter – 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Sweet and Salty – 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Special K Popcorn Chips (Butter & Sweet and Salty)
Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: 4.5 ounces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Butter)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sweet and Salty)
Pros: “Sweet and Salty” lives up to its name. Nice crisp texture. Decent serving size. Low in fat.
Cons: Butter flavor is extremely artificial-tasting and gross. Foot-flavored snacks. Waiting on hold. Ashton.

REVIEW: Herr’s Sloppy Joe Potato Chips

Herr's Sloppy Joe Potato Chips

I sometimes wonder if potato chip companies aren’t all guided by a collusion of meat company executives in a brilliant attempt to subvert the ideas of vegetarianism and tempt the herbavorically inclined among us to the joys of being a carnivore.

A far fetched conspiracy theory?

Perhaps, but perusing the Walmart chip aisle lends credence to my claim. There’s Chicken Barbecue chips. Baby Back Rib Chips. The proverbial [your favorite cheese here] and bacon chips, and, I’d be remiss not to point out, some horribly mediocre attempt at making chips into a BLT.

At some point one has to wonder if God had wanted fried potatoes to taste like meat, he’d have made them, well, actually meat. Come to think of it, maybe those chip companies are secretly plotting to turn us carnivores against meat by designing crappy “meaty” potato chips.

Which brings me to curious case of Herr’s Sloppy Joe Potato Chips. The All-American staple of thriftiness, the Sloppy Joe technically contains meat. Technically, because underneath all that gloopy “stuff” the lunch lady served to you in the fourth grade, was, I’m told, the denatured proteins of something that either went “moo” or “cluck.” I can’t remember the last time I had a Sloppy Joe, but I’m sure it was sometime during my less epicurean days of meat consumption. I’m also quite convinced it may have involved copious amounts of a canned sauce that rhymes with “Damn This!” If there’s one thing I am positively certain of, though, it’s that said Sloppy Joe tasted damn good, as in “damn my future pretentious affinity for paninis and designer burgers, I want some good old American loose meat!”

Given my more recent excursions into the world of meat flavored chips, I didn’t have the highest hopes for these. Right out of the bag, the aroma seemed to promise the kind of mediocre onion powder and salt infused taste one expects from a chip of wacky flavor designs, although the first bite revealed a tomato paste like sweetness combined with an altogether “mmm” quality one only finds in Woochestireshire sauce. Instantly I’m hooked, suddenly recognized a certain spicy sweetness.

Herr's Sloppy Joe Potato Chips Closeup

The chips themselves are much more oily than Lay’s chips, while the coating is positively dumped onto some chips. What ensues is a flavor and mouthfeel with the simple yet proven flavor notes of sweet, salty, acidic, and dare I say even a bit meaty, while also managing to convey the kind of sloppy and oily mess that a fourth grade fat camper can’t help but smile about. I especially liked the tomato powder element, and detected hints of cumin and some vaguely defined herb that probably works its way into any number of Sloppy Joe’s.

And the potato?

Hardly tasted it at all, but I’m not complaining. After all, I may not recall my last Sloppy Joe that clearly, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a potato thrown in there somewhere.

As a potato chip connoisseur, I’m a bit ashamed to admit how much I like these. There’s a great snackability element, and no pretentious “all natural” claims that hinder the enjoyment of a good junk food session parked in front of the NHL playoffs. Herr’s clearly put some thought into these, and judging by an ingredient list which features tamarind and Woochestireshire sauce, it’s apparent that the Pennsylvania-based snack company didn’t just dump a bunch of salt and dextrose on some oily chips.

A few minor complaints, including only being able to find these at Walmart and a less than optimal ridgy crunch, but nothing to the extent that would make me throw caution to the wind when plowing through an entire bag.

Healthy? Maybe not.

But considering this dastardly chip company’s collusion to subvert the influence of actual meat in my life, I might as well get my kicks where I can.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce (about 13 chips) – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat,  0 milligrams of cholesterol, 279 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.) 

Item: Herr’s Sloppy Joe Potato Chips
Price: $2.58 (on sale)
Size: 10 ounces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Defies reason by tasting like an actual Sloppy Joe. Enjoyable mix of sweet, salty, and spicy, with a zippidy-do-da tang of Woochestireshire sauce. Better than Lay’s BLT chips. Possibly better for you than an actual Sloppy Joe, provided you don’t eat the whole bag.
Cons: Dastardly chip company collisions. Actually sloppy. More “ground turkey” sweetness than beefy richness. Only available at Walmart?  Correctly pronouncing and spelling “Woochestireshire”

REVIEW: SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic

SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten happiness from SunChips, or sunshine from them, if you will. Potato chips have made me happy (and heavy), but never SunChips.

I do enjoy SunChips, but it’s just that they aren’t as gratifying and addictive as regular potato chips. I don’t know, maybe fried potato has a certain place in my heart…probably the clogged part.

Although there was a time when I regularly bought SunChips, but I did so more for the bag than the snack inside. It was when they came in those compostable bags that everyone complained about because they were too loud. I’d use them to get off the phone with someone I didn’t want to talk to anymore by touching the bag to create static noises and telling the caller, “You’re breaking up. I’ll call you later.”

I thought after eating SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic, SunChips would bring me happiness because I love garlic, but these don’t quite do it for me.

This isn’t the first SunChips 6 Grain Medley flavor. The line was originally a Target exclusive and came in two flavors — Onion & Thyme and Parmesan & Herb.

So what are the six grains found in these chips?

You’ll find corn, wheat, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa. All these grains provide 21 grams of whole grain goodness per one ounce serving. However, it’s mostly corn, wheat, and oats, which are three of the first four ingredients listed. As for brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa, they make up three of the last four ingredients listed.

SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic Moneyshot

As for the chip’s garlic flavor, I was hoping for something strong enough to ward off Twilight fans who are on Team Edward and make it uncomfortable for someone to have a conversation with me in a Fiat 500, but it had a disappointing garlic flavor. Actually, I wouldn’t really consider it garlic. The three different cheeses (cheddar, Romano, and Parmesan), spices, and roasted garlic on the chips created a flavor that tastes more like ranch seasoning. Also, the chips aren’t heavily seasoned. I expected to have a lot of powdery goodness on my fingers to suck off, like with many other Frito-Lay snacks (Doritos and Cheetos), but my fingertips were just lightly dusted with seasoning.

The SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic was disappointing, and I don’t ever see myself craving them, unless my body evolves into a baby making machine. Then, I could experience pregnancy cravings that may involve me wanting these SunChips, and other weird foods to crave, like pork rinds, mustard, pickles, and mustard pickle sandwiches.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 15 chips – 140 calories, 60 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Other SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic:
Junk Food Guy

Item: SunChips 6 Grain Medley Creamy Roasted Garlic
Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 9 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy. Not horrible. 21 grams of whole grains per 1 ounce serving. No artificial flavors. No preservative. Getting to eat something called quinoa.
Cons: Weak garlic flavor that tasted more like ranch. Too lightly seasoned. Not addictive, like potato chips. Doesn’t come in noisy compostable bag. Having a conversation with a garlic lover in a Fiat 500.

REVIEW: SunChips Jalapeno Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks Bag

In the large, often nepotistic and incestuous (both words I used to win the 6th grade regional spelling bee) world of Frito-Lay, SunChips is the hippy that chained itself to a tree to prevent loggers from cutting down the local forest. SunChips got pepper-sprayed for protesting animal testing. SunChips likes to play hacky sack.

SunChips also created a chip bag that biodegrades, which is obviously cool and very environmentally friendly. However, people didn’t like it, because it was too loud. Really. Too loud. I’m far from a treehugger, but seriously people, don’t be assholes. It’s a bag that dissolves in 14 weeks. Deal with the crinkling. Not to be deterred, SunChips created a quieter bag, because SunChips is determined to save the planet, despite all those audio-sensitive butt-horns. Unfortunately, only specially-marked bags of Original flavor are biodegradable, so my bag of Jalapeño Jack SunChips will be hanging around the landfill for a while.

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks All Natural

Do not despair, however; these chips are good for you! Made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives and no artificial flavors, Jalapeño Jack also contains no MSG, 0 grams of trans fat, and 18 grams of Whole Grain! It’s like a Whole Foods store in a bag!

Ehhh, not so fast there, buddy. I always thought SunChips were a healthier alternative to other chips, but I stumbled across an interesting comparison – Jalapeño Jack SunChips just baaaarely edge out Tostitos Artisan Recipes chips in calories and fat, actually contain more sodium, and contain just one gram more of dietary fiber. Now, granted, nutritionally they blow away the greasier chips, but I hold SunChips to a higher standard, and I found it surprising that Tostitos could go toe-to-toe with Frito-Lay’s “healthy” chips.

But hey! 18 grams of Whole Grains! Let’s see Tostitos beat THAT! (They could actually beat that I have no idea.)

Okay, now that I’ve blown your mind and shattered your worldview about the nutritional integrity of SunChips, let’s get to the chips themselves. I have to admit, I’ve had SunChips once, maybe twice, many years ago. I’ve never been a consciously healthy eater (shocking!), so when I’m in the chip aisle, there’s about 200 other chips I’d rather buy than SunChips. I have a very vague memory of what they taste like. I’ll take this as an advantage, as I can come to the table with a fresh palate.

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks Chips

From the mouth of SunChips: “Jalapeño Jack flavored SunChips are just the right balance of tongue-tingling Jalapeño with the creamy smooth taste of Monterey Jack cheese. Our newest creation is for bold snackers who like a chip with a little kick.”

One point to SunChips for actually utilizing the diacritical tilde. I go into an unrealistic rage whenever I see someone use the word jalapeno. I worked for a company owned by Spaniards for four years, and alt+0241 comes as naturally to me as using the shift button instead of caps lock when I’m yelling at someone on the Internet. Make the extra effort, people. It will give grammar spergs one less twitch of the eye.

Where was I? Oh, right, the chips! I actually didn’t think jalapeño would be a good fit with so much whole grain. Not sure why; they just didn’t seem like a good fit. I also figured the flavors would be pretty subtle. Of the few SunChips I’ve had, they were all Original flavor, but it just seemed to me that SunChips would go the muted route.

I was pleased to find I was wrong on at least one of these points. When I opened the bag, I was greeted with a very strong but pleasant spicy cheese smell. The cheese came through more in the smell than the taste, however. There was a nice hint of cheese when the chip hit my tongue, but it was quickly overshadowed by the wheat flavor of the chip itself and the Jalapeño flavor powder. They claim the cheese to be Monterey Jack, but really, let’s be honest, there’s pretty much two cheese flavors in the chip world – “nacho” and “generic cheese flavor that can be passed off as pretty much any other cheese”. At least, that’s how I feel. Perhaps my palate isn’t refined enough to distinguish between different cheese powders.

The Jalapeño heat built as I went along, with the height of the heat being just right. It definitely wasn’t bashful, but it didn’t hit you over the head, either. I enjoyed the wheat flavor, too, but I’m not sure the two should have joined forces. It wasn’t disgusting, or even disconcerting; I just feel like the two flavors were fighting for dominance over my taste buds, instead of holding hands and being friends.

I didn’t not like SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks, but they didn’t exactly wow me. The hint of cheese is tasty, but quickly disappears, and the Jalapeño and wheat don’t mesh as well as say, Jalapeño and tortilla fit together. With so many other chip options out there, I’ll probably never buy these again, but if they were offered to me as a free snack, I wouldn’t turn them down. For die-hard SunChip fans, they might be worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 15 chips – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% iron, 6% vitamin E, 2% niacin, 4% phosphorus, 2% magnesium.)

Item: SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Price: $2.49 (on sale; reg. $3.79)
Size: 10.5 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Jalapeño has just the right of heat. Diacritical tildes. All-natural ingredients with 18 grams of Whole Grains. Hippies getting pepper sprayed. Hint of cheese was good.
Cons: Jalapeño and wheat didn’t go together that well. Hacky sacks. Not enough cheese flavor. Jalapeno. SunChips not as healthy as you’d think.

REVIEW: Tostitos Artisan Recipes Tortilla Chips (Fire-Roasted Chipotle and Roasted Garlic & Black Bean)

Tostitos Artisan Recipes Fire-Roasted Chipotle and Roasted Garlic & Black Bean

Poor Tostitos. They’re like the pink Corvette of the Barbie world: oh, sure, little girls play with the Corvette all the time, but only when Barbie’s having a Thelma & Louise-esque adventure with her best friend Teresa or Barbie, Trichelle, Chandra, and Zahara (what is with these names?) are going on a shopping trip. Otherwise, the Corvette stays parked off to the side, lonely and forgotten. The only little girls who play with the Corvette alone are the ones that may grow up wearing flannel shirts and favoring mullets.

The point I’m trying to make here is that, while other Frito-Lay products like Doritos and Cheetos get flavor makeovers approximately once every six seconds, Tostitos remains stalwart in its commitment to be just a tortilla chip, a vessel for you to dunk into the ten different varieties of Tostitos-branded dips. Oh sure, there’s some variety – you can get them round, multigrain, even with a hint of jalapeño or lime, but Tostitos will never coat your fingers with a thick layer of flavor dust.

However, Tostitos will be naked no more, thanks to their new line of Artisan Recipes. Somebody’s little brother stole the pink Corvette, and now it’s in a demolition derby with a Tonka backhoe and a monster truck named “The Crusher.” Good luck to you, pink Barbie Corvette.

Oh, right, we’re talking about chips, not reliving my childhood. The Artisan Recipes line only has two flavors for now: Fire-Roasted Chipotle and Roasted Garlic & Black Bean. I am assuming, depending on their level of success, that more flavors will be forthcoming.

I’ll let Frito-Lay’s press release do the explaining: “Tostitos Artisan Recipes offers tortilla chip fans an exciting new twist on this popular snack. Each flavor is made from high-quality whole-white corn and real ingredients like black beans, garlic and chipotle peppers that are baked in before cooking for a truly one-of-a-kind flavor.”

Ohhh, I get it now! The twist here is that the flavors are baked in. Tostitos is crashing the flavor party with an innovative idea – flavorful chips without the messy fingers. Chips for grown-ups! Or, at least, chips for grown-ups who have enough dignity not to suck the inches of flavor dust off their fingers in public. I don’t fall into that category, but I’ll give these chips a try anyways.

Fire-Roasted Chipotle

Tostitos Artisan Recipes Fire-Roasted Chipotle Chip

Let’s start with the good: Artisan Recipe Tostitos have a great texture. They are thinner and more delicate than regular Tostitos, with a nice, light crunch as you chew them. The tortilla taste is also very pleasant; they taste a lot like regular Tostitos, but with more of a pronounced grain flavor. This is because, unlike regular Tostitos (I consider Restaurant Style to be the de facto standard Tostitos), Artisan Recipes have eight more grains besides the standard whole white corn. Some of those grains include whole rye, barley, and triticale. I had to look up exactly what triticale is. Apparently science wanted to make wheat and rye have a baby, and triticale was the result. I don’t know why this was something that needed to happen, but regardless, it did, and now it’s in my stomach.

All these grains smashed together make a tasty chip, but that’s also a problem – where’s the chipotle? I had to get through chip number three before I could taste a bit of spice and feel any heat building up on the back of my tongue. I kept waiting for the smoky pepper flavor of chipotle to emerge, but it never did. Just a bit of spice and that little touch of heat at the end.

Artisan Recipes’ whole schtick is that the flavor is baked in, but there’s still flavor dust on the chips. It’s definitely more subtle than, say, a Nacho Cheese Dorito, but my fingers definitely had little red flecks on them along with the salt. I can’t call Tostitos a liar, because they never say outright that all the flavor is “baked in”, but they do fail to mention that it’s getting a little support from flavor dust. And yet, even with the backup, the chipotle flavor fails to come through, which is disappointing.

Roasted Garlic & Black Bean

Tostitos Artisan Recipes Roasted Garlic & Black Bean Chip

Predictably, these have the same nice, delicate texture of the Fire-Roasted Chipotle, but unfortunately, they also have the same affliction: lack-of-flavoritis. Those big flecks must be the black bean that’s baked in, but in the ingredients list, they are dried black beans. How could that possibly bring in any flavor?

As for the roasted garlic, I managed to find approximately one out of every four chips that tasted like garlic powder. On some of these chips, you can actually see a faint orange powder, which is curious. In fact, maybe my mouth is just inventing flavors at this point in a desperate attempt at tasting something, but I got more of a really subtle cheese taste on the chips that didn’t taste like garlic powder. Even though I had to work to find the faintly garlic-flavored chips, when I did get one, I really enjoyed it.

I had high hopes for Artisan Recipes Tostitos. I was hoping to get some rich flavor from baked-in, authentic ingredients. And, honestly, if they hadn’t had such descriptive, delicious-sounding names, I would have given them high marks for being a light tortilla chip with a good crunch. I risk losing my Processed Foods Only membership card by saying this, but I found the addition of eight extra grains made for a more flavorful tortilla chip. Unfortunately, the chipotle lacked smokiness and had only a mild heat in regards to flavor, the black beans were sadly absent, and the garlic was hit-and-miss. That said, the subtlety of these flavors would add a little extra depth when dunked into a Tostitos-branded dip, but they shot themselves in the foot and made the chips too fragile to support most dips. Tostitos Artisan Recipes are great chips in both texture and tortilla/grain flavor, but don’t expect your taste buds to be lovingly caressed by chipotle, garlic, or black beans.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – Fire-Roasted Chipotle – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% calcium, 2% iron, 2% thiamin, 2% riboflavin, 2% niacin, 2% vitamin B6, 6% phosphorus, 6% magnesium and 2% zinc. Roasted Garlic & Black Bean – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% calcium, 2% iron, 2% thiamin, 8% riboflavin, 4% niacin, 4% vitamin B6, 4% phosphorus, 4% magnesium and 2% zinc.)

Item: Tostitos Artisan Recipes Tortilla Chips (Fire-Roasted Chipotle and Roasted Garlic & Black Bean)
Price: $3.49 and $2.49 (on sale, regularly $3.99)
Size: 9 ¾ oz. bags
Purchased at: Fry’s Foods and Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Fire-Roasted Chipotle)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Roasted Garlic & Black Bean)
Pros: Good tortilla chip texture. Re-creating Thelma & Louise with Barbies. Lots of healthy, tasty grains. Demolition derbies. Garlic flavor on some chips was delicious. Chipotle delivered a little heat.
Cons: Chips didn’t live up to baked-in flavor promise. Little brothers stealing your Barbie Corvettes. Lack of smoky flavor in Fire-Roasted Chipotle. “Trichelle.” No black bean flavor.