When you’re enjoying a lovely strain and the stomach starts to grumble for a tasty treat, few snacks are as simple yet satisfying as the humble potato chip. Whether you’re craving something sweet, salty, spicy, or savory, there are countless flavors on the market designed to quell your munchies.

There’s only one problem though: With thousands of potato chip flavors available and thousands more cannabis varieties being grown, what’s the best possible potato chip and strain flavor combination that will blow your mind while pleasing your tummy? For the most discerning cannabis and potato chip connoisseur, Plain Lay’s and Blue Dream won’t cut it. We wanted to determine the ultimate dynamic duo. The potato chip Robin to a strain’s Batman. The Chong to its Cheech. The yin and yang of chips and strains.

Enter the Leafly Potato Chip and Strain Flavor Pairing Tournament. Eight contenders enter the arena but only one will emerge victorious, stepping out from a dusty cloud of chip crumbs and cannabis shake to hoist the championship belt above its stoner-approved head.

The Flavor Regions: Breakfast, Herbs 'n Spices, Tropical, and Hot 'n Dirty

First thing’s first: We needed to choose eight unique chip flavors and pair them with complementary strains. After some preliminary research, strain researcher and snack enthusiast Jeremiah Wilhelm selected a diverse array of chips made from both potato and corn, and buddied them up with strains he felt offered up balanced flavors. The result: Four flavorful, diverse regions containing distinct, terpy strains from our pals at Fweedom, Vela, and Dockside SODO.

leafly-potato-chip-strain-flavor-pairing-tournament-bracket
Click to enlarge. (Nick Ouellette/Leafly)

The ‘Breakfast’ Region

Contenders: Southern Biscuits & Gravy Lay’s and Tillamook Strawberry Hybrid vs. Kettle Foods Maple Bacon Potato Chips and Presidential OG Indica

With breakfast-friendly flavors like biscuits and gravy, maple, bacon, and fresh fruit, it’s easy to see why we named this region after the most important meal of the day. But how will a hearty, savory flavor like biscuits and gravy match up against the salty-sweet combo of maple and bacon?

Southern Biscuits & Gravy Lay’s and Tillamook Strawberry

Southern Biscuits & Gravy Lay's and Tillamook Strawberry
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them: 

“The savory, fennel-forward flavor [of biscuits and gravy] juxtaposed against Tillamook Strawberry’s deep, sweet diesel seemed like a potent pairing.” – Jeremiah Wilhelm, Strain Researcher and Chip Nommer

Kettle Foods Maple Bacon and Presidential OG

Kettle Foods Maple Bacon and Presidential OG
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“Maple Bacon and Presidential OG are a marriage of opposites. The chip flavor seemed decadent and compelling, but the contrast against Presidential OG was based on the earthy undertones of this indica-dominant strain. The Maple Bacon chips offer a quality balance between the sweetness of the syrup and the subtle smokiness of the bacon.” – Jeremiah

The ‘Herbs ‘n Spices’ Region

Contenders: Kettle Foods Krinkle Cut Dill Pickle and XJ-13 Hybrid vs. Terra Sea Salt Sweet Potato Chips and Royal Kush Hybrid

Life’s a picnic with these herbtacular, spice-forward flavor combinations. Dill pickle is definitely more of an acquired taste than the simple crowd-pleasing qualities of a salted sweet potato, but how do these chips compare when tethered to their citrusy strain counterparts?

Kettle Foods Dill Pickle and XJ-13

Kettle Foods Dill Pickle and XJ-13
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“Dill Pickle and XJ-13 was a recommendation given to me by a budtender at Vela, who claimed the strain smelled especially herbaceous after grinding. Dill was one of the more challenging flavors, and finding a strain that would complement its loud palate was more or less left to fate.” – Jeremiah

Terra Sea Salt Sweet Potato and Royal Kush

Terra Sea Salt Sweet Potato and Royal Kush
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“Humboldt Royal Kush has been among my favorite Kush strains for a while, and I figured its floral bouquet and spicy finish would stack up well against an unconventional crisp pairing like sweet potato. The natural sweetness of the sweet potato would be a complement to the natural, sweeter terpenes nestled in the calyxes of Royal Kush.” – Jeremiah

The ‘Tropical’ Region

Contenders: Hawaiian Kettle Style Mango Habanero Chips and Mango Kush Hybrid vs. Funyuns and Pineapple Express Hybrid

Get on island time with these tropical, fruity flavors. Is mango + mango too much mango or the perfect amount? Will onions and pineapple evoke mouth-watering thoughts of a kalua pork luau, or are Funyuns too overpowering and styrofoamy to successfully pair with anything besides a glug of Pepto-Bismol?

Hawaiian Kettle Style Mango Habanero and Mango Kush

Hawaiian Kettle Style Mango Habanero and Mango Kush
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“These combos were created so my esteemed panel of judges wouldn’t just peace out because I made them consume dank, weird cannabis and goofy chip flavors. Mango Kush and Habanero Mango was another attempt at synergy; the idea being that the bright, fruity flavors of the cannabis would complement the sweet heat of the chips.” – Jeremiah

Funyuns and Pineapple Express

Funyuns and Pineapple Express
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“The Funyuns pairing is a classic stoner snack homage, paired with a unique Pineapple Express phenotype from one of my favorite growers in Eastern Washington, 50 Fold. This sweet and salty mashup was constructed out of my limited culinary knowledge regarding onions as a mainstay in entrée bases combined with the tropical, astringent aroma of Pineapple Express.” – Jeremiah

The ‘Hot ‘n Dirty’ Region

Contenders: Spicy Nacho Doritos and Dutch Haze Sativa vs. Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists and Sour Diesel Sativa

These heavy hitters pack quite a flavorful punch, bringing heat and spice alongside pungent earthy and diesel notes. But which classic munchie will come out on top, the orange-dusted triangles or the corkscrew corn chips?

Spicy Nacho Doritos and Dutch Haze

Spicy Nacho Doritos and Dutch Haze
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Why We Paired Them:

“Spicy Nacho Doritos are my preferred variety of nacho-flavored tortilla chips. The peppery flavoring and the sweetness of the corn chip make for an interesting contrast against the spicy citrus of the Dutch Haze. Hazes are spicier and usually retain a certain brightness.” – Jeremiah

Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists and Sour Diesel

Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists and Sour Diesel
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Why We Paired Them:

“Honey BBQ Frito Twists are the most underrated of all the Frito varieties. The chip’s curly shape is not as important as its well-balanced sweet and smoky flavor. With a sweeter variety of BBQ on my hands, I needed to up the body and complexity through my strain pairing. I felt that Original Sour Diesel would be a clever fit based on the pungent, fuel-rich aroma that usually stands as a precursor to every good BBQ.” – Jeremiah

Elite Eight Round: “A potent and delicious combination.”

Judging Criteria

Chip and strain matchups were given to a group of eager Leafly employees who judged each baggie of chips and cannabis strain sample on a scale of 1-5 (1 = Awful, 2 = Pretty Bad, 3 = Decent, 4 = Good, 5 = Fantastic). Neither the chips nor the strain was labeled, making this a blind taste test. Judges tried the chips first, then the cannabis, then revisited the chips after vaporing the cannabis for a while. Winners advanced based on which combos had the highest pairing score out of 20 possible points.

Elite Eight Round: ‘Breakfast’

“I still have no idea what flavor they are but the cannabis made it taste more like BBQ, which is a winner in my book.”
Maple Bacon and Presidential OG pairing feedback

Southern Biscuits & Gravy/Tillamook Strawberry vs. Maple Bacon/Presidential OG

Described as having an “almost Italian seasoning type of aroma,” Southern Biscuits & Gravy chips were paired with the “refreshingly piney-scented” Tillamook Strawberry cannabis that smelled “like a nice forest.” One judge felt the sweeter flavor of Tillamook Strawberry offset the savory flavor of the Biscuits & Gravy Lays to create a “potent and delicious combination.”

Southern Biscuits & Gravy/Tillamook Strawberry Pairing Score: 15 / 20

Keen-eyed judges noticed the “kettle-cooked style” of the Maple Bacon chips, and admired how Presidential OG looked “really frosty and fiery all at once, with red hairs and prominent trichomes.” Despite the fact that one of our judges wasn’t “normally a BBQ chip guy,” he felt the pairing created a nice combo that “definitely cured [his] munchies.”

Maple Bacon/Presidential OG Pairing Score: 16 / 20

Elite Eight Winner: Maple Bacon and Presidential OG

‘Breakfast’ Region Winner: Kettle Foods Maple Bacon Potato Chips and Presidential OG

In the end, the smoky sweet BBQ pairing edged out the southern classic.

Elite Eight Round: ‘Herbs ‘n Spices’

“The sour pickle chips and the warm sunny hug from this strain reminds me of sitting outside on a sunlit café terrace with a sandwich in front of you that comes with a pickle slice on the side.”
Dill Pickle and XJ-13 pairing feedback

Kettle Dill Pickle/XJ-13 vs. Sea Salt Sweet Potato/Humboldt Royal Kush

Our stoned judges dug the wavy ruffle of the Kettle Dill Pickle chips, but were split when it came to the flavor. Some described it as “delicious!”, while others were less than kind, saying, “I don’t…I don’t know how I feel about this. Sour, vinegary, pickley. What is happening here?” XJ-13 was described as having a similarly sour smell, with “earthy, peppery,” and “a little spicy” notes.

Dill Pickle/XJ-13 Pairing Score: 16 / 20

The judges were pretty tough on the sweet potato chips, remarking that they “could use a little more seasoning” and complaining that the texture was “too thick and crunchy.” The Royal Kush fared better, as it was “sweeter when heated” and had “a hint of citrus in the first few hits.”

Sweet Potato/Royal Kush Pairing Score: 15 / 20

Elite Eight Winner: Kettle Dill and XJ-13‘Herbs ‘n Spices’ Region Winner: Kettle Dill Pickle and XJ-13

Surprisingly, even though pickle chips are a polarizing flavor, our judges enjoyed them more when paired with the skunky, potent XJ-13

Elite Eight Round: ‘Tropical’

“When I smoke weed, it always tastes like dank basement.”
Non-sequitur while judging the Funyuns and Pineapple Express pairing

Mango Habanero/Mango Kush vs. Funyuns/Pineapple Express

Judges loved the Mango Kush, calling it “incredible” and hailing its notes of “mango, diesel, and soft zest.” Unfortunately, the mango habanero chips, while sweet, had a spicy kick that “never goes away and becomes quite cloying.”

Mango Habanero/Mango Kush Pairing Score: 11.7 / 20

Oh, Funyuns. You may not look appealing (one unimpressed judge succinctly described them as “dry. Full of holes. Yellow”), but you’re a guilty pleasure among cannabis enthusiasts. When consumed, judges said the chips “shattered into tiny, crispy morsels” and “were nice and salty.” Pineapple Express had notes of “burnt rubber, fuel, lime, spicy astringent,” and “7-Up effervescence.”

Funyuns/Pineapple Express Pairing Score: 15.1 / 20

Elite Eight Winner: Funyuns and Pineapple Express‘Tropical’ Region Winner: Funyuns and Pineapple Express

When it came to the popular Funyuns and Pineapple Express duo, as one judge put it, “These two really tasted better together.”

Elite Eight Round: ‘Hot ‘n Dirty’

“After one bag full I was on a one-way ride to Smaaaaacked-City.”
Honey BBQ Frito Twists and Sour Diesel pairing feedback

Spicy Nacho Doritos/Dutch Haze vs. Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel

Our judges loved the “exceptional” crunch of the Spicy Nacho Doritos and felt the Dutch Haze offered a pronounced “lemony flavor” and “some earthiness” on the exhale, enjoying the strain’s “subtle, uplifting yet relaxing effects.” However, when paired together, there wasn’t much increased enjoyment. As one judge put it, “The flavors of the pairing didn’t augment or accentuate each flavor; rather, the lemony diesel competed unfavorably with the cheesiness.”

Spicy Nacho Doritos/Dutch Haze Pairing Score: 12 / 20

Sour Diesel is a fan favorite, with one judge exclaiming that her sample had “pistils for days!” and “a nice burnt sienna color.” The Frito Twists had a “nice strong corn flavor and good texture,” although the powder flavoring was “bleh.” Vaping the Sour D released “notes of orange zest, fuel, and even some mint,” offering a “spacier high behind the eyes.”

Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel Pairing Score: 16 / 20

Elite Eight Winner: Frito Honey BBQ Twists and Sour Diesel‘Hot ‘n Dirty’ Region Winner: Honey BBQ Frito Twists and Sour Diesel

Although the Frito Twists weren’t favored on their own, our judges conceded that the “spacey high” of Sour Diesel let them “forget the flavor of the chips and just enjoy the crunch” as our hungry participants ate the whole bag, enjoying the nice mix of sweetness and earthiness.

Final Four Round: “It was easier to keep shoving them into my mouth.”

Final Four Round: ‘Breakfast’ vs. ‘Herbs ‘n Spices’

“The cannabis lacked in flavor and smell, but when paired they work together pretty well.”
Kettle Dill Pickle and XJ-13 pairing feedback

Maple Bacon/Presidential OG vs. Kettle Dill Pickle/XJ-13

Our new round of judges had a critical eye, taking their responsibilities very seriously. They were not a fan of the Maple Bacon chips, saying dismissively, “These chips were not my thing” and that the overall flavor “was not very enjoyable.” (They did concede that the Presidential Kush “definitely dulled down the parts of the taste [they] didn’t like.”)

Maple Bacon/Presidential OG Pairing Score: 12 / 20

Although our judges “usually avoid dill,” they felt the XJ-13 made the Dill Pickle chips “sweeter,” with a “more enjoyable flavor of saltiness.”

Dill Pickle/XJ-13 Pairing Score: 13 / 20

Final Four Winner: Kettle Dill and XJ-13Winner: Kettle Dill Pickle and XJ-13

Once again, the XJ-13 made the funky Dill Pickle chips more palatable, with one judge remarking that the chips became “much more enjoyable,” and while “the cannabis lacked in flavor and smell, when paired [with the chips] they worked together pretty well.”

Final Four Round: ‘Tropical’ vs. ‘Hot ‘n Dirty’

“The pairing was surprisingly explosive, which sent pleasant reverberations through my mouth.”
Honey BBQ Frito Twists and Sour Diesel pairing feedback

Funyuns/Pineapple Express vs. Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel

The Funyun flavor parade seemed to come to a screeching halt in this round, as our pickier judges were split on the flavor. One said the taste “wasn’t much enhanced” when paired with Pineapple Express, and that the aftertaste of the Funyuns “seemed to linger longer.” Another thought that the Funyun flavor “fills you like a balloon” but remarked, “damn, they’re dry.” Consensus: not bad, but “keep looking for a slightly better match.”

Funyuns/Pineapple Express Pairing Score: 15 / 20

Our Final Four judges were pleasantly surprised by the Honey BBQ Frito Twists when paired with Sour Diesel, calling the duo “surprisingly explosive.” One judge remarked, “It’s almost as if the cannabis made my taste buds ticklish for these chips–in a good way.”

Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel Pairing Score: 16 / 20

Final Four Winner: Frito Honey BBQ Twists and Sour DieselWinner: Honey BBQ Frito Twists and Sour Diesel

As one judge so eloquently put it, “This pairing is tasty and I can’t stop eating them. Plus, I’m paying a lot of attention to texture/shape, which makes it more fun…aaaaaand they’re gone.”

Championship Round: “Yum yum, I'm high.”

Championship Round: ‘Herbs ‘n Spices’ vs. ‘Hot ‘n Dirty’

“I'm already debating how to ration the chips through this whole episode of Law & Order.”
Kettle Dill Pickle and XJ-13 pairing feedback

Kettle Dill Pickle/XJ-13 vs. Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel

Our Championship Round featured two unlikely contenders. In one corner we had the love-it-or-hate-it Dill Pickle getting a powerful boost from XJ-13, jointing together to create a true Cinderella story. Rising up out of the ‘Hot ‘n Dirty’ region was a lesser-known Frito flavor that cozies up to fan favorite Sour Diesel, together conjuring a powerhouse conference contender. Both pairings have knocked off some formidable foes, but which crispy chip and frosty bud combo would prove to be the ultimate flavor pairing?

Dill Pickle/XJ-13 Feedback: 

  • Chip appearance: “Sturdy, solid. Classic crinkle–visible seasoning, but not caked.”
  • Chip aroma: “DILL. I’m fuckin’ pumped. Already debating how to ration the chips through this whole episode of Law & Order.”
  • Cannabis appearance: “Pronounced orange hairs, muted green bud, a happy medium of fluffy and dense.”
  • Cannabis aroma: “Bright but not super strong; a fruity smell.”
  • Chip tasting notes: “I love the solid CRUNCH sound. Not the weak crisp like that of your pedestrian Lay’s Original. The dill pickle flavor is so lovely but the chip is begging for some bright acidity.”
  • Cannabis vaping experience: “Earthier flavor than expected, but it complements the starchy potato in a beautifully simple way. Instant heady buzz, uplifting; more wide-eyed than sedated.”
  • Pairing feedback: “The earthy flavor of the cannabis nods to the earthy familiarity of the potato chip, while the dill—though I still feel it needs a squeeze of citrus—lifts up the otherwise demure flavor profile.”
Potato Chip/Strain Flavor Pairing Tournament doodle from a stoned judge
Stoned doodles courtesy of one of our Championship Round judges. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Honey BBQ Frito Twists/Sour Diesel Feedback: 

  • Chip appearance: “Those little pasta-looking corn chip spirals intrigue me, but I’m quite skeptical.”
  • Chip aroma: “Faint BBQ smell reminds me of middle school lunches – in a good and bad way.”
  • Cannabis appearance: “The frostiness is super pronounced against the finest green bud.”
  • Cannabis aroma: “The flower smelled earthy and citrusy at the same time, like a garden full of lemons.”
  • Chip tasting notes: “I enjoyed the flavor better than expected. I seemed to leave the chip in my mouth and suck the flavor out before chewing it.”
  • Cannabis vaping experience: “Not the instant effects like the other pairing, but a nice mellow muscle relaxation, little to no buzzy head high–not sedating..”
  • Pairing feedback: “Though the cannabis itself was pleasant–the sort of strain you can smoke throughout the day and it won’t knock you out or make it too hard to follow the plot of a movie–the chip’s flavor overshadowed that of the cannabis.”

And the Winner Is…

The 2017 Leafly Potato Chip and Strain Flavor Pairing Champion is…

Dill Pickle potato chips and XJ-13 cannabis
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)


Kettle Dill Pickle and XJ-13!

This dynamic duo handily beat the Honey BBQ Frito Twists and Sour D combo by a score of 18 to 13. It turns out the budtender at Vela knows her potato chip and strain pairings. This flavor-forward combination won over a variety of judges who either loved or hated the dill pickle chips on their own, proving that a thoughtful, terpene-rich strain pairing can elevate even the funkiest-tasting snack to transcendent proportions.

Are you a dill pickle chip hater? You may want to give them a try after vaping some XJ-13; who knows, your taste buds may be pleasantly surprised by the experience!

 

Header and featured image credits: Julia Sumpter/Leafly