Taste Test

Steal vs. Splurge: Are Farmer John’s Cheddar-Sour Cream Chips A Worthy Substitute for Ruffles?

May 8, 2017

It seems futile to improve on something that’s already great, but there are times when this noble endeavor pays off. Like when cheddar, an already-tasty and widely popular cheese used in numerous snacks and junk-y treats on the market, was thought to be paired with its fellow dairy brother, sour cream—resulting in a symbiotic relationship where the sour cream’s tang amplifies the cheddar’s sharpness and the cheddar’s nutty, umami undernotes zap up the sour cream’s luxe richness. It’s a happy marriage that has stood the test of time.

Of the many cheddar and sour cream-flavored snacks around, one of our favorites has to be Ruffles’ Cheddar & Sour Cream potato chips, with its signature ridges and unbeatable crunch that helps it stand up to “even the thickest dips,” as their official website states. Like most imported goods in the Philippines though, a bag can be costly—P115 for a 184-gram package (or 63 cents/g) which we aren’t always able to spend our precious moolah on. We get it—the expensiveness also forces us to eat it in moderation—but there are times we just wish we could be experiencing its glorious, salty-tangy-umami-crunchy whopper of a flavor sensation…. for much more wallet-friendly price.

Can you guess which chip is which?

In an unexpected turn of events, a trip to our local Mini Stop branch yielded a surprise find that seemed to fit the bill: potato chips that are similarly ridged and cheddar and sour cream-flavored, but under the Farmer John’s brand from local snack brand Leslie (of Clover Chip fame), at a relatively modest P45/90g (or 50 cents/g) bag—which, strictly speaking, isn’t that radical a difference versus Ruffles when comparing prices per gram, but has the advantage of being offered in smaller (hence much cheaper) portions and in more supermarkets nationwide.

Could this be the cheaper Ruffles alternative we’ve been searching for all our sad, cheddar and sour cream chip-longing lives?

Ruffles – Cheddar & Sour Cream (P115/184.2g = P0.63/g)

Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking, but these chips are a true masterpiece. Take a chip and you get just the right amount of sharp, tangy, and salty, followed by a peculiar creaminess best described as tasting buttery—we assume this is the ‘sour cream’ part of the equation. Ruffles’ ample thickness, sturdy build, and moderate oiliness works to its advantage here—it stands up to the seasoning and makes for a deep, satisfying crunch. And while Ruffles are designed for dipping (try it with the French Onion Dip from the same brand!), it’s also amply munch-able by itself. All elements just come together wonderfully, and the result is one downright tasty snack. Heck, these are so good, it even has an article dedicated to it on the New York Times. Now that’s an achievement you cannot ignore.

Farmer John’s – Cheddar & Sour Cream, wavy (P45/90G = P0.50/g)

Given how much we love Ruffles, we’ll admit we were skeptical of anything cheaper coming even remotely close. Fueling our suspicions were our first impressions upon opening the bag and seeing the smaller-ridged pieces in a more flamboyant shade of neon orange that didn’t even look like it was trying to appear naturally-colored. But a few crunches in and we realized we couldn’t be more wrong—the flavors are mostly similar but with a few marked differences. As its appearance implies, Farmer John’s version comes more heavily coated in powder and carries more intense, punchy sharpness that smacks the tongue with salt (and pops of tanginess) straight away. The aftertaste is less of the complex buttery note that we loved in Ruffles but more of an onion-y umami that is every bit as delicious. Notably, Farmer John’s takes on a lighter texture that is still on the crisp side, but has the tendency to crumble easier (which also makes it harder to use as a dipper). Still, we like that it’s less greasy—ergo, easier to pop more of at a time without feeling as sick or bloated as you would with Ruffles.

THE VERDICT

It’s no carbon copy, but we’re still impressed with Farmer John’s. You get similar dominant flavors with a slightly different finish through a relatively delicate vehicle. If you take Ruffles primarily for its dippability, Farmer John’s might not be for you. But if you’re a standalone-chip cruncher and don’t mind the variation in texture, be sure to keep your eye out for this cheaper alternative.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She is a cheapskate in other aspects of her life, preferring to use her savings on specialty vinegars and degustation menus. While she admits to eating out too much, cooking and baking remain her first love, and she's always looking for quirky new ways to use up seasonal produce. Thanks to her obsession with (unnecessarily) making everything from scratch, she is now desperate to clear her fridge full of homemade condiments. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.
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