Snacks are our life force: They get us through a workday, satisfy a tantrum-ing toddler, and settle down the hangry in all of us. And while there’s no wrong way to snack, these days, we can’t help but notice the grocery aisle getting…better. That means creative chips, nouveau jerky, flavorful popcorn, inventive crackers, and more.
We're celebrating the best new(ish) snacks from small businesses that have us really excited right now. We started with a crop of 15 nominees (see below!). Now, with the help of our five esteemed judges, we've determined the top 3 Crunchiest. But really, everyone’s a winner here, because all of these snacks are really frickin’ good.
When hunting down our favorite new snacks, we kept several things in mind:
- They had to be shelf-stable, and easily eaten in a car
- They avoided references to diet culture (because we believe “healthy” is a subjective and highly personal term)
- They were founded/expanded/re-launched/started e-commerce in the past five or so years—i.e., they don’t yet have super-massive distribution
- Bonus: They were from an underrepresented maker, or focused on giving back in the form of community impact, climate policies, and more
Persephone Wild West Animal Grahams
Can’t make it one of the brick-and-mortar locations of Persephone Bakery in Jackson Hole? At least you can order these incredible cookies online. While the bakery has been around since 2011 thanks to founders Kevin and Ali Cohane, the animal grahams debuted in 2018, and are now a cult favorite. The ingredients are only flour, butter, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, honey, salt, and ground cinnamon, but something amazing happens in the baking process—this is one special cookie.
Notes from the Judges: These “sophisticated” and “delicious” cookies were universally loved. They’re “an upgrade to the traditional animal cracker” with a “really nice crispy texture” and “nice snap.” The judges noticed “speculoos cookie,'' “lightly spiced gingerbread,” and “a premium version of those butter cookies in the blue tin” vibes as well. Talk about a versatile snack!
Yolélé Greens! Fonio Chips
Yolélé was founded in 2017 by chef Pierre Thiam and food industry vet Philip Teverow. According to its website, Yolélé’s goal was “to create economic opportunities for smallholder familiar communities; to support their biodiverse, regenerative, and climate-resilient farming systems; and to share Africa’s ingredients and flavors with the world.”
Well, at least according to us, mission ACHIEVED—because the Greens! fonio chips are superb. (PS: Fonio is a gluten-free ancient grain that’s light and fluffy, with a slightly nutty and earthy flavor. It’s a staple of West African cuisine.)
Notes from the Judges: What made these chips stand out? These were “truly exceptional” with a “great mix of unique savory and sour flavors” and “good acid and texture.” They “walk the treacherous line between a cracker and a chip with grace.” And while they are great with dips, one judge confessed that they “ate the entire bag too quickly to try.” Bonus: “The texture of the chip is earthy and grainy, in a way that feels like you might also be eating something that’s vaguely good for you.”
Carolyn’s Cheddar Krisps
Carolyn’s Krisps debuted in 2020—they are named after Granny Carolyn, whose krisps “were a hit at all of our family holiday get togethers,” according to founder Amie Kesler. These plant-based krisps are sort of like if a (vegan) Goldfish married a cookie, and it somehow worked out really well.
Notes from the Judges: These “part cookie part crackers” are “quite impressive that they are gluten-free and vegan.” “I couldn’t stop eating them,” revealed one judge, while another shared that they “ate every last crumb.” And, for perhaps the ultimate compliment: “The texture of these reminds me of the crispy edges of a grilled cheese fried till golden.” A snack that’s kinda reminiscent of a much-beloved sandwich? Brilliant!
Jai Mix Toasted Coconut & Ginger
So Much Happening (In a Good Way) Here
Jai Mix proves there is no such thing as too much of a good thing: Crispy rice flakes, toasted coconut, crystallized ginger, cashews, peanuts, chiles, and spices are in fact a very happy family together. Clearly, there’s enough going on here that it makes a great snack on its own, but we also love Jai Mix as a topping for yogurt dips and salads.
BAM Black Gram Chips
A Crunchy Chip With No Potatoes or Corn
This is a very sturdy chip, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to eat (it’s not), just that it has some heft to it. It’s not pretending to be a potato chip (doesn’t have as salty of a vibe) or a tortilla chip (just… doesn’t taste like one at all). Instead, it’s just its own thing, made from black gram, which is a type of South Asian bean. If you love papadam, check these out. It’s got its own moves and style, and doesn’t need to copy anyone else’s.
Behave Sour Bears
Gummy Bears With Real Flavor
Gummies are one of those things you never quite grow out of, and Behave proves that there’s no reason to: These have a lot of flavor to them! Okay, fine, you’re not exactly like “wow, this is exactly what a fresh lychee tastes like” but you are maybe saying “wow, these gummies are… surprisingly complex in a good way.”
Carolyn's Cheddar Krisps
A Cheesy Cookie-Cracker… That’s Totally Vegan
This hybrid cookie-cracker (looks like a cookie, crispy like a cracker) is for the cheese lover who is vegan or lactose-intolerant… as in, there’s no actual cheese in these thick and sturdy krisps. These actually feel like a substantial snack: While we could certainly eat Cheez-Its by the handful, when it comes to Carolyn’s Cheddar Krisps, we take our time thanks to the size and the thickness of each krisp. And the fact that they’re just really tasty.
Yolélé Greens! Fonio Chips
The Chips the Food52 Team Can’t Stop Eating
If it sounds like we’re gushing, it’s because we are. All of our tasters unanimously loved these fonio chips. Made with baobab fruit powder (tangy!) and moringa (nutrient-dense!), the Greens! Flavor has just the right amount of spice that you could pair it with a dip, but also just eat them on their own by the handful.
Gwell Peach & Pomegranate Tea Cookies
The Afternoon Pick-Me-Up, Hopefully With Tea
Imagine the scene: It’s mid-afternoon. You’re sitting on a porch. There’s tea. There’s a breeze. These cookies appear. Everything is just… pleasant. And sometimes a pleasant cookie is what you need: Not too complex, not too in-your-face, not too sweet. It’s just… pleasant.
Ffups Professional Salt & Vinegar Chips
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Puffs With a Serious Vinegar Tang
We’re suckers for two things: Good puffs and good branding. Ffups (yes, that's “puffs” spelled backwards…sort of) succeeds with both. This is a puff for a salt-and-vinegar lover and this is a brand that’s sure of itself. It’s got little winks everywhere, from the flavor names themselves to a truly whimsical website. We support a snack that knows what it is.
Lentil House Smoked Paprika & Sea Salt
Fried Lentils, What’s Not to Like?
You know how crispy chickpeas have been all the culinary rage for a while? Crispy lentils deserve the same adulation. These little pops of crunch are brightened with just the right amount of paprika and salt, making them great to have on their own, or alongside, well, pretty much anything.
China Live Peking Duck Fat Popcorn
Sweet Popcorn with Subtle Salty Notes
China Live has nailed the sweet-meets-savory popcorn game here, thanks to a rich caramel mixed with super savory duck fat. We’d be remiss not to highlight the kernels themselves though: they’re excellently rotund and larger than most other kernels we’ve come across. Each bite really feels like something substantial, rather than bits of popcorn left mostly stuck in your teeth.
Pan's Zesty Thai Mushroom Jerky
A Snack That Really Stands On Its Own
These are not mushrooms pretending to be meat. These are shiitake mushrooms proud to exert their umami energy. The jerky is only slightly chewy, and seasoned beautifully with spices like tomato powder, lemon peel, cilantro, and lots more (is it Thai? Ehh…more like waving in the general direction of Thailand). A snack quite different than anything else we’ve tasted.
Hungry Bird Fennel + Onion Crackers
A “Healthy” Cracker We Would Eat If It Wasn’t
This thick and seedy Scandinavian-style rye cracker is the kind of thing that you’d think you’d stop eating after say, three of them. Well, despite their heft, we can just keep going and going with these. The fennel + onion is present, but not overwhelming or super anise-y. So get yourself an avocado, butter, jam, or cheese and a pack of these. We guarantee no better mid-afternoon snack.
West-bourne Sun Pop
Flavored Popcorn With Just the Right Amount of Spices
When California-inspired NYC-based all-day cafe West-bourne closed in 2020, customers mourned the loss of one of the best savory breakfasts in the city. But founder Camilla Marcus resurrected it as a grocery e-tailer, where many of the beloved West-bourne flavors still have a home, like this oh-so-slightly-spicy popcorn. It’s heavy on the nutritional yeast (a good thing), with clear notes of turmeric and cayenne.
Moonshot Margherita Pizza Crackers
The Crackers We Can Eat A Lot Of
There are the [brand name redacted] crackers that you eat because you need a vehicle for cheese or various condiments or whatnot, and then there are the crackers you eat because the crackers themselves are rather excellent. These are the latter. Not too thick, not too thin. Not overly spiced but certainly not bland. Just exactly what a cracker should be.
Neptune Sweet Citrus Ginger Fish Jerky
Fish Jerky: We’re Into It
This has the jerky chew we’re all familiar with, but the taste is well, fishy without being fishy. We love the citrus and ginger notes—it’s a snack that commands attention not only because you’re chewing on it for a bit, but because you perhaps don’t often munch on dried fish with sweet-gingery elements. It’s… fun!
Persephone Wild West Animal Grahams
Take Us to This Bakery Immediately
With no disrespect to the more mass market graham products you’re likely familiar with, these are better by a long shot, thanks to the crispy and lacey edges. It’s the animal crackers you didn’t know were missing from your life, but once you found them, you can never leave them. They are a part of us now. We are attached, we are one, we are forever.
Chitra Agrawal is the Founder of Brooklyn Delhi, a food brand inspired by her Indian heritage. She is the author of Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn. Chitra has specialized in teaching, serving, and writing about Indian vegetarian cooking for over a decade. Her work and writing have been featured in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and more.
Folu Akinkuotu is a writer, lifelong snack obsessive, and recipe developer. She is the creator of Unsnackable, a newsletter exploring unique and unattainable international snacks, and #humblebragdiet, a social media cooking archive. Her preferred artistic medium is buttercream frosting and she is a firm believer in the restorative power of occasionally drinking a glass of Champagne in the shower.
Amanda Hesser is the founder and CEO of Food52, the next-generation cooking and home company recently named one of the world’s most innovative companies by Fast Company. Amanda was a reporter, feature writer, and food editor at The New York Times. She is the author of the award-winning books Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes and The Cook and the Gardener, and she edited Eat, Memory. She is the co-author of three Food52 cookbooks, including A New Way to Dinner, and her The Essential New York Times Cookbook was a New York Times Best Seller. In 2021, Amanda’s updated edition of the compendium was published with 120 new recipes.
Amanda has been named a Woman of Impact by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Food by Gourmet, played herself in the Nora Ephron film, Julie & Julia, created the Twitter app Plodt, and served on President Obama's Commission on White House Fellowships. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and twins.
Mason Hereford is the chef and owner of Turkey and the Wolf, a counter service-only joint that Food & Wine and GQ both listed as one of the most important restaurants of the decade and Bon Appétit named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2017. He also owns Molly's Rise and Shine, a breakfast spot nearby that Food & Wine named a Best New Restaurant in 2020. He was born and raised on gas station food and rollerblading in rural Virginia. He currently lives in New Orleans and will never leave. Mason's cookbook comes out June 21, after having been lost at sea. It’s called Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin' in New Orleans. Buy that shit (if you want). He is also in a Duke’s Mayonnaise commercial.
Hrishikesh Hirway is a musician and podcast creator. He’s the host and creator of Song Exploder, an award-winning podcast and a Netflix original television series where musicians break down the creative process behind their songs. Hrishikesh produced and co-hosted the award-winning podcasts Home Cooking, with chef and author Samin Nosrat, and The West Wing Weekly, with actor Joshua Malina. He’s also the host and producer of the Partners podcast.
As a musician, Hrishikesh has released four albums under the moniker The One AM Radio, and an EP with Moors, his project with Lakeith Stanfield. As a composer, he has written music for film, television, and podcasts, including the score for the Netflix series "Everything Sucks!" and the theme to ESPN’s "30 for 30" podcast. Recently, Hrishi released an EP, including the songs, “Between There and Here," which features Yo-Yo Ma, and “Home,” featuring Jay Som. These are the first songs he’s released in 10 years, and the first under his own name. Hrishikesh serves the Library of Congress as a member of their digital strategy roundtable. In 2021, Fast Company named him one of the Most Creative People in Business. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Art Director: Amanda Widis
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Special Thanks: Ace Baclay, Roman Arispe, Eddie Barrera