In recent months, I have seen fried pickle-flavored items sneak onto grocery store shelves without explanation. But, what is fried pickle flavor? How can you encapsulate the taste of “fried” without actually dunking something in boiling oil? And, most importantly, how is it any different from normal pickle-flavored foods?
I’ve had approximately hundreds of thousands of renditions of the pickle: actual pickles, relish, pickle-flavored snacks, etc. But before this test, I had never tried a fried pickle-flavored food. I would, however, categorize myself as a fried pickle expert. I order them whenever they are on the menu and my family makes them on special occasions. Plus, I know that fried pickle spears are superior to fried pickle chips (if you don’t agree, you’re wrong).
Having not tasted a fried pickle-flavored packaged food, I’m basing my theory on what I know about fried pickles. There should be notes of dill and sour, it should be both refreshing and decadent, and there absolutely needs to be ranch. I think fried pickle flavor will taste like pickle flavor but with the addition of ranch.
We got our hands on every pickle- and fried pickle-flavored food we could find and ended up with these products for our side by side taste tests: Trader Joe’s “Pickle in a Chip” Chips, Utz Fried Pickle Potato Chips, Kettle Crinkle Cut Dill Pickle Potato Chips, and Taste of the South Fried Pickle & Ranch Dip. I ate each product individually and took notes on the overt and subtle differences. I also gathered a slew of Sporked and Mythical employees to participate in blind taste tests to see if they could determine which item was pickle-flavored food and which was fried pickle-flavored. And, before you ask, I literally blindfolded all the tasters.
For the most part, my blindfolded participants were all able to discern between the different flavors. While both pickle-flavored products and fried pickle-flavored products have many similarities, the fried pickle products have a more mild pickle taste than the regular pickle options. Most importantly, ranch is a key element to fried pickle flavoring, as I predicted. You need that boost from the garlic, onion, and extra dill. Without it, you just get watered down pickle. When it came to the chips specifically, the Utz fried pickle chips tasted a little greasier than any of the other plain pickle chips. It is, however, hard to say if that is due to the suggestion of “fried” flavor or if they generally are just a greasier chip brand.
I’m happy to report that I was 100% right and, lucky for you, both fried pickle and pickle-flavored foods are equally delicious.