Potato chips can be a better choice than cookies or pastries from a nutritional standpoint, but they’re not necessarily vegan. For starters, manufacturers often add milk, sour cream, and other animal-derived ingredients to enhance their flavor. Lay’s Flamin’ Hot, for instance, contains potatoes, vegetable oil, salt, yeast extract, and all sorts of flavorings made with butter, whey, blue cheese, lactose, and more. Whey, a byproduct of the cheesemaking process, comes from milk and, therefore, it’s not suitable for vegans. The same goes for casein, lactose, and other ingredients.
Some brands also contain honey, which isn’t a vegan ingredient, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Barbecue-flavored chips, such as those from Lays, don’t contain meat but may have whey, skim milk, and cheese milk in their composition. Your best bet is to check the label for animal-derived ingredients like albumin, caseinate, collagen, egg protein, gelatin, stearic acid, and hydrolyzed milk protein.
Generally, plain potato chips are the least likely to contain animal ingredients. For example, Pringles Original Crisps are made with wheat, corn, and rice flour, potatoes, salt, and additives. Lay’s Classic has just three ingredients: potatoes, salt, and vegetable oil. Other vegan options are Lay’s Dill Pickle Potato Chips, Lay’s Baked Original Potato Crisps, Ruffles Original, PopChips Sea Salt Potato, and Kettle Brand Sea Salt Chips.