Imagine any possible arrangement of food on a flat surface, and there’s a good chance the internet has already tried it. There’s your classic charcuterie, composed of meat and often cheese. You could also make fruicuterie, a pickle board, a mezze platter, or even a whole damn grazing table. Last fall, the butter board was everywhere—yes, butter—slathered and slippery, delicious and tempting for any bread wielder. Why do we do this? Well, why not? If there’s one thing Board Culture gets right, it’s that even the most mundane foods, like a potato chip or a simple cracker, can feel celebratory if presented in a way that feels intentional and special.
That’s why, here, we wanted to showcase this year’s fanciest and most fun 2023 SELF Panty Award winners. The 12 goods below are indulgent not based on their price tag or the fact that they can only be found in high-end food shops in big cities, but simply because of their ability to liven up any party spread. Whether that’s because they’re extremely delicious—like, much yummier than you thought a cracker or nut mix could be—or because they incorporate intriguing ingredients, great packaged goods can be truly thrilling: versatile, crowd-pleasing, and easy to keep on hand.
We recommend serving these the next time you have friends over for a drink, setting them out at a house party, or making them part of a fun at-home date night. Or just eat them at home alone as you binge-watch your favorite show on a lazy Sunday! To really elevate the experience, I recommend arranging your fancy and fun snacks on a Special Plate (a server that’s different from anything else you own and feels festive). There are plenty to shop on Amazon and Etsy; you can also trek to your local Target or your favorite secondhand store. Put on some loungewear you feel good in, light a candle, and play a little music—whatever allows you to turn the experience of eating into an Experience.
Be sure to check out the rest of SELF’s 2023 Pantry Award winners, including the most snackable chips, crackers, bars, pretzels, and popcorn; sauces, spreads, and oils that add mouth-watering flavor; and tinned, canned, and boxed goods perfect for any weeknight meal.
1. Breton Multigrain Crackers
Breton crackers remind me of the get-togethers my parents had when I was a kid; even if it was just my aunt and uncle coming over for Chinese takeout, there was always a wooden board, loaded with cheese and a row of crackers. What can I say—my family likes to eat, and we’re big appetizer people—but there’s something about the plain-old multigrain cracker that anchors every arrangement. I’m pretty sure that these, from Breton, are the exact ones I grew up eating—and when I tasted them again, I was filled not just with nostalgia, but a pure appreciation for how damn good they are. Our testers gave them high marks for texture and taste; they pair well with anything (cheese, meat, dips, jam…you name it), and we feel confident they’ll be loved by your snooty foodie friend just as much as your two-year-old niece.
2. Milton’s Craft Bakers Gluten-Free Crackers
Yes, every cheese board needs a crumbly, hearty cracker—but to be really well-rounded, it should have a thin, flaky, crisp option too. These, from Milton’s, are exactly that. Though they’re gluten-free, they beat out other glutinous crackers on the market. (So in other words, you shouldn’t let the lack of gluten deter you here.) The crackers are the perfect shape and heft to balance out a chunk of brie or dollop of hummus, but they’re still so light, and won’t take up too much real estate in each bite. Meanwhile, flavor varieties like Everything and Olive Oil & Sea Salt are fresh and zesty, like something you’d find at a bougie countryside cheese shop.
3. Mary’s Gone Super Seed Crackers
I bet we’re not the first to point you towards Mary’s Gone products, which already have a cult following. The brand’s Super Seed Crackers are crunchy, yes, and seedy, yes, but won’t break into a million pieces upon first bite. Hearty, gritty, and a little bit nutty (no nuts involved, though!), they’re proper adult crackers—a little funkier than your average snack, a little more like something your hippie aunt might offer at her bungalow, which we absolutely mean as a compliment. Your guests will be impressed.
4. Simple Mills Organic Seed Flour Crackers
I love when a food is reminiscent of something mass-produced and super familiar, but is tweaked and upgraded just so: It looks better, it feels better, and it tastes better too. That’s how I felt when I ate these Simple Mills crackers. They’re like a distant cousin of Wheat Thins (though I’m not knocking Wheat Thins—Wheat Thins are, actually, amazing in their own right) but with a bolder flavor that complements dips and cheeses nicely. That said, they’re still so snackable on their own. I’m talking fistfuls at a time.
5. LesserEvil Organic Popcorn
Who said popcorn isn’t worthy of a spot on your charcuterie board? It’s a delicious finger food and a crowd-pleaser, and there’s something about it that feels inherently fun: Nothing says “a night well spent” like a delicate trail of tiny kernels on the floor. Still not convinced? Swap your bowl of olives for a small bowl of popcorn at a party and see how fast it needs refilling. Better yet, pair your olives with some popcorn for a little salty-sweet action. LesserEvil’s popcorn comes in a handful of flavors, but if you’re a traditionalist—or just overwhelmed by the available options—you really can’t go wrong with the pure goodness of the Himalayan Pink Salt variety.
6. Catalina Crunch Crunch Mixes
Fancy snacks don’t have to be time-consuming and complicated. This is truly just a party mix made for adults—so kitschy, which is a big part of why we love it. Full of all the best salty things—cereal, nuts, pretzels, and cheese crisps—you can dump this in a bowl, pour a tall glass of something good (might I suggest an IPA?), and call it a day.