Chips and salsa are an essential dynamic duo, but we believe the ultimate tortilla chip should be able to stand alone. The best tortilla chip should have a good corn flavor and a slight saltiness. It must be sturdy and crunchy, not oily and dense. The perfect chip should be crispy and have a firm snap when you bite into it; it should not drape like a soft tortilla. Lastly, it should have a sensible shape, built for scooping salsa, guacamole, and dip.
Related: Taste Test: Salsa
More than 20 tortilla chip brands are available nationwide. There are white, yellow, red, multigrain, and all sorts of flavored options in a variety of shapes and sizes. We narrowed our taste test to three categories: traditional white corn, multigrain, and baked (shape did not matter in our preselection).
The 31 varieties of tortilla chips we tasted are available nationwide and included the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our taste test: Bachman Restaurant Style white corn, Tostitos Restaurant Style 100% white corn, Archer Farms Organic Restaurant Style White Corn, Food Should Taste Good Multigrain, * Tostitos Multigrain, * Bearitos White Corn, Kettle Multi Grain, Garden Fresh Gourmet*, Trader Joe's Restaurant Style White Corn,* Durangos White Corn*, Garden of Eatin' Multigrain,* Grande White Corn,* Grande Multigrain,* Bachman Multigrain, Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Strips, Brad's Organic Multigrain*, Laurel Hill Multigrain, * Baked! Tostitos Scoops!, Pan de Oro White Corn,* Snyders White Corn,* Plocky's Multigrain, Garden of Eatin' Mini White Strips, Xochitl Totopos de Maiz, Herr's Restaurant Style White Corn, Garden of Eatin' Baked, Utz Tortillas Restaurant Style, Trader Joe's Baked, Guiltless Gourmet Baked, Trader Joe's Multigrain, Utz Baked Tortillas, R.W. Garcia Mixt. (The brands marked with * received the same score.)
Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 31 varieties of tortilla chip (baked, multigrain, and traditional white corn). All were eaten plain, without any dip or salsa. We ranked them according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best). We elected one winner within each of the three categories. Who needs salsa when you have a good chip?
Best Overall and Best Traditional White Corn
Winner: Bachman Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips ($2.79 for 12 oz. bag)
Pros: All agreed that this chip could be eaten solo or dipped in chunky salsa. "Has a nice snap when you bite into it," said one tester. "Its traditional triangular shape reminds me of a good restaurant-style chip," said another judge. One summed it up: "All around, this is precisely what you would expect from a tortilla chip-crispy, salty goodness!"
Cons: A little oily.
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Best Multigrain (Tie)
Winner 1: Food Should Taste Good Multigrain ($3.29 for 6 oz. bag)
Pros: This chip's golden corn hue, "elegant" flexagon shape, grill marks, and crackerlike density make it visually seductive. "It's a generous size, and it's evenly salted and a tad sweet and nutty-flavored; in my book, those are very important qualities," commented one taster. "It has a distinct sesame seed-like flavor, which makes me feel like I am being healthy," stated another taster.
Cons: Some felt it tasted more like a buttery party cracker than a tortilla chip.
Winner 2: Tostitos Multigrain Tortilla Chips ($3.99 for 13 oz. bag)
Pros: "Great consistency!" commented one taster. "Not too thick or thin." Judges also praised these chips for their delicate nature and finely ground grains. "These may look healthier, but they sure don't taste it-and that's a good thing!" exclaimed one very thrilled judge.
Cons: "Whoa, Nelly, this is salty!"
Winner: Baked! Tostitos Scoops! ($3.99 for 13 oz. bag)
Pros: "Crunchy, light, and airy!" announced one taster. "I could eat a bag of these in one sitting." Unlike its competitors, this chip has the right amount of salt. "Can't wait to have it with some salsa," commented another. Cons: Basketlike shape makes it difficult to avoid scratching the roof of your mouth.
The Other Contenders: The Bottom Three
Trader Joe's Multigrain chips were considered a least favorite because of their metallic flavor. "They look dry and taste like cardboard," commented one judge. "But perhaps these could be edible if dipped in spicy-hot salsa," suggested another. The Utz Baked Tortillas not only had "no flavor," but they were reprimanded for their fragility. "It breaks apart so easily," mentioned one tester. Another agreed, and said the chip was "soft" and had the consistency of styrofoam. R.W. Garcia Mixt tortilla chips received 0 forks from all our judges. Why? Because they had a severely offensive flavor: "Tastes similar to paint thinner," insisted one judge. Another felt compelled to confirm that the chips had not passed their "use by" date on the bag. Sadly, they had not.
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