The 11 Best Plain Potato Chips, Ranked

I sourced more than 30 bags of chips for this taste test. Why? Because I take this job seriously, my guy. I love potato chips. And I also love the fact that there’s practically an endless number of iterations of them.

What constitutes a plain potato chip? Here is where I draw a hard line: pepper. Once you advertise pepper, it ceases to be a plain potato chip. The acceptable variables of potato chips are oil, potato, and salt. Oils like avocado, olive, sunflower, and vegetable are all common and do change the alchemy of flavor in a potato chip. Salt doesn’t vary much, but of course sea salt is welcome in our plain chip tasting. Also, the potatoes: While most brands don’t specify what type of potato they use, like a Russet, Kennebec, or Yukon gold, some are a straight hodge-podge of potato starch, flakes, and binders (think Pringles) and those qualify. These are the rules. Please humbly accept them.

For this taste test, I invited Mythical Kitchen’s Trevor Evarts to help me get to the bottom of the bag and find out what chip is best. Here are the criteria we judged these brands on: texture, salt, oil, and taste. The texture should be crispy-crunchy. The salt factor should be high, but not so high that it’s aggressive. And, lastly, oil is a big one. Most olive oil chips didn’t hit for us; They were just too boldly bitter. When it comes to taste, we want a good potato flavor. Homogenous mixtures like Pringles didn’t go too far. When we munch on chips, we want to taste that deliciously rustic, earthy potato. These are plain chips, after all, so they should taste like what they’re made from. You feel me? 

Anyway, here are the best of the best of the plain ol’ potato chips we tried. 

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best potato chips

Best of the Best

Trader Joe’s Ode to the Classic Potato Chip

I imagine people are going to be pretty upset with this pick, but I’ll explain. Firstly, availability has to be taken into consideration. Yes, your (and my) local potato chip brand is really, really good. But, is it available everywhere? Trader Joe’s is. And, boy, did they nail this potato chip. This is everything a plain potato chip should be: light, crispy, and crunchy. The potato taste is fresh and not at all processed, and they have a lovely salty and greasy quality that every potato chip should have. The earthy, fresh, potato-skin flavor of these really sent them over the top for us. Managing editor Gwynedd Stuart said they taste like “bowling alley fries,” which is somehow frighteningly accurate.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Sporked

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Texture

Cape Cod 40% Less Fat Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips

It is astonishing that reduced fat chips are this good, but it’s undeniable that Cape Cod shines brightly. These chips have  a noticeably unique texture that is crispy and light, yet still kettle-style crunchy. The potato flavor is excellent, and there’s just enough salt and oil that these don’t feel like “healthy” chips. You can eat so many of these because they aren’t overly greasy and salty. They just go down so smoothly. All the flavors are well balanced, too. Synergy of ingredients is the phrase that comes to mind. This is an all-timer of a plain potato chip.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Dark Horse

Herr’s Crisp ‘N Tasty Potato Chips

If Herr’s potato chips were available nationwide, these would probably be number one. Everybody became enamored with these, and it warmed my Pennsylvanian heart to see it happen in real time. Herr’s Plain Potato Chips hit every single criteria for good, plain potato chips. They’re salty, fatty, and have a great potato flavor. These are what Lay’s potato chips wish they could be. The potato flavor is natural and almost earthy. You really feel like you’re eating a bag of fresh potato chips. Plus, they didn’t skimp on salt or fat. They’re beautifully balanced and made with great quality potatoes. Herr’s rules.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Salty

Late July Organic Sea Salt Thin & Crispy Potato Chips

Everyone liked these, and staff-writer Jordan Myrick even ranked them as their number one favorite. They have such an organic, clean taste and don’t feel like junk food. Still, they’re quite salty, which enhances the umami flavor of the potato itself. Trevor noted that these had that earthy potato flavor we’re often looking for in a good potato chip. Late July makes a stellar potato chip that has all the attributes we’re looking for in a munchable snack. Plus, they’re fried in organic sunflower oil which is better for the environment.

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Flavor

Trader Joe’s Dark Russet Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips

We absolutely adored the flavor of these Dark Russet potato chips. They’re so damn earthy and the flavor is so stunningly unique that it fills a hole in the chip world we didn’t know was there. To me, these are like the coffee of potato chips—bitter, but the flavor is really nice. Plus, the added salt balances out that pronounced potato taste. I think these chips taste like potato skins. They also feel like the fresh cut deep fried chips you get at a sports bar that were left in the deep fryer too long but actually taste great. Trader Joe’s dark russet potato chips are bold, salty, fatty, and crispy-crunchy. Can’t go wrong. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Sporked

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Ubiquitous

Kettle Sea Salt 

Kettle’s Sea Salt potato chips do all the little things right: They’re crispy, crunchy, salty, and delightfully fatty. You can feel the oil saturated in every bite of these slow-cooked kettle chips. They’re a little basic, but easy to find. Kettle’s Sea Salt chips are literally everywhere. There’s something to be said for a product that is readily available at most stores. Hard to argue with a radio hit.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Junk Food

Munchos Potato Crisps

Whatever the hell Munchos are, we love ‘em. They’re light and crisp, but not in a healthy way—no, no. These are salty, fatty, and airy. They’re not fresh cut potato chips but instead made from a homogenous mixture of dried potatoes and potato starch. And yet, the flavor isn’t off-putting at all. Not everything has to be fresh cut. Munchos are junk food science at work.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best (Not) Pringle:

The Good Crisp Company Classic Original Potato Crisps

The Good Crisp sounds like a prestige drama on HBO Max about a bunch of fried potatoes. But it’s actually a Pringles-esque potato crisp that quite frankly does the processed chips-in-a-can thing better than Pringles itself. It’s not a fresh cut potato chip, no, but it is a well-done amalgamation of dried potato flakes that somehow tastes pretty natural and fresh. The salt flavor is great, and it doesn’t have that weird, off-putting “can taste” that Pringles sometimes have. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Greasy

Classic Lay’s

Classic Lay’s are so iconically salty and greasy that they had to make this list. The only problem with these chips is that they don’t taste that much like potatoes. There’s not much natural flavor happening here. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find a more snackable chip than Lay’s. I can take down a medium sized bag by myself no problem, and I do think there is just a scientifically mastered, well-made quality to Lay’s chips that just works.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best for Dipping

Boulder Canyon Avocado Oil Sea Salt Kettle Style Potato Chips

Trevor and I decided that avocado oil works really well with potato chips. It’s got a distinct flavor that’s rich and vegetal but not bitter or overpowering. Oil should hang out in the background of potato chips, not be the star. That’s why olive oil chips didn’t really hit for us. What we really like about these chips is that they’re both kettle cooked and ridged. That means they’re crunchy, substantial, and great for dipping. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best potato chips

Best Sustainable

Grandma Utz’s Handcooked Potato Chips

Here’s where I get to be opinionated: I love Grandma Utz’s potato chips, and if it were up to me, these would rank in the top five. However, I have coworkers, and Gwynedd, Trevor, and Jordan all had visceral reactions to these chips. That’s because they’re cooked in beef tallow and have a distinct meaty flavor. Personally, I love that flavor. These chips are so fatty, salty, and crunchy, and Utz’s uses good quality potatoes, too. If you like how McDonald’s fries used to taste super beefy, you’ll love these. Plus, beef fat is actually healthier and better for the environment when disposed of. Most seed oils are treated with chemicals and pesticides which are harmful to us and the environment. Out of the chips we tried that were fried in lard, Middleswarth, Gibbles, and Utz’s, I liked Grandma Utz’s the most. Try them, and you might have a new favorite chip.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Other Products We Tried: Ruffles, Pringles, Cape Cod Original Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Chips by José Andrés, Spud Love Sea Salt, Good Health Kettle Style Avocado Oil and Sea Salt Chips, Clancy’s Original Chips, Clancy’s Stackers, Whole Foods 365 Kettle Cooked Sea Salt, Whole Foods 365 Original Sea Salt, Gibbles, Middleswarth, Wise, Trader Joe’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil, Tim’s Original with Sea Salt, 7/11 Original Potato Chips, 7/11 Kettle Potato Chips, Dirty Sea Salted Potato Chips, Zapp’s Original Potato Chips.

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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  • I kept scrolling, and scrolling, and… Danny comes through! I adore Grandma Utz chips, they’re what a plain potato chip should be! But I get how they could be divisive. Got a trip to TJ’s scheduled, going to have to try those.

    Reply
  • It bothers me that you don’t list the other brands you tried.

    Reply
    • oh shoot, this was a mistake. it’s been updated with all the brands we tried.

      Reply
  • UTZ chips are THE BEST. I originally found and tasted these at the Pennsylvania farm show. None better,

    Reply
  • I’m sure you’ve gotten this comment before but at least in the Midwest the Dark Russet chips are discontinued, as a current employee of TJ’s I’m pretty sure they will eventually be back because they’re a beloved chip but at the moment they are discontinued.

    Reply
  • Your title says you’re ranking the best plain potato CHIPS. Munchos and The Good Crisp crisps are NOT potato chips, no matter how much you pretend they are.

    Reply
    • really because it says potato chips on the package

      Reply