The wide world of potato chip flavors is full of sensory surprises, and it’s always interesting to see which flavors people in other countries favor. Our Canadian neighbors to the north love two fascinating varieties that, for whatever reason, have just never taken off on our side of the continent for some reason. But for one of those flavors, that might be about to change.
The first Canadian staple is ketchup chips, which on its face might sound odd to Americans but which, when you think about it, makes all the sense in the world, given that we dip our fries into the sweet tomato condiment all the time. These chips taste like all of ketchup’s bright constituent parts without any actual ketchupiness to them. (If you’ve tasted them, you know what I’m talking about.) Ketchup chips are a rare find in the United States, but they did sort of make their way to us earlier this summer in the form of ketchup-flavored Doritos.
The other flavor Canadians favor, however, is one that barely has an equivalent in the States. It’s called All-dressed, a term that’s nondescript enough to remain a mystery to those who haven’t sampled it. So what does All-dressed mean, and how do these chips taste?
All-dressed chips are, appropriately enough, a little bit of everything. Imagine if you mixed barbecue, ketchup, salt and vinegar, and sour cream and onion flavors all together, and voila, you’ve got a chaotic but complementary mashup of flavors that’ll keep your mouth busy throughout your snacking session.
It’s sort of like the bagged snack version of dispensing every fountain soda drink into one cup and drinking it. Given how maximalist these chips are, it’s hard to believe U.S. consumers aren’t wild for them quite yet.
Just like any great food’s backstory, nobody knows for sure where the All-dressed flavor profile originated. There’s a distinct possibility that potato chip manufacturer Yum Yum created it whole cloth when the brand released its own version of the chips in 1978, but history remains uncertain; there’s not a ton of documentation on where it might have originated, if not with Yum Yum.
Unlike the difficulties you may encounter while trying to find ketchup chips here in the U.S., All-dressed chips are available in some regional markets. Maine in particular has a big penchant for them.
I’ve seen All-dressed chips at ALDI as well as my local supermarket during limited-time flavor runs in the past. And starting this month, you’ll be able to find them on store shelves as a limited-edition variety of Ruffles Kettle Cooked in a Lay’s bag—it’s part of the Lay’s ongoing “Flavor Swap” campaign, in which Lay’s potato chips get dusted with flavoring from fellow Frito-Lay snacks like Cheetos, Doritos, Funyuns, and Ruffles.
We’re so used to Canada being our neighbor that we don’t often remember just how much of its cuisine is virtually nonexistent here at home; we might enjoy our fair share of poutine, but good luck finding sugar pie, the unfortunate Chalet Sauce, and lots more. For now, Lay’s is giving us all a chance to try Canada’s most beloved chips, and if we buy them with enough fervor, maybe the flavor won’t remain so stubbornly regional.