Staff Picks: Our Favorite No-Shame Snacks for When No One's Looking

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

We hate to say it, but food website readers think we eat a lot better than we actually do. Sure, by day it's all summery salads and oozy Argentine burgers, but at night and in between meals, the truth is often...darker. Truth is, we're just as likely to have Cheetos for dinner as anyone, often more likely, since (as any chef can tell you) a day of working around beautiful food all day makes you hungry for something far less fancy.

Here are our favorites of those no-shame snacks. And do share your own. This is a safe space.

Anything With Heat

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I generally make do with whatever is in the fridge, but it always has to be salty, spicy, and preferably packed with pickles. Sometimes that means it's a kimchi grilled cheese dipped into spicy brown mustard. Sometimes it's a roasted chili quesadilla. Sometimes it's just a bowl of Sun Noodle Ramen Kits with a big dollop of chili oil stirred into it (and maybe some more kimchi). You get the general idea. — J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Sure, I could tell you about the frozen dumplings I purchase by the 50-count and steam too many of because it's 10 p.m. and I forgot to make dinner. But that says more about my general inability to get basic meals together than the deep, dark corners of my snacking shame. What do I binge snack on when my fridge is empty, my precious dumplings are depleted, and I'm filled with more gin than good sense?

Take out a couple corn tortillas, because those suckers last for weeks and come in stacks of a hundred, and get them charring on your gas stove. No pan, no oil, just raw flame delicately singeing the tortilla's edges while wisps of smoke set off the smoke alarm. When both sides are speckled with char and easy to roll around, swipe on some sour cream or Mexican crema (I live in a heavily Latin American neighborhood, so the latter is always within reach) and enough hot sauce to make your eyes water (I like Yucateco because it sets my brain on fire). Fold and gobble over the kitchen sink. You know you're in good shape when you can eat one while toasting your next tortilla. — Max Falkowitz

Snyder's of Hanover Hot Buffalo Wing pretzel pieces. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about them. A friend brought them on a camping trip a few years ago and before I tried them I thought, this is kinda gross. But then I took a taste, and I kept sneaking back until the bag was finished in an afternoon. Now I can't get enough of them, and when I'm hangry, I know the Duane-Reade-Walk-of-Shame-In-The-Snack-Aisle isn't far behind. — Tracie Lee

Peanut Butter Every Which Way


Since I got pregnant, SNACKING IS MY LIFE. After spending the holidays with my kindergarten-aged niece I got really into string cheese again, so I've been keeping that around at all times. A spoonful of peanut butter (yes, straight from the jar, no, not more than one) does the trick, too. I grew up with the 'natural' brands, so I still find sweet-salty Skippy to be somewhat miraculous. — Maggie Hoffman

Something strange and magical happens within all the processed textures of Tootsie Rolls dipped in crunchy peanut butter. Probably not good for digestion as it congeals into an impenetrable mass somewhere down the line. — Chris Mohney

Jif creamy peanut butter with a spoon. The only problem with it is my wife immediately knows what I've been up to, because you can't avoid smelling like peanut butter when you eat it. — Ed Levine

The Fatty and Cheesy

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I'll admit to occasionally stocking Totino's Pizza Rolls in the freezer for some late night munchies, and my boyfriend has recently gotten into the habit of buying mediocre mozzarella sticks—you know the ones that always ooze out cheese product, but who cares because salt, fat, and breading! What I unremorsefully love eating, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, are crumpled-up dry instant ramen with the seasoning sprinkled on. When I was a child, this was a cheap approximation to the potato chips my mom never bought. I can afford all the Zapps I want now, but sometimes those ramen noodles give me all the salt, fat, and nostalgia I want. — Leang Chaing

I take a piece of bread, throw a slice of cheese on (whatever I have in the fridge will do) and throw it in the toaster oven. Instant cheesy-toast, appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drunk snack, or anything in between. — Vicky Wasik

I pour a bag of Mrs. Grass Onion Soup Mix into a container of sour cream. Wait for 15 minutes until it blends and sets. Then dunk a whole bag of pretzels into it—I eat ALL of it. And then I feel sick for 48 hours. — Sebastian Mei

Salt and Brine

Vicky Wasik

I have a thing for those bland, mildly briny-sweet black olives that come in a can. The kind that are scorned by higher-brow food lovers than I, and that often languish in their salad bar tubs. So from time to time, I'll buy a can of large pitted ones and eat them like popcorn in front of the TV. Only, unlike popcorn, I actually prefer to stick them on my fingers and wiggle them around like a magician before plucking them off one by one with my mouth. I can eat an entire can this way, in one sitting. — Niki Achitoff-Gray

Some people prepare for apocalyptic scenarios by stocking up on bottled water and tins of beans and peaches in syrup. I'd trade all of that for a lifetime supply of canned sardines. Sometimes I forget to eat until my blood sugar is so low I can hardly stand, and in those situations I'll lean over my kitchen sink, pop open an emergency ration of sardines, pluck them one by one from their cramped quarters, and swallow them in such a hurry without chewing that they get stuck in my throat, kicking off a violent bout of hiccups that only calms down once I've managed to dislodge the backup with several gulps of water. — Daniel Gritzer