The Mysterious Origin Of Barbecue-Flavored Potato Chips

Whether you're eating them out of the bag while you're reading this or dumping them in a bowl in preparation for a summer barbeque, there's certainly something tempting about BBQ potato chips. Is it the crimson-orange dust that sticks to your lips and fingers long after you eat them? Or is it the smokey, subtle heat that you get when you pop one of those salty joy bundles in your mouth? But whether you're a fan of Lay's, Ruffles, or any other chip, have you ever wondered just how exactly these sweet and smokey fried potatoes came to be?

Potato chips by themselves have a few supposed legends surrounding their creation. Smithsonian Magazine, for example, credits 19th-century chef George Crum for inventing the potato chip, albeit in a moment of fury, for millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt after the latter complained his fried potatoes were too thick. History, on the other hand, claims that Crum wasn't the only inventor, with Crum's sister, Catherine Adkins Wicks, and hotelier Hiram S. Thomas also deserving credit. 

Another supposed inventor, William Kitchiner, was an English doctor from 1817. Although it's still a debate as to who actually invented the potato chip, it's no debate that potato chips are a wildly popular snack food, with 284.37 million Americans having consumed this potato treat in 2020 alone (via Statista).

But in the great mystery of the potato chip, where and when did the first barbeque-dusted chip make it onto the scene?

The origin of flavored chips is tied to 1950s Ireland

According to HuffPost, the man behind giving potato chips their trademark wild and unique flavors is one Joe "Spud" Murphy, a potato chip manufacturer in Ireland. Finding the average, plain potato chip to be less than praiseworthy, Murphy's company Tayto launched its first flavored potato chip — its Cheese and Onion flavor — in the 1950s. From there, the world of potato chips transformed from your plain selection of salted fried potatoes to a collection of fried spuds that could taste like anything from sour cream to onion to cheese.

Okay, so if Murphy is credited with inventing flavored chips, then we can say he invented BBQ chips and call it a day, right? Well, that's not exactly the case. In 1958, the snack food company Herr's introduced BBQ potato chips to the United States, selling the smokey potatoes in Pennsylvania first before selling them nationwide (via Fox News). There appears to be no name of the flavor's inventor or even if there were others who invented the chip first. Most sources simply point to the invention of the first flavored chip by Joe Murphy and the introduction of Herr's BBQ chips in 1958.

Whatever the case may be, as you wonder if there's anything more to the story of BBQ chips, have you ever wondered what you could do with all that leftover barbeque-flavored dust sitting in the bottom of the bag?