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Tortilla chips are a tasty, crunchy snack, especially when combined with your favorite dip. You’d think they’d be vegan – they’re made from corn, right? But there are cases where your Tex-Mex treat isn’t appropriate for a plant-based lifestyle. When are tortilla chips vegan?
Tortilla chips are vegan if their ingredients are only corn, water, vegetable oil, and salt. However, some restaurants fry their chips in animal fat or oil contaminated by animal products. Many brands of tortilla chips contain additives of animal origin, making them unsuitable for vegans.
Being a vegan means checking the ingredients lists, preparation, and cooking methods of all food you haven’t prepared yourself. Tortilla chips are no different. Let’s examine whether tortilla chips are always vegan, what unwanted additives to look for, and which brands are cruelty-free.
Are The Ingredients Of Tortilla Chips Vegan?
Whether you’re a vegan for ethical, health, or environmental reasons, you want to ensure that everything you consume is strictly plant-based.
Tortilla chips seem like an obvious candidate for a vegan snack, which is the case if the ingredients of the chips are restricted to:
The frying oil for the chips also needs to be plant-based for tortilla chips to be vegan.
When Aren’t Tortilla Chips Vegan?
Tortilla chips stop being vegan as soon as an ingredient of animal origin is involved. There are two components of the chips that sometimes fail the plant-based test:
- The oil for frying tortilla chips
- Added flavorings and colorings.
These two areas need careful checking before you can give tortilla chips the vegan stamp of approval.
Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Fried In Animal Fat
Tortilla chips tend to be fried in vegetable oil, often canola or corn oil, with high heat tolerance.
Commercially produced tortilla chips are safe in terms of the oil used for frying or baking the chips. Manufacturers no longer use animal fats for frying because of public concerns regarding the risk of unhealthy saturated fats
However, some restaurants fry their tortilla chips in animal fat. Wheat-based tortilla chips are traditionally fried in tallow or lard, which is pork fat.
Check with your server whether the frying oil is of plant or animal origin.
Vegan Alert: The Frying Oil Is Cross-Contaminated
Another reason your plate of tortilla chips may not be vegan is that the restaurant has used vegetable oil in which animal-based items (e.g., meat or cheese-stuffed chimichangas or molote) have been fried.
Frying tortilla chips in the same oil leads to cross-contamination, so you’ll consume some non-vegan foodstuffs transferred by the oil.
Check with your server whether the kitchen can prepare your tortilla chips separately from meat and cheese products.
Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Fried In Palm Oil
Most restaurants will likely use canola oil for frying, but commercial chip producers may use palm oil.
Palm oil is plant-based, but many vegans avoid the product for ethical reasons. The palm oil industry contributes massively to the deforestation of rainforests and the loss of habitat for endangered species like orangutans.
Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Have Non-Vegan Additives
The frying oil is not the only ingredient that can influence the vegan status of your tortilla chips. Store-bought chips often contain additives to flavor and color the product, which can be of animal origin.
Here are some of the biggest animal-origin culprits to avoid on the list of ingredients if you’re a vegan.
Non-Vegan Ingredient: Cheese
Probably the most common flavor added to tortilla chips, cheese is a dairy product and thus unsuitable for a plant-based lifestyle.
Vegan tortilla chips will mimic the flavor of cheese using nutritional yeast.
Non-Vegan Ingredient: Dairy
Tortilla chips may also contain other dairy additives, particularly if they are sour-cream or ranch flavored.
Look out for these words, which indicate the presence of dairy in your tortilla chips:
- Milk: nonfat milk, skim milk, milk solids, milk fat, powdered milk
- Casein: sodium caseinate.
Note that lactic acid sounds as if it has milk in it, but it is an organic acid that is a by-product of fermentation. Lactic acid would only contain lactose if fermented from a dairy product.
Non-Vegan Ingredient: Coloring Agents
Both natural and artificial colorants are often of animal origin or may have been tested on animals, so you will want to avoid them if you’re following a plant-based lifestyle.
Check that your tortilla chips don’t contain the following:
- E-colorants: E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.
- Carmine or cochineal: This red food coloring comes from ground beetles. The dye known as E120 or Red 4 is described as “natural,” but this label does not mean the same as cruelty-free.
Non-Vegan Ingredients: Flavoring Agents
Like added colorings, added artificial and so-called natural flavorings may be animal-based or tested on animals.
Read the ingredients list carefully for:
- Castoreum: This food flavoring comes from the scent glands of beavers.
- Vitamin D3: Added vitamins may seem healthy, but most vitamin D3 derives from fish oil or the lanolin in sheep’s fleece.
- Honey: Another natural ingredient, honey often flavors BBQ and honey-mustard chips. Honey is not vegan-friendly since it is the product of exploited bee colonies, domesticated by human beings.
Which Brands Of Tortilla Chips Are Vegan?
Despite these scary ingredients, there are many brands and flavors of tortilla chips that vegans can enjoy with a clear conscience.
Not all these brands guarantee or are labeled with vegan status, but they don’t contain animal-based ingredients. If you’re concerned, stick to brands labeled vegan.
Snack on these recommended tortilla chips for a vegan feast:
Santitas Totopos De Maiz Tortilla Chips
These affordable, tasty corn chips are delicious, especially when crisped up in a hot oven for a few minutes. These chips also make an excellent base for a plate of nachos.
Whole Foods 365 White Corn Salted Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips
Labeled as vegan, gluten-free, Kosher, non=GMO, and low-sodium, these are the perfect tortilla chips for the health-conscious. They’re light, crunchy, and delicious.
Taco Bell Tortilla Chips
Because of contamination in the kitchen and shared fryers, the tortilla chips at Taco Bell restaurants are not guaranteed to be vegan. However, Taco Bell produces take-home vegan-friendly tortilla chips in three flavors: Classic, Mild, and Fire.
Que Pasa Nacho Tortilla Chips
Made by Nature’s Path, these cheese-flavored corn chips are made only with organic ingredients and are ideal for vegans.
Garden of Eatin’ Tortilla Chips
Although blue corn chips look like they’ve got plenty of coloring agents, the gorgeous color comes from the type of organic corn they come from. This flavor is spicy if you prefer your tortilla chips hot.
You can also try their grain-free quinoa chips containing healthy sunflower and chia seeds.
7-Eleven Select Go! Smart Sriracha Corn Tortilla Chips
With the kick of sriracha sauce, these pocket-friendly and healthy chips are a vegan favorite.
Trader Joe’s Salted White Corn Tortilla Chips
Kosher, gluten=free, and suitable for vegans, these tasty morsels are ideal for making nachos and are sturdy enough for scooping hearty portions of guac.
Xochitl Mexican Style Tortilla Chips
These organic tortilla chips are GMO-free and use only sustainably sourced palm oil. Avoid the colorful holiday varieties, and stick to their Salted, No Salt, Dipper, White, and Blue Organic Corn, Picositos con Limone, and Sprouted flavors.
Late July Snacks Tortilla Chips
You may be shocked by their Bacon Habanero flavor, but these organic corn chips are totally plant-based, non-GMO, and contain no artificial flavorings, colorings, or preservatives.
Another product by Late July Snacks is the Summertime Blues Multigrain Tortilla Chips, a multigrain version of their tortilla chips, which combine blue corn, amaranth, brown rice, chia seeds, millet, and quinoa.
These deliciously crunchy and nutritious chips come in various vegan-friendly flavors, including Red Hot Mojo, Summertime Blues, Sub-Lime, Sweet Potato, and Sea Salt.
Mi Nina White Corn Tortilla Chips
Made from non-GMO, organic white corn that is stoneground daily, these crisp tortilla chips are on the smaller side but have enough heft for dipping and scooping salsa. All the flavors are vegan-friendly and gluten-free: Sea Salt, Jalapeno Agave, and Pico de Gallo.
Popchips Salted Corn Chips
These vegan, gluten-free chips have half the fat that most other brands have, making them a healthy option when you want something to nibble.
Tostitos Tortilla Chips
Stick to the non-flavored, salted varieties of Tostitos to ensure that your tortilla chips are vegan: you can enjoy all shapes (scoop, triangle, or circle), all corn (blue, white, or multigrain), and restaurant or cantina style.
Their Lightly Salted, Hint of Lime, and Black Bean & Garlic flavors are also suitable for vegans but stay away from the other flavors, which contain ingredients of animal origin.
Most Doritos contain dairy, but these three flavors don’t have any animal-based ingredients, so they’re great for vegans: Lightly Salted Tortilla Chips, Blaze Flavored Doritos, and Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips.
El Sabroso Restaurant-Style Tortilla Chips
Again, not all El Sabroso’s products are plant-based, but the following are suitable for vegans: Salsitas, Taco-Litos, and White Strips Tortilla Chips.
Note that the facility that produces these tortilla chips also processes dairy, so there may be some cross-contamination. Take particular care if you have a lactose allergy or intolerance.
Vegans will be glad to know they can enjoy these legendary corn chips, although only Fritos’s Original flavor corn chips are vegan. The flavored Fritos are not vegan.
You’re probably a Takis fan if you enjoy fiery tortilla chips. As a vegan, you can burn your mouth on these options: Fuego, Nitro, Salsa Brava, and Zombie Flavor.
Enjoy Life Plentils
Not strictly speaking tortilla chips, these lentil-based bites have the same appealing crunch as tortilla chips and come in several flavors, all suitable for vegans: Sea Salt, Thai Chili Lime, Dill & Sour Cream, Garlic and Parmesan, Margherita Pizza, and Moroccan Spice. Although they contain plant protein, these chips are exceptionally high in salt.
Siete Grain-Free Tortilla Chips
Another grain-free tortilla-style chip consists of cassava and coconut flour – they’re gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO. Their texture is lighter than corn chips, but they are ideal for dipping. Try all their flavors: Lime, Sea Salt, Nacho, Ranch, and Fuego.
Beanfields Bean Chips
This low-calorie snack can replace tortilla chips if you’re trying to cut down. Made from beans, these high-protein treats are plant-based and a tasty option if you want gluten-free, corn-free, non-GMO munchies. Choose the Spicy Queso or Cheddar Sour Cream flavors. These chips contain some palm oil, but the producer is RSPO certified as sustainable.
Sabritones Chili And Lime Flavor Puffed Wheat Snacks
Although these aren’t corn tortilla chips, they have a similar fiery flavor and crispy appeal. You’ll love snacking and dipping these chips.
Vegan Rob’s Puffs Probiotic Dragon
This avowedly vegan brand produces baked sorghum tortilla-style chips flavored with natural herbs and spices. These snacks are fire-breathing dragon hot, but they contain probiotics to tame any stomach upsets. They’re also gluten-free.
Flourish Toasted Cauliflower Chips
For a healthier, low-carb choice of treat, try these cauliflower chips containing chickpeas, yellow peas, and rice. The chips are baked, not fried, low-sodium, and are completely dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and non-GMO.
Plant Snacks Vegan Cheddar Cassava Root Chips
People who live with allergies are always on the lookout for suitable goodies, and these fit the bill. Plant Snacks Chips don’t contain grain, gluten, soy, dairy, corn, or tree nuts, as cassava is largely non-allergenic.
Vegan Dips And Toppings For Tortilla Chips
Tortilla chips and dips make an excellent vegan snack or starter, whether you stick with the Mexican theme or experiment with other toppings. Here are some ideas for dips you can purchase or make at home:
- Salsa: Most salsa is vegan as it is tomato-based or corn-based, but check for cream and cheese in salsas labeled “creamy.”
- Guacamole: This deliciously creamy dip gets its texture from avocado, not cream. It’s vegan-friendly.
- Vegan sour cream: You don’t have to skimp on a sour cream topping if you’re vegan – vegan varieties come from cashews, tofu, or coconut cream.
- Refried beans: Check that store-bought refried beans don’t contain pork lard.
- Hummus: Chickpeas, tahini, limes, and olive oil are all vegan.
- Baba ghanoush: This Middle Eastern dip uses roasted eggplant, tahini, and olive oil to create a luscious creamy condiment.
- Raita: Look for this cooling cucumber dip made with coconut yogurt.
Are Tortilla Chips Vegan?
Most tortilla chips are safe for vegans to eat. However, take care when ordering chips at a restaurant that they haven’t been fried in animal fat or contaminated with animal products. Check the ingredients lists of store-bought tortilla chips – or stick to our list of recommendations above.
- Are The Ingredients Of Tortilla Chips Vegan?
- When Aren’t Tortilla Chips Vegan?
- Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Fried In Animal Fat
- Vegan Alert: The Frying Oil Is Cross-Contaminated
- Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Fried In Palm Oil
- Vegan Alert: Tortilla Chips Have Non-Vegan Additives
- Which Brands Of Tortilla Chips Are Vegan?
- Santitas Totopos De Maiz Tortilla Chips
- Whole Foods 365 White Corn Salted Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips
- Taco Bell Tortilla Chips
- Que Pasa Nacho Tortilla Chips
- Garden of Eatin’ Tortilla Chips
- 7-Eleven Select Go! Smart Sriracha Corn Tortilla Chips
- Trader Joe’s Salted White Corn Tortilla Chips
- Xochitl Mexican Style Tortilla Chips
- Late July Snacks Tortilla Chips
- Mi Nina White Corn Tortilla Chips
- Popchips Salted Corn Chips
- Tostitos Tortilla Chips
- El Sabroso Restaurant-Style Tortilla Chips
- Enjoy Life Plentils
- Siete Grain-Free Tortilla Chips
- Beanfields Bean Chips
- Sabritones Chili And Lime Flavor Puffed Wheat Snacks
- Vegan Rob’s Puffs Probiotic Dragon
- Flourish Toasted Cauliflower Chips
- Plant Snacks Vegan Cheddar Cassava Root Chips
- Vegan Dips And Toppings For Tortilla Chips
- Are Tortilla Chips Vegan?