The 100 Best Snacks of All Time
In theory, anything can be a snack. Passed out on the couch and awoke to find a slice of the pizza you ordered still lukewarm in the box? Snack! On a diet and having a few sticks of celery to tide you over before your dinner smoothie? Sad! But technically, snack!
Of course, the task of selecting the 100 best snacks of all time required us to establish some ground rules, or we'd be facing edible anarchy. For specificity, we focused on actual brands, because how the hell do you evaluate "chocolate chip cookies" as a concept? For accessibility, we limited ourselves to things that are reasonably available at most American corner stores, mini-marts, and other workaday snack-purveyors. Finally, the morsel has to be something you can easily consume, with your hands, right out of the packaging -- eliminating Hot Pockets, Totino's, and Pop-Tarts (which we all know only rule if they're toasted).
Got it? Then start munching on this tasty list of the 100 finest snacks we've ever encountered.
100. Premium SaltinesThey're there sometimes! -- AK
99. David Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds' greatest feature -- their easily splittable, spittable shells -- is also their greatest drawback, as not all environments are conducive to shell-spitting. Also sometimes you get a bad shell crack and a shard gets stuck in your gums and it's a nightmare. But baseball dugouts and episodes of The X-Files wouldn't be the same without them. Props to David for having the foresight to realize that even sunflower seeds ought to offer a ranch flavor. -- ML
98. RaisinetsBasically, these things taste like a long weekend at your grandma's spent watching old movies she used to love. So you enjoy them, but also kind of endure them. -- AK
97. Welch's Fruit SnacksFruit snack trends come and go, but through it all Welch's has been there with its simple fruit shapes and subtle yet addictive flavors that make you say to yourself, "I wonder if mom will be mad that I accidentally housed three packs of these after school when they were expressly purchased for lunches." -- ML
96. Mike and IkeThey're tasty enough, but the gel-to-candy ratio is a little extreme. It's like a jellybean had a crisis of identity, went to the gym, and decided that it was pretty cool being a little blander. It's the quarter-life crisis of candy-coated jelly snacks. -- AK
95. Corn NutsThese days, a lot of hip restaurants will serve you artisan corn nuts. Weirdly, nobody gets them right, probably because they're not sure what they are. But we're glad to have them, if only because they're extremely salty, and also trick you into thinking you've had a serving of vegetables. -- AK
94. popchipsThis upstart brand is more addictive than anything marketing itself as a healthful snack option has a right to be. -- ML
93. NewtonsThanks to those ads boasting that "a cookie is just a cookie but a Newton is fruit and cake," I felt slightly superior in grade school whenever I had a few of them in my lunchbox. I'm also pretty sure this is the only format in which I ingested figs until, like, age 27. Truth be told, though, the apple ones were my jam. -- ML
92. Trolli gummiesThese are for the gummy aficionado who insists on having their gummies shaped like weird shit -- peaches! worms! hot dogs! -- and often rolled in enough sugar to coat a house. Their strange, foamy texture keeps them from greatness, but they rate highly on the novelty-gummy scale. Gummy-pizza fiends, Trolli has your back! -- AK
91. DonettesThank you to the good people at Hostess for realizing Americans needed to be able to down a donut in one bite without the shame that comes with doing so with like, an actual, full-size donut. Though you're inevitably going to eat the entire sleeve of Donettes anyway, then feel a roughly equal amount of shame. You'll think you were sneaky, but the powdered sugar smudges on your shirt tell the story. -- ML
90. Better CheddarsThe underrated treat of the baked-snack-cracker world, these guys kind of taste like less flavorful Cheez-Its that are hit by a steamroller, then re-baked. This is a good thing, since we love Cheez-Its. Plus they're better than their cousins, Better Swiss, and way better than bullshit Cheese Nips. -- AK
89. Swiss RollsThese addictive Little Debbie cakes are like Ho Hos, minus the giggles you get when you ask for them. -- AK
88. Club CrackersYeah, they're a little plain. But they're also wonderfully buttery with an inexplicably high salt flavor. Even more curious, these are generally considered the classiest of American-made snack crackers intended to be loaded with cheese, yet they are at their best when bought at a gas station in an eight-pack of sandwich crackers filled with super-fake cheese. Duality, thy name is Club Crackers. -- AK
87. Junior MintsSome people can nurse a big ol' box of these throughout the course of a movie. I am not one of these people. I pop them like an NFL linebacker with a Vicodin prescription. The only thing that slows me down is the one or two leaky ones that are inevitably trapped at the bottom, necessitating that that side of the box be torn open as well, causing the old guy next to me to be visibly irritated by the noisy jostling. But I don't care. The only thing I care about is that I no longer have any Junior Mints. -- ML
86. Honey Maid grahamsFor a foodstuff that was created to repress America's sex drives, graham crackers sure are delightful, even if no one has ever successfully consumed an entire box without shattering several of them accidentally. Bet Old Man Graham never thought hundreds of thousands of these would be consumed in front of seductively flickering campfires by people who… ate too many goddamn s'mores to have any sex. Hot damn, it worked after all! -- ML
85. PezFact: I have a huge collection of Pez dispensers currently in the care of my goddaughter, who has no idea why her godfather is such a dork, or why adults would want to partake in a candy that's served from the gaping hole in Yoda's neck. Indeed, Pez walks the line between snack and novelty, but there's a certain nostalgic blast that comes with dumping a whole sleeve of vaguely chemically cherry candy rectangles in your mouth. It spans generations. Or at least it tries to when you force it upon an unsuspecting teenage relative who is obliged to roll her eyes and agree that it's delicious. -- AK
84. Utz Cheese BallsI'm still perplexed, saddened, and frankly hurt by Planters' discontinuation of its cheese balls, which were incredible, but the good people at Utz make the best remaining approximation. Purchase one of the comically large tubs at Costco and your entire family will be able to enjoy them for… not nearly as long as you'd think. -- ML
83. Dove PromisesMy mom reliably keeps a bag of these in a "secret" spot in the cabinet. She probably wonders why that bag is significantly lighter whenever I happen to have been over. Actually, she has probably figured it out. Have you ever had the ones with the peanut butter inside? Watch your back, Reese's. -- ML
82. Hostess piesPie is my favorite food. Period. So it would stand to reason that a delicious hand pie filled with preserves (or pudding, the low-key standout of the Hostess family) would tower above the competition. And yet this gas-station rhombus of regret has a weird aftertaste that makes me feel like I brushed my teeth before eating it, which I most assuredly did not. Added to that, these suckers pack more saturated fat than a White Castle Crave Case. Not really, but still… if I'm gonna play Russian roulette with my left ventricle, I'd rather do it with something that leaves me full rather than shaking with elevated blood sugar and the hunger for more. -- AK
81. E.L. FudgeKeebler's iconic sandwich cookie is particularly convenient for those who want a sandwich cookie that separates easily for unobstructed access to the filling. They're also particularly convenient for those who want to pretend they're crazed giants gobbling up helpless, delectable little elves by the handful. If you have children who are among the latter, don't sound the alarm bells quite yet, but maybe keep an eye on them? -- ML
80. TGI Fridays Potato SkinsI'm not a fan of Fridays to begin with, so this is a little odd, especially since it has a whole line of snacks modeled after its endless apps selection, among them "mozz sticks" that taste like some sort of accident occurred at the Cheetos factory. But these potato skins… good Lord. For those of us who still malign the death of the Keebler Tato Skin (RIP, you elven beauty), here's the only chance to get that nostalgia blast. The Cheddar & Bacon variety serves as perhaps the best representation of fake meat flavoring on any chip, period. That's not a high bar to hit. But hey, when you're the only legit potato skin on the market, you go big or you go to Applebee's. -- AK
79. Chicken in a BiskitIt tastes neither like chicken nor biscuits. It's more like somebody spilled a ramen seasoning packet on a bunch of Club Crackers. And, well, it's kind of glorious once you get past the fact that you're eating greasy chicken(ish)-flavored granny crackers. -- AK
78. Swedish Fish(Starts talking in old-man voice) In my day, when you were down to your last remnants of change from the money mom gave you for the snack bar at the pool, you could always score a few Swedish Fish for a nickel. It wasn't as glorious as having a cardboard boat full of soon-to-be-soggy nachos, but it wasn't half bad, either. -- ML
77. NerdsHave you ever carefully eaten the colorful exterior away from a particularly large Nerd to get a look at the inside? It looks like tiny fragments of old-timey rock candy. The first time I made this discovery I pondered my relationship to the previous generations for whom a bit of crystallized sugar on a stick was the height of luxury. Then I snapped out of it and went back to chugging those little cherry- and grape-flavored goblins like a madman. Have you tried those double-dipped ones with the lemonade and wild cherry? DAMN. Progress tastes good. -- ML
76. Rold GoldYup, those are some pretzels alright! -- AK
75. TwizzlersIn the realm of licorice, Twizzlers gets points for variety. But variety can be a mixed bag, especially when you get to the Nibs and Bites, which literally come in bags and often taste like said bags were left open on a counter until the candy inside went from soft to the consistency of a butterscotch that's been on your grandma's counter for a couple years. On the flip side, the Pull 'N' Peels are the best damn rope licorice on the market, with (no) respect to the 3ft ropes you see in novelty shops. Still, all mass-produced licorice should be judged on its ability to effectively double as a straw in a movie theater, and while Twizzlers Twists work, you often walk away with strained cheek muscles from sucking too hard, and the thickness of the licorice tends to make it rock-hard when it meets an icy beverage. -- AK
74. Red VinesWhile drinking soda through Twizzlers is the diabetic equivalent of trying to drink a Big Gulp with a crimped coffee stirrer, Red Vines are like taking it down with a beer bong. They also stay softer and impart more fake strawberry flavor into your mouth. It's a slight advantage, but in a call this close, it's an important one. -- AK
73. MoundsMounds bars are highly divisive because your mileage will vary significantly depending on how you feel about coconut. I myself love me some coconut, so I like to have Mounds in the candy bar rotation. As a bonus, the fact that there appears to be actual evidence of plant matter still in tact when consuming one means I'm able to convince myself that I'm making a relatively nutritionally virtuous choice even though deep down I know my health did not factor into my decision to take a delightfully sugary trip to coconut town. -- ML
72. Almond JoyIt has almonds. Mounds don't. -- ML
71. TriscuitThey're salty! They're delicious when layered with cheese or dips. They have fun little herbal flavors. Despite these qualities, they're somehow not the first thing I'm reaching for. Or the third. Or, if this list is any indication, the 70th. But check in with me in, like, 30 years, because they are delightful when paired with a game of bridge, I hear. And they make you poop a little more regularly! -- AK
70. Nutter ButtersNutter Butters are the closest constantly available approximation of the Do-Si-Do, a peanut butter sandwich cookie that is perpetually underappreciated in the Girl Scout Cookie canon. However, underappreciated does not equal "best." But still, you're doing good work out there, Nutter Butters, even if it's hard out there for a sandwich cookie company by the same people who also make Oreos. How come Oreos get to do all the playing around with flavors? Throw some jelly on these bad boys and blow some minds! -- ML
69. TostitosThe shapes make these suckers ideal for any kind of dip – thick chips for seven-layer. Scoops for chili. Flat chips for salsa. Rolled for the salsa at the bottom of the jar. If we were giving out points for dippability, Tostitos would reign supreme. But we're not. So bonus points for being salty and reliable in a pinch, and offering a hint-o-lime flavor that's like the LaCroix of the snack world (it's an essence!). But taken alone, they are but an empty vessel in need of a certain (highly processed) je ne sais quoi. -- AK
68. Brownie BitesAt some point during my childhood the good people at Hostess realized that America needed access to brownies in the kind of bite-sized, snackable form that would lend itself to having bags full of them populating America's lunchboxes. Frankly, said realization was long overdue. You'll also see large non-branded tubs of these suckers at many a local grocer. However you're getting your fix, if you're eating brownies by the handful, you're living right. -- ML
67. Famous AmosAlways a sneaky-strong vending machine play. I don't know who Amos was (Googles). Well hot damn, he was a Los Angeles talent agent who borrowed money from Marvin Gaye to launch his cookie business, which became an instant sensation. And Wally Amos is still kicking at age 80! And he was in an episode of Taxi?! And he was in an episode of The Office?! And he was on Shark Tank?! I honestly feel ashamed for not knowing any of this. I always just assumed Famous Amos was cooked up in some corporate boardroom because it rhymed. Maybe this should be higher? Also: best actual chocolate chips of any store-bought cookie. -- ML
66. Slim JimsWhen "Macho Man" Randy Savage went to the big Royal Rumble in the sky, so did a lot of the appeal of these strange, pepperoni-ish meat byproducts that have become as synonymous with gas stations as condom machines and the potential to be robbed. They're salty and meaty and scratch a certain snack itch, sure, but how many people do you know who actively crave one of these? Trick question: You never actually knew Randy Savage, liar. But if you miss him, snap into one and you might know what it was like to taste his sweat as he dropped from the top rope onto your face. -- AK
65. Fruit Roll-UpsFruit Roll-Ups have gone through way too many permutations since their introduction in 1983 (Betty Crocker, you sly devil!) to address them all here. My Roll-Up-consuming heydey definitely came before SpongeBob got involved. But the fundamentals really haven't changed: Peel it off the cellophane and delicately savor each pectin-packing… oh, who are you kidding, just crumple the damn thing up and devour it. Anyone who actually takes the time to extract the "fun" shapes from a Fruit Roll-Up is not to be trusted. -- ML
64. Fruit by the FootThe evolutionary Fruit Roll-Up. It takes longer to unroll. It still often ends up being crumpled into a ball and devoured in a single go. Also the actual edible part has a slightly softer, more gentle texture than its forefather. Between this and Bubble Tape the '90s were a real heydey for introducing snacks that would be at home in the packing section of a hardware store. -- ML
63. WhoppersAn underrated movie snack if ever there was one, and a candy that's often overshadowed by the crushing, tooth-yanking disappointment of a Milk Dud. Pro tip: Put a handful in your mouth, chomp once, then take a quick swig of milk. Boom. Instant milkshake. Also: Why don't more movie theaters serve milk? -- AK
62. WhatchamacallitThere it sits at the bottom of the candy bar section, gathering dust. Seriously, when was the last time you had one of these caramel-y, rich-puffed, chocolate-laden beasts? Because before the Take Five (more on that later!), this was the absolute best Frankenbar out there. Somehow, it tastes even better when left to become stale and hard due to the ravages of time. Which is great, because that thing's probably been sitting on the shelf for half a decade. -- AK
61. RuntsThis is the only way I was able to stomach three servings of fruit in one day as a kid. Don't believe me? Ask my very rich childhood dentist. And while there are some who claim that the banana is the weakest of the fake-fruit basket, there are entire vending machines dedicated to the little yellow bastards. Do you see any vending machines offering a handful of lime Runts? Debate over. Banana Runts win. -- AK
60. Nilla WafersMaybe I was just a boring kid, but these were definitely more of a go-to than Oreos. Then again, my favorite cake is "plain vanilla" and I find the works of EL James very risqué. But they also come in a bag and you can cram them into your mouth like Cookie Monster, which you definitely should do. Gotta do something to make these deliciously boring cookies more fun! -- AK
59. Pretzel CrispsThese beauties are unequivocally the most important pretzel-related snacking innovation to come around in the last 15 years. While they have the structural integrity to function as an ideal dipping candidate, they certainly don't require any help, having minimized the dull pretzel interior in favor of a maximum-impact crispy exterior that I'm speaking about so breathlessly you'd think I'm on the take from them. Which I'm not. Though, Pretzel Crisps people, if you ARE offering, I'll take some of the Buffalo ones. (Kidding. My opinons are not for sale. But for real, try the Buffalo.) Have you ever dipped them in ranch? Heaven! -- ML
58. Zebra CakesThese aren't necessarily my favorite work Little Debbie's ever done (she's a big girl now, she can take it), but they have enough devotion that I'll undoubtedly receive some pointed messages from Zebra Cake truthers. All that said, they're quite enjoyable, with the chocolaty stripes providing just enough zip to zest up a potentially monotonous white icing/white cake/cream filling trio. Though, to be clear, NO actual zebra. I don't need PETA on my back, too. -- ML
57. SunChipsThe visible multigrain flecks help me convince myself I'm making a healthy decision! I can't really comment on any flavor of SunChips other than Harvest Cheddar, but I don't think that's necessary. If there's a secret Garden Salsa SunChip community ready to come at me on Twitter I'll be pleasantly surprised. But damn, Harvest Cheddar SunChips are some quality cheese snackin'. I've never been to a Cheddar harvest. In fact, I'm not sure that's a real thing. If it is, I want to go. -- ML
56. FunyunsOne day, a genius at Frito-Lay decided to take the most important vegetable on the Thanksgiving table -- the fried onions on top of the green bean casserole -- and create a fake version using cornstarch, onion flavoring, and a little moxie. And holy shit are they fantastic. Not the Flamin' Hot ones or the Steakhouse version, mind you. Because Funyuns, like Thanksgiving, are best when you don't stray from tradition. -- AK
55. 3 MusketeersI've always wanted to know what this nougat-heavy confection had to do with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. (Does research). Wait, did you know it originally came in three pieces? And only one piece was chocolate, while the other two were strawberry and vanilla? This seems like a much more exciting candy experience! How has some enterprising Mars exec not rereleased "original" 3 Musketeers in an old-timey wrapper? Would 100% purchase. Right now it's just like a Milky Way that forgot something. -- ML
54. Baby RuthIt's as if somebody got a box of Goobers and realized that popping chocolate-covered nuts in your mouth is a waste of time when you can roll those suckers up in nougat and caramel and gnaw on 'em. It's a protein blast. It's sweet. It looks like you're eating poop and it always makes you think of The Goonies. It is, in short, glorious. Except that "looking like poop" part. Thanks a lot, Bill Murray. -- AK
53. Milky WayThe Milky Way was my original No. 1 candy back when I had a less refined palate and things like "nuts" frightened me. These days I find all the smoothness and sweetness a little one-note, but that wouldn't stop me from gleefully inhaling one if you handed it to me. -- ML
52. Animal crackersAs a relatively new father, I find myself eating a lot of snacks intended for children… most of which I'm not actually feeding my daughter. Animal crackers in all their forms are among the most delightful rediscoveries. Age has tempered my need for frosted or iced ones, though. The understated pleasure of eating an elephant that tastes a little like a graham cracker is in and of itself one of life's simple joys, best consumed while making inappropriate poaching jokes to a toddler who has no idea why you think it's so funny. -- AK
51. Handi-SnacksYes, yes, we're allowing a cheat on the "utensil" clause here to allow for the little red plastic spreader you use to spread the cheese. Well, unless we're talking about the pretzel stick versions, but those aren't the real OG Handi-Snacks. Personally I always liked to go a little light on the first three crackers, and then reward myself with a gloriously cheese-laden grand finale. When you think about it, Handi-Snacks can really teach kids values like restraint and resource management. -- ML
50. MunchosThey're $2 a bag and contain enough sodium to give a deer a stroke. They're airy and light, which is extremely deceptive because you get all the way through a bag before you realize you just ate enough fat and salt to last you a full winter. And then you go back for more, because Munchos are the potato chip equivalent of a magic trick, and you're still trying to figure out where the magician made his sleight of hand and made you go up a belt size. -- AK
49. Jelly BelliesThe only jelly beans I'm legitimately excited to encounter. Unless they're the buttered popcorn ones. Still haven't wrapped my mind/palate around those. -- ML
48. Nestle CrunchBy far my preferred method for consuming Rice Krispies. It's a textural delight for the senses. Have I had dreams involving eating my way out of an above-ground pool filled with Buncha Crunch? Possibly! Here is a quick list of other cereals that 100% need to be made into candy bars: Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles… basically every cereal except Grape-Nuts? You're good where you are, Grape-Nuts. -- ML
47. Teddy GrahamsAnother delightful rediscovery as an adult, Teddy Grahams taste like some brilliant soul ate some animal crackers, realized that they were kind of good, then decided to make them more flavorful -- chocolate! Cinnamon! Honey -- while still catering to our primal desire to eat the head off of a cute endangered species. -- AK
46. Gushers1991 was a big year. Salute Your Shorts debuted on Nickelodeon. Color Me Badd was singing about wanting to sex people up. The Silence of the Lambs creeped the hell out of everybody. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say these all paled in comparison to Gushers completely changing the fruit snack game. They would have called this a disruption, if people talked that way back then. Any fruit snack lacking a liquid core remains inferior to this day. -- ML
45. RolosAt snack time, Rolos can take on a bartering system all their own. That's largely due to the fact that the little chocolaty caramel dimples can be popped out with the quickness of quarters dispensed via a roll at a cheap casino. I imagine they'd work really well in getting you through the prison monetary system, too. -- AK
44. Stacy's Pita ChipsStacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips are incredibly alluring for reasons that have nothing to do with a female brand name adding "naked" as a descriptor. I know that because I'll just as readily consume an entire bag of Parmesan Garlic. These are often purchased with some kind of dip in mind, yet they require absolutely zero help. -- ML
43. Fudge StripesNothing too complicated here. Just a delicious shortbread-ish cookie round with a layer of fudge on the bottom and some zebra stripes on top. But the hole is the real winner here, and if you're an adult who says you never put one on your finger and then eat around it until you have a nice little cookie ring, then pretend that you're engaged to Ernie the Elf and plan to move into his tree house as soon as he has the balls to just tell his parents about us and get it over with… sorry. I lost my train of thought. What we were talking about again? Oh, right. These are pretty good. -- AK
42. Smartfood White Cheddar PopcornOf all the mass-produced, nationally available cheese corn (big love, O-Ke-Doke, and please expand soon!), this is the most infinitely crammable, largely due to the relative absence of kernels that wedge themselves in your teeth, and mostly due to the wonderfully normal-tasting dusting of cheese powder. Plus, it's white cheese, which makes it way easier to conceal the fact that you've wiped your hands on your pants. -- AK
41. Hershey's KissesThey're the dominant poppable chocolate in candy jars, Christmas stockings, gift bags, and lunch bags due to the fact that they deliver a quick, adorable dose of cocoa in everything from classic milk chocolate to almond and, if you're feeling fancy, white chocolate. But the real power of Kisses is their size. Seriously. When was the last time you thought, "You know what, I'd really like a Hershey's bar." You were camping, weren't you? Kisses are the same chocolate, but not the same experience. Because apparently bears really aren't willing to kill you for a couple almond-packed Kisses. -- AK
40. Heath BarsToffee. Chocolate. Chocolate-covered toffee that gets stuck in your teeth for a week. "Heath Bar. Never Forget." You're welcome, marketing team. -- AK
39. Rice Krispies TreatsRemember back in the day when officially branded RKTs came out, and some asshole kid came to your birthday party and told your mom they were better than the ones she spent half a day pouring into a casserole dish to serve to a bunch of ungrateful kids? That was me. Sorry, Mrs. Murray. But it was true. -- AK
38. SkittlesM&M's for chocolate haters! I've tasted the rainbow plenty in my day, if by "taste" you mean "thrown handfuls in my mouth so that they all merge into a monstrous fruit punch-flavored ball that takes way too long to chew -- why don't you eat slower?" I recall enjoying the Wild Berry and Tropical varieties in similar fashion. Still, my favorite Skittles-related memory remains hearing a camp counselor from London with a super-heavy accent pronounce them "Skih-uls." So yeah, 38 feels about right. -- ML
37. Sour Patch KidsSour's a dangerous game to play in the snack world -- go too heavy and it wears out its welcome quickly. South Patch Kids manage to hit the exact perfect amount of sour -- enough of a kick to please the sour-chasing crowd, but not so strong that you don't find yourself wanting to go back over and over. It's enough to make you not remotely disturbed by the concept of eating children by the handful. -- ML
36. Ho HosThe fact that the standard Ho Ho comes two to a package provided important flexibility when it came to lunch-table wheeling and dealing. Also, how come Twinkies always get such high billing when it comes to carnival deep-fryer creativity, and yet I don't think I've ever seen a deep-fried Ho Ho? I'd eat the hell out a deep-fried Ho Ho. Two of them, even. -- ML
35. Wheat ThinsWheat Thins probably seem like they're too high here. I get it. Look, let's talk about it over a box of Wheat Thins, shall we? Here, have a couple. They're tastier than you remembered, aren't they? There's an almost imperceptible sweetness just in the background of the salty that has you tempted to go back for more, isn't there? You're thinking of sneaking off so you can finish half a box in one sitting free of judgment, aren't you? Glad we had this talk. You're dismissed. -- ML
34. BuglesWhen was the last time you had Bugles? Even if it was yesterday, that's too long. Bugles are quite possibly the most criminally underappreciated savory snack out there. You have the pleasing layers of crunch provided by the conical construction. You have the opportunity to pretend you have really long, delicious fingernails. You have maybe the best nacho cheese flavor that doesn't end in "-ito." We are due for a serious Bugle renaissance. -- ML
33. Take FiveThis thing is like a Snickers and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup had a baby, then the baby went off and got knocked up by a Rold Gold in college, but finished its degree. And it is, in short, glorious. Sweet meets salty. Chocolate and peanut butter get a delicious crunch without resorting to the consistency of chunky peanut butter. I like to think that the real reason these never caught on and totally dominated the candy game is that the world still isn't ready for it. But it's probably because it doesn't come in fun size. And also because you sometimes cut your mouth on the pretzel if you're too voracious. -- AK
32. Chips Ahoy!Before it inspired the name of my seventh-favorite song by The Hold Steady, Chips Ahoy! cookies were the subject of many a heated argument surrounding the virtues of the crunchier originals versus the chewy variety (I'm an originalist). Of course, now there are so many damn varieties (Sweet n' Salty Salted Caramel Chunk?!?!?!) that the Chips Ahoy! audience is more fragmented. So it goes with TV, so it goes with dangerously bingeable cookies. -- ML
31. Kettle ChipsI'm a bit of an expert here, having once sat down with bags of every single flavor and ranked them based on my own personal bias (this happens a lot). Kettle makes a damn fine chip, but it's also one that's afraid of commitment, which is why sometimes flavors like Sweet Onion become an instant favorite then totally disappear, leaving a hole in your heart that no amount of Cheddar Beer chips can fill. They're also a little more oily than other chips, which is dangerous for a dress shirt. Still, while they don't launch as many weird flavors as Lays, they still have their share of successful gimmicks (the Pepperoncini is a thing of beauty). Plus, if you show up with a bag, everybody thinks you sprung for a pricier bag of chips despite these often being cheaper than their Frito-Lay cousins. A damn fine chip with a touch of class! -- AK
30. TwinkiesThe humble Twinkie has never felt the need to cover itself in sprinkles or frosting or different flavors like its loudmouth cousin Zingers or the elusive Chocodile. It's just a a bouncy tube of vanilla sponge cake filled with white cream. When the world ends in a couple weeks, it will remain the most delicious thing you can scavenge in the wasteland… and not just because cockroaches aren't vanilla-flavored. It's a classic for a reason. -- AK
29. MilanosThere are approximately 1,073 varieties of Milanos on the market these days. Have you had the ones with the melty centers? They should possibly be classified as a narcotic. But let's talk about the regular old Milanos that started it all and emerged as Pepperidge Farm's unquestioned cookie kingpin. You buy a bag because, you know, it's a Tuesday and all. Naturally you eat a few, and then it's time to put the bag away for later. But look, there's just one left in the row! Might as well eat it, right? Then you lift up the little paper divider as if you don't know damn well what lurks underneath. Before you know it, another row has vanished, and the vicious cycle continues until all you have is an empty Milanos bag and regrets. Tasty, tasty regrets. -- ML
28. Planters nutsFrom honey-roasted peanuts to cashews, Mr. Peanut's empire is vast, especially for voracious snackers like myself. That's largely due to the fact that it's very easy to hork down an entire can of whole cashews and suddenly realize -- again! -- that they contain a colossal amount of "good fat" that's only "good" if you exercise "moderation" and "self-control." Fuck that noise. But here's the rub: You're gonna be tempted to get the mixed nuts, because then you get the whole variety. And you're going to be extremely upset when you realize the sheer number of Brazil nuts. Not even Shakira likes those things. You can tell because, unlike me, she's in great shape because she doesn't consume an entire tin of them. Hips don't lie! -- AK
27. Oatmeal Creme PiesQuite simply, no cookie that possesses a chocolate quotient of zero should be this incredible. Little Debbie also makes Fudge Rounds, which are basically choco-fied Oatmeal Creme Pies, and somehow the Oatmeal Creme Pies are significantly better. It boggles my mind and makes me question everything I thought I knew about mass-produced snack foods. Perhaps I should help myself to another OCP just to make sure I'm correct about this. -- ML
26. Hostess CupCakesEnjoy your impossible-to-eat, over-frosted $5 boutique cupcakes. You could nab a two-pack of these with the loose change from underneath your car seat and have yourself a more primally satisfying cupcake experience. Twice. Peeling the icing off the top and rolling it up like a little chocolaty sugar taquito is optional. -- ML
25. RitzWe're just gonna put this right here, and also note that the Ritz Bits line has helped the world realize the value of putting peanut butter and/or fake cheese on a tiny, tiny cracker without making us endure the crippling frustration of actually putting peanut butter and/or fake cheese on a cracker the size of your pinky nub. -- AK
24. Jack Link'sWhy do people resort to Slim Jims when they need a protein blast on the road? Probably because jerky is oddly expensive when you consider it's just a big-ass bag of dried meat, and the Arby's is another exit away. Jack Link's bags, though, split the difference, landing in the middle zone between "too cheap to be actual meat" and "shot in the owner's backyard." It's also, you know, good. It tastes like meat because it is meat, and it comes in little bags or by the pound, just in case your road trip hasn't made you constipated enough. -- AK
23. Snyder's Pretzel PiecesI still remember the first time my mom mysteriously came back from the grocery stores with these. "Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Pieces"… how exotic-sounding! They sounded like fancy grown-up food, but I figured why not give 'em a shot. I don't know what kind of dark flavor magic they put in that yellow sheen that soaks up every bit of exposed pretzel interior, but hot damn. Also these are among the rare bagged snacks that get better as you get to the bottom and the pieces get tinier and proportionally more flavor-fied. And yes, I realize Snyder's has a boatload more pretzel products on the market, but everyone know it's the Pieces that make the empire go. -- ML
22. ButterfingerLook, there are many fine candy bars in the world, but there is only one that Bart Simpson wielded to make poor Milhouse depressed about the state of his lunch. Some people are put off by the almost neon-orange, peanut butter-ish, almost alarmingly crisp interior of the Butterfinger (here's its secret). These people are to be avoided. Also, if you've never tried the Butterfinger Cups, you should. They aren't quite enough to overtake Reese's, but they'll make you pause and question everything for a split second there. -- ML
21. Reese's PiecesIf somebody asked you what flavor Reese's Pieces are, you'd probably say "peanut butter and chocolate." Well, you'd be wrong. Such is the delicious power of these sleeper treats that they convince you they contain chocolate despite just being candy-coated peanut butter. Does anybody tell you M&M's have peanut butter in them even if they don't? Trick question. They sometimes do. Candy is confusing, guys! (Also, Reese's Pieces are the third-best part of ET, right behind the whole "flying in front of the moon" thing and the part where Drew Barrymore calls her brother "penis breath.") -- AK
20. RufflesNo other chip tastes as delicious when dipped in French onion dip than the original Ruffles. When I close my eyes and think "potato chip" and "picnic" -- which I do with alarming regularity -- it's what I think of. They are the kings of the crinkly chip world, but it's the flavored options that bump these down a little. Like Lays and Pringles, there are seemingly 400 flavors of Ruffles on the shelf at any given point, but only Cheddar & Sour Cream are worth your time -- Lord knows why some monsters keep buying the cheeseburger ones! Also, there's a Sour Cream & Onion flavor, which… look, I get that you can't always have a jar of French onion dip around, but if you're eating Ruffles, maybe you should. -- AK
19. FlipzHow, as a society, did it take us until almost the 21st century (Flipz made their debut in 1997) to say, "Hey, everyone with functioning taste buds thinks chocolate-covered pretzels are amazing, maybe someone with deep pockets should roll out a mass-market version?" At least it happened eventually, allowing Americans to walk into the airport news stand during a flight delay telling themselves they're just gonna buy a water and an energy bar or whatever before deciding that making an entire meal out of chocolate-covered pretzels seems like a prudent decision. -- ML
18. Chex MixI love Chex Mix, but my esteemed colleague Khushbu Shah loves it more and is incensed that it's not in the top five, and is even placed below Gardetto's. I can understand her feelings. Chex Mix, when at its best, is transcendent. I had to stop buying the Cheddar version, as it is not safe to have us in the same room. Some of its more recent sweet-salty experiments are the work of some kind of evil genius. It even had the vision to market its own version of puppy chow, which I'm pretty sure caused me to black out the first time I tried it. My one slight Chex Mix-related quibble involves the pretzels. My own lack of self-control and the occasional pretzel-heavy bag has burned me too many times with a disappointingly Chex-free situation when things move towards the bottom of the bag. Yeah, I know I should go pretzel-heavy early to avoid such predicament, but sometimes life is hard and you just want what you want, OK? And yes, I realize you can get "Simply Chex" now, but that feels like cheating. They need to come out with a "Simply Chex With Just a Few Pretzels for Matt" version. -- ML
17. Gardetto'sFun fact: Gardetto's started as a way to reduce waste in a restaurant that served crackery breadsticks. For various reasons that had nothing to do with traditional Judaism, they had to nip off the tips of each stick. The enterprising owners decided to capitalize on the waste by tossing those crunchy nubs in a bag with rye chips, pretzels, and seasoning... and voila! The greatest and most pseudo-sustainable of all snack mixes was born. -- AK
16. SnickersLet's pretend for a minute that Snickers offshoot flavors -- peanut butter, Crisper, hazelnut, and the like -- aren't also amazing and focus solely on the original bar and its coveted bite-sized brethren. Few candy bars are quite as perfectly constructed: the nougat, caramel, and peanut playing in perfect concert with one another, the chocolate serving as the shell keeping it all together. I mean, in a lot of ways it's just the next logical step in the evolution of the Baby Ruth. -- AK
15. StarburstHey internet, can we talk for a second? A good proportion of you got super excited when Starburst rolled out an all-pink pack. Did I miss the memo on pink being at the top of the color hierarchy? For me it always went Red-Orange-Pink-Yellow? Have I been enjoying Starburst incorrectly this entire time? Although, truth be told, the best way to eat Starburst is to take one of each color and smash them together into some kind of Starburst Voltron situation. Each color has a part to play. I believe in inclusion and diversity, is what I'm saying. Also, I believe in Starburst, even if having to slow down and unwrap each one individually is slowing down my pursuit of chewy, fruit-filled bliss -- although not by much. -- ML
14. CombosCombos: for when you really feel like some crackers (or pretzels!) and cheese, but the thought of actually dipping one food in another food exhausts you. Oh, and also you want pizza. Truly, Combos are a flavor-mashing, tailor-made stoner snack that were decades ahead of their time when they first debuted in the '70s. Go ahead and read me the terrifyingly long list of ingredients that go into making that unmistakably… Combo-y inner filling. I will stare you dead in the eyes and eat every last nacho cheese-filled cylindrical nugget and I will feel no remorse. Also, apparently there are sweet-savory versions now with like, caramel creme filling? Where have I been? Yo, Combo empire, hit me up! -- ML
13. TwixI'm not sure I'll ever forgive the folks at Twix for replacing the original Peanut Butter's regular cookie with chocolate -- the first time a combo of those two elements actually made something worse -- but the fact remains that Twix is one of the more perfect candy bars. The thin membrane of chocolate is smooth and never overpowering. The layer of caramel or peanut butter is the perfect cushion. And the cookie… hoo-boy, that cookie. The naked version of the Twix -- obtained in a hamster-like manner by nibbling off all chocolate and filling until you're met with a rectangular rod of crumby shortbread -- is a delight. Taken on its own, it would be a great treat. Throw those other layers up top, though, and you've got not one, but two of the best candy bars on the market… both in the same wrapper. -- AK
12. LaysGoing through every single flavor of Lays plays out like a somehow tastier/less boring version of that scene from Forrest Gump where Bubba rattles off on shrimp. Suffice it to say, there are a lot… and when you start throwing in annual "Do Us a Flavor" options like Biscuits & Gravy -- plus Wavy, Kettle Cooked, and Stax -- shit gets complicated. (Oh, and British people get chicken and shrimp flavors.) But it's important to note that, like pizza, a chip is only as good as its base. And the fact that the thin, crispy, salty Original Lays still stand as the best regular-ass potato chips on the market speaks volumes. It's a chip that's as good straight out of the bag as it is with dip or next to a deli sandwich. That it's also good in flavors like Tapatio, Cheddar & sour cream, and limon is just icing on the cake. Actually, they probably made an "Icing on the Cake" flavor at some point. If they did it was probably pretty good. -- AK
11. Kit KatLet's briefly ignore the distinct and curious befuddlement you get when you come across Kit Kat flavors like green tea, vinegar, and corn in an international market and focus on the OG version. Because, frankly, this should not be as good as it is. Wafers are the bane of most shelves, the treats that are doomed to the bottom of many a grandma's cookie jar. And the milk chocolate's good and all, though it's no different than the version you'd get on most candy bars. So why are Kit Kats so effing delicious?
Must be some sort of magical alchemy, because when that plain ol' chocolate hits those milquetoast layers of cookie wafers, something clicks, and clicks loudly. This is a whole that completely transcends its parts, with little sugar crystals dancing on your tongue and the thick walls of chocolate that make it easy to break the four pieces apart melting the minute it hits your tongue, tying the whole thing together. Whether you're getting it in the white or dark variety, Big Kat or mini -- and, yes, the green tea -- there is no candy so adept at taking the mundane and transforming it into something amazing as the Kit Kat. Plus, you get to rip it apart with your hands. -- AK
10. FritosWhen I think of the original Fritos flavor, it seems pretty unremarkable. Salt. Corn. Oil. Then I realize I've eaten an entire bag of them while thinking about it. Such is the addictive nature of whatever the hell these are supposed to be. They're perfectly delicious on their own, become infinitely better when purchased in Scoops! form and dipped in peanut butter (try it!), get nuanced with the Honey BBQ Twist, and are damn near perfect in chili-cheese form, which taste like neither chili nor cheese and are all the better for it. You can ponder that for days, but I'm not gonna recommend it. Two bags in one sitting is probably a little much. -- AK
9. Haribo gummiesSo, there are many fine varieties of gummy candy given to us by the good German folks at Haribo, but we're mostly going to discuss the bears here, because come on. Also I realize our discussion of foreign snackage has been limited, as discussed earlier, but these have achieved a level of American prominence that is impossible to ignore, proving themselves a much superior German import to Jürgen Klinsmann.
Oft-imitated but never duplicated, Haribo gummies have an unmistakable texture that's far more substantial than the average gummy candy. Call it charisma. Call it gravitas. Call it one of the more underrated theme songs in cartoon history. They're the undisputed king of gummy candies, and everyone else is just chasing the crown. Well, they're either chasing the crown or soaking a bunch of gummy bears in vodka because who takes shots the regular way anymore? -- ML
8. Cheez-ItsA year or two back Cheez-Its rolled out an "Extra Toasty" variety and they were a revelation, not only in their own right, but in how they made me see a food that had always been near the top of my snack list in an entirely new light. Cheez-Its always tasted more, for lack of a better word, "real" to me than most of your mass-produced snack foods, and that isn't just me being persuaded by the "100% Real Cheese" marketing. At least I don't think it is.
Anyway, the Extra Toasty rendition had that extra-dark hue and depth of flavor on it that you get when you order a pizza well-done. It was as though they'd taken a special order just for me. I'd never even really taken much time to think about how much I liked the fact that there were always a few extra-dark outliers in a box of Cheez-Its, and here they were laid out for me dozens of times over. The roasty outside. The gloriously cheesy inside. The perfectly sized flecks of salt that tell your taste buds "it's OK, just one more handful." The more I write about Cheez-Its, the more I think we could have put them all the way at No. 1 and not been wrong about it. To paraphrase the Farmer in the Dell, and, more recently, Omar Little (*removes sunglasses*)... the cheese stands alone. -- ML
7. M&M'sThe M&M candy shell is arguably the most important engineering achievement in confectionary history, allowing for the hands-on, mess-free snackability and pleasing crunch of so many savory snacks combined with the flavor of, you know, chocolate. When it was just plain and peanut, M&M's were already a snack force to be reckoned with, but the number of taste bud-expanding M&M-related developments in my lifetime is staggering. Peanut butter? Good Lord. Crispy? Hell, yes! Pretzel? What took you so long? I'm just waiting for them to roll out the inevitable peanut butter-pretzel M&M's that will be roughly the size of a golf ball. Oh, and caramel M&M's. How has that not happened yet? That seems like it should have happened (*does quick research to make sure it hasn't happened yet What?! It's happening in May?! That's what I love about you, M&M's. It's like, you get me. And you know what? You get America.*) But don't take my word for it. Listen to all the presidents. -- ML
6. CheetosNo, not the puffs, though if that's your fancy we can go ahead and shake neon-orange-fingered hands and agree that you're a freak (we can bond over Paws, though). No, I'm talking the curls, those mighty, crunchy, perfectly coated corn crisps that come in shapes ranging from "log" to "Harambe." And while some might argue the virtues of the spicier varieties (like Cheddar jalapeño and Flamin' Hot), it's the original "made with real cheese though we haven't really figured out which kind of cheese that is" flavor that will forever be king. Planters came close with its canned curls, only to fall into the annuls of discontinuation. Hell, at one point, Frito-Lay even released Cheetos with Doritos flavoring (and vice versa). Even that failed. It's like Cheetos are the president of snacks or something… -- AK
5. GoldfishIt should be obvious by now that nutritional virtuousness was in no way factored into performance on this list, and yet here Goldfish are in the top five. As we learned from the Goldfish commercials: You could eat them every day and your mom says that's OK. But we're not here to parse the relative glycemic merits of assorted salty and sweet snacks. We're here to celebrate Goldfish because they're goddamn amazing, a snacking empire unto themselves that exists as a subset of another snacking empire. I think we as a society really underappreciate everything Pepperidge Farm does for us. Quite simply I cannot picture a world without handfuls of crunchy little Cheddar Goldfish.
While we're here, let's talk about Flavor Blasted Goldfish, which seem to invite a lot of possible double entendres I won't entertain here. I bring them up only because, generally speaking, I tend toward being a snack originalist, believing that, more often than not, the original version of something is the purest expression of its essence. And while there remains a special place in my heart for original Goldfish… man, the high-octane version is really something. Like, they're almost too good. I know I've made many jokes in this space about compulsive eating and finishing entire bags of stuff, but seriously, I think it's possible that Flavor Blasted Goldfish are too potent to be handled by the general public. Of course, banning them would only result in a hellish black-market situation so that won't work either. Just proceed with caution, OK? -- ML
4. Reese's Peanut Butter CupsSpeaking of the original version usually being superior: Reese's Cups! There are those who obsess over the higher peanut butter quotient of the springtime treat that is the Reese's Egg. There are others who enjoy the all-over-the-map madness of a NutRageous. There are probably even sociopaths somewhere who claim Reese's Sticks are the best Reese's product. They are all wrong. The Reese's Cup is perfect: a two-pack of pleasure possessing the exact right ratio of sugary peanut goodness and also-sugary chocolate, with the ridged edge providing the entry point to a flavor-and-texture party that's been the subject of many a Halloween candy-trading argument. Just kidding. No one ever trades their Reese's.
A quick story. I had a friend in college who was sure he had a peanut allergy. After a couple of accidental peanut encounters produced no symptoms, he was tested for peanut allergies. He had no peanut allergies. He went on a weeks-long peanut butter 'n chocolate-eating binge the likes of which no one had ever seen, but it all started with a bag of miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The first time he ate one he made a sound that I've never heard a human make before or since. Then he finished the bag. Then he spent most of the next few weeks trying to explain to me how good Reese's Peanut Butter Cups tasted, though his explanations primarily consisted of the words "dude" and "holy shit."
Dude, holy shit indeed. -- ML
3. PringlesOne of my earliest memories was staring at dozens of cans of Pringles. Not because my parents fed me the way I fed myself in college, but because my extremely frugal, GM-working grandfather used to save cans of his signature flavor -- plain, lightly salted -- in order to keep basically every nail, screw, and bolt he ever used in his garage. So for the first years of my life, I thought Pringles only came in two flavors: "meh" and "ouch."
These days, though, Pringles makes dozens and dozens of flavors. I've tried them all of them. Yet in sitting down with 29 cans last year, I noticed that I was grabbing at straws to figure out why I even slightly disliked some flavors. True, the Original and Cheddar are standouts, but like Lays, Pringles messes with a ton of different flavors and gets most of them right. Hell, even the cheeseburger flavor is a thing of snackable beauty. Cheeseburger! What the hell is even happening? How does a chip that isn't even a chip that's made with flavors forged in a lab (for real, we got a peek at how they're made and it's mad science) get so much right?
Well, we confirmed that there's no crack involved. Just delicious potato crisps that come in enough good flavors to give Baskin-Robbins a run for its money. In fact, I'm fully willing to bet that if there were a flavor called "Grandpa's Old Nails," the can would be empty before I got home from the grocery store. So it was with bacon (the "worst" flavor). So it is constantly with Cheddar. Such is the power of Pringles. -- AK
2. OreosThe good people at Oreo have really stepped up the innovation in recent years, debuting new limited-edition flavors at a torrid pace that send food internet sites such as this one into a tizzy. And I'm all for it! The more kinds of Oreos the better! Well, maybe there's an exception when Peeps are involved.
However, all those shenanigans pale in comparison to Oreo's greatest innovation of them all: the Double Stuf. Honestly, they could have stopped there and they'd STILL check in at No. 2. Actually, it's possible they didn't even need Double Stuf, because regular Oreos are a giant among snack foods. I don't know what kind of devil alchemy happens when you combine an Oreo with milk, but I know the first time I ingested said combination my world was never the same.
I'm not sure how to evaluate original Oreos vs. Double Stuf. On the one hand, the regular Oreos started it all, and the heavier cookie ratio yields better results when dipped in milk, which is indisputably the best manner in which to consume Oreos. On the other hand, the filling is the best part of the Oreo, and Double Stuff provides both more of it, and easier access to it (regular Oreos are much more prone to breakage when you try the twist-and-scrape maneuver).
You know what? I can't choose. I'm glad both Oreos and Double Stuf Oreos are in my universe. I'm also glad Swedish Fish Oreos are in my universe. But I'm gladder about the first two. -- ML
1. DoritosThere are more than 15 different flavors of Doritos on shelves at any given time, all with their own virtues (except Bacon Cheddar Ranch). But with respect to Cool Ranch (I know I'm an outlier in my ambivalence toward ranch everything), there's only one flavor that truly matters, and that flavor is Nacho Cheese, the single greatest mass-produced snack in America.
There are many, many imitators, and as an obsessive I make it a point to try every off-brand nacho cheese chip in an effort to discover some other variation on the spice, fake cheese, tortilla, and bliss quotient offered in every bag of Doritos. It has been a futile, lifelong, delicious quest. The only thing that came close, Eagle Nacho Cheese Chips, went to the big snack bin in the sky decades ago.
There's a reason that a bag of Doritos is the first thing opened at a Super Bowl party amid a sea of homemade treats, yet never makes it past first quarter. It's a snack that makes everything better, one that turns even your fingers into something more delicious. There's a reason that Doritos Locos Tacos became Taco Bell's biggest-selling item nearly immediately, and it sure as hell wasn't what was inside the shell, after all. Side note, why doesn't Taco Bell wise up and sell the shells on their own and make Taco Tuesday a holiday?
Quick anecdote. A couple of years ago I got to the bottom of a family-sized bag of these beauties (a weekly tradition) and discovered a lump of pure nacho cheese seasoning a little larger than a quail egg. No chips. Just a compact wad of cheese powder. I took it, broke it up, and put it in a salt shaker. I sprinkled it on steaks. I showered popcorn with it. It went into my fried chicken seasoning. I even ate a little spoonful. Everything it touched it made better. Such is the power of America's greatest snack that even when its parts are separated and distilled down to an overpowering cheese-flavored powder, it still manages to be transcendent. -- AK
Illustration: Daniel Fishel
Animation: Evan Lockhart