Ask a food expert about potato chips, and you might be surprised. Even a chef with a five-star reputation for dishing up fancy fare often will share heartfelt and enthusiastic appreciation for a favorite hometown brand. Talking about chips brought up stories of holiday gatherings, fishing trips with Grandma and the singular joys of onion dip made with Lipton Onion Recipe Soup and Dip Mix.
It seems that even if you’re a genius with truffle oils, infused vinegars and caviar, sometimes you’re just happy to eat a bag of chips, no questions asked. In fact, more than one of our experts admitted that a favorite part of the chip-eating experience is shaking out those crumbs at the bottom of the bag.
“That’s where all the seasoning is,” said Rick Mace, owner and executive chef of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, and “bag shake” aficionado.
“Let’s be clear here — there’s magic in the combination of potatoes, oil and salt,” said Sandy Davis, chef for New York-based Roxo Events. “They’re so simple and yet so captivating.”
And you can do more than eat them straight out of the bag. They’re also a great ingredient for other dishes. Perhaps the ultimate “off label” use is as a sandwich crunchifier, and many chefs shared their favorites versions. “Please don’t forget the greatest white trash sandwich of all time: white bread, Miracle Whip, and potato chips,” Davis said. “I couldn’t count the number of those little darlings I had growing up.”
Robin Selden, executive chef and managing partner of Marcia Selden Catering, told HuffPost, “I grew up with the love of potato chip crunch added to my sandwiches, and my favorite is a tuna fish sandwich with potato chips. That crunch elevates the sandwich.”
Another suggestion came from Demetrio Zavala, executive corporate culinary director for Solstice, who said, “One of my go-to sandwiches is made with pickles and Lay’s Classic Chips between bread.” He shared another chip-eating method that he swears by. “I pour an entire container of Dean’s French Onion Dip into a bag of Lay’s Classic Chips, mix it with a spoon and eat the entire bag. It’s absolutely delicious.”
The crunchier the chip, the better it might be as a coating or topping. “I like to crush them up to coat a fish like cod,” Selden said. “It’s like next-level fish sticks.”
Federico Tischler, chef and owner of Well Fed in Coral Gables, Florida, said: “You can make a Spanish potato tortilla with chips instead of raw potatoes. It makes an amazingly smooth tortilla.”
The chefs’ top-recommended chips
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Zapp’s Voodoo Chips
These chips are a “hands-down” favorite for chef Kardea Brown. “It’s the taste that has special meaning to me, which is a combination of my favorite flavors — salty, tangy and sweet,” she told HuffPost.
“I f**king love them, seriously,” said Brian Nasajon, chef and owner of Miami’s Beaker & Gray. “I’m a sucker for both BBQ and Salt & Vinegar. It’s the slow, low cooking temperature that makes the starch set, which gives them that extra-hard crunch. In my opinion, it’s the only way a chip should be. I’m that guy who’s dumping the crumbs from an empty bag straight into my mouth.”
Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
This brand was mentioned by many of the food experts we talked with. “I remember when these first came on the market,” said Karen Akunowicz, chef and owner of Boston’s Fox & the Knife. “My dad discovered them and waxed poetic about their crispness. He was sure that the best ones in the bag were the chips that were almost curled up on themselves, providing extra crispy-crunchiness.”
“Much as I loved Wise chips when I was a kid, my chip taste altered forever when I had my first Cape Cod potato chip,” Rossi said. “They had a powerful crunch and tasted nearly homemade. You could get away with eating a Wise chip in a library but not a Cape Cod chip.”
Selden agreed that they feel like they’re homemade: “Give me a bowl of onion dip, a bag of these chips and I’m a happy girl.”
Chef Marshall O’Brien told HuffPost that he’s “wired for salt” and loves this brand, especially the Salt & Vinegar flavor. “My saliva glands go into overdrive when I see a bag of them at the store,” he said.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Amanda Frankeny loves the brand’s Sweet and Spicy Jalapeno flavor.
Dirty Potato Chips
“There’s almost always a bag of plain kettle chips in my pantry,” chef Adam Polisei of Next Level Brands told HuffPost. “This is definitely my No. 1 brand. A bag of Dirty chips is included with the sub sandwich combo meal I get at Publix, and my two daughters love stealing them from me.”
This Spanish import was another frequently mentioned brand. “My favorite chips on planet Earth are the Torres Jamón Ibérico flavor,” chef and tv personality Andrew Zimmern said. “They’re incredibly crisp, they taste like a real fried potato and they’re deeply redolent with a cured ham flavor.”
“I love the Mediterranean taste of EVOO,” registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Palmer said. “I really prefer these chips to the traditional ones of my childhood. They’re crunchier, more flavorful, and they have cool add-ins, like truffles, red peppers and sea salt. When chips are more special like this, I’m satisfied with fewer of them.”
Selden chimed in and offered an opposing viewpoint to that “eat fewer” idea: “I’m obsessed with the EVOO flavor, which is irresistible. If I open a bag, I cannot stop.”
Harvest Snaps Tomato Basil Baked Red Lentil Snacks
“I have to admit that my favorite chip is not made with potatoes, but with lentils,” registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin told HuffPost. “I really love this brand. Per each 1-ounce serving, you get a good amount of both fiber and protein, which help keep you fuller for longer. Plus, they contain 50% less sodium and fat than potato chips.”
Irvins Salmon Skin Chips
Here’s a non-potato variety that’s a favorite of Zimmern’s. “They’re seasoned with salted egg yolk,” he told HuffPost. “They’re made in Singapore, and they’re now available in the United States.”
Kettle Brand Potato Chips
“I’m a sucker for thick, crunchy chips, and this is my favorite brand,” Mace said. “I love the Salt & Pepper flavor, but I’m also a fan of Salt & Vinegar and Jalapeno.”
Lay’s Classic Potato Chips
Davis said this chip has it all: “Plain, no ruffles, no flavorings, just those magic ingredients of potatoes, oil and salt. I eat them at least twice a week with no dip at all, but when I do have dip, I love sour cream mixed with Lipton Onion Recipe Soup and Dip Mix.”
Zavala is another fan of this OG chip. “I first tasted them with my grandma,” he said. “I would go fishing with her when I was a kid, and she would always bring a bag of Lay’s Classic Chips.”
Trader Joe’s Scalloped Potato Chips With Five Cheeses
“I love a bomb of flavor, and that’s what these chips have,” said Frankeny.
Purchase a 6-ounce bag for $2.49 at Trader Joe’s.