Potato chips are one of the most iconic snacks in the world. Today, virtually every country in the world that grows potatoes has its own interpretation of the potato chip.
In the US, they can be found at almost every corner store and are commonly sold as sides to sandwiches, burgers, and more.
However, are potato chips vegan?
Most potato chips are 100% vegan! If you look at the ingredients list of most potato chip brands, you’ll see three simple ingredients: potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt.
The only potato chips that you should look out for are the flavored chips, as many of these contain dairy or meat-derived seasoning.
Below, I’ll explain exactly why most potato chips are vegan, break down the ingredients, and show you which ones to look out for. It’s crunch time!
Most Potato Chips Are Vegan: Here’s Why
Potato chips are an iconic American snack that’s since spread around the world. Many people also don’t know that they were invented by African-American entrepreneur George Crum. In 1853, Crum operated a small diner in Saratoga Springs, New York.
After a few customers complained that his French fries (another great vegan snack) were too thick, he decided to make some ultra-thin fried slices of potatoes.
These quickly became a hit in his restaurant and potato chips started to take the nation by storm, appearing in sandwich shops across America.
At their heart, potato chips are made with an incredibly simple recipe that’s 100% plant-based and natural.
Potato chips are just thin slices of potatoes that have been deep-fried (or baked) with a bit of oil. Traditionally, they’re seasoned with salt. However, they’ve also historically been seasoned with vinegar, black pepper, and other simple seasonings.
What Potato Chips Are Not Vegan?
Plain, old-fashioned potato chips aren’t the problem. They’re almost always plant-based, as they’re made from potatoes (a plant) and vegetable oil (which is plant-derived).
However, thanks to modern food technology, a lot of classic vegan foods have been turned into not-so-vegan foods.
For example, some of the most popular flavors of potato chips today contain whey, casein, and other dairy derivatives. These add texture and flavor to the chips, but also make them non-vegan at the same time (since vegans don’t consume dairy).
Along the same vein, an increasing number of potato chips also contain cheese, which is another dairy food.
As a general rule of thumb, stay away from most flavored potato chips. There’s a far higher chance that they’ll contain non-vegan additives. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great-tasting vegan flavors out there, but you’ll usually find these at health foods stores or online from Amazon.
Common Non-Vegan Ingredients In Potato Chips
If you’re set on finding the perfect store-bought potato chips, then it’s important to be on the lookout for a few key non-vegan ingredients in your food.
Aside from potatoes, vegetables, oil, and salt, many of the other additives used in name-brand potato chips aren’t vegan-friendly and are animal-derived.
So, to make your job a bit easier here’s a quick visual outlining which potato chip additives to stay away from:
|Non-Vegan Potato Chip Additives||Why They’re Not Vegan|
|Palm Oil||Although canola oil is the most commonly used cooking oil used in potato chips, I have seen some brands that use palm oil to fry their potatoes in. Although palm oil is technically plant-based (it comes from the African Palm Tree), the industry behind palm oil production doesn’t align with vegan ideals. It’s one of the biggest contributors in the world to rainforest deforestation and is threatening a number of jungle species.|
|Cheese||Cheese is one of the most common additives I’ve seen in potato chips. To most people, cheese is delicious, savory, and has an almost addictive quality to it. That’s why cheese flavors are so popular! Unfortunately, cheese is non-vegan, as it’s a direct dairy product.|
|Milk & Dairy||In addition to cheese, it’s common to find several other dairy additives in potato chips. Some of the most common ones to watch out for include: Nonfat milk Milk solids Milkfat Whey Sodium caseinate Powdered milk|
|Honey||Honey is commonly used in “Honey-BBQ” flavored potato chips. While BBQ sauce is generally vegan-friendly, honey is NOT vegan. Honey comes from exploited bee colonies, which need the honey for their hive’s survival.|
As long as you stay away from those key non-vegan additives, then the potato chips you’re looking at should be vegan-friendly. That being said, you should get used to reading your ingredients labels to figure out for sure which foods are acceptable for your diet.
I’ve often found that some of the most “natural” or “healthy” brands can be just as non-vegan as mainstream brands of potato chips. As the saying goes, “Don’t judge the book (or bag of potato chips) by its cover.”
Are Lays Baked Potato Chips Vegan?
Lays is one of the oldest and most popular brands of potato chips in America. Although the company’s best-selling potato chips are their traditional oil-fried chips, they’ve had a lot of success with their line of baked potato chips as well.
Their baked potato chips contain oil, but not as much. Since they’re baked in a large oven, they don’t need to be fully submerged in oil, and therefore, aren’t quite as saturated with fat. This makes them a lower-fat, lower-calorie food.
The original Lays Baked Potato Chips are vegan-friendly. They’re made with the same simple ingredients that Lay’s traditional fried potato chips are made with; they just contain less oil!
That being said, you should watch out for some of the flavored varieties of Lay’s Baked Potato Chips, as these may contain dairy or honey products.
Are Pringles Vegan?
Pringles are another popular brand of potato chips that are known for their tube-shaped container and ergonomic chip design that perfectly conforms to the shape of your tongue.
The original flavor of Pringles is vegan, as they’re just plain potato chips. However, most of the other flavors of Pringles are not vegan, as they contain dairy, honey, and meat-derived seasonings.
To see exactly which flavors of Pringles are vegan and which aren’t, be sure to read my last post breaking down the key ingredients used to make Pringles!
What Type of Chips Are Vegan?
In general, most chips can be vegan. The two most popular ingredients used to make chips are corn flour and potatoes. Wheat flour is also used for some chip varieties. The raw chips are then fried or baked until they’re nice and crispy, before being seasoned.
It’s not so much the chips themselves that aren’t vegan, as the seasonings that some brands of chips are coated in.
That’s why it’s so important to get used to reading through your ingredients list. This will allow you to better understand which brands and varieties of chips are vegan-friendly.
Before long, you’ll be able to tell whether a bag of chips is or isn’t vegan within ten seconds of perusing through the label!
The Verdict – Are Potato Chips Vegan-Friendly?
Potato chips, by themselves, are almost always vegan. They’re just fried and salted potatoes. However, you’ll want to look out for some of the flavored varieties of potato chips, as many of them contain honey, dairy, or meat-derived additives.
If you’re looking for more great-tasting vegan chips, be sure to check out my list of the best vegan chip brands next!