Probably the question we get asked the most since starting The Chip Review: “Juanita’s or Josefina? Which is the best tortilla chip?” Below you’ll get our honest take.
When I worked for [large all natural grocery store chain that is now owned by an even bigger company], Juanita’s was just coming onto the chip scene. Having been around since 1977, they were finally starting to get nationally popular in the late 2000s.
And what perfect timing.
The economy was still in the shitter, the housing market underwater, and the general tone of the country was pretty negative. But then, and I don’t think this is a coincidence, Juanita’s Tortilla Chips started to adorn the end caps of our favorite grocery stores, bringing what was then arguably the best replacement for Mexican restaurant pre-appetizer chips for home consumption. Soon the economy turned around, jobs returned, the stock market rebounded, and now we’ve been in a decade-long period of national prosperity. We built shrines to the chip gods at Juanita’s in the aisles of [large all natural grocery store chain that is now owned by an even bigger company], and we couldn’t keep them re-stocked fast enough.
Do we have Juanita’s Tortilla Chips to thank for all of this? Possibly!
But we have our complaints. Specifically, the last 25% of a Juanita’s bag is virtually un-dippable as the remaining chips turn into crumbs after a hefty chip-eating session. And that grease… oof!
Regardless, Juanita’s has been a staple at almost any party we’ve been at over the past decade, and deservedly so.
As we all know, success breeds competition. Other brands started to step up their tortilla chip game. Brand lines like Tostitos, who likely once felt comfortable atop their corn thrones, lazily slapping a little lime or jalapeno powder on the chip and calling themselves innovators, suddenly felt the pressure of an independent brand stepping on their turf. Owned by Frito-Lay (who is owned by Pepsi), they knew they needed to make an aggressive play here.
Already being considered Big Chip meant the company couldn’t just re-brand a line of their already mediocre Tostitos. No, they needed to virtually clone the Juanita’s branding and launch a new line. Please don’t let their humble site confuse you, this is a massive brand.
Enter La Cocina de Josefina.
If one is moving quick enough through the grocery isle, it’s easy to mistake the two bags. Bright red borders with green accents, a Hispanic women’s name front and center, “gluten free” in big letters at the top. We could forgive you if you intended to grab one and not the other. And that was likely Frito-Lay’s intention.
Regardless, being unbiased in our reviews of any chip, no matter how big the corporate backing, we must say, the Josefina line might be one of our favorite tortilla chips on the market today. The bag lasts at least to 90%, the sturdiness survives a heavy serving of salsa or queso, and the salt ratio on these triangles is near perfection.
Perhaps it makes sense that a company as large as Frito-Lay would have the resources to clone and make small improvements on what was becoming some hefty competition. Does it totally suck to see a little guy getting squeezed by a bigger company? Absolutely. But Frito-Lay made a great chip, and for that they get our official nod as best tortilla chip.
If we were Frito-Lay, we wouldn’t sleep on Juanita’s, who has been getting pretty creative with different flavors, all of which we have enjoyed immensely so far. We’re rooting for you, Juanita.
OVERALL WINNER: La Cocina de Josefina