By Gina K. Briles, Cheapism.com
Even with the holidays over and the New Year in full swing, plenty of celebrations lie ahead. Whether you're stress-eating during the big game or munching your way through the Hollywood awards season, chips and salsa make the perfect snack. Cheapism set out to find some low-cost contenders that don't skimp on flavor. We assembled a panel of 11 enthusiastic snackers and conducted a blind taste test of 14 brands of tortilla chips and 19 inexpensive salsas. We also took into account tastings and reviews by other outlets whenever possible. In the end, we were left with five nominees in each category. And the winners are …Salsa and chips make a winning combo on game-day!
Related: Best inexpensive LCD TVs
Top Tortilla Chips.
- Santitas Tortilla Triangles ($2 for 11 oz.): These chips, well known for the price printed directly on the bag, won over tasters with their "good flavor," "medium crunch," and "nice salty balance." Snackers eagerly gobbled down both the white- and yellow-corn versions and awarded them the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively. Expert testers from magazines and popular consumer product review sites also place Santitas at the summits of their chip lists, praising the lightness and crunch, as well as the appealing corn flavor.
- Kirkland Signature Tortilla Strips ($3.59 for 48 oz.): Manufactured by Mission, these Costco house-brand tortilla chips were deemed "ok" or "good" by all our testers. They presented an ideal combination of texture and thickness, prompting one taster to comment they were "sturdy enough for salsa." While many relished their "alternative, rectangular shape," some found it cognitively dissonant and hungered for the traditional triangle.
- Calidad White Corn Tortilla Chips ($1.99 for 12 oz.): "Light" was the word most frequently used to describe these triangular, white corn dippers. Our panel mentioned their "light crunch," "light corn flavor," and "light color," which translated into a taste and consistency tasters found pleasing. These chips settled into a comfortable middle ground when it came to saltiness; palates at the high and low ends of the sodium spectrum were happy. These delicate chips pair best with thinner dips.
- Archer Farms Organic Restaurant-Style White Corn Tortilla Chips ($2.50 for 14 oz.): Target's house-brand tortilla chips were the favorite organic option with our panelists. Although they said the chips have "little corn flavor," tasters concluded they deliver a "good mix of salt and crunch" and laud them for being "thinner than other organic chips." While some asserted they were "nondescript," most agreed they would "do fine at a party." These chips also rated well in a taste test conducted by Epicurious, receiving the third-highest overall score out of 21 tortilla chips tested.
Related: Super bowl game-day alternatives
- Simple Truth Natural Blue Corn Tortilla Chips ($1.69 for 9 oz.): Like many of the natural and organic chips our panel tested, these were declared "too thick." A few tasters called them the "best of the natural and organics," remarking on the "very good, sweet corn flavor." Some appreciated the "milder" taste, but others insisted they didn't have enough salt. On balance these Kroger house-brand natural chips are a tasty choice, especially for chip lovers who are particularly sensitive to sodium.
- Great Value Mild Chunky Salsa ($1.98 for 24 oz.): This Walmart-brand salsa satisfied snackers with a "good consistency" and a mild taste that was deemed "not too overpowering." Other points in its favor were the "good mix of chunks" and "nice, large pieces of veggies." Some panelists decided the flavor was "decent" but "not a standout," although two testers declared this their favorite traditional salsa. This was one of the few salsas we tested that everyone liked.
- Simple Truth Organics Mild Salsa ($2.59 for 16 oz.): This Kroger house brand was one of the few organic and natural salsas we sampled that found favor with our panel. Its "sweet, smoky" flavor appealed to most tasters, although some weren't won over by the "chunky but runny" consistency. There was mention of a "different spice" element in the salsa that was variously identified as "chipotle or smoked pepper" and a "cumin flavor."
- Simple Truth Organic Tomatillo Medium Salsa ($2.59 for 16 oz.): Our tasting panel agreed that this Kroger-brand green salsa boasted the "best taste of the verdes" we tested. They highlighted the "good thickness" and a "fruity flavor" with "slight spice." These attributes were sufficient for three of our tasters to declare this their favorite salsa verde overall and a majority to reward it with positive reviews.
Related: Affordable handheld vacuums
- Safeway Select Salsa Verde ($2.99 for 24 oz.): Panelists described this salsa verde, or green salsa, as "sweet," with an "interesting smoke flavor" and a "good thickness." A few of our testers "would have preferred spicier," but almost all agreed that this Safeway-brand salsa brought a "nice aftertaste" to the party. Two tasters selected this as their favorite verde, four generally liked it, three gave it a thumbs-down, and the rest of our crew was neutral.
- 365 Salsa ($2.29 for 16 oz.): Boasting "nice spice," "good consistency," and a "good vinegar balance," this house-brand salsa from Whole Foods garnered good marks from our panel, although not quite top billing. Tasters were drawn to the "nice tang" and "sweet aftertaste" of 365 Salsa and "enjoyed the chunks of veggies." Snackers with a yen for some "acidity" and "peppery" flavors will find this satisfying.
More from Cheapism:
Budget slow cooker recommendations
Top cheap cruises
Best inexpensive tablets
For more ways to save, follow Cheapism on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
To stay on top of the latest posts, read the Cheapism Blog.