Popular Flavors Of Utz Potato Chips, Ranked

If you grew up in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, Utz potato chips were probably your standby, go-to snack. The unmistakable white bags with blue lettering are gas station staples in some parts of the country, and as their influence has spread across the nation, the brand's cult following has grown even larger.

The potato chip giant was started by Bill and Sallie Utz, who started what was then Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in 1921 out of their home kitchen in Hanover, Pennsylvania, according to Utz's website. They began by making an impressive 50 pounds of potato chips per hour, but over the next hundred years, the company added many more varieties to their flavor lineup. Now Utz chips range from crab-flavored to kettle-cooked, and the lineup even includes pickle chips. But which Utz flavors are the best? And which should be retired like that old kitchen in Pennsylvania? We sat down, threw on some football, and tried them all.

13. The Crab Chip

The only person who might find this chip even mildly palatable is a salty old Marylander who drinks crab smoothies and puts Old Bay on birthday cake. No part of the crab-and-Old-Bay experience belongs anywhere near a potato chip, and though we understand Utz is trying to keep it real for their original customer base in Baltimore, they'd have been better off partnering with Boog Powell and selling a special barbecue chip in right field at Camden Yards.

This chip doesn't taste so much like fish, but the rancid oil that sits in the bottom of a McDonald's fryer after a week of cooking Filet-o-Fish. If you have even a mild seafood aversion, just opening the bag will make you retch. And if you generally enjoy a good crab leg or crab Rangoon, you'll still find this chip pretty gross. It also looks vaguely like a barbecue chip, which means there are probably people at barbecues across America pulling these out of an unmarked bowl and expecting a mesquite flavor. Then again, their reactions might make for pretty good YouTube content.

12. Grandma Utz's Kettle-Style

If you're a kettle chip aficionado, and have enjoyed the unmistakable crunch of a Cape Cod or Kettle brand chip, you might be inclined to reach for Utz's take on kettle chips when faced with choices at your local supermarket. And upon opening the bag, you might notice these chips smell a little richer than their competition. You bite into the chip and think "Boy, that's ... different," until your mouth is subsequently covered in a layer of grease. A few swallows later and your stomach feels like you just swallowed your grandma's grease can. Suddenly, you feel ill, your face contorts, and you search for the nearest bottle of hot sauce to get this horrendous flavor out of your mouth.

This is because you didn't take the time to read the bag for Grandma's Kettle Style chips. If you had, you'd see they were fried in lard. Yes, lard, as in rendered pig fat that makes biting into one of these chips a little like coating your mouth in the trimmings of a pork belly. If you love pork, you might find some savory enjoyment in the meaty, fatty flavor of these chips. If you don't, you may have PTSD for a week after eating one of these things, and immediately feel the need to empty the contents of your stomach every time you think about it.

11. Salt'n Vinegar

Salt and vinegar chips have a certain cult following, and if you haven't been indoctrinated into that particular sect, you're going to want to avoid these chips like, well, a cult. They are intensely sour to the untrained tongue and come with a fresh coat of grease that doesn't do much to help the flavor. The salt only acts to intensify both the vinegar and the oil notes, literally pouring salt in the wound.

That all said, if you are of the salt and vinegar persuasion, these chips are a solid offering, though the inherent staleness of the chip leaves a little to be desired. They're almost like chips that were put out in a bowl at a neighborhood pub at opening, and you're just getting to them at the end of happy hour. The flavor is there, but the texture is not. If they're your only option for salt and vinegar chips, they'll do. But you can find better.

10. Onion & Garlic

The combination of sweet and spicy that onion and garlic chips theoretically bring is a good idea. And if you're not concerned about your breath, mixing the two most pungent ingredients in the kitchen on a potato chip sounds like it might be kind of delicious. Utz was on the right track with this one, as when you get hints of the flavor combination they were going for, you say to yourself, "This is pretty good." But these flashes of brilliance are few and far between, and suffering through the mediocrity for the glimpses of greatness just isn't worth the stomach ache.

Onion and garlic might work better as a rippled chip, as the little grooves might provide good places for the seasoning to accumulate. As it is, the flat chip doesn't hold the flavor powder very well, and you're left with only hints of onion and garlic in most bites. Occasionally, you'll get a chip that somehow defied the odds and got a nice coating of powder. But otherwise, they're a little disappointing.

9. Grillo's Pickles

Another polarizing chip flavor: pickle. And if you're the type who enjoys the garnish on a deli sandwich more than the sandwich itself, this might seem like an enticing option. Pickle lovers will be pleased, as the chip encompasses pretty much all the flavors of a pickle in chip form. All it's really missing is the pickle juice, which would be a little disgusting on a potato chip, and definitely ruin its crunch.

If you're not a pickle person, well, why would you be eating these anyway? They are a little creamier and softer than your typical vinegar-soaked cucumber, so biting into one won't immediately send you running for the Listerine. Still, don't waste your time and money on pickle chips if you're not into pickles. Utz does a good job capturing the flavor of the real thing here, but if the real thing isn't your thing, then this chip is certainly not for you.

8. Sour Cream & Onion

Sour cream and onion chips are a perennial favorite, a mix of sweet, salty, and spicy that many a child can claim as their first legitimate food addiction. Utz's take on sour cream and onion is a good one, packing all the expected flavors onto this traditional chip. But these suffer from much the same problem many of the brand's other flavorful flat styles do, in that the powder has nowhere to stick, and the chips can fall a little on the bland side.

That's not to say the chips taste bad; they just need a little something more to make them top tier. They come off a little stale and cardboard-y, and sour cream and onion fans will be disappointed with the muted flavors. Until Utz can figure out a way to get more of its delicious powder to stay on the chip, though, these will remain underwhelming.

7. Ripples Barbecue

Much like the alternating terrain they create, ripples have their ups and downs. One of the major upsides of a rippled chip is the little valleys, which capture the flavor of a potato chip and make these varieties typically more intense. But with that intensity comes an inevitable backlash, as those who aren't into big flavors might find it to be a bit too much. Such is the case with Utz's rippled barbecue chips.

Now, if Utz had created the greatest BBQ chip flavor on the planet, even those who don't like the salt blast of a rippled chip could cut them a break. But this barbecue tastes like the remnants on your plate after you've finished a rack of ribs, soaked up with a bread roll. It's more greasy than spicy, and lacks the pepper and char that barbecue lovers crave. Still, it offers smoky notes that put it a good few steps above basic BBQ chips. And the ripple valleys create a far stronger chip-eating experience than others on this list. The salt blast can be off-putting for some, though. So definitely chase this with water.

6. Salt & Pepper

Your opinion on this chip is going to be directly related to your sensitivity to pepper. If you're the type who sends back a salad because you found two black flecks on it, you're going to be overwhelmed. You'll find the pepper to be like a club bouncer who won't let you in, one so mean-spirited he pepper-sprays your mouth before you can even taste the chip. So if you're not into spice and want a simple snack, opt for the original plain chips instead.

Now, if you are the kind of person who puts salt and pepper in your soup before you even taste it, this chip is for you. The blend of heat and sodium is amiable on this chip, and tastes like an amped-up version of Utz's original potato chips. It satisfies without being so good you finish a whole bag. But it does bring an oddly sweet aftertaste whose origins we're still struggling to explain. The pepper can also leave your mouth a little dry, but if you're a pepper person you probably knew that already.

5. Ripples Cheese Balls

This might be the most confusing snack on the shelf, because a lesser-trained brain might assume this bag was, in fact, filled with a bunch of cheese balls. It only makes sense – why would a bag of fried snacks labeled "Cheese Balls” be anything other than, well, cheese balls? Utz is clearly out to confuse people here, so make sure you read the ingredients to see what you're getting first. Once you understand these are, in fact, potato chips flavored with cheese ball powder and not actual cheese balls, you can set your expectations accordingly.

These taste almost exactly like the cheese balls you find in the oval container, and the hand-staining, mouth-saturating experience is no different in a chip. The texture is a bit different, though, like Ruffles and Kraft Mac & Cheese had a love child and hid it in a very confusing bag. The mouth feel is a bit disorienting, but once you get used to it, these are a cheese ball lover's dream. Understand what you're getting, and these will be an instant favorite.

4. Original

The baseline, original flavor of anything often lands near the middle of rankings like these, as the classic unobjectionable flavor is neither offensive nor outstanding. Utz, however, does plain better than it does flavors, balancing the right amount of salt, grease, and crispiness in this unadulterated pure potato chip. It has a light texture without becoming a vehicle for the oil, with enough heft and crispiness to know it's there.

If you grew up in a state where Utz chips abound on grocery shelves and then moved away, these are the chips you miss. These are the ones you told people about who'd never been to your hometown, and swore up and down they were better than the local regional style. Part of their appeal may be nostalgia. Part of it may be homesickness. But the classic Utz chip is unmistakable, and an American snack food institution. Which is why Utz's original still stands above most of the innovations that came after.

3. Smokin' Sweet BBQ

Those big into sweeter, Kansas City-style barbecue sauces will be completely impressed by this chip. The expectation here is for something along the lines of the discontinued Lays KC Masterpiece chips, or even a traditional take on the mesquite variety from Cape Cod. But upon first bite of Utz's Smokin' Sweet BBQ chips, your mouth will be blown away by the overwhelming sweetness of this barbecue sauce, and as it fires up the reward center of your brain, it becomes completely impossible to stop popping these chips. That is to say, you might not want to try these if you're planning to eat anything else afterwards.

After you've gotten used to the sweetness, you might begin to notice a bit of a meaty or pork rind flavor. Rest assured, these are not the lard-cooked monstrosities we found in Grandma Utz's kettle chips, but rather they offer a flavor that's pretty comparable to what you'd find on a good rack of ribs. Where Utz missed with putting crab and pork flavors in its other chips, it got right here. And as basic BBQ potato chips go, this might be the best in the business.

2. Ripples

Utz ripple chips take all the perfectly blended chip notes of the original variety, and give them a boost of texture and saltiness that make them one of the best ridged chips on the planet. The ridges are small enough they don't cut your mouth, and the valleys hold little bursts of salt that make eating these an addictive adventure. There's just enough salt on these to let you know it's there, but it doesn't announce its presence too loudly. Like a strong, silent type of potato chip.

The other wonderful thing about Utz Ripple chips is that they actually taste like potatoes. Many other brands — and some flavors on this list — could just as well be hardened soy paste, but the Ripple chips have an earthy flavor to them that sets them apart. For dips or picnics, this is a winner. 

1. Cheddar & Sour Cream

Perhaps by accident, perhaps on purpose, but in ramping up the old sour cream and onion standard with a bit of cheddar cheese, Utz created one of the most complex and brilliant chip flavors ever to grace the snack aisle. The first bite is a wave of flavors that your brain has to take some time to figure out, like the peak of a hallucinogenic journey when your body says, "Just ... hold on a second." Once you've recovered from the initial euphoria, you'll slip into a smooth, creamy river of flavor, where cheddar cheese, salt, onion, and garlic all twinkle into the corners of your mouth.

If you've ever had the creamy garlic sauce from Papa John's, it's a little like that but with a sharp cheddar kick — just replace the pizza with some fried potatoes. For cheese lovers who also enjoy a sour cream and onion chip, you may never find anything better. It's a pleasant surprise from a flavor one might think could be overdone with dairy. But Utz absolutely nailed this one, and while they certainly had some misses too, they can be proud of this creation.