Whenever anyone from outside of the U.S. asks me what cities in the country are worth a visit, I always tell them to go to two of my favorites. Of course, I suggest New York—it’s this country’s ultimate tourist destination. But the city that sometimes comes as a surprise to people who’ve never visited is New Orleans. Of course, if you’ve been there, you know what the hype is about: It’s a magical city, unrecognizable from the rest of the country, the sweltering heat contributing to an intoxicating haziness that colors every facet of life there.
The music, the culture, the architecture: It’s all worth a trip. But what I love best about New Orleans is the food. The first day I ever set foot in New Orleans, I was blessed with my first crawfish boil. When the bright red crustaceans were set in front of me, I recoiled at first—I’d never dismembered a marine bug with my bare hands before. But the aromas of the Cajun spices won me over, tickling my nose and lodging themselves in the back of my brain before I finally got the courage to rip off the first unlucky crawfish’s head and take my first bite.
Unfortunately, living in Boston, the crawfish situation not always an experience I can easily recreate at home, which is why I’m so thankful that Zapp’s potato chips exist to provide me with some of my favorite New Orleans flavors in packaged chip form. These delightfully crunchy, generously seasoned chips are seriously at the top of the chip game—if you can get ahold of them outside of the South.
Honestly, there’s not a single Zapp’s flavored I’ve tried that I don’t enjoy, but some are so good that they deserve their time in the spotlight. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Zapp’s flavors, ranked.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing I love more than a plain potato chip, and Zapp’s regular flavor is about as good as they come. I’m a huge fan of kettle-style chips, and Zapp’s seriously nails it when it comes to texture and crunch. These chips are thick but not too big and pack more than enough salt. But compared to some of the other incredible flavors you can get from the brand, they’re forgettable.
The Evil Eye flavor is definitely one of the most unique chip flavors I’ve ever tried from any brand. Dehydrated tomato adds an almost Campbell’s tomato soup quality to the snack—and if you think that sounds like a bad thing, you’re dead wrong. Imagine a bloody mary in chip form, but the bloody mary is made with Clamato. This flavor may not be for everyone, but it is for everyone who orders a glorified alcoholic tomato soup to cure their hangover.
If you’ve walked through a grocery store’s chip aisle anytime within the last five years or so, you’ve probably noticed a smattering of dill-seasoned chips. A lot of these chips fall flat, and as a true dill lover, I’d pretty much given up the promise of finding dill chips I’d actually enjoy. In fact, I had given up before trying Zapp’s Cajun Dill Gator-tator flavor. It’s super flavorful but not too salty and features a hint of dill without overwhelming you with herbaceousness. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher on this list is because it’s not quite as inventive as some of the other flavors I tried.
When you first taste the Voodoo flavor, you might be confused at first. What, exactly, is this flavor even supposed to be? Well, as legend has it, Voodoo was created by accident when a Zapp’s employee dropped a pallet of spices, mixing a ton of seemingly incongruous flavors together. When the employee tasted the spice mix, though, they realized that it was actually really delicious. Thus, the Voodoo chip was born. We should all be grateful for that happy accident because this heavily spiced chip tastes like a barbecue took a bath in a crawfish boil.
You’ve had jalapeño chips before, but unless you’ve tried Zapp’s Hotter ‘n Jalapeño flavor, you’ve never had jalapeño chips as they’re meant to be. As soon as you open the bag, you’ll be greeted with a whiff of what actually smells like freshly sliced jalapeño. I personally don’t find these chips to be very spicy at all apart from a subtle heat that takes a while to show itself, but that’s okay—the intense jalapeño flavor is all you need here. Sadly, these are the only jalapeño chips that will satisfy me from here on out.
Finally, we come to the Spicy Cajun Crawtators flavor, the pinnacle of the Zapp’s culinary empire. These chips basically taste like they were bathed in Old Bay seasoning and then adorned with the perfect amount of vinegar. They’re not spicy but super spiced, and they have that distinct seafood note to them that makes you feel like you’re on the coast. The next time I’m bummed about eating bland clam chowder during a snowstorm in Boston, I’m hoping that Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators can transport me, just for a minute, to a New Orleans balcony, the scent of those crawfish wafting up toward me once more.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.