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Tortilla Chips, Ranked From Worst To Best

We scoured the shelves for the best plain tortilla chips. Here's what to buy and what to avoid.

Gone are the days when classic Tostitos were the only grocery store tortilla chips worth their salt. Today, there's a proliferation of excellent tortilla chips, each of which carries a passionate fanbase. And while each chip possesses its own strengths, others are such weak efforts that they might as well be an afterthought.

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When choosing the best tortilla chips, there are a lot of factors in play. Here's what I looked for:

  • An adequate amount of salt and fat, to make them feel appropriately indulgent
  • A strong corn flavor, because they should taste like more than just salt
  • A nuanced texture that's light, crispy, substantial, and sturdy—nothing too brittle, because I don't want a bag full of crumbled chips, ya heard me?
  • Moreover, I want a tortilla chip that can fit any snacking situation, a multihyphenate that's great with salsa or guacamole, but also excels in nachos, chilaquiles, or huevos rancheros. A multi-purpose chip is what I want.

    Here are ten leading supermarket brands of plain tortilla chips and how they rank from worst to best.

10. Tostitos Restaurant Style

Let me start with a compliment: The sound of biting into a large, flat Tostitos tortilla chip is wonderful. The crunch is audible and satisfying, and with Tostitos you'll always get a light, crispy, and consistent tortilla chip. However, they're more functional than delicious.

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Tostitos are just too plain, especially when so much variety exists in the modern tortilla chip market. There's no real fatty taste, nor adequate saltiness, and the corn flavor is muted at best. In short, these are bland as hell, especially when compared to the top five chips on this list.

Surprisingly, America's Test Kitchen has Tostitos ranked as its top tortilla chip. That's absolutely insane, if you ask me. That's part of why I'm here.

9. Late July Organic Sea Salt

Late July's products rank pretty high in many published taste tests, but these organic sea salt chips are drastically lacking in flavor. In my tasting notes, I scribbled down "Water. Air." So, you get the gist. What Late July does have going for it is that each chip is deceptively light, which makes this a highly munchable tortilla chip conducive to volume snacking. They won't taste any better the farther into the bag you get, though. There's just not enough flavor here to make them worth a damn. Not enough salt, not enough fat, not enough anything, really. Not Late July's best work.

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8. Good & Gather Organic White Corn

Target makes some pretty damn good products, but the organic white corn tortilla chips from its private label Good & Gather feel pedestrian at best. Many of the chips in the bag were also pretty crumbled, which added to an overall negative score. Though the chips themselves don't seem like they'd be all that brittle, they break rather easily. That means these are no good for nachos or guacamole. A good tortilla chip shouldn't break so damn much, and the bullseye brand simply fails in that regard.

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7. Mission Tortilla Strips

I'm not sure what the intended benefit is of long, wavy tortilla strips instead of the triangles, but Mission's tortilla strips function well as an alternative to Tostitos Scoops. The problem is the chips don't have a strong corn flavor. They're salted very well, almost too well, and therefore Mission delightfully feels like junk food. But that's a problem, too; they taste only like salt, and not very much like corn.

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They're thick enough to withstand guac and are great for salsa, but they lose their function when it comes time to cook something. These long, narrow pillars don't have enough surface area to form a good base for nachos, either. Even if the intended use is to dip the strips into salsa, they're so darn salty and otherwise plain that it's impossible to ignore the better options available for this purpose. Still, I see Mission as a preferred brand to Tostitos.

6. 365 Thin & Crispy White Corn Tortilla Chips

Whole Foods' Organic 365 white corn tortilla chips, like the package says, are indeed thin and crispy. There's a strong white corn flavor here that tastes fresh and clean, if that makes sense. They're lower in fat and sodium than many other leading tortilla chips as well, so if you like chips to feel less rich and salty (hey, we're different), Whole Foods' version is actually a great option. Simplicity and subtlety are the strength of these chips, a good lesson on how to make something plain but passable.

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5. Santitas

Santitas chips' defining attribute is that they're salty, so much so that it's the only chip where you can feel the coarse little granules of salt on your fingers as you pick up the chip. If you're an ex-restaurant worker, chances are your palate has been brutalized enough that nothing ever really feels over salted—and if that's you, grab Santitas. It'll satisfy your specific palate. Oh, and the yellow corn flavor is pretty darn good, too. A classic, quintessential flavor.

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Because the salt content is so high, Santitas pairs well with guacamole, which has a contrastingly rich, creamy flavor and feel. While they're quite sturdy, Santitas don't have that incredible texture that some of the higher ranked tortilla chips do. Still, it's a great option, and you can't beat the price listed on every bag.

4. Donkey Chips

Now we're getting into the A- and S-tier of tortilla chips.

The crispiest, crunchiest chips by far, these Donkey Chips make a mean, sturdy, salty tortilla chip. "Sturdy fuckers" is specifically what I wrote down in my tasting notes. It takes you longer to eat a Donkey Chip, and they're absolutely going to get stuck in your teeth, but the flavor and texture you are treated to while that's happening are undeniable.

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Donkey chips are made with white corn, corn oil, a trace of lime, and salt. The corn flavor here is real strong. I don't really taste the trace of lime, but these are crispy, craggy, and an absolute delight to eat. They will absolutely wreck your mouth if you're not careful, but Donkey Chips are great right out of the bag, served with a spicy salsa, or used with guacamole.

Because they're so damn hefty, I imagine they can withstand a lot of moisture, too. I'm thinking chilaquiles or huevos rancheros are great applications for Donkey Chips. It's a tortilla chip for all seasons, and the texture is unparalleled.

3. Calidad

Calidad's most interesting quality is a crumbly, quasi-puff-pastry vibe. They're almost brittle, but don't quite venture into frail territory. They're really a joy to eat, as these flaky tortilla chips tend to disappear in your mouth. Calidad also gets good marks in terms of fat and salt content (9% fat, 5% saturated fat, and 4% sodium per serving). These chips are light, crunchy, and more than anything else, they're Mexican restaurant quality. These remind me most of the chips you get served at a taqueria or Tex-Mex joint. The texture is fresh and delightful, and Calidad gets the balance just right.

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2. Xochitl

Xochitl tortilla chips are very thin, perfectly salty, fatty, and funky. Why funky? Because they're fried in palm olein oil. That refined palm oil flavor is strong, earthy, and almost like lard. Oh, and these chips contain 18% saturated fat per 1-oz. serving—that's absolutely bonkers compared to the other brands. Perhaps as a direct result of this, the flavor of Xochitl is awesome, and it's got the fried texture to match. The little bubbles and bumps from deep frying are the sign of quality.

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The distinct flavor is bound to be off-putting to some people. For that reason, they can't be number one, though they are my personal favorite. This is a perfectly engineered chip with a wallop of interesting flavor. That should be celebrated.

1. On The Border Café Style

On The Border Café Style tortilla chips represent everything a tortilla chip should be. They're made from a mix of yellow and white corn, giving them a very balanced corn flavor. It's not like tasting Tostitos or Mission, where all you get is salt; these are earthy and savory in equal measure. The real selling point, though, is the texture. My goodness, are these tortilla chips crispy and craggy, filled with bubbles from being dropped in hot oil.

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Because of the bubbles, there's an airiness to these chips, too—they're light, crunchy, and can be easily inhaled. Take your time with them, though, because they're absolute stunners. The flavor here is the best of the bunch. That's because On The Border chips don't skimp on fat or salt. Each serving features 11% fat, 10% saturated fat, and 5% sodium. Those marks are far ahead of most other brands. Salt and fat wins. It always does. Couple that with the excellent texture, and these are a perfectly made tortilla chip for any occasion. There's no reason to buy anything else.

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