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.
My problem with a lot of Flamin’ Hot products (like Cheetos and Doritos), is that while they have a bold flavor, they don’t have a robust one. That is to say, these snacks pack heat, but not much else. Flamin’ Hot snacks often reek of an acidic dryness that’s fun for only a few bites; to my understanding, that rip-roaring “Flamin’ Hot” effect is achieved through maltodextrin and capsaicin, though I’m always left tasting the nasty citric acid most of all. But there’s one exception in the Flamin’ Hot canon, and that’s Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar & Sour Cream, a snack chip that deserves way more love than it gets, and way more love than Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
In addition to the classic Flamin’ Hot heat, there’s a full-fat flavor to these chips that you just don’t get with Flamin’ Hot Doritos or Cheetos. This would, presumably, be the “sour cream” part of the equation. The actual fat and saturated fat content of Ruffles is indeed a tick higher than Doritos’ Flamin’ Hot chips, perhaps due to a larger amount of cheese being used in Ruffles (they do taste more cheesy).
Ruffles, though, also includes buttermilk solids and blue cheese in the ingredients list, which I find to be very interesting. Buttermilk provides a sharp tang, which is why you often see it included in Ranch-flavored things, and the blue cheese adds a noticeable amount of funk to these chips. They’re rich, tangy, fatty, and spicy, which is an awesome combination of flavors. We should be talking about these more.
Back to Ranch for a second: Many of the ingredients listed on the Ruffles bag are the same ingredients listed on a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Onion powder, buttermilk, cheese, MSG, garlic powder—that’s Ranch, baby. These Ruffles are approximating “sour cream” flavor the same way Doritos are approximating “Ranch” flavor. But the Ruffles do it better, both in terms of heat and spices. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar & Sour Cream is the superior Flamin’ Hot product—just an underrated chip through and through, one that has heat but doesn’t sacrifice flavor to achieve it.