The history of the chip is steeped in controversy. Some say the first semblance of a chip appeared in a cookbook dating back to 1822, when a recipe that called for potato shavings was unearthed. As “popular legend” goes, however, the real creator of the chip was a chef called George Crum who developed them in response to a disgruntled customer’s frustration with a plate of potatoes not quite well done enough. And so it goes, on that that day in 1853, the world changed forever.
Crum’s crumbs would fold into the crevices of our molars, sometimes for months at a time. Launderers would have to work around the clock to discover new ways to absolve garments of grease stains and pregnant women would finally have a suitable way to describe the first trimester (that is, “I feel like the inside of a bag of potato chips”).
But no one could have prepared us for the new millennium’s vegetable/legume boom—the way in which a potato chip would be reinterpreted for various other foods and while I don’t believe we’ve reached peak chip, I do think there are enough alternatives rocking and rolling the food world, as my dad would probably say, that a review of the most popular ones is in order. And who better to execute at the helm of such an assignment than a set of twin two-year-olds, avid eaters of the alternatives, shepherded by their caregiver, me.
Enter the below nine critiques—selected according to what the Internet has deemed “most popularly rated,” separated by chip-type and ranked by a combination of taste and nutritional content as it compares to ye humble old potato chip.
Chips that became sticks (and doodles, I guess)
Harvest Snaps: These taste like they’re packed with sodium, leave significant grease stains on my finger tips and generate an overall sense that they’re too good to be healthy—imagine if a potato chip was shaped more like a stick, dehydrated on the inside and therefore fluffier in consistency with the caveat of an aftertaste that assures you at least one green pea contributed to the manifestation of this snack. But would I give them to my kids at will again? Probably not. The ingredient list is as long as my list of topics to discuss in therapy and when…
…Everyday Value’s Pea Crisps are made from literally 5 ingredients, is all that which comprises the Harvest Snaps really necessary? I guess it depends. These definitely taste healthier. Like they’re missing something at the end. Call it a period, call it a gallon of salt but they get the job done, and as a bonus, don’t require that you drink a valley of water after the fact. As far as my kids go, they didn’t ask for a second helping after enjoying the first handful of these but I remain unconvinced that this is a product of the product. I should never have led with the Snaps.
Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws: The number of ingredients in this fan-favorite didn’t exceed five either, and as a bonus, there is turmeric in them which makes me think that perhaps they are the answer to inflammation at large. While they maintain canola and safflower oil, which I hear have been canceled from the elite world of health food, they definitely taste better than the pea crisps. If those leave you feeling like someone forgot to add salt and the Harvest Snaps make you worry that you’re about a crunch away from cardiac arrest, these do the great service of Goldilocks-ing you into the perfect balance of indulgent, chip-like snack and peace of mind. At least you know you ate some beetroot.
Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs: If you liked Cheez Doodles as a kid and preferred the baked puffs to the crunchy varietal, I invite you to try Hippeas vegan white cheddar puffs. They’re made of chickpeas instead of cornmeal, contain no whey (no way!) or “natural flavors” (née artificial flavors) and maintain 4 grams of protein. They’re fluffy enough to leave mounds of powder-like residue between your molars and taste almost exactly the same (from memory, at least) that if and when you are to excavate said molars after you’ve completed the snack, you earn the delightful experience of one more shot of cheese to the throat.
Chips that became cakes
Off the Eaten Path Veggie Crisps: I didn’t like these, but Madeline and Laura did. I am beginning to think that they’ll like just about anything that isn’t some semblance of the cruciferous stews I try to ram down their throats. They (the crisps, not my kids) maintained a similar is-this-it ending where it seems there either wasn’t enough salt or something else to round out the flavor. I also don’t mean to take all my frustration out on a single food group but am generally not a fan of rice or its related cousin, the cake. Unless, that is, said cake is being used for the express purpose of replacing a spoon in my quest to load almond butter onto the roof of my mouth.
I’ll give them credit for maintaining black beans—I do like those, and now that I think about it, I bet they’d be good with hummus. Yeah, let’s call these a vehicle more than a stand-alone snack and as such, they are work. They good. For what it’s worth, they’re educational too! Within the ingredient list, tocopherols are defined by parenthesis as an antioxidant.
Chips that took on their own new shapes
Enlightened Roasted Broad Fava Bean Snacks: I don’t know if I could ever commit to eating these regularly because the simple articulation of this snack is a damned mouthful and upon consuming a, you know, mouthful with my tiny compatriots, we surmised these are a great alternative to popcorn at the movie theater if you’re looking for something a bit more substantive (7 grams of protein, for example, and 20% of the daily recommended fiber intake). Among the three flavors — sea salt which makes the taste of the bean all too real, sweet sriracha, which is like eating just about anything else dressed in sriracha, only having to wonder if what you’ve decided to eat is kind of stale, and mesquite BBQ, the last flavor, is my favorite. Why? Because they taste a bit like chicken fingers dipped in honey mustard—a metaphor, to be sure, of what it’s like to be sitting at a pool bar in Aruba mid-winter.
Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips: Plantains, sunflower oil, and salt. That’s it! That’s all! These are a customer favorite according to a consumer poll from TJ’s and I totally get why: the consistency of these is like if a potato chip was slightly thicker, more assertively durable. Like a banana chip, but not as sweet. Good for dipping (I recommend something cheesy) and just salty enough. They will, however, leave your fingers drenched in residual oil.
Chips that stayed chips
Enjoy Life Lentil Chips. I tried all four flavors. Margherita Pizza was a salt bomb. Laura liked them the most. Dill & Sour Cream tasted like if sour cream and onion Lays potato chips were crunchier, thicker and baked instead of fried. Garlic & Parmesan was unimpressionable and the Sea Salt package has ultimately became a mainstay of the snack bin in my pantry. Why? My husband can’t eat grains or gluten, but loves a chip—possibly more than he does me and the consistency of these is akin to that of Stacy’s pita chips, which used to be his favorite. So, if you find yourself looking for an alternative to crunchy pita, hate the idea of lentils in stew, but could get down with them under the premise that they’ve been ground into flour and taste pretty similar, I invite you to try these. And if you loved sour cream and onion chips, but feel it’s irresponsible to eat them now that you’ve been convinced they could possibly make you die, I do recommend you try those. On that last sentence, I’ll just spell out that I am projecting.
Forager Project Organic Leafy Green Vegetable Chips: Tortilla chip fans, unite! I am not especially big on corn chips but I do love guacamole and I’d say these, with their red quinoa and sesame seeds and spinach and kale powder, are similar to Off the Eaten Path’s veggie crisps to the extent that they’re a great vehicle. Wouldn’t pick them up to eat solo, but wouldn’t mind lathering guacamole on this better-for-you alternative, which tastes not at all like it has anything green in it, and maintains a more substantial consistency when compared to its crispier, lighter weight and very popular competitor, the Siete grain-free tortilla. It’s all a matter of preference, and as far as mine go, these are a conduit, not a stand-alone snack.
In sum, if you’re looking for a substitute snack, I recommend Hippeas chickpea puffs as cheez doodles, those lentil chips as pita chips and Bada Beans for popcorn. If you’re trying to get your kid (or self!) to eat something green, try a veggie straw or a pea crisp. You can also have a Forager chip, or one of those veggie crisps, but I’d recommend these more specifically as conduits to eat dips. If you’re looking for an assertive salty snack with tough skin and minimal ingredients, get Trader Joe’s plantain chips and if you’re still wondering about what you should eat because this review was useless, might I suggest, I don’t know, a bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce?