Taste Test: Pickles
Our pickle picks: the best bread-and-butter chips and dill spears.
Calorie counts on pickle labels are so low that these crunchy treats seem like the perfect summer picnic, snack, and sandwich addition-8 calories per serving on one label we saw. But, no surprise, salt can be an issue: 569mg of sodium for that same single dill spear. Salt acts as a natural preservative during the pickling process, and dill pickles have especially high levels because extra salt is added for flavor. Still, it's possible to pick pickles with paltry salt. For our testing, we only tasted contenders with less than 230mg for chips and 300mg for spears.
Take a close look at how the label defines a serving size, though. The number of chips in a 1-ounce serving varied from three to eight on brands we checked. As for spears, the nutrition numbers may not even apply to a whole pickle; we found several brands that listed serving sizes as two-thirds or three-quarters of a spear.
WINNER BEST DILL SPEAR: Great Value Kosher Dill Spears, $1.98 (24 ounces), 280mg sodium in 1 spear
Dill purists, rejoice! The Walmart house brand is garlicky and vinegary, with spot-on pucker factor and just a hint of chile heat. May never make it to the sandwich plate because you'll want to eat yours straight from the jar.
Runner-Up: Vlasic Reduced-Sodium Kosher Dill Spears
WINNER BEST BREAD-AND-BUTTER CHIPS: Mt. Olive Old-Fashioned Sweet Bread & Butter Chips, $2.39 (24 ounces), 180mg sodium in 6 chips
Seriously crunchy (almost celery-like), with a perfectly balanced sugar-to-spice ratio: Just a hint of sweetness complements notes of earthy, fragrant clove.
Runner-up: Great Value Bread and Butter Chips
HOW WE TESTED: A panel of Cooking Light staff sampled 13 bread-and-butter chips and five dill spears in two blind tastings.