21 Underrated Snacks You Should Be Eating More Often
When we set out to name the 100 greatest snacks of all time, we knew that there would be some glaring omissions. Some were deemed too unfamiliar to mass audiences. Others were edged out. And some, well, some we straight-up forgot as the toll of so much salt and sugar overtook our brains. But if the films of John Hughes taught us anything, it's that sometimes the losers of popularity contests are actually the best, especially when they're covered in cheese and/or look like Molly Ringwald. Here are the snacks you're likely forgetting, but should absolutely be eating.
The unsung hero of the Little Debbie roster, the snacks formerly known as Nutty Bars are in school-cafeteria currency the equivalent of a block of ramen and a couple smokes in prison: pure, chocolatey gold. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup had love twins with a Kit-Kat, then pumped them full of HGH? Of course you haven’t, because that’s as weird as it is off-puttingly specific. But that’s what the Nutty Bar is, and it’s glorious. Even better, because there are two, you can trade one and keep the other. Maybe for a Reese’s and a Kit-Kat, just, you know, so you can put them together and see if any sparks fly. -- Andy Kryza
Among the more chocolate-driven Hostess products, the cupcakes and the Ho Hos always seemed to get more love, and yet the Ding Dongs have basically the same components, assembled in a convenient hockey puck shape that almost makes it feel like you're eating a tiny burger made entirely of cake and cream filling. So, they're not really that much like burgers. Maybe they're more like a dessert Jucy Lucy. Regardless, they're every bit as deserving of being deep-fried at carnivals as Twinkies, and should be treated as such. -- Matt Lynch
10 years ago, nobody was really wondering what would happen if puffed rice, popcorn, and a Cheeto decided to throw their collective genetic code into a slurry, remove all the gluten, bake it, and cover it in white cheddar. But dammit, the world’s a better place because some salty sea dog decided to do just that. I didn’t even like Pirate’s Booty when I first tasted it. Then I finished the bag. This is a snack that will send transform you from casual eater to cheese powder-covered fiend in the time it takes to listen to the Beastie Boys classic “Professor Booty,” which is a tailor-made musical accompaniment to this stuff. -- AK
These days you only really ever encounter these two in variety pack of Hershey's miniatures, and yet both pack enough enjoyment that it feels like they ought to be able to carry their own solo careers, rather than muddling through as the Tito and Marlon Jacksons of the candy world. -- ML
Sure, they’re explicitly designed as a vessel for cheese, but Keebler’s buttery, savory Toasteds always seem to mysteriously disappear before the dairy hits the tray. The savory onion variety will forever render every Ritz you eat after a disappointment. -- AK
The best thing about Veggie Straws is that they’re kind of a dupe. Right on the label, they’ve got a tomato and some spinach. But that potato lurking behind them? He’s pulling the strings, like some sort of starchy, delicious Wizard of Oz. And it worked, because these suckers are mainstays of Whole Foods and the pantries of parents who claim they don’t let their kids eat junk food, but also don't read labels. Because guess what? They’re basically potato chips. Sure, they’re straws. And they have less fat than the average chip. But they’re still just chips with veggies thrown in the mix (largely in the seasoning). If you close your eyes, they kind of taste like Munchos. But unlike eating Munchos, nobody’s going to judge you for housing a whole bowl at some kid named Astrid’s health-conscious birthday party. -- AK
Nestle has successfully managed to stuff some caramel inside the Crunch, but it will always come off as a pale imitation to the 100 Grand, a confectionary work of art that somehow leverages its weirdly tensile caramel filling into an asset, brought together by its crunchy rice exterior. Oddly, the longer this one goes overlooked, the better it gets, as that hard caramel’s increased calcification somehow makes it even more satisfactory as you chew your way through it like a delighted cow. -- AK
Unrolling a tiny sleeve of Smarties and inhaling them all at once was always an underappreciated candy indulgence. They're not as aggressively tart as SweeTarts, and not as aggressively terrible as Necco Wafers. Also, the M&M-reminiscent Smarties produced by Cadbury are damn tasty, but that's another discussion for another day. -- ML
OK, so this is actually a special entry for all small packs of gas stations crackers, which are basically Club crackers and Ritzes sandwiching fake cheese or peanut butter. But damned if they’re not the unsung hero of the road trip, and if said gas station is carrying the Lance variety, there are few ways to better spend $0.50 while stranded in the middle of some lonely stretch of highway when extremely hungry. They’re the perfect cracker sandwich, even if they’ve been on the shelf since the Great Depression. -- AK
Anyone who tells you Cheese Nips are better than Cheez-Its is either a liar, a contrarian, or a descendant of Nipsey Russell who just really longs for anything to jog their memory of hilarious Thanksgivings past. But the Nips are not without their charms, working as a perfectly delicious cheese cracker that have a duller edge than their sharp cousins in the red box. Consider them little saltines with a kick, and also consider dipping them in peanut butter. You’re welcome. -- AK
Too often, nougat and other distractions get in the way of the beautiful marriage between chocolate and caramel. Not with the Caramello, a simplistic piece of Candyland synergy that lays all its cards on the table. Is it inevitable that the things’s going to break and leak its impossibly gooey caramel innards all over your fingers? Well, yes, that’s kind of the point. It’s often messy, always delicious, and never tries to distract you from the good stuff with filler. Oh, and it makes for a great s'more. -- AK
Grandma cookies? Sure. But they’re a valuable part of the Keebler cookie arsenal. These shortbread discs make a strong case for both pecans and for hanging out with your grandma more often, mostly because she misses you, but also because she has sneaky good taste in pre-packaged cookies. -- AK
Honey Bun probably gets more love as a term of endearment from the nation's most adorable grandparents than it does as a pillar of the corner store snack cake section, and that's a shame. Yes, it's wholly devoid of chocolate, with only the faintest evidence of frosting, but damn, it delivers on its promise of pillowy, honey-kissed goodness. Pro tip: throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds and you'll possibly see the face of God. -- ML
Having spent an embarrassingly huge amount of time fruitlessly tasting non-Doritos nacho cheese chips in a quest to find something comparable to the now-defunct Eagle brand version (RIP, you magnificent bastards), I can definitively tell you that most are garbage. But Paqui — which recently burst into mainstream groceries — are a different beast. They’re not trying to replicate that distinctive flavor. They’re content with simply being the best of the higher-end flavored tortillas. The Nacho Cheese Especial is easily the second-best of its kind, while the Spicy Queso handily surpasses Spicy Nacho Doritos in both flavor and heat. And there’s even a ghost pepper variety, just in case you thought Doritos Roulette was for wusses. This is the chip that stopped my lifelong quest for a replacement tortilla, not by matching it but by offering up something I never knew I wanted. -- AK
It's bizarre that these little beauties (or nonpareils if you're feeling French and fancy) are confined pretty much exclusively to the movie theater refreshments display. They deserve better. You know the animalistic satisfaction you get from sneaking a little handful of chocolate chips from the bag when you're making cookies? It's basically that, over and over, but with tiny little white sprinkles to add some texture to the mix. Maybe Nestle needs to make bags with multiple color schemes and see if they can compete for shelf space with M&Ms. -- ML
Not content to possibly be the best damn kettle chip on the market -- running double chin-and-chin against actual Kettle Chip -- Hawaiian Chips also have a fake onion ring variety that might out-fun Funyuns. The Sweet Maui Onion chip is a revelation, and comes in both puffed-onion and potato chip form, though the Sweet Chili and Mango Habanero chips are crunchy juggernauts that more than make up for ruining your beach body with the sheer explosiveness of their flavor. -- AK
I probably had my first go-round with these in the aftermath of a dinner party my parents threw sometime in the late '80s. Oh how cosmopolitan these "New York-Style" bits of perfectly crisped bagel seemed. I would have felt like I was on an episode of Sex and the City if I wasn't like 7 years old and the show wasn't more than a decade away from premiering. But for real, these things are fantastic and deserve more consumption as a snacking end unto themselves and not the sidekick to some store-bought spinach and artichoke dip at a hastily planned gathering of suburban parents. -- ML
This is not a candy for the weak, but those the true believers among us know that every hard-fought bite through that steel/nougat hybrid hiding underneath the thin layer of chocolate is a delicious victory. We also heard an unconfirmed rumor that Bruce Campbell continuously gnaws a strawberry Charleston Chew to keep up that tremendous jawline. -- AK
The 5th Avenue is Hershey's answer to the Butterfinger, but it tragically seems to be an increasingly endangered candy species. That's just wrong, because while they're both playing the chocolate-coated peanut butter game, the 5th Avenue offers a lighter, crisper texture that (presumably) was once all the rage among Manhattan socialites. -- ML
The Star Crunch is neither star-shaped nor crunchy, presence of crisped rice notwithstanding, but it's a damn strong name nonetheless. Also, its core components of chocolate, the aforementioned rice, and caramel are the stuff Halloween dreams are made of. And yet, it rarely gets discussed with the same nostalgic lunchtime reverence of Little Debbie siblings like Oatmeal Cream Pies and Zebra Cakes, which contain zero and very little chocolate, respectively. Basically the Star Crunch should be more of a star, is what we're saying. -- ML
These little tins of bright orange bliss are a cautionary tale as much as they are exquisitely snackable. Because a while ago, we lost them, seemingly forever. And when the balls and curls disappeared, many wept. This year, they were resurrected at the behest of Mr. Peanut. Buy them. Love them. For these are snacks that were nearly underrated into extinction. And if they vanish again, we’ll lose them forever, barring some sort of snack-based spin on Jurassic Park.
Matt Lynch is wondering what a 5th Avenue might taste like sandwiched between two microwaved honey buns. Let him know if you've tried it @MLynchChi.