Chips and salsa are an essential dynamic duo, and Cinco de Mayo is their big holiday, so we tasted 31 brands of store-bought tortilla chips and 20 store-bought brands of salsa.
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.
Salsa should be chunky enough that it dresses up a tortilla chip but does not run down the sides. It should be multidimensional, with the sweet flavor of summer tomatoes, some element of onions, and a subtle kick of hot chile peppers to top it off.
Click here to view full tortilla chip taste test article or click here to view full salsa taste test.
CHIPS TASTE TEST
Methodology for chips: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 31 varieties of tortilla chips (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.
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.
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.
SALSA TASTE TEST
Methodology for salsa: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of basic tomato-based medium salsas. All salsas were served at room temperature and paired with tortilla chips. We ranked them according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being the best).
Epi Top Pick: Green Mountain Gringo Salsa ($4.99 for 16 oz. jar)
Pros: Prominent chunks of bright-red tomatoes and green peppers featured in this salsa, but also visible garlic bits and veggie seeds, which made it look and taste homemade. "Very distinctive cilantro and peppery flavors, with a real kick of heat," mentioned one taster.
Cons: Though it's marketed as "medium" this salsa was a bit too caliente for some. Most expensive product of the four winners.
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