Hot fries first hit store shelves in the early 70s and quickly became a massive hit with the younger crowd.
They’re basically extra-crispy fries that are coated in copious amounts of spicy seasoning and sauce. Today, they’re still a popular snack found in convenience stores around the country.
If you’re reading this post, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are hot fries vegan?”
Unfortunately, most brands of hot fries are not vegan. This is because most brands of hot fries use dairy by-products like whey and buttermilk to improve the flavor and texture of their chips.
In today’s post, I’ll show you exactly what hot fries are made of and point out the problematic ingredients that you should be on the lookout for.
Are Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries Vegan?
While there are a number of different brands that offer their own version of “hot fries,” Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries are arguably the most popular due to their iconic taste. They’re also one of the crunchiest hot fries you’ll ever taste.
Sadly, though, Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries are NOT vegan. They contain multiple dairy products, including cheddar cheese, buttermilk, whey, and romano cheese.
Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries are also packed full of highly processed and artificial ingredients. When you combine this with the sheer amount of acid in the hot fries, you’ve got a stomach ache waiting to happen.
Even if you’re not vegan, I still wouldn’t recommend that you eat these chips.
Just watch this guy destroy his stomach with hot fries:
Are Hot Fries Vegetarian?
The vegetarian diet is actually quite a bit different from the vegan diet (something that many first-timers get confused about). Vegetarians can actually eat many of the foods that vegans cannot.
This is because vegans abstain from consuming all animal products, while vegetarians only abstain from consuming meat.
This means that vegetarians can consume dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and butter. They can also consume honey; something that most vegans don’t consume for ethical reasons.
Since cheese and dairy products are allowed on the vegetarian diet, hot fries are considered a vegetarian-friendly food. Hot fries don’t contain any meat-derived ingredients like gelatin or stearic acid, which vegetarians try to avoid.
What Are Hot Fries Made Of? Ingredients Analyzed
Above, I mentioned how hot fries are one of the least healthy chips on the market. Now, I’m about to show you why. After reading through this ingredients list, you’ll probably never want to pick up a bag of these chips again.
For this ingredient breakdown, I decided to use Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries, which are arguably the most popular brand of hot fries you’ll find in stores. That being said, most of the other brands of hot fries use a very similar recipe.
Here’s the shortlist of the ingredients, for reference:
Now, I’ll take a few minutes to break down everything on that list and show you what your chips are really made of.
1) Enriched Corn Meal
Corn meal is the main ingredient used for hot fries. This is essentially a thicker version of corn flour, which gives the hot fries a crispier texture. The corn meal is also enriched with added vitamins and minerals. These make the food more nutritious, which helps them sell more of it.
2) Vegetable Oil
Hot fries are a fried food. That means that the chips are all deep-fried in vegetable oil to cook them. According to the label, Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries are made with corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, or a combination thereof.
These vegetable oils are all vegan-friendly, just not this particular brand of chips.
3) Dried Potatoes
In addition to dried corn meals, hot fries are also made with potatoes. This is why hot fries taste similar to French fries. Although fries, by themselves, are typically vegan, these hot fries aren’t
4) Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese is the first non-vegan ingredient used in hot fries. This additive is technically a dried cheese powder made from milk, salt, and dairy enzymes.
What would any brand of chips be without salt? Salt is used as a seasoning ingredient and also helps strengthen the dough used to make the hot fries, making for a crispier, stronger hot fry.
Whey is a special type of protein that’s released as milk is turned into cheese. Whey acts as a reliable binding agent and helps the cheese powder and seasonings stick to the hot fries. Unfortunately, whey is a dairy product and is therefore non-vegan.
Buttermilk is a common flavor additive used in chips and processed cheese-flavored foods. It’s basically milk with added cultures that create a sour flavor profile. Since it’s a dairy product, it’s clearly non-vegan.
MSG is the shorthand term for monosodium glutamate. This man-made ingredient is designed to replicate the exact molecule that our human taste buds perceive as “savory.” It gets a bad rep as an artificial food additive, but it’s actually not that bad when consumed in small amounts.
9) Tomato Powder
Tomato powder is used to give hot fries their signature taste and also contributes to the red-orange coloring of the chips as well. When you eat hot fries, you expect to taste ketchup. The added tomato powder gives the fries a ketchup-like flavor that really makes the difference.
10) Romano Cheese
In addition to cheddar cheese, powdered romano cheese is also used to season Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries. Romano cheese has a less pungent flavor than cheddar, giving the fries a more complex cheese flavor.
11) Whey Protein Concentrate
In addition to the raw whey used to help bind the seasonings to the chips, Chester’s Flamin’ Hot chips also use concentrated whey protein isolate. This gives the chips a smoother surface and also adds to their protein, making them more fulfilling.
12) Onion & Garlic Powder
In addition to cheese, hot fries are also seasoned with copious amounts of garlic and onion powder. These are very common and vegan-friendly since they’re plant-based seasonings.
13) Artificial Colors
Cheese, in its natural form, isn’t usually orange; it’s a pale white color. So, to make their chips more visually appealing, hot fries are typically coated with a number of artificial colors as well.
14) Natural Flavors
Hot fries also contain a few natural flavors that could really be anything. More than likely, this is Chester’s secret blend of spices, which they’ve chosen to keep a trade secret.
15) Lactic Acid
Lactic acid is an organic acid that’s used as a natural preservative in a number of processed foods.
16) Citric Acid
Citric acid is another organic plant-based acid that’s used as both a flavor additive and natural preservative. When you increase the acidity of any food, it makes it harder for bacteria to lay hold of the food and repopulate.
A small amount of sugar is also used to coat the hot fries, making for a richer flavor. Unfortunately, refined sugar is another non-vegan ingredient, as it’s filtered through animal bone char.
18) Disodium Inosinate
This chemical additive is very similar to MSG and is used to give hot fries a deeper, more savory flavor profile.
19) Disodium Guanylate
Like its cousin that I mentioned above, disodium guanylate is another flavor additive that’s designed to add a kick of savory flavor to hot fries.
The Verdict – Are Hot Fries Vegan?
Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries are not vegan, and neither are most other brands of hot fries. Unfortunately, most hot fries are made with non-vegan dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and butter.
However, if you’re looking for some more awesome vegan snacks, I recommend checking out my post on the best vegan chip brands next!