Every Flavor of Goldfish, Ranked
Our #1 pick will surprise you.
If you're a regular reader of this publication, you may know that I undertake these types of power rankings regularly. And if not, here's some proof (now with less animated animal cruelty).
But this ranking of Pepperidge Farm's beloved, aquatic-themed crackers proved to be a little… different. Unlike Taco Bell or Gatorade, I've never steadily indulged in the Snack That Smiles Back, aside from the classic Trump-hued, finger-staining Cheddar variety. So I'm heading into this valley of fish-crackers with absolutely no preconceived biases or expectations -- aside from the fact that I can apparently eat 'em everyday, and sources confirm that my mom said that it's OK.
In the spirit of wild, untapped discovery, I'm delivering this ranking with unfiltered snap-takes on the literal dozens of Goldfish varieties, separated into five relevant categories. It's a reading experience as immediately thrilling as harpoon-gunning marlins. Here are my first reactions to 30 riffs on an old favorite -- and how they stack up to the (rightly) smug grin of the classic Cheddar.
30. Whole Grain Pretzel
In every power ranking, there needs to be an Omega. A last place. A "should this even get a participation trophy?" entry. I realized quite quickly that Whole Grain Pretzel was at the bottom of the this barrel. When I bit into it, all the saliva in my mouth vanished quicker than underaged frat boys at a party when the cops show. The pretzel/crackers (prackers?) turned to dust on my tongue. It's like a military-grade dehydration device. Would not recommend.
29. Whole Grain Cheddar
Obviously, this is the whole grain take on the classic flavor. The first thing I noticed was that it smelled a lot like Play-Doh, which might be appetizing if you're five. But when I tossed this lil' fishy into my mouth, I realized it was frail, brittle, and dusty. It had a little bit of flavor to remind me of the real deal, but clearly not enough. Each cracker was also a lot flatter than your standard Goldfish -- almost deflated. This is an alternative worth skipping; when you want Goldfish, you eat Goldfish. Why mess with this inferior option?
28. Whole Grain Honey Graham
For those who haven't been tuned into the nuances of 21st-century Goldfish, they now have a full line of fish-shaped graham crackers that look like Goldfish, but feel and taste much like Teddy Grahams. Well, except for the whole grain versions. Like the two flavors listed before it, when you eat these suckers, they basically turn to dust in the win -- without the sentimental value of the Kansas song -- and with a much, much more bitter aftertaste.
27. Whole Grain Cinnamon Graham
See above, but with cinnamon.
26. Whole Grain Extra Cheddar
Like the Whole Grain Pretzel, the bitterness will kick in and your saliva will dissipate. You get about three seconds of cheddar flavor before that happens, but even the taste of cheese isn't worth the aftermath.
25. Whole Grain Colors
Like its whole grain predecessors, this flavor is still dry and unwelcomed. The festive colors, however, will slightly distract you from how unappetizing these taste.
I'm usually a big sucker for pizza-flavored snacks (probably an inherent offshoot of my unbridled, borderline obsessive love for pizza, to be honest). But these pizza-flavored Goldfish -- while not bad, by any means -- totally miss the mark of what a great pizza snack should be. They basically coated the fishies in oregano, died them a slight red, and called it a bona fide pizza-fish. This is especially glaring in the light of two other pizza flavored Goldfishies, represented further down this list.
As I said before, I'm not the biggest fan of hard pretzel snacks. But if I was, I do think I'd hold these salty, smiling fish in high regard. There's a good sodium-to-cracker ratio, a solid crunch, and they give you that satisfying mushed-up-pretzel-in-the-back-of-your-throat feeling after you chew them. It's like you took a bundle of pretzel sticks and smashed them together. That's a compliment, by the way.
This flavor is slightly confusing, as most people might assume "Original" and "Classic" are one in the same. In this case, "Original" means completely flavorless. You are basically getting the Goldfish in an unadulterated state. They are super bland… and kind of remind me of oyster crackers. But, it's refreshingly simple. I dipped a few in ranch dressing, and did not hate it. This flavor embraces its blandness. It's like the Kevin James of Goldfish crackers.
To sum it up in one brief sentence, the Parmesan flavor basically comes off as a slightly sharper version of the tried-and-true Cheddar. It's a worthy entry in the Goldfish canon, but not a distinct enough experience to overshadow the incredibly similar, classic standby.
For most people, these are Goldfish. It's the Coca-Cola of fish-shaped crackers. So, it might shock you -- to the extent that people can actually be shocked by an online ranking of Goldfish -- to find the Classic Cheddar in the lower third of the ranking. But as I went through and tried all 30 flavors, I realized innovation has made the old standby an also-ran. The next 19 flavors simply overshadow and outshine the classic. Though the old Cheddar will probably always be the Goldfish, in the hearts and minds of the snack-devouring public, we need to collectively open our said minds to the future of crackers shaped like fish. It's the least we could do.
These are just Cheddar-flavored Goldfish, in kaleidoscopic colors. I like the colors. I find them whimsical. Therefore, I like these more than the orange ones. Don't fight it.
18. Baby Cheddar
Baby Cheddar is not the newest Houston-based rapper to drop the hottest mixtape of 2020, but is instead a scaled down, mini-version of the classic. And surprisingly, the smaller version of the crackers were actually a little more enjoyable. This sounds a little weird, but the way they swished around in my mouth, cascading over my tongue like salmon swimming upstream, made me realize that this might be the optimal Goldfish size. It makes me wonder how they determine the de-facto size of Goldfish in the first place, and if they'll ever right this obvious wrong. I wish they made more baby flavors! Which sounds weird, taken out of context, so please don't do that!
17. Slammin' Sour Cream & Onion
The "blasted" flavors are Goldfish's "X-TREME!" line obviously made to appeal to snow-skating, Red Bull-chugging, fidget-spinning youngins. This line either takes old flavors and injects them with 100% more intensity, or creates all-new flavors that border on the slightly ridiculous. Each flavor comes out quite strong, by design. Usually, it works. The one that works the least, however, is definitely the "Slammin' Sour Cream." It tastes like a shot of sour cream, chased by a shot of sour cream, followed by someone throwing a clump of sour cream right inside your mouth. This may be their intent, but it's way too intense to fully enjoy as much as the other flavors.
16. Burstin' BBQ
You might not think BBQ-flavored Goldfish would go over well. Well, you'd be wrong. Trust me: I was just as surprised as you probably are right now. In fact, I'd rank these higher, but I couldn't justify it. You don't really look to Goldfish for BBQ flavors, right? Still, these nail the perfect symmetry of BBQ tang, with the incredibly pleasing tactile consistency of the Goldfish cracker. I dig it, and would crush these guppies up and put them on pulled pork in an instant. In fact, I might do that tonight.
15. Blasted Nacho
Like #17, this is truly an idiosyncratic surprise that smiles back. I see these little Goldfish grinning smugly at me, defying my doubt. But I'm not pissed. These could more accurately be described as "slightly spicy cheese," but by any name, they are a semi-weird, definitely delicious standout in the Goldfish roster.
14. Wild White Cheddar
Honestly, this is just a slightly stronger (but preferable!) version of the standard Parmesan. They should have called it Power Parm.
13. Xplosive Pizza
This is the pizza-flavored Goldfish we've been searching for. These goldfish embrace their inner Emeril Lagasse and kick things up a notch. Here, you can actually taste some semblance of tomato and cheese -- along with a heavy dose of oregano, obviously. It's not the greatest pizza-based snack in the world, but at least it can confidently assure that Goldfish has a pizza flavor that's more dollar slice than DiGiorno.
12. Xtra Cheddar
One of the problems I've always had with Goldish -- meaning, the Cheddar Goldfish -- was that the flavoring just wasn't bold enough. Like, it approached greatness, but never fully realized it. It is, to me, the Greg Oden of crackers. The blasted variety adds at least 2x as much Cheddar as the original, and the results prove that classic Cheddar simply wasn't trying as hard as it could have. It dials up the flavor, without being too overwhelming. This should really be the standard Cheddar instead of the amped-up exception.
11. Cookies and Cream
To quickly brief you on what these graham-fishes are, Goldfish -- while always a snack food -- was never really a dessert food. These are more cookies than crackers. And this is never more evident than the cookies and cream flavor, which contains two varieties of Goldfish-shaped graham crackers: a vanilla (the cream), and what can be best described as "off-brand Oreo" to rep the cookies. As you can assert from the lesser-known category's high placement, overall, these really work. This flavor just happens to work the least but I still found myself reaching into the bag for more.
10. Vanilla Cupcake
If you took the "creams" from the cookies and cream and made them a little sweeter, you'd come up with vanilla cupcake. In case you were wondering, this is a good tweak.
9. Fudge Brownie
If you took the "off-brand Oreo" flavor from the cookies and cream, and injected it with 200% more chocolate, you'd come up with Fudge Brownie. In case you were wondering, this is an even better tweak.
I can not stress how good these are. This is the bag I kept on dipping into, almost instinctively, because I could not get enough. Not only do you have a classic graham flavor combined with what I believe is a carbon copy of the Fudge Brownie, you also have a Lucky Charms-esque marshmallow thrown in to complete the s'mores trifecta. It's basically all cereal. The only reason it isn't topping this list, in fact, is because -- despite being Goldfish -- it doesn't really capture the essence of what Goldfish are, in general. That being said, it's the best outlier on the list and one of the best dessert snacks you can purchase, period.
7. Xtra Cheddar and Pretzel
One of my major qualms while trying all these Goldfish is that I truly believe if I were to have an entire bag of any of these flavors, I would eventually grow tired of what they had to offer. During this taste test, I was able to vacillate between flavors, creating a veritable buffet of fish-shaped crackers in my mouth. With the "mix" category, Big Goldfish seemingly realized my inner desire way ahead of time, and took matters into their own flippers. Here, they combine two flavors in the same bag. It's fish-shaped madness! Out of the five mash-ups, the Xtra Cheddar and Pretzel -- the safest bet -- was also the least interesting. The flavor combo didn't do much for me when added together, especially when compared with the rest of the mixes on this list.
6. Cheddar, Zesty Cheddar, and Parmesan
Have you ever bitten into a Goldfish and wished the cracker in question was A) paired with a second type of cheese, if only to deliver a more nuanced, refined flavor profile, and B) had at least double the zest? Then this flavor is for you. It's much more dynamic than just eating one cheese alone, and it makes you wonder why every Goldfish isn't paired with two types of cheeses always, if only to make things more interesting. It's like when an old married couple introduces a young third party into their sex life, just to spice things up. That happens, right?
5. Cheesy Pizza and Parmesan
This is Blasted Pizza, with an extra dose of parmesan. Simply put: I knew Pepperidge Farm had an exemplary pizza flavor in them, and this is certainly it. If you want a pizza-themed Goldfish, don't opt for anything else. No really, don't. I'll know. I'll come to your house and crush your crackers.
4. Organic Wheat Parmesan
I normally reserve the "healthy" options for the back ends of these lists. It's not their fault, really, it's just that when it comes to snacking, health-centric is almost always a hinderance. But these organic wheat crackers actually (gasp!) might taste better than the originals. They have a crunchier, more complex texture. And weirdly, they might even be more flavorful. They do cost slightly more, but they come in a resealable bag perfectly made to perch atop your work desk for some midday fishing. It's like an evolved, grown-up version of your childhood favorite. It's better for you -- and even tastes better, too. We shouldn't be this lucky. I looked for a catch… but I came up empty.
3. Organic Wheat Saltine
I'm a big fan of saltine crackers, so I was both skeptical and hopeful when I tried these. Thankfully, the Saltine Goldfish taste like tiny fish-shaped versions of my favorite crackers. And you don't even need to order soup to get them! They not only make the infamous saltine challenge easier, they provide the perfect, alternative (non-cheesy) use of the Goldfish shape. If you like saltines, you will absolutely love these snacks. And if you don't like saltines, well, you might actually still like these crackers.
2. Organic Wheat Cheddar
I never thought a health-centric analogue would best the original -- but as I said before, they are crunchier, smoother, and have an all-around better taste and mouthfeel than the ones I grew up with. The snack that smiles back has come into its own, in the form of the Organic Wheat Cheddar, and I advise all adult snackers to reap the benefits. There is only one better flavor in the Goldfish canon. And… well…
If I was you, I wouldn't believe it either.
I assure you, I'm not trying to be contrarian. I'm not trying to be outlandish. And I'm certainly not trying to be cute (though, these are the most adorable Goldfish, for good measure). The special edition Princess Goldfish are objectively the best tasting Goldfish on the market right now. They taste like a slightly saltier version of the classic Cheddar; I checked the label, and there is in fact more sodium in these. They have a delightful purple color. And, for some unexplainable reason, they just taste better -- like an idealized version of the Cheddar we know and love. If you doubt my findings, I suggest a simple test: Buy both varieties, put a blindfold on, and taste them both back-to-back. You'll be able to tell the difference. And I'll bet my proverbial left gill that you'll choose the Princess version as the one you like best.
Men, don't let your fragile masculinity come between you and enjoying the best Goldfish variety currently on the market. In this case, the Princess is queen.