My name’s Danny Palumbo, and I’m from Pennsylvania—home of Herr’s, Utz, Snyder’s, Wise, Middleswarth, Martin’s, Gibble’s, and many more. In short, this is where chips live, baby. And although I no longer live in the Keystone state, I still have a profound admiration for all things potato chips. In this column I will be reviewing some of the best the country has to offer. Welcome to Chip Country.
When it comes to Doritos, I reject the classics. Instead of Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch, I much prefer flavors like Salsa Verde and Spicy Sweet Chili, which are altogether more interesting and have more depth. Yet Doritos tapped into something uniquely special when it released Doritos Tapatío back in 2011, and no flavor has come close to dethroning it since. Is this as good as it’s ever going to get with Doritos?
Generally, I’m not that interested in pinpointing a particular snack’s superlative, best flavor. It’s an impossible task, one that invites pedantic and overconfident answers. Catch yourself out here declaring the “biggest” and “best” all the time and you’re going to start sounding like Trump.
That said, reason and logic be damned, whenever I find myself getting into conversations about my favorite Doritos flavors with friends, I feel like I always provide a sound argument for Tapatío. There are certain things, very important things, that Doritos gets right here that a lot of its other varieties don’t. Let’s go over them.
Why Tapatío Doritos rule
These chips have a robust flavor, more so than the rest of the lineup. Tapatío Doritos have a wonderful balance of everything that counts: salt, fat, acid, and heat. That acidity is perhaps most important, because while spicy chips often feature it, it tends to be citric acid. That stuff has a distinct flavor, and it starts to taste more unnatural the more you eat those things. Flamin’ Hot products are often too one-note in this way. It’s not that they’re too hot (I’m white, but I’m not that white), it’s that concentrated red pepper and citric acid form a brick wall of flavor. In Flamin’ Hot Nacho Doritos, for example, the cheddar cheese is barely detectable, and the romano and the buttermilk listed on the ingredients label might as well not be there.
Tapatío, meanwhile, is still a spicy hot sauce, but it also carries a noticeable tang to it. That tang is mouth-smackingly delicious, unlike the overbearing metallic taste of citric acid, and allows you to taste the other flavors dusting the Dorito as well. A Tapatío Dorito tempers the heat and adds a bit more piquancy. You taste a hint of cheesiness, the tang, and the delicious corn flavor. It’s well-rounded, a vigorous, spicy, cheesy, sharp, subtle bite that hasn’t been beat by any new flavor in the past decade.
Corn chips and spicy salsa just make a ton of sense together. You know what doesn’t? Corn chips and ranch. I’m not a big Cool Ranch Doritos guy—never have been. Nobody ever talks about that classic ranch and corn pairing. As for nacho cheese, I mean, is a corn chip really the best vessel for cheese, either? Potato chips seem to be a better receptacle for fatty, creamy, herby flavors. When it comes to tortilla chips, tangy spice is the way to go—you know, the stuff that’s in the actual salsa being served with corn chips. Tapatío Doritos teach us a valuable lesson, especially in the middle of this never-ending Flamin’ Hot snack boom: Sometimes less is more.