Ranking Every Sun Chips Flavor From Worst To Best

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Sun Chips are survivors of an era when we as a society thought about food and health in a very different way than we do now. They were introduced by Frito-Lay in 1991 after a decade of research and development as a way to convince health-conscious adults to eat chips (via The New York Times). The goal of Sun Chips was to create a satisfying snack experience that was healthier than the other alternatives on the market (or at least one that could be marketed as healthier).

They certainly taste healthier than other chips, with the distinct flavor of whole grain in every bite. However, a quick comparison between "healthy" Garden Salsa Sun Chips and "unhealthy" Nacho Cheese Doritos shows that they're pretty similar from a nutritional standpoint. You'd have to be eating a whole lot of chips for the differences between the two brands to make a huge health impact, and we all know we should avoid a chip-based diet.

Healthy or not, we're here today to evaluate Sun Chips based on their flavor. We bought all five permanently-available varieties of Sun Chips so we could taste them all and let you know which one is the best.

5. Original

The original flavor of Sun Chips is the best variety for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the Sun Chip as a snack without the distractions of extra flavor dust. Spoiler alert: They're okay.

When you open the bag, you're greeted with the smell of fryer oil and tortilla chips, with a mild hint of whole grain. Yes, that's right — despite their healthy image, Sun Chips are fried. A look at the ingredients shows that the first ingredient is corn, so these are basically tortilla chips with a little sprinkling of whole wheat, brown rice, and oats to add some fiber and flavor.

Like most types of plain chips, there's not a whole lot going on with the flavor of original Sun Chips. They mostly taste like a slightly more bland tortilla chip. The texture is quite nice, with a decent level of crispiness and light, flaky layers in each chip. The one weird aspect of them is that they're seasoned with both sugar and salt. The sweetness is unexpected and not entirely welcome in the context of a chip. The sugar combined with the flaky texture and whole grain flavor reminds us a bit of Mini-Wheats cereal.

Overall, original Sun Chips aren't bad, but they wouldn't be our first chip choice for a party either. The flavored varieties of Sun Chips are all more interesting.

4. French Onion

Although the name of these chips doesn't mention sour cream, the picture on the label and the description on the company's site both indicate that they're Sun Chips' take on sour cream and onion chips. The flavor of these delivers on onion, but the sour cream gets lost.

We're impressed with the strength of the onion taste in this variety of Sun Chips. They're made with both regular onion powder and powdered scallions, and both of those flavors come through. The onion powder delivers sweet, caramelized notes like a nice French onion soup, and the scallion injects some sharper, greener, and fresher flavors. These Sun Chips taste more oniony than any other brand of chips we've tried.

Unfortunately, all the onion flavor has nothing to balance it out. The sweetness of the onion powder combines with the sugar that's in Sun Chips' base seasoning mix to make these chips almost dessert-level sweet. If we got the more fermented dairy tang from the sour cream, that would make the overall taste of French Onion Sun Chips a lot better. Some extra salt would help cut through the sugar as well. This flavor has potential, but it needs some tweaking.

3. Chili Lime

We would guess that this variety of Sun Chips is inspired by the hot-and-sour flavor punch of Takis Fuego. They even come in a purple bag, just like Takis. However, where Takis create an intense flavor explosion, Chili Lime Sun Chips are more like a gentle flavor mist. You could think of them as the pineapple LaCroix to Takis' pineapple juice.

There is not a lick of heat in this bag of chips, nor is there much sourness. You can nevertheless detect both the chili and lime flavorings. The lime tastes like real powdered lime juice, and a glance at the ingredients list shows that it is. The chili tastes like mild chili powder, the type you'd use to make a basic hot dog chili recipe. We detect dried chiles, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and a hefty amount of black pepper in the flavor dust.

While the lack of spice and acid is disappointing, the seasoning mix on Chili Lime Sun Chips is tasty. Even more importantly, the savoriness of the spices counteracts the inherent sweetness of Sun Chips a little bit, giving you a more savory eating experience. These would be pretty good dipped into some spicy salsa or used as the base for a plate of nachos.

2. Garden Salsa

Garden Salsa Sun Chips definitely bump up the flavor intensity compared with the previous entries on this list. Their name is a little misleading; instead of just being salsa flavored, they're actually dusted with powdered cheese as well.

The salsa and cheese flavors are both very noticeable, and they're also well-balanced with each other. On the salsa side, you get a variety of vegetable tastes, including onion, garlic, tomato, and jalapeño pepper. These chips aren't spicy by any means, but you get just the faintest bit of heat in each bite. The cheddar dust contributes savoriness and a little bit of sharpness and tang that goes well with the salsa taste. The effect of all the seasonings together is reminiscent of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

These would be excellent chips, but they're hurt by their one major flaw: Not to sound like a broken record, but they're too sweet. The sugar butts in on all the savory nacho flavors like an unwelcome guest at a house party, killing the vibe. Despite this problem, the tastiness of Garden Salsa Sun Chips as a whole earns them the second-place spot on this list.

1. Harvest Cheddar

Harvest Cheddar is the best flavor of Sun Chips, and it's not a particularly close race. This variety also tastes kind of like Doritos, but with the cheese flavor amped up considerably. The cheese dust reminds us of Cheetos, which is never a bad thing. The cheese tastes real and it has a nice sharp bite. We pick up a little bit of lactic acid sourness that makes our mouths water.

As with every other flavor of Sun Chips, we aren't crazy about what the whole grains and sugar do to the taste of the Harvest Cheddar variety. However, the cheddar is salty and tangy enough to make the sweetness fade into the background and make us mostly forget that we're eating supposedly healthy chips. We'd still pick Doritos any day, but Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips are tasty enough to be enjoyed whether or not you're trying to eat healthily. If you're at a picnic and someone busts out a variety pack of Sun Chips, make sure to grab the Harvest Cheddar before somebody else does.