FOOD: Trader Joe’s – Ghost Pepper Chips [Discontinued]

Ghost Pepper Chips 01

We here at Eggware.XYZ love spicy food. We are constantly on the hunt for the most spicy of snacks, no matter the country of origin. But there’s one pepper that’s come into vogue that’s continued to elude us. A pepper that was once the hottest in the world, and still takes home the bronze in heat today. The Bhut Jolokia. The ghost pepper.

Lots of restaurants and snack food providers have tried to obtain the ephemeral essence of the ghost pepper, and many have failed. Like a ghost, capturing the Bhut Jolokia is easier said than done, and it isn’t for the faint of heart to try.

But ghost-chasing is what October is all about, so when we stumbled upon this bag of Trader Joe’s Ghost Pepper Potato Chips, we knew we had may had found a worthy competitor laying claim to the title of The World’s Third Hottest Pepper. Trader Joe’s has always been good for us when it comes to cheap food and wine – will they hold up to the heat of the Bhut Jolokia itself? Hit the jump and find out.

Ghost Pepper Chips 02

For those not in the know, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store with a unique gimmick: they sell primarily store-branded food items at a great discount compared to other supermarkets. Most of these goods are of higher quality, too, thanks to Joe’s working directly with manufacturers and cutting out middlemen.

The ghost pepper is also a pepper with a unique gimmick: being extremely spicy. Where as most grocery store hot sauces rank around 2,000-3,000 Scoville heat units, the ghost pepper ranks in at 1,041,427. It’s not a pepper to take lightly, causing extreme pain, increased heart rate, and even reports of hallucination!

Ghost Pepper Chips 03

It’s no wonder that fast food has clung to such an extreme pepper. With the sudden fad of spicy foods that Sriracha has started, the industry is always looking for the most extreme of flavors to bolster their advertising… not to mention that it would only take a very small amount of ghost pepper extract to spice up a fast food-sized quantity of food.
Most other ghost pepper-themed foods, like Popeyes’ Ghost Pepper Wings or Taco Bell’s Dare Devil Grillers, have fallen flat on their promise to deliver true ghost pepper heat. We hope that Trader Joe’s, with the greater focus and care they give to their food, will have a better time recreating the experience of biting into the notorious pepper.

Once we opened the bag, right away we noticed that it was only about half full. Okay, we understand. You can’t fill chip bags all the way or they’ll be smashed and stale by the time they get on shelves. That’s fine… but it’s still going to be a bit disappointing if these aren’t spectacular mouth-bursts of flavor.

Ghost Pepper Chips 04

The chips were lattice cut, like waffle fries, so that was pretty cool. But it was the smell that gave us our first serious sense of worry: all potato. Not a hint of nose hair curling spice to be found. Well, whatever, right? This is the ghost pepper. It’ll be sure to sneak up on us.

So when we bit into these chips for the first time, we expected an immediate searing sensation to spread across our tongues. This was not the case. Where we expected a spicy pepper flavor, we got BBQ.. Smoky and sweet were the only detectable notes, and a very sugary sweetness to boot. Where was the heat?

The more we ate, we started to feel that hot tingling sensation creep across our lips. There we go! It seemed like it was starting to ramp up to true heat now. Except… it didn’t. It never progressed past a mild tingle. How much ghost pepper is IN this stuff? We’ve had Doritos that were spicier than this! For something that is so boldly branded as “ghost pepper”, we wouldn’t rank this higher than jalapeño.
Part of the problem became evident once we reached the end of the bag: all of the powder and flakes had settled to the bottom, leaving the last few chips unpleasantly salty and unnecessarily flavorful. It was the heat we craved, minus the flavor we wanted. And it STILL wasn’t spicy enough!

Don’t get us wrong though, these chips weren’t all bad. The lattice cut gave it a nice, crisp crunch with a lot of great authentic potato flavor. The chips are seriously thin – if you hold them up to the light, they’re see-through thin, and they have a crunch in between kettle chips and ripple chips. With their light texture and subtle taste, they’re easy to scarf if you’re into potato-flavored chips.

If you branded these as “spicy BBQ chips”, we would consider them to be pretty dang decent, if not the best BBQ chips we’ve ever eaten. But they’re not just spicy BBQ chips. They’re ghost pepper chips, and when we eat anything that says it has ghost pepper in it, we expect to suffer.

2 out of 5 – Not Worth Trying

Overall, these were a disappointment. This was a failure of branding writ large: good potato flavor, good seasoning flavor, and nice crispy crunch. If these were anything but what they said they were, they would probably be a solid 4 (the portion size is just dismal no matter the flavor). But these are ghost pepper chips, and as ghost pepper chips, it’s pretty miserable.

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