The 100 Greatest Snacks of All Time, Ranked
Here’s what we’re reaching for at midnight.
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 tried to focus on actual brands. For accessibility, we limited ourselves to things that are reasonably available at most 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.
Got it? Then start munching on this tasty list of the 100 finest snacks we’ve ever encountered.
100. Premium Saltines
They’re there sometimes, and great with soup or dipped into chicken salad.
99. David Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower 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 wouldn’t be the same without them.
98. Italian Taralli
We get it—these are a bit niche. But anyone who frequents Italian delis knows you can’t leave without grabbing a bag of these breadstick-like bundles of joy. Upon first glance, you might think they’ll taste dry, but take a bite and you’ll get hit with a heaping of olive oil. And if you can get your hands on them, the red pepper variety offers the perfect amount of spice.
97. Welch’s Fruit Snacks
Fruit 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.”
96. Mike and Ike’s
They’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.
95. Corn Nuts
These 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.
PopCorners don’t often get the recognition they deserve. The potato chip-kettle corn hybrid is packed with flavor, and its bumpy texture lends itself to an unbelievable crunch.
Thanks to those ads boasting that “a cookie is just a cookie but a Newton is fruit and cake,” we felt slightly superior in grade school whenever I had a few of them in our lunchbox. Also, they get credit for starting the fig trend way early (though don’t sleep on the apple flavor, either.)
92. Vero Mango
There are a lot of chili-covered lollipops out there: watermelon, tamarind, strawberry, to name a few. And those are all fine and good, but Vero mango is the one everyone always picks as their favorite—for good reason. The savory heat of the chili paired with the zip of lime peels back to reveal sweet, juicy mango. It’s a celebration of flavor that we always want to partake in.
91. Donut Holes
Whether you want to call them Munchkins or Donettes, we love the practicality of being able to down a donut in one bite without the shame that comes with doing so with, like, an actual full-size donut. Still can’t avoid the leftover powdered sugar evidence, though.
90. Better Cheddars
The underrated treat of the baked-snack-cracker world, these guys kind of taste like less flavorful Cheez-Its (see below) that are hit by a steamroller, then re-baked. Plus they’re tastier than their cousins, Better Swiss, and waaay better than bogus Cheese Nips.
89. Swiss Rolls
These addictive Little Debbie cakes are like Ho Hos, minus the giggles you get when you ask for them.
88. Seaweed Snacks
There aren’t a lot of healthy options on this list, and for good reason, but we love that seaweed snacks give us that salty, briny, crunchy satisfaction without all the carbs.
87. Junior Mints
Some people can nurse a big ol' box of these throughout the course of a movie. We are not these people. The only thing slowing us 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 lots of the noisy jostling. But it’s worth it for more bites of refreshing, chocolate goodness.
86. Honey Maid Grahams
They are an essential part of s’mores (though try the aforementioned Saltines if you’re more into savory than sweet) and make for an incredibly tasty pie crust. What’s not to love?
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 (though the chalkiness is certainly a factor). But the candy spans generations and is a classic for a reason.
84. Utz Cheese Balls
These airy, orange spheres from our beloved Utz are seriously addictive. 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.
83. Cadbury Crunchie
There is a lot of great non-American chocolate out there, but the Cadbury Crunchie bar makes the list for its crispy honeycomb inside and sweet British chocolate coating. They’re a bit hard to find, but if you snag one from an Ikea or Wal-Mart, your shopping day is made.
82. Hostess Pies
Pie is one of the world’s greatest foods. 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. But be warned these suckers pack more saturated fat than a White Castle Crave Case. Not really, but still almost makes it not worth it on a road trip.
81. E.L. Fudge
Keebler’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.
80. Shrimp chips
Calbee is the most loved brand, with shrimp-flavored chips that vaguely resemble twisty fusilli. But really, any shrimp chip will do. The surprising sweetness and unbeatable crunch make it a snack to reach for time and time again.
There’s always been a debate about which is the superior spicy chip, Takis or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. To this, I say they’re both excellent in different ways. If you’re looking for mouth-puckering lime to pair with the heat, Takis are the way to go. They way they’re rolled like tiny, fiery cigarettes is also a fun bonus.
78. Swedish Fish
(Starts talking in an 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.
Have 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. That inner soul of a nerd truly makes it delicious and so versatile, for even better iterations like Nerds Rope or Nerds Gummy Clusters.
76. Rold Gold
Love the pure crushability of a bag of these thin sticks or twists. Always a solid gas station choice.
In 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 3-foot 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.
74. Red Vines
While 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.
Mounds bars are highly divisive because your mileage will vary significantly depending on how you feel about coconut. We love coconut, so we tend to keep Mounds in the candy bar rotation.
72. Almond Joy
It has almonds. Mounds don’t. -- ML
They’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.
70. Nutter Butters
Nutter 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!
69. Tortilla Chips
We love Tostitos solely based on the shapes: thick chips for seven-layer, scoops for chili, flat chips for salsa, and rolled for the salsa at the bottom of the jar. But there are alternative brands we enjoy just as much, if not more: Mission, Late July, Siete, and Calidad. If we were giving out points for dip-ability, tortilla chips would reign supreme. But we’re not. So bonus points for being salty and reliable in a pinch, but not a snack favorite all on their own.
68. Brownie Bites
At some point during our 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.
There’s something delightfully delicate about eating Pocky—pulling out a slender, coated stick from the pack and taking small, crunch-filled bites. While the chocolate flavor is the most classic iteration, we’re also fans of the more adventurous options, like matcha, or if you’re in a Japanese grocery store, cherry blossom.
66. Lofthouse Sugar Cookies
Yes, these are the pink sugar cookies that carried your childhood in a plastic container. The cookie is so soft it feels fake, the icing is loaded with sugar, and the sprinkles provide an imperative crunch. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whether this is something you’re picking up at a gas station on a long road trip or your favorite protein-rich option on the keto diet, the appeal of jerky is undeniable. There’s so many varieties and flavors of dried meat to choose from, as well as a plethora of vegan options. Mushroom jerky! Seitan! Coconut jerky! The options for tiring out your jaw are endless.
64. Fruit Roll-Ups
Fruit Roll-Ups have gone through way too many permutations since their introduction in 1983 (Betty Crocker, you sly devil!) to address them all here. 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.
An 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. We suggest putting a handful in your mouth, chomp once, then take a quick swig of milk. Boom. Instant milkshake.
There 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.
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 creations. Do you see any vending machines offering a handful of lime Runts? Debate over. Banana Runts win.
60. Nilla Wafers
These get a bad rap for being boring, like vanilla ice cream. But we are here to say that vanilla, derived from the vanilla bean, is a flavor all its own and should be appreciated as such. Plus Nilla Wafers make for a delicious banana pudding and you can cram them into your mouth like Cookie Monster, which you definitely should do.
59. Pretzel Crisps
These 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 for hummus, they certainly don’t require any help, having minimized the dull pretzel interior in favor of a maximum-impact crispy exterior. Plus, have you ever dipped the Buffalo ones in ranch? Heaven!
58. Zebra Cakes
These aren't necessarily our favorite work from Little Debbie, but Zebra Cakes are quite enjoyable, with the chocolaty stripes providing just enough zip to zest up a potentially monotonous white icing/white cake/cream filling trio.
The visible multigrain flecks help convince us we’re making a healthy decision! We’re personally huge fans of the Harvest Cheddar, though Garden Salsa comes in close second. These are probably best enjoyed as a sub side.
One 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 boy are they fantastic.
55. 3 Musketeers
We’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.
54. Baby Ruth
It’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.
53. Milky Way
The Milky Way was our original No. 1 candy back when we had a less refined palate. These days, we find all the smoothness and sweetness a little one-note, but that wouldn’t stop us from gleefully inhaling one if you handed it over.
52. Animal crackers
Animal crackers in all their forms are among the most delightful rediscoveries. 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.
Yes, 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, we always liked to go a little light on the first three crackers, and then reward ourselves with a gloriously cheese-laden grand finale. When you think about it, Handi-Snacks can really teach kids values like restraint and resource management.
50. Peanut Butter Pretzels
These are undeniably a classic. Our addiction to them started in our school lunches, and it never ended. Whatever variation you buy, these can’t go wrong. At the end of the day, you know you’ll be getting the unmatched combination of a bread-y pretzel, sweet peanut butter, and the best part—the flaky chunks of sea salt on the outside.
49. Jelly Bellies
The only jelly beans we’re legitimately excited to encounter, though we’re still honestly confused about the buttered popcorn ones.
48. Nestle Crunch
This is a textural delight for the senses. Have we 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.
47. Teddy Grahams
Another 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!—all in the form of adorable little bears.
1991 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. But 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.
At 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.
44. Pita Chips
Honestly, all pita chips are good. But Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips are incredibly alluring and we will 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.
43. Fudge Stripes
Nothing 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 we can’t really trust another word out of your mouth.
42. White Cheddar Popcorn
We love white cheddar popcorn in all its interactions—from Smart Food to Pirate’s Booty—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.
41. Hershey’s Kisses
They’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.
40. Heath Bars
Toffee. Chocolate. Chocolate-covered toffee that gets stuck in your teeth for a week. Plus, an incredible topping on frozen yogurt or really any ice cream sundae.
39. Rice Krispies Treats
Rice Krispies is another cereal we are surely grateful had a spin-off. We’re not sure if it was Snap, Crackle, or Pop’s idea to add melted marshmallow and create these gooey, bendy treats but we’d love to buy one of those little guys a drink to say thanks.
M&M’s for chocolate haters! We’ve tasted the rainbow plenty and find the originals never disappoint. Plus, we really enjoy the Wild Berry and Tropical varieties in similar fashion.
37. Sour Candy
Sour is a dangerous game to play in the snack world—go too heavy and it wears out its welcome quickly. South Patch Kids are our go-to for the sour-sweet balance, while Trolli crawlers are what we find ourselves crabbing when we really want that puckering punch.
If it seems like chickpeas have made their way into everything, it’s because they have. From Hippeas’ cheese puffs and tortilla chips to Biena’s straight-up roasted chickpeas, there’s a lot to love. Sure, it’s “healthy,” but there’s nothing better than a salty snack packed with protein that actually keeps you full, right?
35. Wheat Thins
Wheat Thins probably seem like they're too high here. But they’re tastier than you remembered. There's an almost imperceptible sweetness just in the background of the salty that has you tempted to go back for more. We also love that they come in various sizes, depending on our level of gluttony that day. Thanks for giving us options, WT!
When 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.
33. Take Five
This thing is like a Snickers and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup had a baby 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. We 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.
32. Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chips Ahoy! cookies have been the subject of many a heated argument surrounding the virtues of the crunchier originals versus the chewy variety. So for those that want something a bit more crispy, there are Tate’s. But no matter what consistency you prefer, there is nothing like dumping a choc chip in a cool glass of milk.
31. Kettle Chips
We once sat down with bags of every single flavor and ranked them, so we know that Kettle makes a damn fine chip. They’re 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 chip with a touch of class!
The 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 bouncy tube of vanilla sponge cake filled with white cream. And sometimes that’s all we’re after.
There 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. 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.
28. Planters nuts
From honey-roasted peanuts to cashews, Mr. Peanut’s empire is vast. That’s largely due to the fact that it’s very easy to hock down an entire can of whole cashews. 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. Yes, they’re good for you, but they just don’t satisfy like the rest of them.
27. Oatmeal Creme Pies
Quite simply, no cookie that possesses a chocolate quotient of zero should be this incredible. Little Debbie also makes Fudge Rounds, which are basically chocolate Oatmeal Creme Pies, and somehow the Oatmeal Creme Pies are significantly better.
26. Hostess CupCakes
Enjoy your impossible-to-eat, over-frosted $8 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.
25. Pork rinds
Pork rinds are the ultimate keto-diet snack food but really they should just be any everyday snack food. They’re crispy, airy, and perfectly savory on their own or jazzed up with a mist of barbecue or chili seasoning.
23. Snyder’s Pretzel Pieces
The Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Pieces 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, we realize Snyder’s has a boatload more pretzel products on the market, but everyone knows it’s the Pieces that make the empire go.
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.
21. Reese’s Pieces
If 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. That’s how much these orange and yellow treats put us in a trance.
No other chip tastes as delicious when dipped in French onion dip than the original Ruffles. When we close our eyes and think of a picnic—which we do with alarming regularity—these chips are what come to mind. 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.
19. Chocolate-Covered Pretzels
How, 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.
18. Chex Mix
Chex Mix, at its best, is transcendent. We had to stop buying the Cheddar version, as it is not safe to have us in the same room. Bold Party Blend is the work of some kind of evil genius. It even had the vision to market its own version of puppy chow. Our one slight Chex Mix-related quibble involves the pretzels. The occasional pretzel-heavy bag has burned us too many times. And yes, we know 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” version to rise up the ranks.
17. Trail Mix
We would argue trail mix is the OG snack. Whether you’re only picking out the M&Ms or being bold and taking in a handful of everything at once, trail mix has the ability to satisfy all your cravings at once, and that’s why we love it.
Let’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.
Hey internet, can we talk for a second? A good proportion of you got super excited when Starburst rolled out an all-pink pack. Did we miss the memo on pink being at the top of the color hierarchy? For me, the red was always superior. 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. But we love them, even if we have to slow down and unwrap each one individually is slowing down my pursuit of chewy, fruit-filled bliss.
Combos: 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, tailormade stoner snack that were decades ahead of their time when they first debuted in the 1970s. It’s impossible not to eat every last nacho cheese-filled cylindrical nugget in the bag.
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 crumbly 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.
Going 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—it’s a little overwhelming. (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 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’ll probably make an Icing on the Cake flavor at some point—and it will probably be pretty good.
11. Kit Kat
Though we appreciate international versions like green tea, vinegar, and corn in the international market, let’s 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 is 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 mouth, tying the whole thing together. Whether you’re getting it in the white or dark variety, Big Kat or mini, 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.
When we think of the original Fritos flavor, it seems pretty unremarkable. Salt. Corn. Oil. Then I realize we’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, and become infinitely better when purchased in Scoops! form, get nuanced with the Honey BBQ Twist, and are damn near perfect in chili-cheese or barbecue varieties. You can ponder that for days, but we don’t recommend it. Two bags in one sitting is probably a little much.
9. Gummy Bears
So, there are many fine varieties of gummy candy given to us by the good German folks at Haribo or Midwesterners at Albanese, but we’re mostly going to discuss the bears here, because come on. Oft-imitated but never duplicated, gummy bears 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.
Several years 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 our snack list in an entirely new light. Cheez-Its always tasted more, for lack of a better word, “real” than most of your mass-produced snack foods.
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. We’d never even really taken much time to think about just how good a box of Cheez-Its is, 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. 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 the late, great Michael K. Williams: “the cheese stands alone.”
The M&M candy shell is arguably the most important engineering achievement in confectionery history, allowing for the hands-on, mess-free, pleasing crunch of so many savory snacks combined with the flavor of, you know, chocolate. When it was just plain and peanut, M&Ms were already a snack force to be reckoned with, but the number of taste bud-expanding M&M-related developments in our lifetime is staggering. Peanut butter? Good Lord. Crispy? Hell, yes! Pretzel? Duh. Caramel? Thank you for listening to my dreams.
That’s what I love about you, M&Ms. It’s like, you get us. And you know what? You get America. Just listen to all the presidents.
No, not the puffs. No, we’re talking the curls, those mighty, crunchy, perfectly coated corn crisps. 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) that will forever be king. Hell, at one point, Frito-Lay even released Cheetos with Doritos flavoring (and vice versa). Even that failed. It’s like Cheetos are the only ones who have seemed to crack the code.
It 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 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, we cannot picture a world without handfuls of crunchy little Cheddar Goldfish.
4. Reese’s Peanut Butter 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.
Pringles makes dozens and dozens of flavors. We’ve tried all of them. In sitting down with 19 cans, we noticed it was hard to find any flavor we disliked. 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. 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 actual magic involved. Just delicious potato crisps that come in enough good flavors to give Baskin-Robbins a run for its money. In fact, we’re 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 Jalapeño (the “worst” flavor). So it is constantly with Cheddar. Such is the power of Pringles.
The 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 we’re 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. Regular Oreos are a giant among snack foods. We don’t know what kind of devil alchemy happens when you combine an Oreo with milk, but I know the first time we ingested said combination my world was never the same.
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).
We’re just glad both Oreos and Double Stuf Oreos are in our universe.
There 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, 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 imitators, and we 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 the 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.
A couple of years ago, we 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. We took it, broke it up, and put it in a salt shaker. We sprinkled it on steaks, showered popcorn with it, and added it into fried chicken seasoning. 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 have the Midas touch.