Are tortilla chips vegan? Technically, yes. Tortillas are made with flour, water, oil, and seasoning, making them inherently vegan food. Problems arise when commercial tortilla chips are flavored with animal ingredients or made using colorings or other ingredients that aren’t ethically sourced.
Maybe you’ve recently become vegan yourself or you have a vegan family member. Perhaps you’re an established vegan but you’re looking for new ideas and recipes to try. If you’ve landed on this page, you have questions about vegan products.
- Are tortilla chips vegan?
- Are there any flavors you should avoid?
- Which brands of tortilla chips are best for a vegan lifestyle?
- Could you make your own vegan tortilla chips at home?
Keep reading to find out more about tortilla chips and how they fit into a vegan lifestyle.
Are tortilla chips vegan?
Yes, for the most part. Tortilla chips are vegan, being made out of plant-based ingredients. Be aware, however, that commercial tortilla chips are often flavored or colored with materials that are not suitable for a vegan diet. These include cheese-flavored tortilla chips or chips colored with animal-tested food dyes.
Tortilla chips are wedges cut from a larger tortilla. After being cut to size, the chips are then baked or fried to make them crispy and delicious.
Tortillas themselves are made from a very simple mixture of flour, water, oil, and seasonings such as salt, meaning that tortilla chips are naturally vegan food. It’s great when a favorite snack is “accidentally” vegan and tortilla chips are the perfect example.
Traditionally, tortillas were mostly made from corn (maize). Now you can find tortillas and tortilla chips made from all kinds of flour, from maize and wheat to rice and more unusual types of flour.
These different flours impart slightly different flavors to the finished food, adding variety and interest.
Before you grab those tortilla chips from the shelf and dig in, however, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Flavorings are the most obvious. Many tortilla chips are sold with flavorings sprayed onto them, such as “nacho cheese” or “cool ranch”.
These flavors are often loaded with animal products, including cheese and buttermilk.
If you’re a vegan for ethical as well as health reasons, check your chips for colorants that may not be cruelty-free.
Turmeric and similar natural colorings are fine. Unfortunately, there are several animal-tested (and sometimes outright toxic) food dyes out there that may find their way into some snack foods, including tortilla chips.
These include tartrazine, a yellow coloring. Heavily tested on rats and mice, this is used to give some chips a golden appearance. You may also run into other colorants like Sunset Yellow FCF and erythrosine — yellow and red colorings with a nasty history of animal testing.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that buying food from most large snack companies could be seen as compromising your vegan lifestyle, at least to a degree.
Big firms such as Kraft Heinz also sell meat, dairy, and other animal products, as well as using ingredients in their foods that aren’t 100 percent cruelty-free. We all have to decide where to draw the line around what constitutes a vegan lifestyle, of course, and many people choose to buy from non-vegan companies as long as the product itself is vegan.
Your best bet for a fully vegan tortilla chip is to look for plain organic chips.
These are almost always vegan by default and marked as such. Organic tortilla chips typically have no coloring or use only natural colors, and do not typically contain artificial or animal-sourced ingredients.
Many organic snack producers are also vegan and cruelty-free, making organic chips an even better option. As with any other commercial food, you will need to do your own due diligence: check the packaging to find out exactly what is in the snack before you buy it.
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Can I make my own tortilla chips?
Luckily, tortilla chips are one of the easiest snacks to make at home. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could start by making your own tortillas; however, there are plenty of pre-made options out there that will make things much easier.
Plain flour tortillas are usually vegan, although you should check. Some manufacturers produce their tortillas in facilities that also process animal products, which could mean that the tortillas are no longer acceptable for your vegan lifestyle.
Once you’ve obtained or made your flour tortillas, the next step is to dry them out a little. You might try drying them out in the oven for a few minutes on low heat.
You don’t want the tortillas crisp at this point, just dry so that they’re easier to handle. You could also dry them by leaving them out overnight. Once they’ve dried, cut them into wedges.
If you’re frying your chips, you’ll need about 3/4 of a cup of oil. Extra virgin is the healthiest and best oil to use but you can use whatever your favorite cooking oil might be. Heat the oil till it bubbles and then add the chips.
Fry for about two minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
For a lighter snack, you can also bake your chips. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (gas mark 4). Lay the wedges out on a baking tray lined with parchment in a single layer. Bake for about 12 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.
Microwave tortilla chips are even easier. Simply lay the uncooked wedges on a paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Test to see if they’re crispy. If not, give them another 30 seconds.
Vegan dips for tortilla chips
Another pitfall for the unwary vegan is the dip that’s often sold with tortilla chips. You will want to avoid dips that mention cheese; they are usually loaded not only with dairy products but also with colorings that have been tested on animals. You should also avoid ranch dip.
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It may look innocuous but it’s made with buttermilk. Even salsa isn’t always a reliable vegan treat, as some commercial brands use non-vegan ingredients.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious vegan dibs made entirely with plant-based ingredients. Salsa, being made primarily from fruits and vegetables, is ideal — just check the ingredients to make sure nothing nasty has sneaked in, such as animal-tested food dyes. You should also look for organic salsa if possible.
Not only is this healthier and better for you than many standard brands, but it’s also often tastier. Many commercially made salsas are heavily loaded with stabilizers, making them taste bland and rather like glue. You want a fresh, zesty flavor to go with your chips.
Vegan pâté is also fantastic with tortilla chips. These flavourful toppings are usually soy-based and come in a range of varieties, including mixtures with herbs, spices, and mushrooms.
Vegan pâtés also have the advantage of contributing some important B vitamins to your diet. They do tend to be a little heavy on the dietary fat, though, so consume in moderation.
Vegan yogurt dips are another good option. They tend to be lighter than pâtés and have a deliciously fresh flavor that combines well with the crunchy chips. They’re also remarkably simple to make at home — just season a pot of unflavoured vegan yogurt with salt and pepper, and stir in chopped chives or spring onions for an extra dash of flavor.
Other vegan Mexican foods
Mexican food is a goldmine for vegans. Many recipes are already completely plant-based or can be made vegan with a few simple substitutions. One of my favorite Mexican dishes is refried beans — a savory plate of twice-cooked red kidney beans spiced up with chili, cumin, and other flavors.
Chilli can be made vegan by switching the minced beef for something else.
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Some recipes call for soy mince, which is fine; my personal preference, though, is to finely chop an aubergine and fry it for a few minutes instead of mince. Finely chopped mushrooms also make a fantastic “mince” — they’re high on flavor, low in fat, and full of healthy minerals.
Guacamole is a traditional Mexican sauce and dip that you can buy almost everywhere or make at home.
For a delicious treat, the whole family will love, try making up a batch of refried beans and covering it with a generous helping of plain vegan tortilla chips. Top with vegan sour cream, homemade guacamole, and a layer of melted nacho-style vegan cheese. Serve with a crunchy side salad.
This is a really tasty way to enjoy your vegan tortilla chips, packing in lots of healthy protein and vitamins. It is a bit fat-heavy, so should be more of a treat than a regular meal.