Are SunChips Vegan? (List of Vegan and Non-Vegan Flavors)

SunChips is a brand of rippled, fried, multigrain, chips produced and launched by Frito-Lay in the early 90s.1 So, the chips have been around for quite some time. For this reason, many vegans grew up eating the tasty snack and want to know if they can continue doing so after making the switch to a vegan diet.

Are they vegan? The original SunChips are, indeed, 100% vegan. However, the other flavors on offer pose problems for vegans, as each one contains milk and its derivatives.

On the plus side, they seem to be a bit healthier, and are made only from high-quality ingredients.

What we’ll do here, is go over each variant and it’s vegan status.

Vegan-Friendly SunChips Varieties


This is the shortest list, but I’m still creating this category, so that other vegan flavors that surface can be added over time.

As of now, the original is the only SunChips variety suitable for vegan consumption.

The ingredients include:2

  • Whole corn
  • Sunflower and/or canola oil
  • Whole wheat
  • Brown rice flour
  • Whole oat flour
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Natural flavor
  • Maltodextrin (made from corn)

Why The Originals Are Considered Vegan

They Don’t Contain Milk Products

Milk ingredients constitute one of the biggest barriers to finding vegan-friendly snack foods. Many of the foods that use such ingredients could get by just as easily without them (with the exception of cheese), yet they still get used which renders otherwise vegan-friendly snack foods non-vegan.

It seems most snack foods contain some form of milk or another. Milk products are often used as preservatives or to improve mouthfeel and impart flavor.

Milk products common to snack foods include:

  • Whey—the protein that makes up about 20% of the protein present in milk. It’s used for a variety of reasons—namely, to improve mouthfeel and boost nutrition.
  • Milk and milk cream—these tend to be used in cheese-flavored snacks.
  • Casein—the other milk protein. Casein contributes to emulsification and stabilization of ingredients.
  • Dry whole milk—a very common ingredient. It boosts the nutritional profile of snack foods and adds creaminess.
  • Lactose—the natural simple sugar found in milk. It’s often used in snacks and baked goods to contribute to color and add tanginess.

Anyway, these ingredients will show up regularly when reading the label of snack foods like chips.

Thankfully, these aren’t used in Sun Chips. Instead, this snack uses sunflower and canola oils.

They Don’t Contain Palm Oil

Keep in mind that the presence of palm oil doesn’t necessarily render a food product non-vegan by community-wide standards.

But, it’s a very controversial ingredient in the community, and many vegans want to avoid the stuff.

A lot of processed “accidentally vegan” foods make heavy use of palm oil because it has a longer shelf-life compared to other oils. Palm oil is among the few plant-based sources of saturated fat, and oils high in saturated fat (e.g. coconut oil, etc.) are less prone to oxidation.

It’s controversial because of its connection to rainforest destruction in certain parts of the world like Indonesia.

Indeed, its cultivation has been shown to have a number of negative effects on the enviornment.3,4

For example, habitat loss due to deforestation threatens already critically endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.5-8

Also, large areas of land need to be cleared for its cultivation which leads to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions.4,9-11

This is an issue for many in the community, especially those who identify as eco vegans.

Again, not all vegans are wary of the ingredient. But, I think most agree that the less we consume of the stuff, the better off the planet will be.

Fortunately, SunChips don’t make use of the stuff and thus make for a great guilt-free snack.

Non-Vegan SunChips Varieties

French Onion

Ingredients include the standard stuff in the originals with a few added spices.

They also contain the following non-vegan ingredients:12

  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Sour Cream (Cream, Skim Milk, Cultures)
  • Butter (Cream and Annatto)
  • Skim Milk
  • Gum Acacia
  • Mozzarella Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)

Garden Salsa

This was disappointing. There’s no reason why a salsa-flavored snack would necessitate animal-derived ingredients, but they managed to throw in a few with this particular product.

These contain:13

  • Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Buttermilk
  • Whey
  • Romano Cheese (Part-Skim Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Whey Protein Concentrate, Corn Oil, Spices (Including Jalapeno Pepper)

Harvest Cheddar

This one’s much more obvious.

These contain the following animal-derived ingredients:14

  • Salt, Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Whey
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Romano Cheese (Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Buttermilk
  • Parmesan Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Skim Milk

Sweet Potato and Brown Sugar

Another one I got my hopes up for. But, milk additives are ubiquitous in otherwise vegan-friendly food products, and this variety of SunChips is no exception.

These contain butter (cream, salt) and honey.15

Veggie Harvest

At first glance, these seem fairly promising. They read “Veggie Harvest” in large print, but underneath read “Tomato Basil and Cheese.” The wedge of cheese in the graphics also gives it away.

These contain:16

  • Cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)
  • Whey
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Romano cheese (cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)
  • Skim milk
  • Lactose
  • Buttermilk
  • Asiago cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt enzymes)
  • Parmesan cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes).

Sun Puffs Four Cheese

This is another less common variant and actually comes with a different shape and texture.

These contain quite a long list of milk products:17

  • Whey
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour Cream (Skim Milk, Cultured Cream)
  • Monterey Jack Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Gouda Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Skim Milk
  • Mozzarella Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Butter (Cream, Annatto)

That’s about it for SunChips. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following articles:


  1. Frito-Lay North America, Inc. “Frito-Lay: Baked VS. Fried”. Archived from the original on 15 Oct 2008.
  2. Sun Chips.
  3. Clay, Jason (2004). World Agriculture and the Environment. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-55963-370-3.
  4. “Palm oil: Cooking the Climate”. Greenpeace. 8 November 2007. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010.
  5. “The bird communities of oil palm and rubber plantations in Thailand” (PDF). The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 October 2016.
  6. “Palm oil threatening endangered species” (PDF). Center for Science in the Public Interest. May 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 September 2012.
  7. Shears, Richard (30 March 2012). “Hundreds of orangutans killed in north Indonesian forest fires deliberately started by palm oil firms”. Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013.
  8. “Camera catches bulldozer destroying Sumatra tiger forest”. World Wildlife Fund. 12 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  9. Foster, Joanna M. (1 May 2012). “A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  10. Yui, Sahoko; Yeh, Sonia (1 December 2013). “Land use change emissions from oil palm expansion in Pará, Brazil depend on proper policy enforcement on deforested lands”. Environmental Research Letters. 8 (4): 044031. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044031. ISSN 1748-9326.
  11. “Researchers warn against high emissions from oil palm expansion in Brazil”. 13 November 2013.
  12. French Onion Sun Chips.
  13. SunChips Whole Grain Snacks, Garden Salsa.
  14. Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar.
  15. Sunchips Whole Grain and Sweet Potato Snacks, Sprinkled with Brown Sugar.
  16. Sun Chips Veggie Harvest, Tomato Basil and Cheese.
  17. Sun Puffs Flavored Whole Grain Snacks Four Cheese.