I popped my first can of Pringles when I was just a kid, and I haven't stopped for three decades, despite realizing I have been eating them wrong all along. But when I discovered that there were 35 different flavors on the market at the time of this writing -- not even counting the random holiday release -- I realized that I'd been doing the mustachioed man on the can a huge disservice. In the interest of science, I scored every flavor currently on US shelves, and, in one marathon feast of salt and seasoning, ate every single one. Here they all are, ranked. And as new flavors are released and some (cough, Cheesy Italian) are taken away, expect to see this list evolve.
I’ve never been to Italy, so I’m no expert on cheeses. But I’m guessing Julius Pringles hasn’t either, given that this newish "Loud" flavor tastes like nothing I've ever actually eaten, so I'm gonna say maybe it's cheese soap? Or maybe it's super-authentic and Italy actually has really weird and unpleasant cheese. If that's the case, I'll continue to use Guy Fieri as my source of cheesy, loud Italian things.
A couple years ago, Bacon was discontinued from the Pringles roster, and for good reason: On the original version of this rank, it was dead last. Which is weird, because bacon is delicious. So are Pringles. But here's the thing: There is no snack chip that has ever really captured the taste of bacon, with the exception of TGI Friday’s Potato Skins, a tragically overlooked bag of chips that represents the second coming of Keebler’s ill-fated ‘Tato Skins. The decision to re-release Bacon (exclusively at Dollar General) confuses me, but hey, maybe I'm wrong. For me, the problem with bacon snacks is that the overwhelming flavor of liquid smoke totally dominates every single bite of bacon-flavored chips, and the delicate nature of Pringles allows this fugazi smoke to completely overtake the palate. Used as a supplementary flavor and in extreme moderation, the flavor can be a nice complement to other ingredients, as you’ll see below when we get into Loaded Baked Potato territory. So why isn’t it dead last now? I dunno… sometimes tastebuds evolve. And sometimes Pringles does something crazy like release an Italian cheese flavor that boggles the mind in between canceling then re-releasing Bacon.
I’ve never been a big fan of jalapeño, mainly because it’s the boringest of peppers. In the world of peppers, it's JC Chasez to habanero's Justin Timberlake. Which is to say, these taste like JC Chasez? If that’s your thing, you’re in luck! You probably also like to ruin pizza by putting jalapeños on it.
32. Loud Mighty Margherita Pizza
So, these "Loud" chips are basically extra-flavor-blasted and a little thicker, which on paper is great, though I'm a bit too much of a purist to be fully comfortable with a can that doesn't contain a traditional crisp. But even if this flavor was applied to the classic Pringle, it'd kind of... too much. Pizza has never been Pringles -- or anyone snack-maker's, if we're being honest -- strong suit (see below). But this seems like an overcorrection that amplifies the pizza conundrum. These chips taste like a packet of Italian seasoning, with basil and oregano taking over, drowning out even the cheese and tomato. It basically tastes like a spice rack collapsed very conveniently into a can of regular Pringles. But hey, they might be good sprinkled on actual pizza. Unlike jalapeño. Or JC Chasez.
31. Sour Cream & Onion
I know, I know. You're going to call me a contrarian, because this is an OG Pringles flavor, and because half the people reading this love sour cream & onion. But I can't get past that sour milky flavor and onion powder. Ever since I was a child, this flavor has been the bane of my Pringles-loving existence. Every time they're around, I try a stack, just to see if my mouth has evolved. It hasn't. Have fun blasting me in the comments section. Take your sour-cream scent with you.
30. Loud Zesty Ranch
See below, but more aggressive and sprayed on a thick, weird tortilla-y corn crisp that makes me simultaneously wonder why nobody puts ranch on nachos and understand why nobody puts ranch on nachos.
When people named Tiffany and Chad go on ChristianMingle dates, odds are they bond over a shared love of ranch dressing. On their second date, the server at Applebee's pretends she thinks this is cute and brings them extra ranch. They eat it out of politeness, then hold hands and exchange vows to go on another date. Which is to say, ranch-flavored chips are perfectly fine, but incredibly boring.
28. Screamin' Dill Pickle
The pickle and dill flavors are pretty intense at first, then they subside. And just when you think they're gone, they magically reappear on the back of your tongue. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your feeling about pickles -- a friend of mine came by and promptly fled with the can during this taste test. For extra credit, I also tried to treat a small stack of these as a pickleback substitute. Results: not advised. And also, whiskey is now a factor in this article.
Whenever I eat something “pizza flavored,” I wonder whether those who created it ever tasted pizza. Then I realize that “pizza flavored” really just kind of means “pizza sauce flavored.” It’s kind of like a cheese-less pizza, which my mom used to order, because she’s lactose intolerant. That these don’t rank higher is no slight to my angel of a mother. She’s a saint. I just really like cheese, and I demand it on things labeled "pizza." Don't @ me, Phyllis!
Just read down to the entry for Memphis BBQ. This is the exact opposite of that. And also really sweet. If I liked BBQ sauce, this would be a good thing. I do not like BBQ sauce. Which is why Texans punch me, and Carolinians are considering me for a Senate run.
25. Wavy Sweet & Tangy BBQ
What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to keep reading down to Memphis BBQ if you’re looking for the better BBQ flavor?
NO WAIT DON’T GO, because I should probably take this opportunity to tell you that this is the first of four new Wavy Pringles, which are kiiiiind of a revelation. Pringles has bucked the formula already with its tortilla and thicker-style “Loud” chips, but this variation’s kind of a “why did this take so long” situation. These girthy bastards are essentially the equivalent of stacking three regular crisps together, but they’re also ruffly. They taste pretty much exactly like the regular Pringles, but with a less-delicate crunch, mellower flavors, and a lack of shame due to the fact that you can feel like you’re eating six chips at once when you’re only eating two. Anyway, the concept is great. This flavor’s just ok. It's a little too sweet and a little too tangy, and BBQ isn't the best use of a Pringle to begin with. But love the new style!
These are similar in flavor to those little mustard-powdered pretzel bites that everybody loves. But in Pringles form, the mustard completely overtakes the potato and salt flavors at the core. Much like I want my snozzberries to taste like snozzberries, I want my Pringles to taste like Pringles.
23. Loaded Baked Potato
Bacon? Check. Cheese? Check. Sour cream, onion, and chive? Chiggity check. They’re all there, and they’re fighting one another for supremacy over your taste buds. Every flavor pops and then disappears, which is strange, because when a flavor bursts, it bursts hard. My theory? One of the flavors is "palate cleanser."
22. Top Ramen Chicken
The "Top Ramen Bar" is a phrase that conjures fear and nostalgia for anyone who's ever been in dire straights/stoned in college: Basically, it's a brick of ramen noodles, uncooked, with the seasoning packet sprinkled atop it, creating some sort of ghastly superfood that is as delicious as it is humbling to consume, some sort of macabre, reverse Larabar. At first taste, these limited-edition Pringles evoke it. Strongly. Because these are essentially the Top Ramen Bar in chip form. They bring feelings of fear and wonder. But with each bite, comfort. They're not the most addicting of Pringles, largely because they contain enough sodium to give a deer a stroke. Yet the starch/fake chicken combo manages a weird balancing act. To quote famous food critic Homer Simpson, "they're not undelicious." But they're extreme to the point that one can indeed pop, then stop.
21. Cheddar & Sour Cream
These are definitely better than their onion-y counterparts, yet the sour cream still dominates. But hey, Cheddar and sour cream are a delicious combo. And the subtlety of the flavoring lets the potato-forward essence of the Pringles shine.
Usually, BBQ overtakes everything it touches, which is why I tend to avoid it, lest my brisket taste like sugary ketchup. This, somehow, does not, and it’s kind of wonderful. It's not too tangy, and not overwrought on the seasoning. It’s just right, with a note of sweetness that elevates it above many BBQ chips that end up being flavor-bombs.
19. Wavy Smoky Cheddar
Big ups to Julius for trying something new here and not just falling back on the regular Cheddar, but fake smoke and chips don’t mix well to me. It tastes faintly of liquid smoke… and while it’s not a deal-breaker for everybody -- I just watched my 3-year-old grab the can and steal off into a corner like it was full of princess-based club drugs -- I’m getting flashbacks to the thankfully discontinued bacon flavor. And that’s unfortunate, because when I saw this can, I immediately believed my longstanding love of the #1 Pringle would be seriously challenged.
18. Wavy Roasted Jalapeno
Hot damn! Finally, an actually spicy Pringle. Granted, I’ve got a weak tongue, but the spice on this hits immediately and sent my sorry/not sorry ass scrambling for milk. But once it cooled, it really did have the flavor of roasted jalapeños. This blows the regular jalapeño -- my least favorite of the bunch -- out of the water. Also, it gave me another excuse to indulge in by love of milk and salty snacks.
17. Tangy Buffalo Wing
The thought of dry hot-sauce was off-putting, but the flavor dispels all worry. In terms of flavor and authenticity, it’s pretty spot on according to my wife -- who I married partially because of her ability to crush me in chicken wing-eating.
16. Buffalo Ranch
What’s the best match for Buffalo wings? Celery! No, seriously. It’s ranch -- unless you're in actual Buffalo, in which case you should probably ignore that sentiment unless you want to get run out of town. Anyway, this is the flavor with which Pringles finally cracks the code on ranch by realizing the flavor works better as a supplemental flavor than as a concentrated blast. Maybe a blue cheese flavor is in order?
15. Extra Hot Chile & Lime
These tasty, sneaky little bastards have achieved a wonderful alchemy with the spice: Right at first contact with the tongue, things heat up considerably, but the burn immediately begins subsiding, washing back and letting the lime do its work. For people who love heat but get their asses kicked by their duodenums when they indulge, this is a perfect mix. For those who take the word “hot” to mean a challenge, well, maybe bring some hot sauce for dipping.
This sounded like just about the grossest flavor of the bunch. But you know what? They taste like ketchup and cheese. And I like ketchup and cheese. These things could soon become Canada's national food.
The folks at the Pringles test lab (which we now know is a real thing!) have managed to create a solid approximation of Texas queso in powder form. The thick "Loud" tortilla chips are a worthy vessel, but I've drank from the proper cup -- the original Pringles' crisp -- with this flavor and, as you will observe below, it's a much better fit.
12. Loud Salsa Fiesta
Damn, that tortilla's thick. Unexpectedly thick. And unexpectedly delicious. This is a rare case where I feel like there could be way more seasoning. You know when you get a Dorito that has, like, three-times too much cheese on it? Trick question, there’s no such thing as too much cheese. Every one of these chips should emulate that Dorito, because the tomato and spice is delicious, and it needs to stop being so shy, despite its claims of loudness.
11. Mac & Cheese
“I wonder if they just taste like somebody spilled a bunch of Kraft powder in a can of Original Pringles,” I said aloud, looking the image of Julius Pringle on the can of this limited release (available only at Dollar General) dead in the eye, because this is what my life as an adult has become. And it’s close. But it tastes more like Amy’s powder than Kraft: It’s creamy and mellow, not overly salty, and pretty damn pleasing. Still, that’s not enough to put it close to the regular cheesy Pringles -- when I’m eating a cheesy Pringle, I want it to be unnaturally colored, overly salty, and sharp as hell. This one’s a victim of circumstance: A better version of this already exists, one that ditches natural-tasting flavor for something hyper-real.
10. Fried Onion Ring
Holy shit, did Pringles just drop a chip that tastes like those fried onion strings you put on green bean casserole? Why yes, yes they did. And they’re a blast of onion flavor and salt, something that walks the line between Funyun and bar snack. There's a funky, bitterr-ish aftertaste reminiscent of fryer grease that rears its head after you crush half the can (which I admittedly did in 3 minutes, flat), but that's that’s a small price to pay for getting us one step closer to incorporating crushed Pringles onto Thanksgiving sides. These are currently only available at 7-Eleven. Fingers crossed they join the big leagues.
9. Salt & Vinegar
A classic. And here, the vinegar and salt are more balanced than most chips of similar brininess. Pringles are not often lauded for their restraint, but here we go!
8. Loud Fiery Chili Lime
The lime is so unexpectedly delicious that I shoveled a bunch right in my mouth and forgot the chile. And now the spice has overtaken. And I don't care.
It tastes like stadium nacho cheese. And stadium nacho cheese is God's gift to man. Larger man, yes, but man nonetheless. This can's not long for this world.
6. Original Lightly Salted
I mean, it’s just a regular Pringle. And regular Pringles are perfect. But it has less salt, so it tastes more like potato. That’s all. It’s a regular Pringle's milquetoast older brother who's got a steady job and a 401(k). He still parties, though not very often. But when he comes out, he makes the party better.
5. Wavy Original
To reiterate: These Wavy Pringles taste like eating three crisps at once. There is little to differentiate them from Original outside the girth and texture. I’d totally be behind Pringles making Wavy versions of every flavor. Well, maybe like 10 of them. I can’t really sanction another version of whatever that Italian cheese thing was.
4. Cheddar Cheese Lightly Salted
Like the one above, but with extra cheese, which makes everything better. Be still my heart! Literally. The reduced sodium is really helping my heart chill out.
3. French Onion Dip
French onion dip has long eluded Pringles, as dipping the delicate little crisps in thick dip tends to result in shattered chips and shattered dreams. This? This fixes everything. French onion Pringles, Je t'aime.
Oh, whatever. You knew this was gonna be close to the top. I don't feel like I need to explain anything aside from why it's not No. 1.
1. Cheddar Cheese
Though naysayers are no doubt riled (and probably still whining about sour cream & onion), I do decree that Cheddar cheese brings out the full potential of everything Pringles can be. The flavor of the Original -- that potato taste coupled with glorious salt -- meshes beautifully with a generous dusting of bright-orange Cheddar dust that melts in your mouth. When you inevitably get to the pile of broken chips at the bottom of the can, they somehow get even better. I recommend shaking the can until it's a drinkable dust of chips and cheese. Still not convinced? Well, consider this: have you ever wondered why they always carry these on airplanes? Well, if the plane goes down, rescue workers can see the bright-orange chips from as high as 10,000 feet. OK, maybe not. But they're still the best.
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Andy Kryza is a senior editor on Thrillist's Food & Drink. He came. He popped. He stopped. Follow him to a salt lick: @apkryza.