Cool Ranch Doritos are not the best ranch flavored chip. Sure, they’re the most well known of the lot. They are iconic in their blue packaging, ubiquitousness, and name. If your therapist did a free association and said “ranch chips” out loud you would probably shout “Doritos!” Or maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you would shout, “Father!” I don’t know. I don’t know you. Point is, the words “ranch” and “chips” are practically synonymous with Doritos. But, that’s only because they’ve been around the longest.
Cool Ranch Doritos came out in 1986—’86, ya’ll. A lot has happened chip-wise since 1986. We became obsessed with pickle-flavored things, flamin’ hot snacks, and strange flavor mashups. Lay’s has capitalized on the idea that people will try literally anything. Ingredients have changed. Tastes have evolved. And ranch technology has progressed since 1986. Pringles, Andy’s, Kettle, Chex, and Herr’s all came out with ranch flavored chips, and now Doritos isn’t the only company in the ranch game anymore. Can they really hold up to all the new competition? I think it’s impossible.
And look, I love Doritos. Tapatío Doritos are probably my #1 chip right now. But, I also love ranch, and I will protect its spirit at all costs. Simply put, I just don’t think that there’s a strong ranch flavor with Doritos, and moreover, ranch doesn’t really shine on a corn chip. Ah yes, you know, that classic corn and ranch pairing we all know and love. No, corn isn’t the best vessel for this particular flavor. Ranch works best when it’s applied to potatoes. French fries, potato skins, and yes, potato chips. Plus, a good ranch chip should seem saturated with creamy tangy goodness, not dusted with it. The flavor in a Cool Ranch Dorito just feels like ranch that died and now we’re left with its spirit. It’s weak ranch.
The biggest problem with Cool Ranch Doritos is the ingredients. Among a hodgepodge of miscellaneous binders and chemicals, they pretty much just include onion, garlic, and buttermilk. Those are some entry level, low-rent, boring, Hidden Valley ingredients right there. In my opinion, ranch shines when it’s speckled with herbs. Ranch needs to hit a pocket of creamy, tangy herbaceousness to really be considered ranch. It’s the type of thing that should feature a boatload of herbs and spices, and the ingredients in Cool Ranch Doritos don’t really echo that pure, bursting-with-flavor ranch ethos that I know and love.
Cool Ranch is the standard for ranch chips, but it’s just that: standard. So, with all due respect, here’s some ranch flavored chips that quite simply outperform Cool Ranch Doritos.
- Doritos 3D Spicy Ranch
Buy from Target
Right now you might be saying, “Danny, you idiot, how could Doritos 3D Spicy Ranch chips be that much different than Cool Ranch?” Look, they are. Peep the ingredients: green bell peppers, onion, garlic, parmesan cheese, and jalapeño. There’s a more complete flavor to Doritos 3D Spicy Ranch chips. Not too spicy, and a little more ranch-y than most. Cool Ranch Flamin’ Hot Doritos also provide a little extra flavor and flare. Classic Cool Ranch is decidedly the 3rd best Dorito ranch chip. Just look at the ingredients!
- Herr’s Creamy Ranch & Habanero
Buy from Walmart
Do me a favor: Open up a bag of Herr’s Creamy Ranch & Habanero chips and take a whiff. Bask in that beautiful, spicy, ranch smell. Waft the delightful aroma into your nose holes like it’s a pot of nonna’s sauce that’s been simmering on the stove for hours. These chips are both spiced and spicy, a triumph in the ranch flavoring department. Herr’s makes a case that Pennsylvania is the best chip state (more on that later). They nail just about every flavor they try their hand at—including this ranch chip. The reason? Aside from the usual flavoring suspects, they include vinegar, paprika, dehydrated parsley, bell pepper, and sour cream. The result is a tangy, herby, spicy ranch flavor that you just can’t stay away from. Herr’s just consistently has more flavor than most. Period.
- Lay’s Stax Buffalo Wings and Ranch
Buy from Walmart
Lay’s Stax are essentially Pringles. Which, I imagine, has to anger Pringles, right? I mean, Lay’s are totally biting the brand that pioneered the thin, curved, can of chips. If I was Lays, I would lawyer up. That said, I like Lay’s Buffalo Wings and Ranch Stax. Like Herr’s, they just smell good. There’s a lot of flavoring going on here. It’s spicy, tangy, and creamy. Plus, these chips taste like chicken. That’s because they add chicken fat, chicken broth, and chicken powder. In my time reviewing restaurants in Los Angeles, I noticed a lot of chefs using things like chicken salt when flavoring their wings and french fries. It’s a good idea to achieve some extra umami by adding dried chicken flavor, and Lay’s gets that.
- Utz Wavy Helluva Good Buttermilk Ranch Chips
Buy from Instacart
If you know, you know: Pennsylvania is Chip Country. Wise, Herr’s, Martin’s, and Utz have been producing some of the tastiest chips around for the better part of the last century. Utz is near the top of the heap, and this wavy, ridged iteration has great tangy ranch flavor infused into every bite. They are minimally processed, slow-cooked chips using farm-fresh potatoes. Look, it’s still a bag of greasy potato chips, but it’s cleaner and a cut above the rest. Kiss the ring; Pennsylvania chips sit on top of the throne.
- Kettle Farmstand Ranch
Buy from Amazon
No chip absorbs flavor quite like a Kettle chip. They feel saturated with oil, and thus carry a pronounced, concentrated flavor with them that feels more than the light “dusting” of Cool Ranch chips. Kettle’s Farmstand Ranch chips also have the least amount of ingredients, which is probably a good sign. The best tasting ranch chips always label ingredients like parsley, vinegar, and the connotative “spices” on the back of the packaging, and Kettle’s Farmstand is no different. To me, Kettle’s ranch chips are the chips that feel closest to recreating the evergreen comfort of actually dipping something in ranch, and for that reason they stand out as the best of the bunch here. Flavorwise, I like Herr’s, but based on the pure ranch aesthetic, I like Kettle Farmstand Ranch.