It might not be the first thing you think of in association with the United Kingdom, but it’s undeniable that Brits love crisps. (Or chips, for US readers.) The savory scents, countless flavors, and satisfying crunch combine to make crisps of all kinds some of the most popular snacks both here and around the world. However, the UK’s singular devotion to the salty treat remains unparalleled.
Brits alone consume around 6 billion packets of crisps annually – that’s an average of around 150 packs each per year – plus another 4.4 billion bags of other assorted savory snacks as well, which is more than everyone else in Europe put together. The UK crisp market is predicted to reach a whopping £2.6 billion by 2024, with analysts also noting a drift towards premium and luxury brands in recent years.
Clearly labeled vegan crisps have also become increasingly commonplace, though long before the ongoing boom in plant-based products many different brands and supermarkets were producing “accidentally vegan” crisps and snacks. Because changing recipes and ingredients can be a little tricky to stay on top of, we at Plant Based News have prepared this comprehensive guide to vegan crisps, organized by brand.
(Please note: many of the crisps included in this list contain no animal products, but are not explicitly labeled as vegan due to the risk of cross-contamination during production. Recipes are subject to change – you should always check before you buy. This list concerns crisps in the UK, and recipes may differ in other countries).
Walkers is the single largest brand in the UK for savory snacks. The Leicester-based company produces approximately 11 million bags of crisps per day and uses 800 tons of potatoes to make them. (That’s the weight equivalent of around 20 humpback whales!)
Unbelievable! vegan range
Walkers launched three new vegan crisp flavors for Veganuary 2024, which are Grilled Cheese Toastie, Vegan BBQ Pork Ribs, and Vegan Flame Grilled Steak. The “Unbelievable!” range is dedicated to providing meaty and cheesy crisp flavors without animal products.
“Walkers Unbelievable! Vegan range of crisps – our latest launch – signals our commitment to continue to offer choice to consumers,” said Rachael Smith, Senior Marketing Manager, in a statement. “We always strive to ensure shoppers don’t have to compromise on taste when making a dietary choice. You honestly won’t believe they’re vegan!”
Classic Walkers crisps
Many of the core Walkers range are already vegan-friendly, including Ready Salted, Prawn Cocktail, Marmite, Worcester Sauce, Pickled Onion, Roast Chicken, and of course, Salt & Vinegar. (Ones to avoid include BBQ Pulled Pork, which includes real animal-derived pork powder, and Cheese & Onion, which contains milk or whey powder.)
Only the Sea Salt, Sticky Barbecue, and Prawn Cocktail flavor Baked crisps are vegan, as the majority of the range contains powdered milk or whey in the seasoning blend. (RIP Salt & Vinegar.) Milk powders might be used for a variety of reasons, including to enhance the flavor or to help the flavorings cake on the crisps.
Sensations (which is technically another Walkers venture, as so many of these varieties are) was created as a fancy alternative to the core range. Sensations come in a mix of flavors, but only a select few are vegan-friendly. However, it’s worth noting that the Sweet Chili Peanuts are suitable for vegans too!
- Sensations – Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelised Onion crisps
- Sensations – Lime & Coriander Chutney Poppadoms
Walkers Squares are a super-vinegary lunchbox staple thanks to their strong flavor and big crunch. They also come in a mix of flavors but Ready Salted and Salt & Vinegar are vegan.
- Squares – Ready Salted
- Squares – Salt & Vinegar
The Max range was designed by Walkers around a ridged crisp shape, which the company marketed as holding additional flavor. Launched in 1999, Walkers Max crisps were another particularly iconic school lunch item through to the mid-noughties.
- Max – Original Sea Salt
- Max – Chicken & Chorizo
- Max – Bold BBQ Ribs
- Max – Punchy Paprika
- Max – Chilli & Lime
Sunbites is another Walkers venture that was launched in 2007 as a healthier alternative to conventional fried potato crisps. Sunbites are made of three whole grains (corn, wheat, and oats) and baked instead of fried. Compared to other varieties, they are relatively high in protein and fiber without sacrificing on flavor or crunch.
- Sunbites – Lightly Sea Salted
- Sunbites – Sun-Ripened Sweet Chili
Cheesy Quavers might be off-limits for those following a vegan diet, but the new-old flavors of Salt & Vinegar and Prawn Cocktail are both made without dairy products. (Did you know the secret ingredient for Quaver’s unique texture is potato starch?)
- Quavers – Salt & Vinegar
- Quavers – Prawn Cocktail
In 1966, Frito-Lay’s Doritos actually became the very first nationally available tortilla chip in the US. Known for their sharp crunch and bold flavors, UK customers have access to just a small number of Doritos flavors, including two vegan-friendly staples.
- Doritos – Chilli Heatwave
- Doritos – Lightly Salted
Vegan Hula Hoops
Hula Hoops have been a UK staple since 1973 and are unique for their hollow, cylindrical shape. (How many can you fit on your fingers?)
- Hula Hoops – Original
- Hula Hoops – Salt & Vinegar
KP’s Discos were another 1970s launch and were popularized for their unique texture and strong flavor. There are a few varieties, but currently only Salt & Vinegar are vegan-friendly.
- Discos – Salt & Vinegar
Smiths crisps were established in the UK back in the 1920s before moving production to Australia a decade later. Initially sold simply as salted potato chips in a greaseproof paper bag, by 1956 the company was producing 10 million packets every week. Both Salt & Vinegar and Salt & Shake (arguably the two classic flavors) are suitable for vegans.
- Smiths – Salt & Vinegar Chipsticks
- Smiths – Salt & Shake Crisps
Cofresh is a snack brand that was set up in 1974 by an Indian family who initially produced Bombay Mix in their fish and chip shop. Today, Cofresh has a turnover of nearly £30 million. The core range includes potato-based crisps, Ganthiya, poppadom curls, and more. However, it’s Cofresh’s Eat Real label that might be most familiar to vegans with its chickpea and quinoa-based gluten-free snacks, all of which are vegan.
- Cofresh – Chili & Lemon Grills
- Cofresh – Jalapeno Grills
- Cofresh Eat Real Lentil Chips Salted
- Cofresh Eat Real Lentil Chips Chili & Lemon
- Cofresh Eat Real Lentil Chips – Creamy Dill
Vegan Wheat Crunchies
Another classic from KP, Wheat Crunchies are extremely crunchy tube-shaped snacks that come in a mixture of flavors. However, only Crispy Bacon and Worcester Sauce are vegan (RIP Spicy Tomato).
- Wheat Crunchies – Crispy Bacon
- Wheat Crunchies – Worcester Sauce
Vegan Golden Wonder
Before Walker’s dominance of the UK crisp market, Golden Wonder was the leading national brand. A classic-style potato chip available in a huge range of flavors.
- Golden Wonder – Salt & Vinegar
- Golden Wonder – Ready Salted
- Golden Wonder – Smoky Bacon
- Golden Wonder – Tomato Ketchup
- Golden Wonder – Prawn Cocktail
- Golden Wonder – Pickled Onion
- Golden Wonder – Spring Onion
- Golden Wonder – Sausage & Tomato
In contrast to the majority of the crisp brands listed here, Skips are designed to melt in the mouth rather than crunch. Made with either tapioca or maize starch, Skips fizz as they dissolve, and while there have been several flavors over the years, only the original is vegan.
- Skips – Prawn Cocktail
Another ridged crisp, McCoy’s are named after the Scottish idiom “the real McCoy” – meaning authenticity, or the “real deal.” They are currently the third biggest brand in the bagged crisps market and the number one crinkle-cut crisp.
- McCoy’s – Ready Salted
- McCoy’s – Salt & Malt Vinegar
- McCoy’s – Paprika
- McCoy’s – Hot Mexican Chili
Invented in 1968, Pringle’s were initially marketed as “newfangled” potato chips. Because Pringles are only 42 percent potato, they have long sparked debate over whether they qualify as chips or not – something that both the US Food and Drug Administration and the London High Court have weighed in on. A final fun fact: the precise aerodynamics of Pringles crisps have been optimized for processing with the help of supercomputers.
- Pringles – Original
Vegan Pom Bears
These teddy bear-shaped crisps are also made with reconstituted potato along with starch and paprika. Produced in the Netherlands, Pom Bears are now available in over 30 countries. They are available in three main flavors, and Original (ready salted) is vegan.
- Pom Bears – Original Flavor
Vegan Nik Naks
Nik Naks is a corn-based snack that was originally marketed as a crunchy version of Wotsits. The crisps are known for their almost hard texture and strong flavors.
- Nik Naks – Nice ‘N’ Spicy
- Nik Naks – Rib ‘N’ Saucy
- Nik Naks – Scampi ‘N’ Lemon
Tyrrells is a widely awarded producer of crisps and snacks, but in recent years has become particularly known for its other root vegetable-based crisps which have a unique flavor. There are a wide variety of vegan options, including both potato and root veg varieties.
- Tyrrells – Naked (without salt)
- Tyrrells – Lightly Sea Salted
- Tyrrells – Lightly Sea Salted Sweet Potato
- Tyrrells – Mixed Root Veg
- Tyrrells – Balsamic Vinegar & Sea Salt Veg
- Tyrrells – Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar
- Tyrells – Sweet Chili & Red Pepper
- Tyrells – Sea Salt & Black Pepper
- Tyrells – Prawn Cocktail
Vegan Space Raiders
Best served fresh from your local corner shop or a leisure center vending machine, Space Raiders are another classic British snack still popular today. Until 2010, each bag featured a short comic strip about aliens, which has now been replaced with a set of alien “stats.”
- Space Raiders – Pickled Onion
Private-label vegan crisps
In addition to the above is also a huge variety of ever-changing private-label crisps produced by supermarkets every year, and the easiest way to find the latest affordable snacks is to check the ingredients. In fact, many private-label versions of name-brand snacks are vegan whereas the originals are not. (We’re looking at you, Frazzles.)
Some specific supermarket honorable mentions include Asda’s Free-From Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, Aldi’s Snackrite Monster Claws and Original Teddy Faces, Sainsbury’s Bacon Crispies and Onion Rings, and Tesco’s Finest Root Vegetables & Sea Salt Potato Chips.