All photos by Adam Lapetina
Ever since pizza became America's most beloved food, snack food companies have been attempting to emulate its success. These red powder-dusted chips, crackers, and weirdly noncategorizable snacks dot the aisles of supermarkets and the counters of gas stations, tempting those who have a pizza craving, but neither the patience nor the proximity to actually get their pizza fix.
Food-flavoring technology has advanced a lot in recent years, to the point where we can make vodka that tastes like cookie dough -- but can we make something taste like pizza? We bought every pizza-flavored snack item in a one-mile radius of our NYC office to see if science has finally triumphed.
Our findings might surprise you.
Tomato flavor: 2/10 - Not much here, except for a slightly funky, plastic-like note that reads more like distilled, condensed tomato soup than the real thing.
Cheese flavor: 3/10 - These have a taste almost identical to normal Goldfish, but it's slightly tangier due to the presence of tomato paste. (You can see that they’re a little bit redder than the average Goldfish cracker.)
Overall: 2/10 - The foundation is there, but that’s it. These are just normal Goldfish with a hint of tomato.
Tomato flavor: 7/10 - These things taste almost exactly like a tomato. Like, almost disturbingly so. They’re so tomatoey, they taste like a vegetable instead of a snack I should be enjoying. But you gotta give ‘em props for keeping it natural.
Cheese flavor: 1/10 - On the other hand, there is literally no cheese flavoring in the Bissli at all. Upon checking the ingredients, I could find neither cheddar nor mozzarella nor Mexican blend nor Parmesan nor, well -- anything, really. Normally pizza is eaten with cheese, but apparently not in Israel [Ed note: this is produced by the Israeli company Osem]. Does “pizza” mean “tomato” in Hebrew? I will have to check.
Overall: 3/10 - “Pizza” does NOT mean “tomato” in Hebrew. I was cautiously optimistic about these when I saw them in the international food aisle, but they dashed my hopes for pizza. But hey -- if you really, sickeningly love tomatoes, check these things out.
Tomato flavor: 9/10 - WHOA. It does taste seriously tomatoey, and you can even see the tomato-red powder on top. Also, it looks the most like a pizza of anything so far.
Cheese flavor: 2/10 - Unfortunately, this is where the experience stops short. Nothing overwhelmingly present. There is a slight umami taste that I’ll associate with a little bit of cheddar cheese, but that’s it. Cheddar cheese seems to be the cheese of choice in pizza snacks. Where did these people grow up -- Wisconsin?! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Overall: 5/10 - They’ve got the whole tomato thing down, but most pizzas have cheese on them.
LANCE BOLDS PIZZA CRACKER SANDWICHES
Tomato flavor: 8/10 - The tangy acidity of a tomato is present somewhere in the cracker’s flavor dusting. It’s kinda suspicious, but the box says they're “naturally flavored” -- we'd like to know what naturally occurring pizza they distilled down to make them.
Cheese flavor: 4/10 - There's more of a dull cheddar or Mexican-blend taste than a mozzarella one. And it’s a little bit too saccharine, owing to their inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, which the original pizzaiolos of Naples would cringe at. On the plus side, it is undeniably cheesy.
Overall: 6/10 - Pretty pizza-like! Yeah, frozen pizza, but it still counts.
Tomato flavor: 5/10
- Weirdly funky, but not in a terrible way. Because the foundation here is a pretzel, there’s a breadiness to the tomato flavor that makes it feel more like a slice in condensed form. A little overly salty, too, but then again, this is America.
Cheese flavor: 9/10
- Very high concentration of cheesy paste in the middle of these things, so the taste is relatively strong. Again, it’s cheddar, but because there’s such a sharpness to it (like the tomato flavor), the overall effect is one that actually vaguely resembles pizza.
- Bready, tomatoey, and cheesy. These guys have the three necessary components of pizza! They don’t have the chemistry quite right, but -- DAMMIT
-- they’ve got heart.
Most snack brands use ingredients that have a long shelf life and taste nothing like the real thing. The authentic flavors are hard to come by, but Pizzeria Combos are as close as you'll get to biting into a slice
. If you want pizza taste without any of the dough, or Italian-ness, go for them.
And if we can make a quick personal plea to pizza snack manufacturers: You know how to make things taste like tomato (granted, a very funky tomato), so why can't you make mozzarella flavors happen? We'll eat some Combos while we wait for an answer.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist and will probably try a pizza with cheddar cheese just to see how it feels. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.