Every Flavor Of Zapp's New Orleans Style Chips, Ranked

Zapp's potato chips are a Louisiana institution, a regional snack that's gone national after being acquired by the potato chip heavyweights at Utz. The kettle-cooked delicacies trace their roots back to the 1980s, according to Southern Living, when a Houston transplant named Ron Zappe found himself unemployed and bankrupt and sought to bring a Texas-style kettle chip to the bayou. He converted a former Chevrolet dealership into a production facility, created intense spice blends to sprinkle on his creations, then packaged them all in colorful, shiny bags.

Over 45 years later, Zapp's is still going strong, producing Cajun-inspired styles that each have their own distinct allure. Some are spicy. Some are sweet. Some are so entrancing that you'll swear someone put a curse on you. But all are unmistakably Zapp's. Which flavor of Zapp's is the best, and which can you leave on the shelf? We tried them all, licked our fingers, and ranked them from worst to best.

11. Evil Eye

The general appearance and packaging of these chips seems altogether menacing: Two, big, bloodshot eyes and a screaming mouth glare out at you from the store shelf, almost as if some poor, miniature person was stuck inside and screaming to get out. The chip itself looks altogether terrifying, about as close to bloodstained as a potato chip as one could create without completely grossing people out.

While the chips might be great for a Halloween gag, as a year-round, not-Halloweeny snack they're pretty disappointing. They could be mistaken for the odious Canadian ketchup chips, except these actually have some spice so they're obviously not from Canada. They're more like someone took a spicy tomato sauce and put it on a potato chip, which just isn't a combination that works. The red flavor powder on the chips will stain your hands, too, so be prepared for that little after-effect. And by all means, don't wipe your hands on your clothes. You'll look very guilty of something far worse than polishing off a whole bag of potato chips, which, while regrettable, still isn't all that evil.

10. Voodoo Potato Sticks

For reasons we can't really comprehend, someone at Zapp's said, "You know, we've been crushing this whole kettle chip thing for a while. How about we try putting these flavors on the stuff that tops Cuban hamburgers?" And if these sticks (or "stix" if you will) were placed atop a Cuban frita, the flavors would meld perfectly, as the blasts of paprika and pepper in the sticks would match well with the seasoning on the burger.

On their own, however, these are just a little weird. They definitely have that same Cajun Voodoo flavor you find in both kettle chip originals. But with the potato sticks' texture, it just feels out of place. If you're a potato stick fan looking for something a little more interesting than the standard stuff, absolutely give these a look. But if you're looking for Zapp's at the store, just get the real thing. This experiment just doesn't quite work.

9. Hotter n' Hot Jalapeno

The thing with spicy food is, if you like it, you love it. And if you don't, well, trying something even remotely hot can feel a little like getting hit by a truck. Such is the case with the Hotter n' Hot Jalapeno chips. If you like spicy food, the heat isn't really all that tough to take. The bag smells a little like a bunch of diced up serranos, and the pleasantly salty, citrusy flavor makes them endlessly edible. They're a little disappointing in the spiciness department, though, as serious heat heads could finish an entire bag without reaching for a glass of milk.

And, really, Zapp's should have gone all-in on the heat here, because if you don't like spicy foods you'll find this stuff about as repellant as a Porsche driver with a bad comb-over. The flavor of the peppers can come off as bitter. Jalapenos are often paired with something to offset said bitterness, like nacho cheese, but Zapp's doesn't do that here, so the intensity of the flavor can be a bit much. That intensity overpowers the rest of the flavors in the chip, like how a car stereo with the bass cranked up too high drowns out everything else. Die-hard jalapeno fans may find this chip tasty. Everyone else should steer clear.

8. Cajun Dill Gator Tators

Just so we're clear, there is no actual alligator meat or alligator-derived flavoring in these chips. And, to be perfectly honest, they taste much more at home in a New York City deli than anywhere close to a New Orleans swamp. Much like how hot food can be polarizing, so can pickles. And if you're the type who hands over your sandwich garnish to that friend who can't get enough pickles, go ahead and skip these. You're not Zapp's target market here anyway.

If you're expecting fried pickles in a chip, this isn't the way to go. But if you enjoy a generally creamy, soft pickle flavor these are actually pretty enjoyable. They're a little like sour cream and onion chips, in that there's a richness that takes away the vinegar bite. Hard-core pickle lovers may want more acidity, but people with neutral opinions on pickles might find them quite enjoyable. Basically, don't use these as a substitute for the real thing. But if you want a slight note of pickle to complement a pastrami sandwich, it's not a bad chip to have on the side.

7. Regular Flavor

If you love the crunchy, greasy experience of a kettle chip, it's hard not to like Zapps original flavor chips. They pack all the mouth-shredding fun one expects in this type of chip, and when it comes to nailing the style these are undoubtedly the real deal. The oil almost saturates the potatoes, giving them a rich, savory flavor that tastes fresh and well-made. They pack a big oily punch, but stop short of the gut bomb you find in Utz's lard-fried chips. For kettle purists, you won't find much better.

But here's the problem: Over the years American chip making has — as it's done with so many foods — conditioned most of us to like things a little less fatty than we used to. Look no further than the popularity of boneless, skinless chicken breast for proof of that. So the typical palate may find these chips a little greasy and hard to eat for extended periods of time. If you're used to munching on lighter chips, these will be a little much. Zapp's gets an A+ for authenticity, but the taste doesn't quite work for the masses.

6. Voodoo Heat

In terms of chip flavor names, this one may be the best in the business, conjuring up images of sultry New Orleans nights where voodoo dolls and Cajun cuisine converge somewhere in the French Quarter. The bag is cool and the name is cool, but with so much hype, one expects an absolute rush of smells, flavors, and colors when opening the bag.

Instead, we're met with pretty much the same thing we find when we open a bag of regular Voodoo chips. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you, but the slightly-spicy vinegar aroma is a bit of a letdown when Zapp's sets the expectations so high. The flavor is almost identical to the original Voodoo: a little bit of a paprika and tomato base with a strong vinegar kick. This one adds a touch of spiciness at the end, but not enough to register a difference. It's about the same interval as you'd find between mild and medium, and for heat heads, it's highly unimpressive. If Zapp's hadn't gotten our hopes up so much we might enjoy this more. But life, as we all know, truly is about expectations.

5. Salt & Vinegar

Salt & vinegar chips are highly divisive. Some people shop for them religiously and consider them the prime expression of a potato chip. Others accidentally grab them at a picnic thinking they're plain flavor chips and go into convulsions upon the first bite. So one's thoughts on Zapp's entrant to the salt & vinegar world will depend entirely on how one feels about this particular flavor.

With that said, we're going to rate these assuming you appreciate salt & vinegar, because this has never been a chip for mass appeal. And if you're into the stuff these things are fantastic. The crunch and oil of Zapp's kettle cooking lends itself perfectly to a salt & vinegar chip, and if you're the odd person who's on the fence about this flavor you'll probably enjoy these. If you don't like salt & vinegar, well, you'll probably disagree with this ranking based on preference alone. But in terms of execution, Zapp's absolutely got this right.

4. Sweet Creole Onion

Word to the wise: Do not, under any circumstances, bring Sweet Creole Onion chips on a road trip, airplane, or any kind of confined space. While they don't have much of an aftertaste, they will leave your breath smelling like a cross between a summertime New York city subway car and a Central Park horse stable. These things should include a pack of gum, or at least some breath strips, as a public service. But if you can handle the halitosis they're a painfully delicious chip.

The onion chips taste a little like Funyuns, but with a crunchier texture. They are aggressively sweet, and the sugar high you get when eating them makes them almost impossible to stop eating. The only reason one might stop, actually, is because whoever is unfortunate enough to be sitting next to you starts uncontrollably dry heaving and you feel a little guilty. But if you're home alone and throwing a one-person pity party because your crush left you on read, this is the bag to devour.

3. Spicy Cajun Crawtators

Before tasting Zapp's Spicy Cajun Crawtators, the name and the crawfish on the bag might lead one to believe it's some sort of Big Easy take on the Japanese shrimp chip, which if you dislike seafood even a little bit is officially the vilest snack on the planet. Fortunately, Zapp's hasn't cursed us with crustacean-flavored chips, and the name is more a reference to the seasoning one might put on a crawfish than the crawfish itself.

In reality, it tastes a little bit like a Cup Noodles seasoning packet sprinkled on potato chips, which is to say it has a lot of salt with a hint of smoke and a ton of oil. It's spicy in the way someone from Minnesota might enjoy, adding about as much kick as a single dash of pepper, but letting the bland-tongued think they're doing something wild. The closest comparison we could make would be to Old Bay chips, but neither Marylanders nor Louisianans like being compared to anywhere else, so we'll just leave that one alone. But if you like spice without heat and don't mind a little ramen aftertaste, Spicy Cajun Crawtaters are pretty good.

2. Mesquite Bar-B-Que

A lot of potato chip brands throw the word "mesquite" around as an almost meaningless descriptor, a term used interchangeably with "barbecue" to discuss anything made with a slightly smoky taste. Zapp's, however, means it, because the first thing one tastes when cracking into a Mesquite Bar-B-Que chip is a strong note of wood. It's rare to find that in smoked meat, much less a chip, and though we're pretty sure Zapp's isn't smoking its chips that's the impression these chips give.

Because these chips avoid the inherent sweetness found in so many barbecue chips, they avoid becoming too binge-able and leaving you with a belly full of guilt when you're done. They're nice to have next to a grilled burger at a tailgate, or paired with a glass of oaky cabernet for an evening snack. The flavor doesn't punch you in the face, though, which might lead some to say they're a little bit weak. We choose to say it's "subtle," and without question one of the best barbecue chips in the biz.

1. Voodoo

Voodoo chips come with a drawing of a little doll with pins sticking out of it on the bag, a good indication that as soon as you open said bag someone else is controlling your body. You might think that sounds silly as you tear the bag open and get a big wave of spicy vinegar in your nose. Then you eat one and notice a slight hint of sweetness coming through. That sweetness escalates until all of a sudden the chip almost tastes like a spicy dessert, kicking the reward centers in your brain into high gear.

Your stomach, common sense, and cardiologist might be telling you to quit after you've had a handful or twelve. But you can't. You go into the next room to avoid the Voodoo chips and somehow wander back into the kitchen for more. Your mind says no but your body says yes and before you know it you've shamefully finished the entire bag in one sitting. And when your friends show up and you're sitting in a sad pile of your own crumbs and regret, all you can say is, "I don't know what happened. It's like someone took over my body." And they may not believe you until they see the doll on the bag.