Potato Chips And Ice Cream: How Did These 2 Become A Thing?

Like milkshakes and french fries, pretzels and chocolate, or peanut butter and jelly, potato chips and ice cream are an unexpected food combination that works surprisingly well. This sweet and salty combo is so satisfying to the taste buds that ice cream makers have released packaged versions for our convenience. In 2021 Ben & Jerry's released a limited "botch" Chip Happens, consisting of chocolate ice cream with fudge chips and potato chip swirls. Some of us also might remember the iconic ice cream manufacturer's Late Night Snack flavor with vanilla ice cream with salty caramel swirl and potato chip fudge clusters, released in 2011, inspired by a "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" skit. 

While dipping french fries in a Wendy's frosty usually gets all the glory, one Reddit user on an unpopular opinion thread praises the "amazing food combination" of potato chips and ice cream, extolling the potato chips for the textural quality they add to the ice cream. Of course, there's the downside of having soggy chips, which can be avoided by crushing the chips and sprinkling them on the top instead of mixing them in the ice cream (and also eating them right away before they get soggy). Ice cream makers found ways to avoid the soggy chip scenario by covering them in chocolate which hardens to make a protective and delicious coating for the chips. It's generally agreed that chips and ice cream are a delicious combination everyone should try. But why does it work so well?

Why our taste buds love salty and sweet together

According to research recently published in the British Medical Journal, snacks like ice cream and chips, with their sweet and salty flavors, can be just as addictive as nicotine. It's understandable, then, that the combination of the two might just be irresistible. As far as why salty and sweet is a mouthwatering combo, researchers have studied the intricacies of our taste sensors, discovering that they may be more complex than we realize. Scientists at the Monell Center found that sugar sensors on our tongues, known as SGLT1, are activated when salt is present, possibly explaining why sweetness is enhanced by salt — and giving the reason why a pinch of salt can elevate sweet foods.

To take advantage of our taste buds' desire for sweet and salty foods, chefs carefully layer flavors in their creations, blending different tastes that enhance and balance one another. According to Top Chef alum Malika Ameen (via Eater), "Salt is a flavor enhancer, and when it's correctly combined with something sweet, it creates flavor layering." Sweet and salty also go hand-in-hand in baking; one of the reasons salt is used in baking sweets like cakes is to enhance the sweetness and hide any bitterness. 

How to satisfy your taste buds

Eating potato chips and ice cream can be as simple as crushing up some chips and sprinkling them on a bowl of vanilla ice cream or dipping whole chips in your ice cream just as you'd dip your fries in a milkshake. You can also get fancy and make an ice cream sundae with potato chip topping, or dip an ice cream cone or ice cream sandwich in the crushed-up chips. If you really want to step up your game, try covering the chips in melted chocolate, letting them harden in the refrigerator or freezer, and then adding them to your ice cream. You can also try making your own chips like Oiji's Honey Butter Chips, which pair perfectly with vanilla ice cream. Whatever you choose, it's certain to please your taste buds. 

Potato chips aren't the only salty topping that works great for ice cream, of course. Pretzels and peanuts are probably more commonly seen as toppings in sundae bars and also provide that perfect salty, crunchy balance to sweet and creamy. For more unique ice cream toppings, you can even try bacon, wasabi peas, Ritz crackers, or Fritos on your ice cream.