Our crunchiest taste test yet.

By Tadhg Hylier Stevens
Updated June 01, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
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If you haven’t noticed the explosion of kettle-cooked chips in the snack aisle over the past several years, then your ability to resist junk food temptations definitely surpasses ours. Of course, potato chips of all varieties are great for mindless crunching, but there’s a reason that kettle chips have ascended so quickly in popularity. While no more healthy than regular chips, kettle chips tend to be crispier than their conventional comrades. That’s because kettle chips are cooked in smaller batches rather than all at once, allowing the chips to take on a deeper fried flavor and produce more irregular chip shapes than their more uniform cousins.

More snack food companies may be profiting off the kettle chip trend, but that doesn’t mean that all kettle chips are made the same. To test which major brand had the best basic flavor of kettle chips, we tried four different brands of kettle chips. To make the comparisons more fair, we also limited ourselves to fairly common flavors: original, sea salt, and salt and vinegar. Here’s our verdict on which company has the best kettle-cooked snacks for your money.

Best Salt and Vinegar

Kettle Brand’s Sea Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips ($2.99 for 8.5 oz)

kettle-brand-vinegar
Credit: Amazon

Amazon

Given the company’s singular focus on kettle-cooked chips, Kettle Brand’s offerings are practically required to be flawless. In the case of their sea salt and vinegar flavor, the company definitely hits the mark. The vinegar taste is strong enough to provide the slight burning acidity we’ve come to expect in salt and vinegar, and the chips definitely provide the satisfaction of fried potatoes without the grease that sometimes accompanies the snack food. If you have a salt and vinegar fiend in your household, then Kettle’s product is likely to hit the spot.

Runners-Up

Cape Cod’s Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato Chips ($3.29 for 8 oz)

cape-cod-vinegar
Credit: Target

Target

Cape Cod’s sea salt and vinegar chips also meet that high bar of balancing a good amount of salt with a healthy dash of vinegar, though the vinegar taste ever so slightly outweighs the salt. Some of our testers preferred that, however, so if you welcome more tang in your chip, Cape Cod might be your best choice.

Tim’s Cascade Style Potato Chips in Sea Salt & Vinegar ($4.99 for 16 oz)

tims-vinegar-chips
Credit: Target

Target



Tim’s sea salt and vinegar chips were in some ways the opposite of Cape Cod, in that the vinegar was more muted, whereas the salt content was more pronounced. The crunch factor was superb either way, however. If you’d like a little less vinegar and a lot of crunch, then Tim’s are the way to go.

Not Our Favorite

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips ($3.49 for 8 oz)

lays-salt-vinegar
Credit: Amazon

Amazon


If the drawback to salt and vinegar for you has always been too much flavor then Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Vinegar chips are for you. The salt and vinegar taste is there, but it’s very light compared to the bold flavoring that Kettle presents in their brands. In part, that might be because the brand has the lowest salt content among the salt and vinegar chips we tried at 170 mg. However, Kettle Brand manages to pack in much more flavor using only 10 additional milligrams, so we’re loath to credit that as an excuse. The biggest upside to these chips is a stronger crunch compared to conventional Lay’s chips, but otherwise, they were a bit of a let down for our testers.

Best Original Flavor

Cape Cod’s Original Kettle Cooked Chips ($2.99 for 5 oz)

cape-cod-original
Credit: Amazon

Amazon


If you’re looking for simplistic but delicious potato chips, then Cape Cod’s variety is our pick for your money. Not only is the potato taste strong without the chips being too greasy, but the sodium content was also the lowest among any of the brands we tried—only 70 mg per serving. While a little pricier than some of our other picks, these are definitely worth a spot in your pantry.

Runners-Up:

Kettle Brand’s Sea Salt Potato Chips ($3.99 for 8.5 oz)

kettle-brand-original
Credit: Target

Target


Truth be told, Kettle’s Sea Salt chips aren’t that distinct when compared with Lay’s version. The factor that gives them their edge over our least favorite pick is their distinct lack of oily aftertaste, something that Lay’s seems to consider its signature. While plain, these chips will definitely hit the spot if you’re looking for something simple in your snack foods.

Tim’s Cascade-Style Potato Chips in Original with Sea Salt ($3.69 for 7.5 oz)

tims-kettle-original
Credit: Amazon

Amazon


Tim’s comes close to Cape Cod in flavor, though their product has 50 mg more of sodium. The chips do also have a deeper fried taste than Cape Cod’s, so if you prefer your chips a little browner, then Tim’s will likely be your favorite.

Not Our Favorite

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips ($3.49 for 8 oz)

lays-original-kettle
Credit: Amazon

Amazon

If you don’t mind (or are even fond) of the Lay’s aftertaste, then you'll be pleased to know that at the price we were able to find our selections, Lay’s Kettle Cooked Original chips beat out Kettle’s Sea Salt variety by roughly four pennies per ounce. That could add up, depending on how many chips you typically buy a month. It’s also only 90mg in sodium content, which makes it a runner-up to Cape Cod’s low-salt content. However, the oil taste is still there, and overpowering, so Lay’s once again falls to the bottom of our list.