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.
Ranch, we all know, is supposed to be tangy and creamy. But what are the exact ingredients that make ranch dressing a ranch dressing? If you look at most ranch-flavored snacks, the answer is usually buttermilk (or sour cream), onion powder, and garlic powder. Cool Ranch Doritos feature these ingredients, and some MSG, but not much else. Then there’s Lay’s Wavy Ranch, Kettle Farmstand Ranch, and Bugles Ranch, all of which feature parsley. Ranch should, in my opinion, always be speckled with herbs. And there’s not nearly enough dill in most ranch-flavored snacks on the market.
Recently, I saw a bag of Herr’s Creamy Ranch & Habanero chips at my local 7-Eleven. It’s no secret I ride hard for Herr’s, but I put my bias aside for this one. Would it be tangy, creamy, and spicy like Flamin’ Hot Ruffles? Or would these be doomed to taste acrid and acidic like Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos?
What do Herr’s Creamy Ranch and Habanero chips taste like?
Don’t worry, these aren’t too spicy. You can tell as soon as you open the bag and waft the smell of the chili peppers into your nostrils. Once you start eating them, the heat is pleasant, and there’s still a great deal of buttermilk tanginess here. There’s also the lingering flavor of garlic and onion, which I quite enjoy. In fact, the lasting flavor in my mouth isn’t habanero, but rather the garlic and onion.
This is a damn good chip with plenty of flavor, but I don’t think it’s the best ranch-flavored chip on the market. Still, the ingredients in this Herr’s bag go above and beyond most other ranch chips. To achieve the flavor profile, Herr’s uses buttermilk, MSG, garlic powder, onion powder, bell pepper, vinegar, tomato powder, sour cream, parsley, and paprika. That’s like five more ingredients than I see listed on the back of most ranch flavored chips. While I think the ranch flavor here is great, it is no doubt drowned out slightly by the habanero pepper.
Still, this is an awesome chip with great flavor that I happily pick up the next time I see a bag at 7-Eleven. For all the heat and spice happening in this bag, Herr’s never forgets to center potato flavor in its potato chips. And these chips are ridged to boot, making them perfect for dipping. Dipping ranch chips into ranch? That makes sense to me, a known food deviant who once recreated Garth’s Breakfast Bowl.
In the end, though, the lasting impression I have is that ranch is just a hard flavor to emulate across the snacking landscape. Ranch chips almost always lack the creaminess they promise. Despite those shortcomings, Herr’s Creamy Ranch & Habanero Chips provide lots of extra flavor to chew on.