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Lay's Potato Chips: Just 3 ingredients?

We don't normally eat Lay's chips; I always found them too thin, salty and greasy.

But a friend bought some over, and I checked the ingredient list because I was curious about a recent discussion of glutamates in snack foods and how they increase cravings -- you know, "You can't have just one!" and all that. So I figured with that slogan, Lay's would be full of them.

The bag read:
"Ingredients: Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Salt."

That's it.

Somehow, I find that extremely hard to believe -- especially since my son left the bag open for a day or two unbeknownst to me and they still tasted good, better than I remembered.

NO preservatives of any kind? No flavorings, or anything else? Seriously?

Am I just overly suspicious, or is Lay's Potato Chips really one of the most unprocessed foodstuffs in my kitchen?

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  1. Um...yeah. All brands of potato chips have that ingredient list. Its all the "new" lowfat stuff that has scary ingredient lists.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      And pringles... But yes, it doesn't get much simplier than plain potato chips... The salt and Oil do all the work to process and preserve...


      1. re: Dommy

        i don't consider Pringles to be chips. what are they 'chipped' from?
        we refer to Pringles et al as Crisps.

    2. yum...my fav...lays...just opened bag...big bag...first one out of the bag is the best...mmm

      1 Reply
      1. re: pfarrell

        The first chip is my favorite as well, I think it has something to so with the smell when you tear open the bag, just gets your juices flowing. Funny thing is we never finish a bag, we eat a few handfulls but we live in a moist beach area so after a day they are pretty much crunchless...ick.

      2. Yep... your old-fashioned plain potato chips generally only has potatoes and salt. It's once you get into the flavoured varieties that the ingredients list gets scary!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Kajikit

          I was so excited to see "salt and pepper" flavored chips and I bought a bag of HERR's Salt 'n Pepper chips without reading the ingredients list (since HERR's chips are a simple, quality product). The first chip revealed the sad fact that they felt the need to add a bunch of other flavorings...a long list of stuff that was either mysterious or otherwise not necessary. Seems that every brand of Salt and Pepper chips does this unfortunately.

          1. re: The Professor

            Utz brand salt and pepper chips are my current favorite. They do add onion powder as well as S&P, but I really like the addition.

            I wish Lay's would still sell their Dill Pickle chips in the US, those were awesome. We went to Bonaire last year (little island nation off the coast of Venezuela) for snorkeling, and I bought Lay's Baked Ham chips in the store there! Tasted just like baked ham in a chip form. we're going back this year, I might have to figure out a way to bring a bag or two home with me!

            1. re: kimfair1

              I probably wouldn't even mind the onion power and garlic powder they add, and I'm definitely not anti MSG (used moderately, it has its place) but I was disappointed because the addition of these things just made it taste so generic and 'same old'. Fortunately I have since found some 'salt and pepper' chips that are just that...and they are incredible. The other stuff is like gilding a lily.

        2. Yes, you're overly suspicious. Widespread flouting of USDA and FDA labeling requirements is frowned upon and hard to do. The reason the chips taste so good is that they have so few ingredients.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ccbweb

            Haha, ok ok, you guys convinced me. Maybe I should let my guard down! :-)

            1. re: Covert Ops

              Well no... it's always good to check lables... but I've had vast experience in food manufacturing and although IME, none of my clients ever purposely tried to poison the american public, it's always a good idea to check ingredients and not just trust the box (something called 'natural', might not mean what you think it might mean... )

              In general though... USDA intervention is a big PITA... so most reputible companies try to avoid that as much as possible...


          2. I never noticed this, but I'm glad that Lay's are my favorite chips now. :)

            1. By the same token, Fritos have an ingredient list of of only corn, corn oil, water and salt. On their current ("retro") packaging they put actually these on the front of the bag. Typical (plain) tortilla chips are similar, but may use a different oil (I'd have to check this later, I'm at work now) and also have Lime as an ingredient, which is used to make Masa.

              1. "I always found them too thin, salty and greasy."

                Me too. That's why I love them!

                1. I'm hoping that more food will actually have these kinds of ingredients (even if there is too much oil in Lay's for my taste) since it's obviously become a selling point.

                  1. The bag of Mission tortilla chips at my feet has this ingredient list: ground corn treated with lime, water, vegetable oil, salt.

                    1. well i admit, i started eating them once again after the ingredient update from no more monosodium glutamate. my best theory why their motto became "no one can eat just one".

                      but reading your post just made me think...since when are the ingredients of the oil not included. usually with a big ingredient, they list subingredients in parentheses. Oils, from my recollection, used to be one of those. So why is their Sunflower Oil missing a breakdown. I bet the "magic" lies in the oil.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: anjelle

                        Er...because there's no way to break down sunflower oil. It's oil. Expelled from sunflower seeds. That's it.

                        The "magic" is that if you slice potatoes very thin, fry them in oil and douse them with salt, THEY TASTE GOOD.

                        It's not rocket science, people.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          Of course you can break it down! Haven't you seen this on a label of potato chips?

                          Sunflower oil (hydrogen (proton (2 up quarks, 1 down quark), electron), carbon (protons (2 up quarks, 1 down quark), neutrons (1 up quark, 2 down quarks) electrons))

                          1. re: jeremyn

                            Are you sure? I think it's actually one part sun and two parts flowers.

                      2. Has anyone had the Lay's in a can? They taste like Pringle's, and to me that is not a good thing.

                        1. Lays? Greasy? i've never found that to be true.
                          now Wise potato chips are greasy.

                          6 Replies
                            1. re: al b. darned

                              Lays are pretty horrible compared to Utz or Herr's. I got a small bag of Lays Ruffles to go with my sandwich and they were inedible: toxic levels of salt. Three chips and I threw the rest away. Real garbage compared to Utz Old Bay Chips or Grandma Utz Kettle Chips which are fried in pure lard. THAT'S what a potato chip should taste like. Not a salt lick.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                I like the Lay's plain potato chips. Ruffles not so much. They are two completely different products.

                                1. re: seamunky

                                  I've found the plain Lay's chips to be too thin. They don't travel well and I end up with a bag that's mostly chip fragments. It's why I prefer round tortilla chips to the triangle shapes: they tend to hold their shape from factory to store to my stomach.

                                  Now, Grandma Utz Kettle Chips, that's a chip you can set your watch to.

                                2. re: monkeyrotica

                                  Remembered this thread when I was at the market the other day and saw a display of Herr's chips at .35 per 1 oz bag. Great opportunity to try some out. I picked up a bag each of the flavors that interested me:

                                  "Heinz Ketchup" tasted exactly like ketchup, but that one was easy.

                                  "Baby Back Ribs" surprised me -- they didn't taste like bbq sauce, or some weird "representation" of someone's idea of ribs -- they actually tasted like ribs, in chip form. I was astounded.

                                  Unfortunately, "Kansas City Prime Steak" was less successful -- loads of salt, plus some weird, unidentifiable flavor that couldn't represent steak in anyone's wildest imagination.

                                  Two out of three -- can't complain. They all had somewhat more than three ingredients, however.

                                  1. re: Steve Green

                                    The food scientists did their job well...

                            2. Lays seem greasy next to UTZ, which have the perfect lightness. And they're a Mad Men reference now (which is even more enhanced by they their seemingly ancient packaging).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: drsnacks

                                Utz still exist??? Where can I get them? Oh never mind, they won't be in Canada...

                              2. FYI per FDA guidelines- things that are considered processing aid ingredients, used in quantities of 0.25% or less do not have to be declared on the label. I would guess a lot of what keeps the chip crunchy is the foil coated bag itself, as well as possibly the process they use to fry the chips. A lot of research goes on behind the scenes to get you your three ingredient potato chips. Simplicity is a fast emerging trend in consumer foods.

                                1. As someone who has seen the process first-hand I can say without a doubt that plain Lays are only potatoes, frying oil, and salt. Since oxygen is the scourge of freshness, FL, and all chip makers, inject nitrogen into the bag to force the oxygen out, thus keeping them fresher. BTW - they do the same thing with beer. A spritz of N2 on the top of the beer between the filler and capper.

                                  1. Lays have ALWAYS been my favorite and now i know why! Well, as a kid i ate Laura Scudders but i rarely see those anymore. I love Lays BBQ even more than plain, tho those have other added flavorings. but i dont care.

                                    Once, in Pennsylania, I tried steak potato chips - can't remember the brand - and they tasted EXACTLY like a steak, to the point i could taste marrow. so amazing.

                                    1. Yahoo just published a poll of "America's favorite things" and lists Lay's as the favorite potato chip. Wavy Lay's came in second.


                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: DonShirer

                                        LAY'S are pretty good for a national brand...but those in the mid-Atlantic states and PA are luck enough to have HERR's... probably just about the best chips out there.

                                        1. re: The Professor

                                          Wise for us! Lays is always second (or third) best.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Saturday Afternoons: Fresh Italian hoagie, Wise chips & a fresh deli pickle out of the barrel.

                                            Grew up on Wise. They were the best. Somewhere along the line they changed though, they look different and also taste different from the old ones in the clear plastic / blue bags.

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              Do you remember that Wise had a little window on the front of the old bags? When I first met my husband, he taught me to look in and find the darkest chips on the shelf; they were all so different. One time I got a bag that had a whole potato included that hadn't been cut all the way through, it was fanned out but cooked to perfection. Wish I took a picture!

                                              1. re: coll

                                                Laura Scudder's also used to have a window in the front of the bag. I've always been a big BBQ chip fan, and the window was helpful for picking out the bags that had the most seasoning. I was thwarted when they switched to opaque bags.

                                                1. re: Steve Green

                                                  Yes, it was a sad day here too. You just had to hope to be lucky.

                                                  On the other hand, they are probably all exactly the same now, no deviations allowed.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Laura Scudder's is out of the picture these days. However, with Kettle Chips (my current favorite), there are still considerable variations in the amount of seasoning in a given batch. Since their bags are about as opaque as they come, if I find a bag that has lots of seasoning, I note the date/time stamp on the bag, and go back to the store for more from the same batch. Is this Chowhound behavior, or just crazy? You tell me.

                                                    1. re: Steve Green

                                                      We're not as addicted to potato chips anymore, but if I was, I would definitely search out something that way. So, does it work, is my question? Do you find some are superior to other bags?

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        Yes, although I'm trying to cut back on the fats and carbs, so I haven't tested this in the past year. Last time I did this was with the Kettle sweet onion flavor (and previously, their Buffalo Bleu flavor). I had bought two bags, from different batches. One had not-nearly-enough spice, but the second had much more and was great. I went back and bought several bags from the "good batch". However, at the high-turnover store where I get my Kettle chips, I would have to make it back there in a couple of days to be able to get more from the same batch. I don't really eat enough chips these days to go through all that. Given my waistline and health issues, it's just as well.

                                                        1. re: Steve Green

                                                          I have the same general mindset, sadly. It was good to be young.

                                                2. re: coll

                                                  Its probably been 30 years but I remember being able to see through certain parts of the Wise bags, maybe front, 3/4 of the way up, not sure. Your right about the dark colored ones. Everybody picked them out of the bowl first. The chips also varied in color overall and also sometimes a very little bit different thickness & texture. Todays Wise are much more consistent color & texture like LAYS. Not the same and don't taste as good.

                                                  Wise also made an orange colored waffle cheese cracker with a very intense cheddar cheese in the middle. Haven't seen them in years.

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    Shoot, I had completely forgotten about those cheese sandwich crackers! The cheese was bizarrely strong. I wonder what the ingredients were.

                                                    ETA: "Cheez Waffies" -- still in existence apparently, and there's some blue cheese in there... along with a lot of junk :-P

                                                3. re: Tom34

                                                  WISE chips changed more than once. They changed when the brand was acquired by Borden, and the changed again when the brand was sold to a private company.

                                                  They're still good chips, though they lack the character they once had. Seems like they're using a different breed of potato than years ago.

                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                    I agree they are still good. Lacking character is a good way to put it. Back in the day they really stood out from the other brands. Could have been different potatoes, less strict cutting tolerances and maybe different oil. I don't know but the original's were very different and IMHO much better.

                                              2. re: The Professor

                                                At one time, Seyfert's were amazing. They deteriorated and then disappeared.

                                            2. All good.. no preservatives, no junk..only one problem..a regular size bag of Lays.. remember, you can't just eat one.. contains a GALLON of oil in each bag according to NPR radio... A GALLON???? Can anyone verify if this is true...I threw my bag of Lays out the window when I heard this on the radio and went into a fugue state.... sure hope it's not true...

                                              16 Replies
                                              1. re: Cathrynoo

                                                Oh, just do the math. A Gallon of oil weights about eight pounds. A regular bag is, what, eight ounces? That means even if there were no potatoes at all and they were 100% oil, about a cup.

                                                NPR is hardly a reliable source for, well, anything.

                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                  I disagree. I think NPR may even be slighter more reliable than many sources.

                                                  As for the oil story, perhaps they said that a gallon of oil IS USED to make each bag; with well-fried food most of the oil is left behind.

                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                    This is what I thought as well -- I can believe a gallon of oil is used for each bag.

                                                    1. re: Rilke

                                                      I thought so too. NPR or whoever probably did a scaling. Potato chips worth of one bag is deep fried in a gallon worth of oil. A ratio calculation. However, this can be very misleading because only a very small portion of oil is absorbed into the chips. Once you deep fried something, it really does not matter if you fried the food in a gallon of oil or 10 gallon of oil. Just like boiling pasta. You boil your pasta in 1 gallon of water is the same as 100 gallons of water. The pasta does not absorb 100 times more water because it is boiled in 100 gallons of water instead of 1 gallon of water.

                                                      I hope NPR wasn't trying to pull a quick one -- by using false scaring tactic

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Is everyone positive this was actually on NPR? I searched their website but didn't find anything of the sort.

                                                        1. re: Samalicious

                                                          It may not. I am just saying that "if" it is from NPR, then this is a "fan" fact, but not a very useful "fact" from a health perspective.

                                                    2. re: sandylc

                                                      < I think NPR may even be slighter more reliable than many sources. >

                                                      The way you put it, NPR would be accurate, but misleading which is worse in my opinion -- knowing misleading the listeners.

                                                  2. re: Cathrynoo

                                                    Am I to understand that you held a bag of potato chips in your hand and thought to yourself, hey, this feels as heavy as a gallon of water? And then you pitched it out the window? I hope you didn't hit anyone.

                                                    I don't think NPR is the problem, here.

                                                    1. re: Cathrynoo

                                                      <a regular size bag of Lays.. remember, you can't just eat one.. contains a GALLON of oil in each bag according to NPR radio>

                                                      That is crazy. Like others said, a gallon of oil weights a lot. Does a bag of chips weight that much?

                                                      Aside from weight, if you really ate a gallon of oil in one sitting, you would have died.

                                                      Finally, if Lay's the corporation would go bankrupted if they have been selling you a gallon of oil (in the bag of chips) for merely $1. Have you noticed how much cooking oil costs these days?

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        "for merely $1."

                                                        Lay's run just under $5 per bag, I believe.

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          $5!! Yikes! A standard bag of Lays costs around $3 here. Even the jumbo "family-sized" ones are under $5. And, they are often on sale for less than that.

                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            Hmm, I must be thinking when it is on sale, bu you are correct, it won't be $1. It would be more like $2-3. Nevertheless, you can see how it is impossible to have one gallon of oil in a bag of chips.

                                                        2. re: Cathrynoo

                                                          Having seen the process first hand and talked to those actually making them...about 1/3 of the weight of the chip is oil. That is still a significant amount.

                                                          (sorry to hijack the thread with facts.)

                                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                                            OK, but the chip weighs next to nothing. One third of next to nothing isn't very much.

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              1/3 total weight works out to about 2/3 cup of oil for a 1 lb bag of chips. Never really thought about it but I am really not shocked either way.

                                                              We rarely have them in out house, my wife and I can't handle them. There is just no such thing as a small bowl of them, that is until the bag is just about empty :-)

                                                        3. Try the light blue bag, low-salt. That might help with the salty issue (I don't like too much salt either).

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: pdxgastro

                                                            Utz makes a very good No Salt chip. I would have thought it would be pretty flavorless, but without all that salt, you really taste the potato.


                                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                              If we apply the elitist fresh FF theory, everyone should be making their own Chips LOL :)

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                Everybody knows hand-cut potato chips are superior to frozen potato chips. Here, let me prove it by posting a link to a blog run by a hand-cut potato chip machine manufacturer.

                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                  Don't forget: "Never had one I didn't like" :)

                                                              2. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                Have to admit, I haven't had a Lays chip in 10+ years. Way too salty / greasy back then and I suspect they haven't improved over the years.

                                                                Now Utz - definitely the best. Even their "regular" chip has a reasonable salt level, where I do alternate between their regular & no salt chips. Why bother with anything else?

                                                                1. re: Clams047

                                                                  Utz - and go to a fresh-made place like Balto's Cross-Street Market...

                                                            2. This thread makes me want potato chips.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: seamunky

                                                                I admitted that it has a similar effect on me too. It is amazing that my urge for potato chips increased by just reading about potato chips. It wasn't so strong that I ran out to get some. I didn't, but I certainly had a little urge.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  This happens to me all the time. I will be reading a mystery novel where the character eats pizza, I want pizza. (Don't even like pizza that much.)

                                                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                    Pizza definitely has that effect on me!

                                                                    1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                      mw - then you can write off reading mystery novels by Rex Stout or Elaine Viets.

                                                                2. Fritos also only contain three ingredients: corn, oil, salt.

                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                  1. re: pheebs

                                                                    thanks. now I want fritos! I don't think I have had a frito since the '80's. God I love those things!

                                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                                      pour some canned chili FULL of glutamates and sodium over those Fritos...

                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                          and leave it Emeril to make it from scratch. No canned chili for him, LOL


                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                            foodie - getting OT but there is the alt. of tamale pie (best with fresh pico over the top)

                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                              I just finished breakfast and now I want mexican food!

                                                                          2. re: hill food

                                                                            Tear open a small bag of Fritos, dump the chili in, and you have the classic "walking taco."


                                                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                              that was a SoCal grade-school cafeteria lunch, we YEARNED for "pepper belly" day.

                                                                              in hindsight it's 'stoner' food, but then, what appeals to an 8 year old...

                                                                      1. Noo... their fricken chips their not gunna decompose for about 4-5 days due to the fact their fried in oil. Your just paranoid hun ;3

                                                                        1. http://coveredbridgechips.com these however are hands down the best chips in the world 100% natural made from russet potatoes and no bleaching process is used(which is why these chips look darker than all others) I recommend looking for it ordering them; they have many awards and articles about them.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: lawrence86

                                                                            No potato chips are bleached before they are fried. Potatoes go from the washer, to the peeler, to the slicer, and drop directly into the oil.

                                                                            If they are darker it is because of the variety they use, or are cooked longer and/or at higher temperatures. Period.

                                                                            1. re: lawrence86

                                                                              Their website has a bit of hype, tho...
                                                                              Our products are all-natural with no artificial colours or preservatives, no trans fats and they are certified gluten-free and cholesterol free.
                                                                              AFIK everybody's plain chips can say that. Lay's certainly can.