Serious Eats

We Try Every Species of Goldfish

[Photographs: packages, Pepperidge Farm; others, Robyn Lee]

Last week we tried every kind of Pepperidge Farm cookie. And this week, maybe inevitably, we tried every kind of Goldfish. Even if we've gotten a little tired of rolling down the tops of the paper Pepperidge Farm bags, we were pretty happy to be gorging ourselves on something savory—all those cookies didn't sit so well, at least in the quantities we were eating them.

Everyone likes Goldfish (tell us if we're wrong, but we suspect we're not). They're ubiquitous: there's a handful in every sticky palm at the park, a snack pack in every lunch box in middle school, and cartons of them on the shelves of college dorms. They're simply a great snack food: cheesy, baked, not too greasy and certainly not healthy but somehow guilt free.

Apparently, the woman who started Pepperidge Farm with her homemade bread tried a similar cracker on vacation in Switzerland in the 1960s, and brought the recipe back with her. So Goldfish have been around since 1962, although they didn't have imprinted smiles until 1997 (read more about the history of Pepperidge Farm here).

Original

Now fifty years old, Goldfish have of course gone the way of the Milano and the Oreo: there are tons of varieties, many of which the average Goldfish lover is probably not aware.

There are Whole Grain Goldfish, Space Adventures Goldfish, multi-colored Goldfish, baby Goldfish. There are even S'mores Goldfish. I thought I knew Goldfish, but it turns out I didn't (but now I really, really do).

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Goldfish types can be divided into three groups: (regular) Goldfish, Flavor Blasted Goldfish, and Goldfish Grahams.

We're all familiar with the regular Goldfish; you know, the cheese flavored, fish-shaped (duh) ones. However Ben and his brother Jonathan, an extreme Goldfish enthusiast, were nice enough to offer us their expert opinion on the cracker's many forms. They take issue with the fact that Cheddar has become so ubiquitous: it's Cheddar that's made into a whole wheat version, Cheddar that gets shrunk down to baby size, Cheddar that is dyed into new colors. And while this Cheddar boom is certainly not entirely without reason, Parmesan and Pizza are pretty great and don't deserve to get left behind.

Cheddar has basically become "plain" Goldfish in the way that "plain" pizza is cheese pizza: the cracker that is actually named "Original" is ironically the one you've probably eaten the least of. It's bland, basically just an Oyster cracker (although, Ben pointed out that they're better in soup, because they're fish; they swim!). Jonathan, our expert, told us that not all Goldfish bags are the same: some of them are cooked more, and you can tell based on whether the crackers are lighter are darker. His preferred Goldfish is a bag of overdone Parmesan.

Flavor Blasted Slammin' Sour Cream and Onion

Flavor Blasted, the same crackers tossed in seasoning à la Dorito, we did not enjoy much at all. "Haven't the creators of Goldfish ever eaten Goldfish? Aren't they already flavor blasted?" Jonathan wondered. Of course, he is a self-described Goldfish purist and "doesn't recognize the legitimacy of the Flavor Blasted or dessert style Goldfish." The excessive seasoning gives them the messiness factor of Doritos, when clearly people buy Goldfish for the cleanliness of a pretzel. Furthermore, the extra flavor undermines the impressive strength of the flavors that emerge from a regular Goldfish cracker.

It's not impressive if a cracker tastes like cheese because there's cheese on it, in other words. Also, seasoning is gross.

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The Graham series of Goldfish are crunchy little cookies, a bit flakier and thicker than a Teddy Graham (and fishier). Many of us were surprised how much we enjoyed them, especially for something that has travelled so far from its original form. They really pack the punch of a real cookie in their tiny little bodies.

Click through the slideshow to see what we thought about each and every kind of Goldfish. And please give us your thoughts, rants, and raves about Goldfish in the comments! (I've been analyzing Goldfish in my head all week and no longer want to feel so alone.)

"Regular" Goldfish

Cheddar
Goldfish Colors
Cheddar made with Whole Grain
Original
Pretzel
Parmesan
Pizza
Goldfish Baby
Space Adventures

Flavor Blasted Goldfish

Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar
Flavor Blasted Xplosive Pizza
Flavor Blasted Slammin' Sour Cream and Onion
Flavor Blasted Wild White Cheddar
Mix Up Adventures
Mix Up Adventures Xtra Cheesy Pizza

Goldfish Grahams

Grahams Vanilla Cupcake
Grahams Fudge Brownie
Grahams Cookies & Cream
Grahams Chocolate Chip
Grahams S'Mores

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