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I Tried 8 BBQ Potato Chips & The Best Were Bold and Crispy

Many popular brands of potato chips offer a classic barbecue flavor, but which one tastes the best?
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

Snacks are one of the most underappreciated categories of food, in my humble opinion. You won't find a spot reserved for them on the food pyramid, and historically, diets have centered around three square meals a day. But, snacking is a fine art and one which can bring so much flavor–ranging from sweet to savory and everything in between–and happiness into our lives.

When you start to really dig into this food classification, you'll find plenty of standout options from pretzels and popcorn to crackers and cookies. But, there is no other snack that holds quite as much weight and importance as potato chips.

Annually, Americans consume about 1.85 million pounds of the golden crisps, according to Smithsonian. And, in most grocery stores, you'll find that an entire aisle is dedicated to stocking them in their puffed-up bags. There's also a potato chip flavor for almost everything nowadays, as brands attempt to one-up each other. But, if you're a fan of the classics you will also find no shortage of those tastes on the shelf.

Barbecue, specifically, comes to mind as a tried-and-true potato chip flavor and one that a majority of brands have on their books. But, which companies are able to perfectly pack all that tangy smokiness of barbecue sauce onto a bite-sized chip? I rounded up eight bags from major brands like Lays, Utz, and more, in order to find out. Here are the final results, ranked in order from my least to most favorite.

Snyder of Berlin Bar-B-Q Potato Chips

snyder bbq chips on a plate and in a bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 17 Chips):
Calories: 150
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 290 mg
Carbs: 14 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 2 g

There were a couple of details that tripped me up as I delved into the history of this company. First off, it has no ties to Germany as I originally thought. It is instead named after the city of Berlin, Penn., where its first factory stood. Second, it's not to be confused with the Snyder's of Hanover brand which hails from the same state and is a leader in the pretzel industry. The two companies have shared ties in the past, but are no longer affiliated.

With these facts cleared up, I was able to focus on what the Snyder of Berlin is really all about: potato chips, as well as a few other munchies such as cheese curls and puffed corn. Like any worthy chip manufacturer, the company carries a myriad of flavors including a classic Bar-B-Q. A 7.75-ounce bag cost $3.99.

The look: Almost like traditional thin-sliced potato chips with no added seasoning. They come in a muted canary yellow color and there were a few burnt areas that stood out.

The taste: The faintest taste of barbecue I encountered. I had to dig deep to detect it at all. And, even then, all I really noticed was a faint bit of smokey spice at the back of my throat. They do have a nice level of salt and aren't overly greasy. But, there isn't nearly enough flavor here for them to be competitive with other top brands.

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Kroger Classic Barbecue Potato Chips

kroger bbq chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 12 Chips):
Calories: 150
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 210 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 1 g

No matter what you're looking for, Kroger is bound to have a store-brand alternative that is not only more economically priced but also a perfectly tasty and acceptable substitute. I'm a sucker for these cost-saving items and plenty of them are sitting in my pantry and fridge right now, including the supermarket's own brand of ranch dressing, shredded cheese, and medium-roast coffee grounds. I've even picked up the store's classic potato chips from time to time. But somehow, I've never before bought the Barbecue variety. A 7.75-ounce bag cost me just $1.99.

The look: Each chip comes in a standard size. But, most are sparsely seasoned, with only a few donning that deeper orange hue you see on the bag. If you look closely, however, what you can see is small dribbles of grease on each thin wafer.

The taste: More soft than crunchy–possibly from lingering vegetable oil. The taste isn't displeasing by any means. But, to enjoy that distinct barbecue flavor you have to be selective about which chip you grab–the less dusted chips carry a flavor that is considerably more mild. As a whole, I would say these chips are satisfactory, especially at their price point. And, they are additionally very Lay's-esque, if that's the taste you're trying to replicate.

Lay's Barbecue Potato Chips

lays bbq potato chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 15 Chips):
Calories: 150
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 200 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 2 g

Owned by PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, Lay's is often cited as the number one best-selling chip brand in the United States. It has been the "it" chip brand for quite some time, and one of the largest reasons for its continued success is because of the flavor diversity it provides. Lay's is constantly churning out new adventurous tastes like Flamin' Hot Dill Pickle or Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice. But, at the same time, the company keeps long-time fans happy by offering familiar favorites including its standard Barbecue. The chips get their flavor from a classic combination of sugar, salt, molasses, onion powder, tomato powder paprika, and garlic powder. A 7.75-ounce bag rang up at $4.29.

The look: Very similar to Kroger's rendition, but the dark amber-colored seasoning is better distributed–you can tell the brand has been doing this for a while! Each chip is perfectly bite-sized and I was surprised by how many remained intact, even towards the bottom of the bag.

The taste: I grappled for a while over whether or not to place these ahead of Kroger's chips, and my final decision came down to just a dash of extra taste and the nostalgia factor. These razor-thin chips offer a balance of sweet and smoky that can be found in every bite. There's no overwhelming spice or boldness here that particularly wowed me or strongly differentiated Lay's from the rest of the bunch. But, all in all, it is a classic and crispy choice that I would always be willing to fall back on.

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Kettle Brand Backyard Barbeque Potato Chips

kettle bbq potato chips on a plate and in a bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 13 Chips):
Calories: 140
Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 125 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 2 g

Coming in as the most expensive bag of chips in this survey is Kettle Brand's Backyard Barbeque Potato Chips. These cost me $5.49 for a 7.5-ounce bag. But, while this is a hefty price tag, what you're really paying for is the peace of mind of knowing you're getting a product that is non-GMO, gluten-free, and always made from high-quality ingredients. The brand's website even has a "Tater Tracker" so you can learn exactly where the spuds in your bag came from! In the Kettle Brand lineup, you'll find classic potato chips like the Backyard Barbeque alongside tastes like Farmstand Ranch and Jalapeño. But, the company's Krinkle Cut variety is also up for grabs, in addition to its latest invention Kettle Cooked Air Fried Chips.

The look: More compact and folded over than previous chips. But, each one is approximately the same shade as the next. The bag also scores extra points for being about 75% full upon opening–a better ratio than a majority of other snack brands.

The taste: A bit airy and not excessively crunchy for a kettle-style chip. The texture is actually right up my alley and I could see these pairing quite well with a hamburger or hot dog at a cookout. But, they do have a hint of artificial flavor in the seasoning which becomes very apparent on the well-coated chips. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was—maybe something to do with the chili pepper or included smoke? But, whatever it is, it's easy to look past and I still appreciated the hint of sweetness these deliver in the aftertaste.

Lay's Baked Barbecue Potato Crisps

baked lays potato chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 15 Chips):
Calories: 120
Fat: 3.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 140 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 2 g

As one of the world's leading chip brands, it should come as no shock that Lay's has multiple hats in this ring. In addition to its standard barbecue recipe, the brand also stocks Honey Barbecue and Sweet Southern Heat Barbecue Chips. Plus, you can find BBQ-flavored Poppables, Kettle Cooked Chips, and Baked Crisps–which fall under the Lay's better-for-you line. As you may have guessed, these chips are in fact baked rather than fried and contain 65% less fat as a result. A smaller 6.25-ounce bag rang up at $4.79.

The look: Flat and almost hexagonal. Each crisp is lightly sprinkled with spices and seasonings–what I assume to be mostly paprika, tomato powder, and the added caramel color. It's also very obvious that these are much less oily than most potato chips on the market.

The taste: I expected the flavoring here to be almost identical to the brand's classic Barbecue chips, but it's not. These lean more into the savory and tangy side of barbecue sauce, and I wasn't picking up on much sugary sweetness at all. The flavor is mostly subtle, but still detectable on every single piece you pull from the bag. It also pairs really well with the brittle texture of the crisps. Plus, I love that these make for a lighter snacking experience that won't leave you feeling sluggish, even if you overindulge.

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Conn's Wavy BBQ Potato Chips

conn's wavy bbq chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 15 Chips):
Calories: 150
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 280 mg
Carbs: 17 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 1 g

I picked up a bag of Conn's potato chips at my local Kroger, not realizing they're something of a local delicacy here in Ohio. With over 85 years of chip-making experience, the company invites consumers to "experience perfection in every bag." And it says that picking premium potatoes only from the best farms as well as using only the best frying oils are part of its secret sauce to creating something truly craveable. Conn's currently carries nine different chip options including Original, Barbecue, Green Onion, Salt & Vinegar, No Salt, Cinnamon and Sugar, Sweet Mesquite, Wavy Original, and Wavy Barbecue. The latter is the bag I picked up at a price of $3.49 for 7.5 ounces.

The look: Mammoth-sized with bold ridges. One chip I pulled out of the bag measured almost four inches across and most other pieces weren't too far behind. A tangerine-colored dust fully coats about half the pieces while some others are rather bare.

The taste: In my book, these were already a step ahead just because they are wavy. Something about this potato cut seems to allow for a better overall crunch and the peaks and valleys allow for more taste to permeate each bite. The natural hickory smoke flavor is also impressive. It makes each chip more robust than previous choices and reminded me of ribs or even roasted chicken right off the smoker. Both the salt and grease levels are also manageable, making for a very enjoyable snack indeed.

Utz Honey Barbeque Potato Chips

utz honey bbq chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 20 Chips):
Calories: 150
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 200 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 2 g

Utz got its start in 1921 in the city of Hanover, Penn., nicknamed the "snack capital of the world." But, what started as a humble potato chip company has since become something of a snack food conglomerate and an entire team of other brands now exist under the Utz umbrella, including names like Zapp's, TGI Fridays Snacks, Good Health, and the aforementioned Snyder of Berlin. In total, the corporation now produces more than 3.3 million pounds of snacks per week, of which about 50% are potato chips.

Specifically in the realm of Utz potato chips, you will find classic varieties as well as more unique flavors such as Fried Dill Pickle or The Crab Chip. A handful of barbecue options are also available, but I grabbed a 7.75-ounce bag of Honey Barbeque chips for $3.

The look: A few of the Utz chips are immense and comparable to Conn's in size. But, the rest are quite literally a mixed bag. They also come in a much brighter shade of orange than most barbecue chips, mimicking the color on the bag and promising a more full-bodied flavor profile.

The taste: Sweet and addicting. The touch of honey and brown sugar paired with paprika, garlic powder, and other spices makes for the perfect blend of both sugary and more piquant flavors. They also come with that quintessential crunch and just enough grease to feel it on your fingertips but not too much to the point that it's off-putting. These were the first chips I genuinely did not want to put down and it had me wondering why I've wasted so much time on Lay's chips when these have been available the entire time.

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Cape Cod Sweet Mesquite Barbeque Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

cape cod bbq chips in a bag and on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 17 Chips):
Calories: 130
Fat: 6 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 135 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 2 g

A 7.5-ounce bag of Cape Cod's Sweet Mesquite Barbeque Chips cost me $4.00 and only when I got them home did I see that they are part of the brand's Less Fat collection and therefore contain 40% fewer grams than other leading brands. The Massachusetts-based company also has an original version of this flavor, which I didn't happen to see at my local Giant Eagle, plus other classic tastes, Waves, and Waffle Cut options. For the barbecue snacks specifically, the recipe is said to combine "a special blend of tomatoes, onions and spices to create a sweet, full-flavored, barbeque seasoning." The bag also notes that mesquite smoke flavor is added in to "take it to the next level."

The look: Almost identical to the Kettle Brand's offering, which isn't all that surprising since they are the only two kettle-cooked options in this survey. Cape Cod's chips are maybe just a pinch smaller, however, and are thicker set.

The taste: The award for boldest flavor goes to Cape Cod. As soon as I popped open the bag, the pungent scent of mesquite washed over me, making me feel like I was camped out around a fire or dining at a barbecue joint. Then, as you bite into one, the taste is smoky and tangy but not completely overpowering. Like the Kettle Brand chips, these are also satisfyingly crispy, but not crunchy to the point where they irritate your mouth after a while. From texture to taste, I found no flaws here whatsoever and with 40% less fat, this snack really is a unicorn of the potato chip world.

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan