Be a Hit in the Dugout with the 8 Best Sunflower Seeds

I only recently started spitting out the shells when I eat sunflower seeds. Up until a few weeks ago, yeah, I was just kind of chewing them one at a time and swallowing them. I know that’s probably alarming and you may want to call a doctor on my behalf, but don’t worry, I seem to be pretty healthy! *spits up blood everywhere*

Can you blame me for eating sunflower seed shells, though? They’re salty and delicious, especially when they’re coated in dried seasonings, much like potato chips. Those flavors combined with the roasted, salty flavor of the seeds themselves make for a perfect snack. Good news, then, that there is a wonderfully diverse range of sunflower seed brands and flavors out there.

For this taste test, we looked for a great composition of flavor. It’s all about the ingredients. And we wanted the taste of the sunflower seeds to match the flavors advertised on the package. Do these things really taste like dill pickles, barbecue, or pizza? If they did, they ranked high. We are looking for salty, tangy, smoky, spicy, and umami-y flavorings in our sunflower seeds. Which seeds brought it most? These were our top eight.

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Best of the Best

David Bar-B-Q Jumbo Sunflower Seeds

These sunflower seeds are the GOAT for a reason. David Jumbo seeds are delightfully roasted and salty, and have  a unique, simple flavor, whether from the roasting process or the quality of the seeds themselves or both. These are quite smoky, and feel spiced without being spicy. It’s a mellow flavor, and takes me back to playing baseball as a kid, chewing sunflower seeds in the dugout. These are classic, nostalgic, and completely hold up. David Bar-B-Q seeds rule.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Best Pickle

Bigs Vlasic Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds

You should, and I mean this, take the time to let the smell of these sunflower seeds waft into your nostrils before you throw some in your mouth. They have a wonderfully herby, vinegary smell. The taste is incredible, too. It’s one of the most pickle-y tasting pickle-flavored snacks I’ve ever had. The flavor is strong, tart, and almost mustardy. These have a great balanced yet bold flavor that lasts (probably because of the added MSG). We love Bigs Dill Pickle seeds.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Best Spicy

Bigs Chile Limon Tapatio Sunflower Seeds

Tapatio-flavored products just slap, dude. These sunflower seeds are spicy, vinegary, and have some extra citrusy notes from the added lime. The delicious oomph from the spice lingers in your mouth long after you spit out the shells. Now, the lime flavor isn’t super strong, but it does have a sort of artificial, citric acid-esque flavor like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Takis. These sunflower seeds are very “of the moment,” and they rule.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Best Simple

Spitz Cracked Pepper Sunflower Seeds

The power of black pepper is strong, friends. We love it on our beef jerky, in our chicken pot pies, on our Kettle chips, and now, in our sunflower seeds. This pepper isn’t exactly “cracked”; it’s more like the finely ground, powdered pepper you’d see in a shaker, but it’s still damn good. These seeds have a bold flavor that’s delightfully basic. Sometimes, simplicity wins, and that’s the case with Spitz Cracked Pepper seeds. I love any snack that plays to the strength of a straightforward flavor.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Smoky

Bigs Stubbs Smokey Sweet Bar-B-Q Sunflower Seeds

These sunflower seeds are pleasantly smoky, sweet, and tangy. The flavor is wonderfully complex, and the smokiness adds an extra layer of flavor if you find David Bar-B-Q seeds to be too basic. Is it actually Stubb’s Bar-B-Q sauce on the seeds? I wonder about that, but regardless, the taste here is quite nice.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best “What?”

Bigs Little Caesars ExtraMostBestest Pepperoni Pizza Sunflower Seeds

“Is the world ending? What’s going on? Why is this good?” was the first thing I said when I tried this Bigs-Little Caesars collab. These sunflower seeds are salty, cheesy, and meaty, although I don’t know if there’s any real pepperoni flavor to speak of. I will say this, though: Little Caesars pepperoni pizza flavor far surpassed any ranch-flavored sunflower seeds we tried. The dried spice mixture here is quite nice.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best with Beer

Spitz Chili Lime Sunflower Seeds

Unlike the Tapatio flavor, Spitz Chili Lime seeds have a stronger lime flavor than chili flavor. You can actually taste the lime here. The ingredients list real lime juice, plus MSG, corn syrup solids, and sea salt. That’s a powerful alchemy of flavors, and it hits pretty hard. Because of their salty and citrusy brightness, these seeds beg to be paired with beer. I would love to munch on some of these in between sips of a Modelo or Pacifico. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best Ranch

David Ranch Jumbo Sunflower Seeds

While I do think the overall ranch flavor here is somewhat lacking, there’s still a lovely amount of granulated onion in this seasoning blend that carries the whole experience. There is also quite a bit of tang from buttermilk powder, and a slight hint of garlic. To me this feels more like a sour cream and onion flavor than ranch. Still, David sunflower seeds are always top quality—big, meaty and well-seasoned. These onion-forward seeds may not quite bring the ranch, but they still taste good.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Spitz Smoky BBQ, David Sour Cream & Onion, Bigs Buffalo Wing, David Mac & Cheese, Bigs Cheeseburger, David Sweet & Spicy, David Sweet & Salty, Bigs Old Bay, Bigs Sizzlin’ Bacon, David Dill Pickle, Bigs Cracked Pepper, Bigs Takis Fuego, Spitz BBQ, Spitz Dill Pickle

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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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