Since 1932, Fritos has provided snack-hungry Americans with a Texas twist on the tortilla chip. Fritos’ unflavored deep-fried corn chips are gluten-free with no artificial flavors, preservatives, or MSG. These classics contain just three ingredients—corn, corn oil, and salt—making them vegan-friendly.
The seasoned varieties, however, contain considerably more ingredients, including non-vegan dairy, honey, and even sugar likely processed using animal products. Lucky for vegans, about half of the Fritos varieties are free from animal products.
Keep your crunch plant-based with our guide to vegan Fritos.
Why Some Fritos Are Not Vegan
Any of the Fritos varieties that boast added flavor contain sugar and at least one traditional non-vegan ingredient, sometimes more. With the exception of Flavor Twists Honey BBQ which contains honey, all the non-vegan Fritos contain non-vegan dairy and will be labeled with a visible milk allergy warning.
Add acid and enzymes to animal-based milk, and the casein (protein) and milkfat will coagulate to create cheese. The enzymes in cheese can come from both animal- and non-animal sources. Cheeses present in Fritos include romano and cheddar.
After the milk is coagulated and strained for cheese, the remaining liquid is called whey. This non-vegan food often appears as an additive in baked goods.
When non-vegan cream is fermented with lactic acid, the cream naturally thickens and sours, creating what appears on supermarket shelves as sour cream.
Buttermilk in the United States is pasteurized and homogenized animal milk injected with a bacterial culture that ferments the lactose (milk sugar) to produce a thicker, slightly sour milk.
Sodium caseinate is derived from chemically extracting casein from animal-based skim milk. The salty remains help emulsify, thicken, and stabilize processed foods.
Non-vegan butter is the result of heavily churned casein and milkfat. This spreadable pale yellow paste consists of around 80% butterfat.
Don’t let the name fool you: this naturally occurring vegan bacteria doesn’t contain lactose. However, lactic acid can be grown on non-vegan lactose, although it’s mostly cultivated on corn and beets.
Because sugar comes from either sugar beets or sugarcane, “practical and possible” vegans consider it an acceptable food. But some strict adherents point to the animal products used during processing as proof that not all sugar is truly vegan.
Beet sugar is always vegan because it doesn’t go through a second refining step, but cane sugar (with the exception of 100% USDA-certified organic) is regularly tumbled with bone char, a by-product of the meat industry. In general, foods labeled with the general term “sugar” contain both vegan beet and non-vegan cane sugar.
Natural and Artificial Flavors
When plants, fungi, or animal products are heated, their essential compounds can be extracted; they appear on labels as natural flavors. In contrast, federal regulations mandate that flavors created in the laboratory from synthetic chemical sources (including unsustainable petroleum) be labeled artificial flavors, even though the two are indistinguishable on a molecular level.
MSG, GMP, and IMP
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium guanylate (GMP), and disodium inosinate (IMP) are a family of fermented, vegan-sourced starches and sugars. When added together, these food additives have a synergistic effect in providing umami to processed foods.
Environmental vegans may abstain from artificial colors, including Yellow 5 Lake and 6 Lake, Red 40, and Blue 1, because they are derived from unsustainable petroleum-based sources. Caramel coloring comes from heated sugar and water.
Some vegans, however, do consume bee products. They acknowledge that bee labor generates much more than its by-products. Bees are responsible for pollinating a third of all food grown for humans. Without bee labor, even plant-based foods like almonds and avocados wouldn’t exist on a commercial scale, calling into question the definition of what makes a food vegan.
Did You Know?
Fritos’ parent company PepsiCo has pledged to sustainably source 100% of their key ingredients, including crops and vegetables oils. As of 2021, the company reported around 50% sustainable sourcing.
Classics are classics for a reason, and Fritos are no exception. The Original, Scoops, and Lightly Salted varieties are all completely plant-based, sugar-free, and make a fabulous addition to any snack platter—or vegan casserole.
- Lightly Salted
Steer clear of any flavored Fritos to avoid consuming animal products. Instead, make your own dips to spice up your crunch.
- Scoops Spicy Jalapeño
- Flavor Twists Honey BBQ
- Chili Cheese
- Flamin’ Hot
Frequently Asked Questions
Are barbeque Fritos vegan?
Fritos Flavor Twists Honey BBQ chips contain non-vegan honey as well as sugar and brown sugar.
Are Chili Cheese Fritos vegan?
Chili Cheese Fritos contain several forms of non-vegan dairy and sugar.
Are jalapeño Fritos vegan?
Fritos Scoops Spicy Jalapeño also contains several forms of non-vegan dairy along with sugar.