They’re fried in fat and slathered with salt, so why do Brits have such an unhealthy obsession with crisps, or what Americans would call potato chips?
While crisps (or chips) are undoubtedly popular in the States, in the UK, they’re an integral part of British culture. They’re enjoyed with a sandwich and juice box while lying in a park on a warm summer’s day and are tucked into in front of the box on a Saturday night of binge TV. They’re munched on between meals as a tasty snack and shared with friends before the main serving at a dinner party.
In the UK, crisp flavors aren’t just limited to salt and vinegar or cheese and onion. Stroll down the supermarket aisles, and you’ll notice an exotic selection of tastes to suit all kinds of palates, from Baked Camembert to Sweet Chili Chicken to Salted Caramel.
Crisps were actually invented near Saratoga Springs in New York in 1853. When crisps were sold commercially, industry experts thought of them like potatoes. As a result, the early seasonings mirrored the flavors that would typically accompany traditional potato dishes—salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, barbeque sauce.
Despite all the exciting offerings currently available in Britain, Walker’s (Lay’s in the USA) – and the UK’s – top five crisp flavors remain unchanged: Cheese & Onion, Ready Salted, Salt & Vinegar, Prawn Cocktail, and Chicken.
And while four of those five flavors are widely available around the world, you’re unlikely to spot a bright pink packet of Walker’s Prawn Cocktail crisps in international stores unless you happen to find a British food section in a larger supermarket.
Prawn Cocktail crisps are a quintessential British favorite, and the zesty, tangy flavor can be addictive. Grab a bag to nibble on with another British love—the ‘meal deal’, which usually consists of a sandwich or salad, snack, and a drink for around £3 (roughly $4). Many supermarkets in the UK offer these convenient meal deals, including Sainsburys, Tesco and Boots Pharmacy.
If you’re feeling fancier, pay a bit extra for your packet and invest in a higher quality crisp brand, such as Kettle Chips or Tyrrells. The two brands are renowned for their ‘posh’ crisp flavors. While Kettle Chips originate from the USA, Tyrrells are an English brand, and they put a sophisticated spin on the classic crisp flavors.
Impress guests before a dinner party by piling a bag of Tyrells’ Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar or Mature Cheddar and Chive crisps into a nice bowl, and watch it empty at rapid speed. The brand’s more interesting flavors include the mouth-watering Black Truffle and Sea Salt, Sunday Best Roast Chicken, and Smoked Paprika.
And for those days you’re seeking something quick and satisfying to fill that pang of hunger rumbling in your stomach? You can’t go wrong with a packet of Nik Naks Nice ‘N’ Spicy or tongue-tantalizing Skips. Pop the latter onto your tongue and enjoy the sensation of the crisps bubbling and fizzing in your mouth.
British crisp flavors are good, but there are many countries around the world offering delectable packets, too.
While there are seemingly countless flavors sold across the globe, some that stand out include pizza flavor crisps sold throughout Europe and the USA. After all, who doesn’t like pizza? Munching on a tube of scrumptious pizza Pringles or a packet of Lays is pretty much the next best thing to the real deal.
If you ever find yourself in Croatia, be sure to hunt down the hand-cooked truffle chips by Zigante Tartufi, the leading truffle-selling company in the country, and indulge in the earthy, lip-smacking treats. Croatia is renowned for its delicious and affordable truffles, grown in Istria, the westernmost county of the country.
Oh, and let’s not forget Cheetos. Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than digging into a bag of greasy, calorie-filled crisps that leave a thick layer of bright orange, fake cheese dust on your fingers. Ahh, bliss.
Ellie Swain (@lifesawindow) is a British freelance writer covering topics including food and drink, travel, music, lifestyle, fashion and marketing.