H-E-B’s house brands have long been a source of consternation among Texan consumers. They require us not merely to weigh the merits of various flavor combinations, but to ponder heavier existential questions such as the nature of good and evil, order and chaos. The grocery chain knows how to get attention for its products: mixing and matching among flavors and products in ways nature never intended, as with cake batter hummus or funnel cake dish soap or a “butter tortilla” scented candle. And—as social media users have noted in recent weeks because of the sheer cognitive dissonance brought on by the sight of “Vanilla Milkshake” on a bag of potato chips—the experimentation also includes “special edition” chips.
While the limited-run chips aren’t a new thing for the company—some fans might still miss the great Korean BBQ chips from 2017—the current critical mass of flavors pushing food science to its limit is great. Also, there is never a bad time to try a bunch of different potato chips. We skipped the mundane—we don’t need to tell you if plain, sour cream and onion, or barbecue are good (they are)—in order to answer our question: Has H-E-B achieved peak potato madness? Here are the eight most interesting flavors on shelves now, ranked from most conventional to least.
Central Market Sweet Thai Chile Kettle Cooked Waffle Cut Potato Chips
What I expected: Sweet Thai chile sauce is delicious and flexible, and potatoes are a natural companion, so I had high hopes going in here.
What it actually tastes like: A little bit spicy, a little bit garlicky, salty, and with a hint of the fish-sauce funk you’d expect. The waffle cut is a good choice—those little nooks and crannies provide lots of spaces for the powdered flavor bursts to hide. If you like barbecue-flavored chips, you might like these.
Should you buy it? Yes, if you want to veer ever so slightly off the beaten path, but still want something that complements rather than overpowers your sandwich.
H-E-B Wavy Sweet Onion Potato Chips
What I expected: A mild-flavored chip that would basically be like sour cream and onion minus the sour cream.
What it actually tastes like: Less like a batch of caramelized onions and more like a slightly charred grilled onion. Though that might be the marketing influence: the picture on the bag is a sweet onion that clearly has spent some time on the grill.
Should you buy it? It’s definitely not a bad chip, but unless you have a strong aversion to sour cream and onion or ranch-flavored chips, you’ll probably be just as happy sticking with those.
H-E-B Ridged Loaded Baked Potato Potato Chips
What I expected: A sour cream and onion chip, plus cheese.
What it actually tastes like: The dominant flavor here is definitely bacon. Honestly, calling these “loaded baked potato” feels like a misdirect—whatever notes of sour cream, cheese, or onion that might be present are overwhelmed by the bacon-y rush that hits first and leaves a prominent aftertaste. It’s probably the liquid smoke on the ingredient list that does it.
Should you buy it? Yes? The chip doesn’t really deliver on the promise of a loaded baked potato, but it’s a potato chip that tastes like bacon, and I’m not going to complain about that. Especially recommended for vegetarians who want the taste of only slightly chemically bacon without consuming any meat. (Vegans are out of luck, however—there’s milk, cheese, and buttermilk in these things.)
H-E-B Thin Jalapeño Queso Potato Chips
What I expected: I entered with hopes that this would taste like a potato chip that’s been dredged through a bowl of queso.
What it actually tastes like: A cheese-flavored potato chip with a little kick.
Should you buy it? If you are a fan of cheese-flavored chips, sure, why not. It’s hard to pick up a distinct queso flavor, but if you just imagine the bag says “spicy cheese potato chips,” and that sounds good to you, might as well go for it!
H-E-B Thin Dill Pickle Potato Chips
What I expected: Potato chips that got spritzed with pickle juice.
What it actually tastes like: Potato chips that got spritzed with pickle juice.
Should you buy it? During Texas Monthly’s exhaustive 2021 search for the fifty best barbecue joints in Texas, our staff received training from our own Daniel Vaughn, who steered us through the process of identifying good barbecue. We learned how to identify the perfect first bite of a rib and what texture to seek in a house-made sausage. He also offered a tip: the pickles that come alongside your meat are palate-cleansers. I’ve used that trick here between flavors to avoid too much intermingling. So buy them if you want a palate-cleansing potato chip.
H-E-B Limited Edition Pepperoni Pizza Rolls Ridged Potato Chips
What I expected: Basically the exact taste of a frozen pepperoni pizza roll in potato chip form.
What it actually tastes like: I’m not above succumbing to marketing hype, so it’s possible I’m picking up flavor notes that aren’t entirely present, but I found that the pepperoni pizza roll chips taste much more like they are supposed to than, say, the loaded baked potato chips do.
Should you buy it? Yeah, these are delicious.
H-E-B Limited Edition Southern-Style Chicken Sandwich Thin Potato Chips
What I expected: Based on my experience with the other meat-flavored chips, I was guessing we’d have a strong chicken flavor with a tiny bit of paprika or something else for spice.
What it actually tastes like: I didn’t get any chicken flavor. It’s a little bit sour, which makes me think whoever developed these places a high premium on the pickles that go on a chicken sandwich. If this were called “spicy pickle” flavor, it would make much more sense.
Should you buy it? Not if you were hoping it would taste like a chicken sandwich. (If that is what you want, it’s possible the technology just doesn’t exist yet.) These aren’t bad, but I would consider them largely unnecessary.
H-E-B Limited Edition Vanilla Milkshake Wavy Potato Chips
What I expected: I’ll confess I was nervous about these. I thought they’d be sickly sweet and gross, a clear novelty product designed to inspire outrage as much as sincere interest. I opened the bag out of a commitment to journalism, not an expectation of discovering a new favorite chip.
What it actually tastes like: Sorry, give me a minute here. I think—I think these are good? Ever dip your fries into a Frosty at Wendy’s? It’s kind of like that.
Should you buy it? I’m pretty sure these would be a bad choice to accompany a ham sandwich. But that’s not to say they’re not tasty. The salt content is way low—a serving contains only 90 milligrams of sodium, compared with 190 milligrams for the Pepperoni Pizza Roll chips. These are dessert chips, the potato a mere canvas for the burst of vanilla and sugar that accompanies each bite. These are less confounding than I expected them to be, and I am pretty sure I will finish the bag.