Pork rinds: You either love them or the prospect of eating fried pig skin makes you gag a little. As a person who has now consumed many brands and many flavors of pork rinds (aka chicharrones), I can tell you that if you’ve never tried them, you’re missing out. The best pork rinds are crispy, salty, and, yes, porky. They should taste like pig without being too gamey and they should be airy without turning to slimy skin mush in your mouth. (Sorry, I realize this is all very visceral for an article about snacks.)
Pork rinds are also low-carb and keto friendly (unless you pick a flavor with lots of sugar—steer clear of BBQ, for sure). They were big in the ‘90s when everyone and their mother was on the Atkins Diet, but if it’s been a few decades since you picked up a bag, you’re in for a treat. Fancy, artisanal brands are making excellent rinds in really interesting flavors—but the brands you see at the gas station are pulling their weight, too. Here are the best pork rinds we pigged out on during our recent taste test.
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- Pork King Good Himalayan Pink Salt & Vinegar
In terms of texture, these were not my favorite. They’re airy, but lack some of the crunch you’ll find in other brands. But I think this flavor is worth checking out all the same. Salt and vinegar pork rinds sound weird, right? I thought so too, but it works. The vinegar cuts the richness of the pork flavor, kind of like a splash of pepper vinegar in a big bowl of ham hock-filled greens. Pork King Good takes a lot of swings when it comes to flavors, which I commend, but most of them were misses (the Salted Butter variety actually made me shout “no”). Salt & Vinegar is a home run, though. (Sorry, I don’t know why I slid into baseball cliches.)
Credit: Merc / Amazon
- Porq BBQ & Zesty Chipotle
Smoke tastes good with pork. The entire BBQ industry would cease to exist if that weren’t the case. Chipotle peppers (and added smoke flavor) make these rinds nice and smoky. These are the best pork rinds for pork rind beginners. They’re super light and airy and they also feel the least like pork skin, in part because they’re pretty uniform. If eating pig skin makes you queasy, I think you can really easily pretend these are just savory chips made of puffed rice and corn.
Credit: Merc / Target
- Golden Flake Old Fashioned Flavored Chicharrones Fried Pork Skins
Golden Flake is a beloved snack brand in the South, so I was super happy to discover we were able to easily find their pork rinds here in Southern California. They’re extremely porky tasting (maybe even a little funky) and super savory. Whenever I taste a snack this savory, I always go looking for MSG on the label and, voila, Golden Flake chicharrones contain MSG. It really helps ramp up the delicious pork fat flavor these leave lingering on your tongue. Golden Flake rinds are also crunchier than other brands. If you grew up in the South and have an affinity for Golden Flake, I’m with you, especially when it comes to pig skins.
Credit: Merc / Walmart
- Epic BBQ Seasoned
I’ll be honest; I didn’t want to like “artisanal” pork rinds. But, here we are. These “artisanal” crisps were among the best pork rinds we tried. They have a big, bold pork flavor, but they aren’t oily or weird or unnerving. The BBQ flavor is the real feat. It’s one of the best BBQ blends I think I’ve ever tasted—smoky and chili-powder forward. It really complements the nice, clean pork flavor of the rinds themselves. And if packaging informs your purchasing behaviors, I have to admit that these are awfully nice looking.
Credit: Merc / Amazon
- Baken-Ets Traditional
Considering all the fancy brands we sourced, I didn’t expect for Frito-Lay, gas station pork rinds to be the best pork rinds we tasted, but I really think these are pretty much perfect. Do you like low-ingredient foods? Well, these are literally just pork and salt. That’s it. They’re light and airy, without being styrofoamy or turning into that soft, gelatinous mush in your mouth. They have a funky porky smell and a lot of pork flavor. They’re so satisfying that I kept eating them days after our taste test. Baken-Ets come in a bunch of flavors, some good (Hot ‘N Spicy) and some very bad (Queso), but I recommend sticking to the original. The best pork rinds don’t need a powdered flavoring to be perfect.
Credit: Merc / Vons
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