Crunch, crunch, crunch was the only sound you could hear from a group of seven tasters as they munched their way through six brands of vegetable chips. There were chips that look like slices of carrot or sweet potato, even green whole beans in the mix.
There seem to be two types: those made by slicing vegetables paper thin (or left whole) and those made from a dough of potato flakes, potato flour, and potato starch mixed with tomato puree, spinach powder, and natural colorings like turmeric and beet root powder. In other words, some are real veggies and others are veggies manufactured from a potato blend.
The chips sliced from vegetables fit the image our tasters had in mind. Whole Foods Market Veggie Chips, with bold-colored identifiable shapes, was the winner. “Tastes like the dried version of string beans and carrot. Crunchy and delicious,” said one taster.
In the potato-flake category are The Daily Crave Veggie Chips, Nature’s Promise Natural Vegetable Chips, and Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips. All are oval with ridges, great for dipping. Daily Crave’s website makes a reference to Ruffles potato chips, but Ruffles are made from sliced whole potatoes. In this case, it would be more accurate to relate them to Pringles, another potato-flake/potato-starch product.
Least favorite was Nature’s Promise. “The chip started out sort of like cardboard, then all of a sudden disappeared in my mouth,” was one comment.
The appeal of the real veggie chips, said one taster, is that “you think you’re getting something healthier than a potato chip.” But none of the packages say “baked” rather than fried. As for calories, potato flake chips are about 130 calories an ounce; real veggie chips about 150 calories an ounce, closer to a serving of regular potato chips.
The overall consensus was disappointment, but given an inferior bag, just get a great dip and you’ll be happy.
Nature’s Promise Natural Vegetable Chips (Stop & Shop brand)
$3.99 for 7.5-ounce bag
One of the potato-flake brands, these pale red and green chips were “too light,” and offered no clue as to the vegetable, presumably tomato and spinach. “Not much flavor and very little difference between colors,” “looks boring, and taste wasn’t strong,” and “these all taste the same.” A vegetable was identified — sort of. “Tastes like a potato chip, vaguely.” The chip got good marks from some on texture: “crispy,” “crunchy,” and a likable saltiness.
Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips Sea Salt
$3.49 for 5-ounce bag
This brand boasts 38 chips per serving, the largest amount of the six brands. Tasters found the chips to have “just the right amount of salt” (sea salt is in bold lettering on the package, though last on ingredient list; same as several others). Texture was noted as “better crunch” and “crisp,” and having “lots of air.” Alas, distinguishing flavors other than potato were AWOL. “No veggie taste.”
Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips Original
$5.79 for 6.8-ounce bag
The silver bag with its pretty photo of red, white, speckled, and goldish chips on a black background is a real standout. Many praised the actual chips — which includes batata, sweet potato, and taro — for their “nice colors.” “Orange one tastes like a sweet potato, good and unsalted.” Several noted the red color in some of the chips and thought it was a red potato or a crisp beet “but flavor a little off.” It was neither. Package states that some “ruby root vegetables were kissed with beet juice.” One taster munched on something “white, with a sweet taste I can’t identify.” Likely a parsnip. Another thought the chips had a “good amount of salt,” yet others found it unevenly distributed.
The Daily Crave Veggie Chips
$3.99 for 6-ounce bag
The bag is supposed to look like a newspaper with the headline “Breaking News.” Chips, made with potato flour, have “potato-bland flavor, tomato-bland flavor, and spinach-bland flavor.” One person said the green ones “had a weird bitter flavor like broccoli, and the orange ones tasted like salt.” Another who chose it as a least favorite said, “a long aftertaste that is unpleasant.” But there were some compliments: “crunchy like corn chips,” and “nice and crunchy.”
Trader Joe’s Vegetable Root Chips
$2.99 for 7.5-ounce bag
Sliced from real vegetables, this brand impressed our crew: “Colorful and appealing,” and “nice colors.” The sweet potato chip was easily identified and declared “very tasty,” “the best and strongest flavor.” Chips were praised for having “great crunch.” One said the texture was like “cardboard,” and another said the “cream-colored chip was so “crispy and chewy, you could hurt your mouth if not careful.”
WINNER: Whole Foods Market Veggie Chips
$7.99 for 8.5-ounce container
Chosen a favorite by four, these chips, manufactured in Taiwan, elicited either love or hate. This was the only brand using dextrin, a coating that enhances color and crunchiness. “Fun to eat the green beans. All were sweet and tasty. Crunch is nice,” then “looks like real vegetables, tastes like rancid oil or chemical taste,” “potato tasted stale.” Vegetables were clearly identifiable. “Tastes like a dried carrot; beans are crunchy and delicious.” More: “All tasted the same, like fried food but no veggie flavor.” The greasy feel was echoed even by those who liked the chips. “Very flavorful with a little oily sensation in my mouth.”Debra Samuels can be reached at email@example.com.