There's Only One Tortilla Chip You Need For the Big Game
Americans have a lot of options when it comes to tortilla chips.
At least 44 different varieties line a crowded shelf at my local Whole Foods in Brooklyn, N.Y., notably none of which include the Doritos or Tostitos brands that otherwise dominate the U.S. market.
There are salted and unsalted kinds; regular corn, flour, multigrain, grain-free, cauliflower, chickpea, and even cactus versions. Plus, all kinds of flavors, from simple sea salt and lime to "Wicked Hot" and "Rockin' Ranch."
This vast selection reflects the ever-growing demand for both classic and contemporary riffs on the ubiquitous snack.
U.S. consumers spent some $6.77 billion on tortilla chips in 2022, up 7.3% from the prior year, according to market research firm IRI. Sales surged 22% over the week before the Super Bowl, aka the "Black Friday of the snack industry," the trade group SNAC International reported.
Amid this lucrative market, companies are increasingly trying out unique flavors and flaunting better-for-you ingredients in an attempt to attract and retain a larger share of us finicky snackers.
I've tried a lot of these chips and found just one that stands out above all the rest. This single chip has all the qualities that modern snackers seem to want. It's got authenticity. It's got a lot of natural ingredients. And it's got a unique flavor. Oh, and best of all—it's addictively delicious.
I'm referring, of course, to the "Pico de Gallo" chips from Tortilleria Mi Niña in Brockton, Mass. I came across these incredible chips in the bright red paper bag at a neighborhood supermarket a few years ago, and nothing I've tried since even comes close to how good they taste.
Think of them like Doritos for adults—incredibly flavorful and satisfying, but without all the junky middle-aisle ingredients and sense of regret that lingers long after the snacking binge is over.
Named after the fresh chunky salsa that is common to Mexican cuisine, these chips are made from organic, non-GMO white corn, fried in sunflower oil, and seasoned with an ambrosial blend of tomato powder, dried cilantro, onion powder, lime juice powder, and cayenne pepper. Fairy dust, in other words.
The combined flavors are powerful but so well balanced: not too salty, not too sour, not too spicy.
The chip itself is crisp and sturdy, unlike other artisanal-style chips that are too thin to withstand a hefty dip. The pico de gallo chips are good with guacamole and equally good just on their own.
On several occasions the missus and I have reached for a handful, only to end up devouring multiple servings. At the store, I usually pick up a few bags, priced at $5.99 each, because they go so fast at home.
Chef Jamie Mammano of the Boston-area Columbus Hospitality Group founded Mi Niña brand back in 2011. The story goes that he was inspired by the fresh corn tortillas and chips of his wife's hometown in Mexico. His company lays claim to being the first of its kind in New England to make real corn masa the authentic way. Cooks Illustrated visited the facility in 2015 to witness the volcanic stone-grinding process first-hand.
Mi Niña also produces a more traditional tortilla chip, flavored only with sea salt, as well as a jalapeño agave variety, but the pico de gallo is simply next level.
If you find yourself standing in the snack aisle, struggling to decide which chips to serve during the big game, make the right move. Look for the bright red bag with the young masa maker on the logo. You won't regret it.