The Umami-Packed Ingredient That Makes It Tough To Stop Eating Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos

Frito-Lay may have released over a hundred varieties of Doritos since its inception, but the sweet and spicy tortilla chips in purple-colored bags rank among some of the best Doritos flavors that exist today. A Mashed survey found that of the 599 respondents polled, 169 found Spicy Sweet Chili to be the most underrated Doritos flavor, coming in second to Cool Ranch.

So what makes this flavor so popular and why is it so hard to put down a bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos? Where most Doritos flavors tend to lean towards cheese and tomato-centric flavors, the mild heat, subtle sweetness, and a bucket load of savory umami tang is what makes the Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos a fan favorite. And the source of this complex flavor can be mostly traced back to one secret ingredient: soy sauce.

As well as monosodium mlutamate or MSG, Doritos lists soy sauce fairly high up on the ingredient list of its spicy sweet chili chips, both of which are popular flavor enhancers used in packaged food. More importantly, soy sauce is an excellent source of umami — the fifth taste which translates to the "essence of deliciousness" in the Japanese language (via Ajinomoto). Considering the deliciousness that umami-filled soy sauce packs, it's easy to see why those Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos are so darn hard to put down.

Soy sauce is a flavor enhancer

Soy sauce may seem like an odd thing to find inside a bag of chips, but the fermented soybean sauce turns out to be quite the popular flavor enhancer. Kikkoman India's Director and India Representative, Harry Hakuei Kosato, claims that "leading food manufacturers around the world are using naturally brewed soy sauce to enhance the flavor profile of their product and as an alternative to salt" (via PR Newswire). The soy sauce manufacturer further went on to cite studies that found soy sauce being used as an ingredient in 90% of all processed food categories across 70 countries. This means that soy sauce is used in everything from meat, poultry, and seasonings to snacks, confectioneries, and even ice creams.

The Umami Information Center goes on to explain that soy sauce not only has umami, but it also has the other four flavors that together make up the five basic tastes. Soy sauce adds a deeper savory flavor to anything that it is added to and its saltiness helps sharpen other flavors present in the food. Additionally, soy sauce helps tie sour, salty, and bitter flavors together and it can even enhance sweet flavors. Soy sauce may be what makes a Spicy Sweet Chilli Dorito chip taste both sweeter and more savory, tying the two contrasting flavors together. So if you can't stop eating Spicy Sweet Chilli Doritos and don't know why, fret not: It's not you, it's the soy sauce.