Ah, the mid-afternoon munchies. You don’t feel all that hungry for a meal, but your brain and stomach are hankering for a savory bite. Among the snacks that fit the bill are corn chips: chips made with cornmeal which are baked or fried, and seasoned in various ways—one of the most popular ones being cheese. You’ve got a number of options from the local snack aisle, but how do they compare?
Note: In the absence of any formal definition to differentiate between the two, we included both “cheese” and “nacho cheese”-flavored chips in the lineup.
This local brand goes by what seems to be an appropriated Indian theme, given the name and the cartoon drawing on the package. We won’t comment on that, but the chips—thin triangles with a mid-level crunch and corn taste—do have a mild curry-like flavor. Just slightly cheesy with what seems to be a subtle onion or bell pepper-y note, it’s good for what it is, but not when you’re looking for actual cheese chips.
Big Munch gives you wide triangular chips that are thicker yet somewhat more stale, requiring you to chew harder—but have a more neutral, less corn-centric taste. With that you get seasoning that’s more on the salty than milky or umami side (a member of the team likens the flavor to that of cheap processed cheese slices), with a margarine-like aftertaste that wasn’t so pleasant.
This long-time favorite brand comes as medium-sized triangles which—unlike the majority of the other brands—are more on the pale yellow side than bright orange. As you’d expect, it’s the most neutral-tasting of the lot, being more salty in a general way than specifically cheesy. Still, it makes for a good “plain” chip where the corn flavor is the highlight, and its neutrality goes with its light, mildly crunchy body. This is our top pick for use in recipes where other flavors will be added, like our Frito Pie.
Hailing from the company that brought us Clover Chips, Leslie’s Nacho comes as small triangles that are also thicker, but in a more satisfying crunchy way. The chips themselves boast an especially strong, nutty corn flavor, while the seasoning—one of our favorites of the bunch—is a sharp, tangy cheesy number with a mild cumin-like aftertaste, and which goes generous on each chip. It’ll stain your fingers orange—all the better, as you have every excuse to lick your fingers.
OK Wackie also gives you medium-sized triangles with a light orange hue. The chips are thin, but aren’t the crunchiest, though they boast a good grit and discernible corn flavor. Though it starts out on a sweet, cheesy note (described by team members as being like “Pinoy cheese” and likened to that of Regent Cheese Rings), the seasoning is more of a BBQ-cheese hybrid with a hint of onion at the end. The way it covers the chips isn’t so consistent, with some chips being practically showered while others come barely seasoned.
Oishi’s entry to the corn chip category are thin, wide triangular chips somewhat similar-looking to Doritos, each chip’s surface dotted with dark specks we assume to be corn husks. The chips themselves have a distinctly toasty corn flavors a few members of our team dismissed as tasting bitter (even “like arcenic”). But this also helps it stand out against the seasoning—a milky, slightly tangy number with a hint of what seems to be cumin, which comes at a balanced amount.
Though also from the Prifood company like Big Munch, Super Crunch is distinctly different, coming as small rounds with a shockingly vivid orange hue. The chips are on the mid-thick side, and their round shape gets plus points for being easy to eat (no corners that could poke any part of the mouth!). You get a full-on, decidedly sweet “Pinoy cheese” flavor (again similar to Regent Cheese Rings)—not all of us dig it, but for those who do, it satisfies like no other.
Another well-loved classic, Granny Goose’s famous Tortillos comes as round, bright orange chips. Though on the thick-ish side, they have a lighter, less corn-y grit which makes it easy to stuff multiple chips in your mouth at a time. (This may or may not be a good thing.) Flavor-wise it’s a rollercoaster, starting mildly sweet and tangy before bringing in an MSG-heavy umami that gives off a hint of bitterness at the end.
Last but not least, Tostillas comes as light orange triangles that are on the thin but crackly, crunchy side. It’s praised as having the best chip of the bunch, thanks to the presence of air pockets on the surface that keep your bites light but still discernibly corn-y. Though the seasoning is on the light side, it gives a deep, milky flavor balanced out with a mild tanginess which satisfies our cheese chip hankerings.
The Verdict: Nacho
We were torn between Tostillas, which we deemed to have the best chip; and Nacho, which we deemed to have the best seasoning. Ultimately though, the combo of flavorful cheese and crunchy, corn-heavy chips makes Nacho our top pick.