Every Flavor Of PopCorners, Ranked Worst To Best

Whether you're part of the salty crew, the savory gang, or the sweet tooth circle, we can all agree on one thing — you gotta love a good snack. Finger foods are the trusty companion to movies, working from home, studying, and — as much as no one wants to admit it — way too much screen time. Not all snacks are created equal, though, and some leave a more lasting feeling of satiation and satisfaction than others. Some snacks contribute to your daily nutritional needs, while others are simply feed the soul. You won't find anyone dissing snack time here, but we can still appreciate a healthier take on the king of snacks, the prime junk food — we're talking about none other than the chip.

Chips are most often known to be salty, greasy, crispy slices of fried potatoes — in the best way, of course. But PopCorners offers a new perspective with air-popped corn chips. There are seven flavors in the regular product line, plus two additional varieties — Flex, a protein-boosted version, and Flourish, a popped chip made from vegetables. If you aren't already familiar with the brand, which is owned by Frito-Lay, you will be after Super Bowl 2023, which will include a PopCorners commercial inspired by "Breaking Bad" depicting the show's two infamous protagonists running an illegal production of popcorn chips rather than narcotics. So which flavor of this chip is the kingpin? We got our hands on every flavor in the PopCorners standard lineup to find out.

7. Sour Cream and Onion

Sour cream and onion is a classic potato chip flavor. Something about the tangy flavor combined with a chip's greasy saltiness is a match made in snack heaven. But will that perfect texture and flavor harmony translate to a healthier corn chip? After all, PopCorners are never fried, the brand proudly proclaims, and contain half the fat content of traditional potato chips (per Maple Holistics).

It turns out that popcorn chip's Sour Cream and Onion flavor is significantly more mild than their potato chip counterpart, such as the Lay's sour cream and onion variety. It's either that, or the fact that popcorn make for a more intensely flavored chip, while potato chips tend to offer a blank slate to flavorings. When it's not a plain chip, you don't really taste the potato as much as it is just a vessel for the other seasonings. We would have loved to turn the dial up just a bit higher on the flavor, although if you normally find sour cream and onion to be an overwhelming taste, this may be the perfect opportunity for some redemption.

6. Sweet Chili

Don't let the chili peppers on this bag fool you. These are not dragon-fire-breathing, face-melting chips — who actually enjoys that level of spice anyway? Regardless, we would have liked to see more gusto from the PopCorners Sweet Chili flavor. These are the sweet chili chips for people who normally can't tolerate the spice of sweet chili sauce. The heat was very mild, but still noticeable — a pleasant middle ground that makes it an excellent crowd-pleasing snack when you don't know the taste preferences of your guests. 

Along with sugar and chili, PopCorners says that this flavor's seasoning is comprised of garlic, paprika, and onion; we picked up on the former two, but the onion was a sneakier taste component that didn't become evident until we had tried several chips. Unfortunately, the sweetness was a bit of an underperformer in this PopCorners variety. In our opinion, the best sweet-chili-flavored foods give you a swift kick to the chin with spicy chili, followed by an immediate soothing sweetness, and this one just fell a tad short on delivering. 

Overall, we might have guessed that this seasoning was actually just a spicy barbecue sauce flavoring had we tried these chips in a blind taste test. The groundwork for the flavor is there, but it needs to be pumped up a couple levels to meet our standards for sweet chili snacks. However, if a very mild flavor helps you enjoy spicier things, then we believe you'll find this variety does the trick.

5. White Cheddar

Cheese-flavored snacks walk a fine line between boasting the taste of authentic, quality cheese and tasting noticeably artificial, like the electric-orange cheese dust coating on many popular packaged cheese snacks. According to the ingredient list posted on PopCorners, these popcorn chips are made with real cheddar cheese. And we are happy to report that there's definitely no manufactured synthetic flavor to this snack. In fact, there's only good news about the PopCorners White Cheddar chips. The cheddar flavor is nice and sharp without being unpleasant and overwhelming, the powder evenly coats each chip, and the taste is intense enough to hold up to dips while mild enough to be enjoyed on their own.

Overall, we wouldn't say that the white cheddar flavor is as interesting as some of the other PopCorners varieties, but we absolutely recommend this one to anyone who doesn't care for spicy flavors, like in the PopCorners Spicy Queso or Sweet Chili, or oniony tastes like in Sour Cream and Onion. 

4. Kettle Corn

If you've ever devoured some fresh, hot kettle corn right out of the bag at a carnival, you can agree that kettle corn-flavored snacks face a high standard to meet. It's difficult to replicate that warm, buttery sweetness that lingers in the mind and heart after childhood summers spent at the county fair — but perhaps that's just the nostalgia speaking. In any case, the hopes were high digging into this particular sample. PopCorners did not disappoint in the flavor department. There was a wonderful indulgent butteriness to these chips, balanced by a slight, but not overpowering, sweetness. Add to that the inherent taste of popcorn and these chips combine the adult need for a low-fat, calorie-friendly snack with the carnival treat that our inner child desires. 

However, the Kettle Corn PopCorners were just shy of a perfect score. Perhaps we were unlucky enough to get an off batch, but the butter and seasoning in these chips were very poorly dispersed; one chip would be drenched, and another barren. This wasn't something we encountered in any of the other varieties, so maybe there was something amiss here. If our next bag of Kettle Corn PopCorners has evenly distributed flavor across the chips, we'd score this variety a 10 out of 10.

3. Spicy Queso

From nachos to chili dogs and more, queso is the hero of many dishes. Queso's best form is arguably just a big bowl of fresh, hot queso dip from your favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant. Between the two spicy flavors considered in this ranking — Spicy Queso and Sweet Chili — we were surprised to find Spicy Queso a tastier option. This snack seasoning runs the risk of tasting artificially cheesy, or overloaded with so much chili powder that the cheese flavor is nonexistent. These are the complaints that we normally have with popular snack products like Doritos. 

The Spicy Queso PopCorners actually ended up being delightfully cheesy without the boisterous taste of artificial cheese powder. And instead of a sweltering layer of heat that overwhelms the cheese, there is a wonderful complexity in the spice, coming from the paprika, black and red pepper, and other ingredients in the chips' seasoning. It's spicy enough to put some heat on your tongue, but not so much that snacking is uncomfortable. 

Another interesting tidbit about the Spicy Queso PopCorners in comparison to Doritos comes in how each brand of corn-based chips achieves that orange-red color associated with a spicy nacho-cheese chip. Doritos has a history of using artificial dyes on its chips, while the Spicy Queso PopCorners are hued with annatto, a naturally-derived food coloring made from a tree native to Central America (via HealthLine). 

2. Sea Salt

Sometimes, simple is better. As delicious as all of the other PopCorners flavors are, it turns out there is a lot of appeal in a plain popchip with a hint of sea salt. You're left to focus on the airy, delightful texture of the popped corn itself. For us, this was the perfect amount of salt on a snacking chip, but people who like the lip-smacking saltiness of regular potato chips might pine for a bit more on these. 

These chips make for great snacking all on its own for folks who don't like a lot of overwhelming seasonings, or they can be a vehicle to any dip or spread that you desire. We would recommend the Sea Salt PopCorners for dipping in hummus, especially a robustly-flavored one like caramelized onion hummus. You might also find the distinct corn flavor of these chips makes them a good substitute where you might use Frito's, like as a topping for chili. The Sea Salt PopCorners stayed high on our list because even though they are simply a plain salted chip, this is one we'd reach for again and again.

1. Cinnamon Crunch

No snack spread is complete without something to cater to the sweet tooths out there — and for that the Cinnamon Crunch PopCorners are absolutely the answer. This newer member of the PopCorners lineup is sweet, buttery, and loaded with the perfect amount of cinnamon. This is the perfect PopCorners chip for you if you don't actually care for the flavor of popcorn chips that much; the taste is completely eclipsed by the butter, sugar, and spice. In fact, these cinnamon sugar Popcorners remind us of the beloved childhood cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. If you've ever wanted to eat that cereal hand over fist right out of the box, these chips are your opportunity to do that while still looking like a responsible adult. 

There were two flavors contending for the best sweet PopCorners chip spot: Cinnamon Toast and Kettle Corn. This flavor was an easy winner for the fact that it took the main components of Kettle Corn — butter and sugar — and expanded on the depth of flavor and appeal with the added cinnamon. Imagine serving these chips with a cream cheese dip inspired by cinnamon roll frosting — what a divine indulgence that would be!