20 Lay's Potato Chip Flavors, Ranked

The potato chip is the snack to end all snacks. Tiny but mighty, these slivers of salted and fried potatoes are fan favorites for many great reasons. They taste delicious, they satisfy your snack cravings, they're the perfect crunchy side to any meal, and most bewitchingly, they are nearly impossible to stop eating. No brand has captured that magic and marketed it quite like Lay's. Everyone knows their classic chip, but from that gold mine stems seemingly endless flavor varieties and preparation styles. We found everything from Sour Cream & Onion to Sweet Southern Heat Barbecue, Wavy to Kettle Cooked, reduced fat to bacon-infused ... and we didn't even get into the baked or poppable Lay's products. 

We went on a trip — and what a trip it was – to the grocery store and loaded up our carts with every kind of Lay's potato chip we could find. Then we pitted them against each other and ranked them from worst to best. If you're on the way to the store to pick up some potato chips for your next party (solo parties count, too), let this be your guide to Lay's many flavors.

20. Kettle Cooked Flamin' Hot

Does everything really need to be flaming — or flamin' — hot? We find it hard to believe that anyone really got excited once these appeared on shelves. Other snacks can be hot (Cheetos, obviously), but it was never an asset we craved in a Lay's. Since it's not really a potato chip's comfort zone, we expected the brand to play it safe and keep the spice level reasonably mild. But nope — these flamin' hot chips went big and bold, and we felt some acute heat in every bite. 

They're acceptably spicy, neither mild nor painful. Overall, the chips aren't as unnecessary as we originally thought, but honestly, they still seem a little random. If we want a hot and spicy snack, we wouldn't go back to these potato chips simply because we wouldn't go back to any potato chips for their flamin' qualities.

19. Sweet Southern Heat Barbecue

Perhaps the most difficult part of this ranking job was untangling a twisted mess of barbecue potato chips. We found five iterations of barbecue Lay's which, amidst this roundup of 20, means that they made up 25% of the overall haul. It wasn't hard to try them all, because eating 20 chips as a snack is really pretty easy, but it was a little difficult to do an internal mini-ranking of barbecue styles. 

The two that tasted the most indistinct were Sweet Southern Heat Barbecue and Honey Barbecue because both had a layer of sugar to mellow out the vinegar and the smokey notes of sauce. In the end, we had to rank Honey Barbecue higher. The Sweet Southern Heat flavor is more muddled, and we didn't taste much heat — just a slightly duller version of the Honey Barbecue.

18. Barbecue

A lot of people don't really like Lay's Barbeque chips, but others think that there's absolutely nothing better to be found at a summer cookout. Sometimes a handful of barbecue chips really is even better than hamburgers and hotdogs. Barbecue is an underrated flavoring and — don't laugh — can deliver depth and nuance. It's creamy and savory and rich and sweet, but it's probably the sweetness that makes these potato chips a little bit polarizing. 

If you don't like putting barbecue sauce on anything, well, you probably won't like these. But if you can stand it, you know that these crackly orange chips are lazy summer afternoons in a bite. A single bite makes us instantly feel a little more relaxed and a little more down for a good time. The flavor of the plain Barbecue Lay's is a little artificial, though, and we prefer other variations for their greater confidence and authenticity.

17. Cheddar Jalapeño

Cheddar Jalapeño? Where have these chips been all our lives? They're almost reminiscent of cheesy poppers when they're warm and steaming from the oven. Chips, however, can't really be served hot, so how does the age-old "cheese dust" flavor hold up? And does the jalapeño only pop up in every other bite, or does a subtle heat resonate throughout each chip? 

We determined that these chips stay on the safe side with a middle-grade cheddar flavor and subtle, evenly dispersed heat. If you want a touch of spice in your potato chips, these are fine, but they don't stand up to the competition as well as we would like. There are just too many bolder options when it comes to fun departures from the original Lay's.

16. Hickory BBQ

Okay, we love us some barbecue sauce on various grilled, smoked, or, well, barbecued meat, but do we really need so much of it on our chips? Lay's goes all-out with the stuff, and they don't always stick the proverbial landing. These Hickory BBQ chips have a little more depth than the regular Lay's Barbecue without as much sweetness as Honey Barbecue. 

We like the seasoning blend quite a bit, though in light of the word "Hickory" in the title, it's weird how we don't taste the distinct smokiness that we hoped for. Oh, and they're also the only BBQ Wavy chip, which means they're not as thin and breakable as the traditional style, but not as thick and chewy as the Kettle Cooked. The chips are trying to bridge two gaps in the Lay's BBQ lineup between sweet and savory, and between thin and thick.

15. BLT Sandwich

Here is the first of the two sandwich-inspired chips on today's roster. It's a tall order to get bacon, lettuce, and tomato flavor into a single bite of a snack, but don't worry; these are not remotely tomato- or lettuce-flavored potato chips. Instead, and as it should be, the predominant flavor note is bacon. Bacon grease, chip grease — it's all of the same, right? 

If you like bacon, you'll find that Lay's does a good job capturing the breakfast classic. But if you're hoping for a full sandwich in a chip, well, you're out of luck; this is pretty much just bacon flavor. Lettuce and tomato are nowhere to be found, but that may not be a bad thing. Meanwhile, if you're the kind of person who likes to sneak some potato chips into your sandwich for some added crunch, we dare you to buy a bag of these chips not as a substitute for a BLT, but as an accoutrement.

14. Original Wavy

A Wavy chip comes with some distinct advantages. It's easier to do something that some people think no potato chips are ever supposed to do: become a vehicle for dip. All potato chips, even the thicker kettle-style chips, are pretty flimsy when faced with a thick dip. But when you really think about it, tortilla chips aren't much better, so what's the real difference? 

Anyway, the grooves help to hold more of whatever dip is available at the moment. Also, the Wavy styles add a bit of fun textural contrast to a creamy dip. We did find that some of the time-honored classic potato essence is lacking when compared to the standard chip design, so we would more likely return to the Classic style for a plain-flavored chip.

13. Reduced-fat Kettle Cooked

Okay, we have a confession to make: We picked up these reduced-fat Kettle Cooked Lay's by mistake. We meant to grab the original style. We didn't set out to rank diet products — although considering how many chips we ate, maybe we should have given that some consideration. 

But ultimately, we were so glad we had this happy accident. Based on flavor and feel, we never would've guessed that these have less fat than a regular kettle chip. They tasted just like what we would have expected, all with the extra crunch you're looking for when you reach for a bag of standard Kettle Cooked Lay's. They're buttery, decadent, potato-centric, extremely savory, and wonderful regardless of their fat content. Well played, Lay's.

12. Limón

Limón was one of the chips that we were completely clueless about when we approached this assignment. Would it taste strongly of lime, the citrus fruit supposedly providing its flavor? Upon breaking open the bag, we were greeted with the typical greasy potato flavor that we all know and love with an effortlessly cool breeze of lime zest. That aroma translated perfectly into taste. Who would have thought that lime-scented potatoes could taste so good? It's quite a surprise. 

Your mouth will pucker with these chips in the same way it does when you bite into a real lime, and we love that level of directness. It's not going to be our go-to chip because it just feels a bit too snarky, and we would choose lime-flavored tortilla chips over these if given the option.

11. Honey Barbecue

As previously stated, this chip is a step above Lay's other barbecue chips ... but not the kettle-cooked chips, so stay hungry for more. The Honey Barbecue chips walk a fine line between just right and too sweet, but if you like a little brown sugar in your barbecue sauce, you'll love these. They have a lot more nuance and somehow taste a little less artificial than the regular barbecue chips while accomplishing everything that the Sweet Southern Heat style pulls off, only brighter. They reminded us of that spot on your plate of pulled pork and cornbread where the two collide — the sweet spot, you might even say.

10. Classic

The Classic Lay's potato chip is perhaps the single most ubiquitous snack of all time. Seriously — what branded item can compare? A Snyder's pretzel? It could never. A humble Cheez-It? No chance. There is only one true classic. 

All the other flavors and varieties are offshoots that come and go, some with more lasting impact than others and varying degrees of success. But a big bowl full of these — greasy yet airy, crackling with potato flavor, crumbling all over your shirt, completely melting in your mouth ... no one will ever complain. Now as you have already concluded, we think some of the other flavors are more innovative, but we have to pay respect to something this iconic by ranking it solidly in the middle of the pack.

9. Dill Pickle

The Dill Pickle chips are riding the wave of one of the latest and hottest food flavor trends. Pickles, specifically the dill variety (we're not seeing any bread and butter pickle potato chips, are we?) You can find dill-pickle-flavored popcorn seasoning at Trader Joe's, and dill-pickle-flavored cashews at Target. We found the chips pretty irresistible, but we do, in fact, enjoy pickles. 

The best way to describe Lay's Dill Pickle chips is they're milder salt and vinegar chips with plenty of dill added for flavor. Vinegar is obviously the brine for pickles, so if salt and vinegar chips aren't your thing, you won't like these, either. If you do like them, though, it's almost eerie how close a potato chip can get to the real deal.

8. Salt & Vinegar

Salt and vinegar: It's the combo that you forget about until it electrocutes your taste buds with bracing flavor. If you think that ingredients like cream cheese, sour cream, or dill pickles have a tang, then just wait till you eat a straight-up salt and vinegar chip. 

We firmly believe that no other Lay's potato chip, even the original style, has quite the same level of power to make you stick your hand back in the bowl and grab just one more. If you haven't bought a bag of Lay's Salt & Vinegar chips in a long time, consider this your reminder. After all this praise, why are we ranking them so low? The flavor is due for an upgrade, and spoiler alert: it gets one.

7. Wavy Ranch

We were very intrigued to try these Wavy Ranch Lay's chips. Ranch, which we know primarily from salad dressing, consists of two main elements that create its signature profile: creaminess and herbaceous seasoning. The creaminess can't really come through in a chip, which means that the food scientists were left with the task of engineering a strong ranch flavor through herbs alone. 

It's actually not as difficult as it sounds, at least from our end — via the dusting of dill, parsley, and chives, the ranch flavor comes through instantly. Those particular herbs all deliver a freshness that goes really well with potatoes in any form, be it chip, tot, or roast. There's even a touch of creaminess from hints of buttermilk powder to really nail the flavor. These are surprisingly good — a milder, wavier cousin to Lay's Sour Cream & Onion.

6. Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ

The Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ chips are our chosen king of the Lay's barbecue chip crew. It would be interesting to do a country-wide poll on the best of the five Lay's barbeque varieties, but in our small voting pool, we found these to be the clear winner. 

Barbecue is a thick, hearty flavor that deserves a thick, hearty chip. In all the "classic" chips, the seasoning tends to overwhelm the vehicle, but kettle chips solve that problem. The richness and subtle sweetness come through enough that when we close our eyes, we can picture eating them outside with the scent of woodsmoke in the background and roasted marshmallows to look forward to. It's a robust, delicious chip.

5. Cheddar & Sour Cream

Cheddar & Sour Cream is an underrated Lay's chip flavor. It has a rolling, mellow flavor, like Lay's Sour Cream & Onion without the feisty bite. First, you taste the ever-popular and familiar notes of cheddar — the same overtones as a Goldfish cracker. Then, you get a bit of a creamy undertone with a rich tang. Think of a baked potato with a fluffy white dollop of sour cream and a flurry of cheddar cheese shreds. 

But let's be honest — you're probably not eating your chips slowly enough to really savor the combination. Instead, you're enjoying a nice, lightly cheesy chip with a little extra something thanks to the cream. It's not a sparkly, snappy, trendy chip, but a super satisfying one.

4. Wavy Cuban Sandwich

And we thought attempting to get a whole BLT into a chip was hard. Lay's has established itself as the king of spot-on flavors, but we were ready for the brand to meet its match in the Cuban sandwich. No number of waves could possibly encompass this laundry list of ingredients: ham, pickles, mustard, Swiss cheese, all on toasted bread ... or could they? Reader, they could, and they did. There's a tang we might attribute to mustard, a briny sourness we remember from the Dill Pickle chips, and a savory meaty flavor that we haven't found in any other Lay's chip. 

Altogether, Lay's successfully recreated a Cuban sandwich on our taste buds. Who would have thought that a touch of ham flavor would be delicious? The natural saltiness of a potato chip helps because the components of the sandwich are all fairly salty themselves. But we aren't salty about this chip. It's so, so fun, and a real conversation starter. Highly recommended.

3. Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper

Have any of you tried these Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper chips? It's an ironic sort of innovation, because what are the primary, basic pair of seasonings on every restaurant table? Salt and pepper. This power duo can make almost anything taste good, or at least acceptable. 

We had a feeling these chips would be far beyond acceptable when we tried them, and our instincts were correct. These chips are incredible. They taste fancy in the simplicity of a single piquant flavor note but lure you in with all that salt. The heftiness of the kettle-cooked style goes well with the chic seasonings. We highly recommend giving them a try even if they look boring at first glance in the Wild West of the grocery store chip aisle.

2. Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Vinegar

Yes, we did already talk about the genius of salt and vinegar potato chips. How could they possibly get better? Double up on greatness by doubling down on the potato. Bigger isn't always better, but in this case, the kettle-cooking method produced a sturdy, complex chip that can really hold its own against Lay's electric salt and vinegar flavor that threatens to overpower a regular-sized chip. 

These Kettle-Cooked Salt & Vinegar chips are a whole experience, and we loved every bite we tried. We actually think they are less polarizing than the original Lay's Salt & Vinegar because the generous size of the chip allows the flavors to meld all the way through. It's absurd how good these are, but for better or worse, there are only so many we can eat when they're this pleasantly pungent and obscenely oily ... in the best ways, of course.

1. Sour Cream & Onion

To one of our taste-testers in particular, Lay's Sour Cream & Onion potato chips are a thing of distinct beauty. The craving for chips comes and goes, and sometimes you'd really prefer a pretzel or maybe even a good pita chip. But this is one kind of potato chip where if it is available, it always begs to be eaten. 

Everything about this chip is designed to perfection, which is why it gets our top slot. It's got a light-as-air texture; its bright and aromatic onion flavor; and then it's got a little decadence, richness, and tang from sour cream. We don't need any bold cheeses or spicy peppers to make this chip incredible. It's all in the details, and a bag of Lay's Sour Cream & Onion chips will be all gone in the blink of an eye. Count us among the culprits.