Sweet and salty may be a time-honored flavor combination, but it truly shines during the winter holidays. After all, this is the time we drizzle cranberry sauce over savory meat and vegetable side dishes. We hoard peanut brittle in tins. We melt Rolos on top of pretzel snaps, crown them with M&M’s, and devour them before even arriving at the holiday cookie exchange. Maybe it is just the sheen of the season, but something about these traditions really elevates the sweet-and-salty pairing in a way no other time of year can claim.
Lay’s Sweet & Salty Dipped Clusters takes the timeless flavor combination and adds holiday sprinkles on top —- literally. Described on the package as a “dipped potato snack,” the bite-sized, bell-shaped clusters consist of potato chip pieces, crisped rice, almond bits, milk chocolate coating, and red and green nonpareils.
The salty body of each cluster contains the potato chips, crisped rice, and almonds. The potato chip flavor dominates, but the other ingredients contribute to the snack’s intense crunchiness. The almonds provide a hint of nutty flavor, but I’m not sure I would have been able to identify almonds as an ingredient. Because the pieces are ground into such small flecks, they are difficult to detect. Like the holiday spirit itself or that one relative who sends a mildly insulting greeting card every year in lieu of visiting, the almonds are not seen, but their presence is still very much felt.
The pieces are packed tightly together in each cluster, which also contributes to their crunchy texture. The snacks almost remind me of a savory Rice Krispies Treat, although without the marshmallow binding.
The sweet flavor instead comes from the milk chocolate, which partially covers each cluster. (The festive sprinkles on top don’t contribute much taste or texture, but they are pretty nonetheless.) The chocolate is the perfect smooth, sweet complement to the salty, crunchy cluster. Together, the components make a delicious small treat that is easy to pop into your mouth during holiday movie marathons. The 5-ounce bag is on the small side, so larger appetites should plan accordingly.
As I made my way further into the bag, I noticed not every cluster was uniform in terms of shape, chocolate distribution, and sprinkle amount. I prefer the clusters that have a little more chocolate to balance out the rest of the salty snack, but other taste buds may beg to differ. The less aesthetically-pleasing clusters are obviously still delicious, but less festive. This might only present an issue if you value perfect presentation for holiday gatherings. Or did you eat all the Rolo pretzels and are secretly planning to pass off Lay’s Sweet & Salty Dipped Clusters as a homemade treat at the cookie exchange?
I won’t tell anyone if you save a bag for me.
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 5 oz bag (141.7 g)
Purchased at: Target.com
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per 6 pieces) 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.