Are Lays BBQ Chips Vegan?

Barbecue is among the most popular Lays flavors. Like a lot of flavor profiles, BBQ is pretty hit or miss for vegans. That’s because the sauce can range from little more than vinegar to a mix of plant-based ingredients, butter, and anchovy juice. As for BBQ-flavored snacks, milk products are quite common.

Are they vegan? The original Lay’s BBQ chips are vegan. They’re a mixture of oils, seasonings (torula yeast, tomato powder, paprika, etc.) and simple carbs like sugar, dextrose, and maltodextrin. However, Lay’s puts out a number of BBQ chip varieties and some are unsuitable for vegans.

What we’ll do here is go over each of the BBQ chip varieties on offer by the brand and why each is considered vegan or non-vegan.

Vegan Lay’s BBQ Varieties

LAY’S BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

These are the original Lays BBQ. Which is good news, because these are the most popular and widely available BBQ variety.

They contain potatoes, vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, and/or canola), BBQ seasoning (sugar, salt, dextrose, and maltodextrin), molasses, torula yeast, onion and garlic powders, herbs and spices (including paprika), tomato powder, natural flavors, corn starch, caramel color, yeast and paprika extracts, and mustard seed oil.1

No problems here. If the caramel color caught your eye, you needn’t worry. Caramel, the candy, is made via a browning reaction using milk sugar (lactose). Caramel color, on the other hand, tends to be produced by performing the Maillard browning reaction on simple sugars other than lactose.

These sugars include fructose, dextrose, sucrose (table sugar), invert sugar, maple syrup, molasses, and starch hydrolysates all of which are vegan.2

LAY’S Lightly Salted BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

These contain potatoes, vegetable oils, sugar, molasses, salt, dextrose, maltodextrin, cornstarch, onion and garlic powders, torula yeast and yeast extracts, paprika extract, spices, tomato powder, natural flavors, and caramel color.3

No problems here.

LAY’S Simply BBQ Flavored Thick Cut Potato Chips

I’m not quite sure what the difference is between thick-cut and kettle cooked, but I’ll take it. This version seems to mostly, if not all, high-quality ingredients (fresh, organic, etc.).

These contain potatoes, expeller-pressed plant oils, sugar, salt, spices, organic maltodextrin from corn, organic dextrose, organic maltodextrin from rice, organic paprika, onion powder, organic tomato powder, organic molasses, natural flavors, yeast extract, torula yeast, and garlic powder.4

Lots of organic going on here.

Non-Vegan Lay’s BBQ Flavors

LAY’S Sweet Southern Heat BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

The first variety to be ruled out is the southern-style BBQ chips. “Sweet Southern Heat” doesn’t imply cheese of any kind, but they managed to throw in cheddar.

These contain:5

  • Potatoes
  • Plant oils (corn, sunflower, and/or canola), a custom BBQ seasoning blend (sugar, salt, onion powder, natural flavors, maltodextrin, spices, and tomato powder)
  • Cream and skim milk
  • Paprika and garlic powder
  • Cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, and enzymes)
  • Whey
  • Yeast extract
  • Sunflower oil

LAY’S Honey BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

These contain potatoes, vegetable oils, and honey BBQ seasoning which includes sugar, torula yeast, salt, spices, onion powder, dextrose, cornstarch, maltodextrin, tomato powder, fructose, brown sugar, honey, molasses, natural flavor (including milk), gum arabic, paprika extracts, garlic powder, citric acid, sunflower oil, and caramel color.6

The honey would also be problematic for many vegans.

LAY’S Poppables Honey BBQ Flavored Potato Snacks

This is a new Lay’s variety. Luckily the Sea Salt Poppables are completely vegan. I’ve had them and they are so good—they taste like French fries.

But, unfortunately, these contain honey which means that most vegans would probably want to avoid them.

Ingredients include dried potato, potato starch, plant oils (corn, sunflower, and/or canola oils), sugar, spices, salt, maltodextrin, onion and garlic powders, tomato powder, turmeric, yeast and paprika extracts, brown sugar, honey, molasses, stevia extract, citric acid, and natural flavor.7

Keep in mind, not all vegans would view these as off-limits, because there’s somewhat of a divide in the community when it comes to insect-derived substances.8

But, it seems most organizations view the ingredient as non-vegan, including PETA and the Vegan Society.9,10

LAY’S STAX Mesquite BBQ Flavored Potato Crisps

Stax is Lay’s answer to Pringles. These would be vegan, but for the one milk protein derivative.

These contain:11

  • Dried potatoes, unmodified potato starch
  • Vegetable oil (cottonseed, sunflower, and/or corn oil)
  • Sugar, salt
  • Rice flour
  • Maltodextrin, dextrose
  • Soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides
  • Onion and tomato powders
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Corn syrup solids and hydrolyzed corn protein
  • Natural flavor
  • Artificial color (Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake)
  • Malic acid, citric acid
  • Sodium diacetate, sodium caseinate, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate
  • Spice

LAY’S Wavy Hickory BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

These contain potatoes, vegetable oils, sugar, salt, spices, dextrose, maltodextrin, brown sugar, onion and garlic powders, tomato powder, spices, yeast and paprika extracts, citric acid, natural flavors, and milk protein concentrate.12

LAY’S Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

Kettle Cooked is, of course, the extra thick variety of Lay’s potato chips.

These contain the usual ingredients (potatoes, oils, salt, spices, sugar), lactose (the simple sugar present in milk), dextrose, cornstarch, maltodextrin, garlic powder, tomato powder, onion powder, natural flavor, torula yeast and yeast extract, paprika extract, malted barley flour, citric acid, gum arabic, skim milk, and buttermilk.13

LAY’S Kettle Cooked Lightly Salted Sweet & Smoky BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

Yet, another flavor lost to milk products.

These include the usual ingredients plus brown sugar, molasses, natural flavor (contains milk), potassium chloride (salt substitute), yeast extract, garlic and onion powders, tomato powder, paprika extract, honey, stevia leaf extract, citric acid, and caramel color.14

LAY’S Baked BBQ Flavored Potato Crisps

This one was a surprise. I’d have thought the only difference between these and the original BBQ would the baked part. But, apparently, they use a different seasoning blend.

They contain dried potatoes, plant oils, cornstarch, dextrose, maltodextrin, yeast, garlic and onion powders, tomato powder, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, fructose, salt, spices, paprika and paprika extracts, caramel color, annatto extract, acacia gum, soy lecithin, and natural flavors (contains milk).15

That’s it for the vegan status of Lay’s BBQ chips. As you can see, most fell prey to the presence of milk in one form or another. But, at least the original BBQ flavor is vegan, which is probably the variety that most reading this article would be inquiring about.

Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:


  1. Lay’s® Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  2. Caramel Color.
  3. Lay’s® Lightly Salted Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  4. Lay’s® Simply Bbq Flavored Thick Cut Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  5. Lay’s® Sweet Southern Heat Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s
  6. Lay’s® Honey Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  7. Lay’s® Poppables™ Honey Bbq Flavored Potato Snacks: Lay’s.
  8. Why Vegans Can’t Decide Whether They’re Allowed To Eat Honey. Daniel Engber –
  9. The Honey Industry.
  10. What’s Wrong with Eating Honey?
  11. Lay’s® Stax® Mesquite Bbq Flavored Potato Crisps: Lay’s.
  12. Lay’s® Wavy Hickory Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  13. Lay’s® Kettle Cooked Mesquite Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  14. Lay’s® Kettle Cooked Lightly Salted Sweet & Smoky Bbq Flavored Potato Chips: Lay’s.
  15. Lay’s® Baked Bbq Flavored Potato Crisps: Lay’s.