We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Lay's Newest Novelty Chips
Chips delirium has obviously taken hold
Photo by Ryan Cady
Look, I wanna start off by apologizing, because this article might come off as a little uninspired. There might be an underlying sense of boredom to some sections, and again, let me apologize - if you feel that, know that it's simply there because potato chips are dumb.
There, I said it.
Think about it. They're just malnourished French fries. Like, name a thing that you could do with chips, like a way that you could eat them or how you could serve them in which French fries would not be better. You can't. Because chips are just these sad little crunchy things, where if you put enough of them in your mouth you're like, "Okay, this kind of tastes like fries, I guess."
Okay, I'll get off the pulpit - this isn't an article about why potato chips are totally inferior to fries (although they are), and I don't hate potato chips. They taste good, just not as good, and I'm just going to get to the review now because I keep repeating myself.
So Lay's came out with some more zany new flavors. The last batch (Chicken and Waffles, Garlic Cheese Bread, and Sriracha) was a rousing success, so based on that process, Lay's once again turned to the Internet to create a new series of exciting fried potato novelties. This round, you can go into your local grocery store and pick up a bag of Cheddar Bacon Mac 'n Cheese, Mango Salsa, Cappuccino, or Wasabi Ginger potato chips.
I'm just gonna be honest with y'all, they're nothing to write home about.
Cheddar Bacon Mac 'n Cheese is good, okay? Like, if it was the same price as regular Lay's, and I for some reason decided that I wanted chips instead of fries (I can't imagine why, but okay), I would buy them. The flavor is nothing really particularly combative, and they're definitely the kind of chip you can keep munching on. I imagine they'd also taste really good as a garnish on top of an actual batch of bacon mac 'n cheese - throw that in your recipe books.
Mango Salsa was actually the flavor I was most excited for. Lay's attached the flavor to their "Wavy" style chips, and when one opens the bag a pretty zesty smell wafts out. Unfortunately, the zest stops there. Again, concept-wise, I was cool with it - I like Mango Salsa, especially when you amp up the spice with habaneros. This was about as amped down as salsa could get; the chips basically tasted like crispy mild La Victoria salsa wrapped in layers of Fruit Roll-up. There's this overwhelming fruitiness to them, and the salsa innards are so mild, it's not worth the suffix. In my opinion, they were just "Mango" chips, and not worth the buy.
I'll come back to Cappuccino, but we can talk about Wasabi Ginger for now. Lay's was smart to slap this flavor on their Kettle Cooked line, so there's already a douchey artisan feel before I even opened the bag. I was pretty skeptical about these - I don't mind wasabi specifically, but horseradish overall can be a pretty overpowering flavor that's usually not for me. One bite in, these guys became a close second to the mac 'n cheese. The ginger flavor is very subtle (probably too subtle), and the wasabi is actually much creamier than I expected. In fact, Lay's could probably go stronger on both flavors and increase the wasabi kick - I could see it going well with the saltiness and thick consistency of the kettle chips.
Photo by Ryan Cady
Here's the deal with Cappuccino. I had a theory. When I first read about these chips, I, like yourself and any other sane heterotroph out there, gagged a little at the thought and shook my head. But then I did some thinking. The notion of a Cappuccino chip is so outlandish, so totally brain-dead-stupid-how-could-you-ever-think-this-was-a-good-idea, that I figured there had to be something more to it. I had concocted this narrative in my head, where like, late at night in the Frito-Lay lab some scientists are joking around about all the flavor submissions, and they see Cappuccino, and they're like, "Whoa, that's nuts, let's make a batch for the lolz," and so they work deep into the night with the kind of motivation you suddenly find when you're doing something for no particular reason, and when they finish, brows sweaty, fingers aching, they open up the oven, and maybe the lead scientist who has a slight German accent and is all enigmatic and stuff picks up one chip, and it's all glowing in the light of the lab and it's perfectly colored, and he takes the whole thing in his mouth and the whole lab is silent, and then he just cries out "It's beautiful!" because it was so unexpectedly delicious and that's why they had to mass produce and sell one of the most idiotic chip flavors I've ever heard of.
But no, like, that didn't happen at all.
These chips just suck, okay? Not like, oh man, these are sooo gross, you have to eat them. They're just unpleasant. The coffee-powder is strong but not so strong as to overpower the weird saccharine undertaste, and neither of those flavors create a "salty-sweet" dichotomy that Lay's was probably hoping for. I was so dumbfounded at the overall mediocre awfulness of the chip that I had to keep eating them...but honestly only for a couple bites, because they're really just bad. They smell bad, they look weird, and they taste bad - end of story.
If you're going in for the novelty chips this round, I say go for the Cheddar Bacon Mac 'n Cheese. No, it's not innovative and it's not gonna change your life, but it tastes good, and that's what matters when it comes to food. Wasabi Ginger is a really close second, but it needs some tweaking, otherwise it'll just underwhelm.
The other two? Don't waste your time. Grab a side of fries instead.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.