Are Schlotzsky’s salt and vinegar chips gluten free?

For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, scrutinizing food labels for gluten ingredients is a necessary chore. With so many packaged snacks and convenience foods containing wheat, barley or rye, it can be tricky to find tasty gluten-free options when dining out or grabbing a snack on-the-go.

Schlotzsky’s, a popular sandwich chain with over 350 locations across the U.S., offers freshly made sandwiches on gluten-free bread or lettuce wraps. But what about Schlotzsky’s brand of packaged snack foods sold in grocery stores, like their salt and vinegar chips? Can those with gluten restrictions safely indulge in this zesty snack?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll investigate the ingredients and production process behind Schlotzsky’s salt and vinegar chips to determine if they are a gluten-free friendly food. We’ll also provide tips for assessing package labels and calling manufacturers to double check the gluten status of any product. Let’s dig in!

Are Potatoes Naturally Gluten Free?

Potatoes are a nutritious tuber enjoyed across cuisines around the world. Best known for making fluffy baked potatoes, crispy french fries and smooth mashed potatoes, this versatile veggie is naturally gluten-free.

Potatoes are an underground root vegetable in the nightshade family, related to tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. The most common varieties of potatoes are russet, red, yellow, white and purple potatoes. Potatoes grow underground attached to the stem and leaves of the potato plant above ground.

There is no wheat, barley or rye inherently present in potatoes themselves. This makes all plain, whole potato products without added ingredients gluten-free. This includes:

  • Fresh potatoes
  • Frozen potatoes
  • Dehydrated potato flakes
  • Potato starch

Unless contaminated with gluten during growing or processing, potatoes in their natural form do not contain the gluten proteins found in prohibited grains. This makes potatoes an ideal gluten-free substitute for wheat flour in recipes.

What Ingredients Are in Schlotzsky’s Salt and Vinegar Chips?

To determine if a processed food like Schlotzsky’s salt and vinegar chips are gluten-free, we need to look at the complete ingredients list printed on the product packaging.

According to the Schlotzsky’s website, the ingredients listed on a 5.5 oz bag of their salt and vinegar chips are:

Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following oils: canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, corn), Malt Vinegar (barley), Salt, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Acetate, Malic Acid, Spices, Natural Flavors. Contains 2% or less of: Dextrose, Onion Powder, Whey, Corn Flour, Citric Acid, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Yeast Extract, Disodium Inosinate & Disodium Guanylate, Potato Starch.

Let’s break down each of these ingredients to pinpoint any potential sources of gluten:

  • Potatoes – As discussed above, potatoes are a gluten-free vegetable.
  • Vegetable oil – Refined oils derived from corn, soybean, canola and other seeds are gluten-free.
  • Malt vinegar – Malt vinegar is made from barley, which contains gluten. Barley malt vinegar is not gluten-free.
  • Salt – Table salt or sea salt does not contain gluten.
  • Sodium diacetate – A gluten-free preservative.
  • Sodium acetate – Another gluten-free preservative.
  • Malic acid – An organic compound derived from fruits that is gluten-free.
  • Spices – Most individual spices like garlic, onion and black pepper do not contain gluten. However, some spice blends can contain gluten from wheat flour or barley malt added as an anticaking agent. According to Schlotzsky’s, their “spices” ingredient does not contain gluten.
  • Natural flavors – Flavorings derived from gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are gluten-free. But flavors derived from gluten grains would not be. Schlotzsky’s states their natural flavors are gluten-free.
  • Dextrose – A simple sugar derived from corn that is gluten-free.
  • Onion powder – Dehydrated onion is naturally gluten-free.
  • Whey – Whey is a dairy product and does not contain gluten.
  • Corn flour – Corn is a gluten-free grain, so corn flour does not contain gluten.
  • Citric acid – A gluten-free organic acid found in citrus fruits.
  • Sugar – Refined white sugar is gluten-free.
  • Garlic powder – Dried garlic powder is gluten-free.
  • Yeast extract – A gluten-free flavor enhancer.
  • Disodium inosinate – A gluten-free flavor enhancer often used in conjunction with disodium guanylate.
  • Disodium guanylate – Another gluten-free flavor enhancer.
  • Potato starch – starch extracted from potatoes that is gluten-free.

The only concerning ingredient for gluten content in Schlotzsky’s salt and vinegar chips is the malt vinegar, which contains gluten from barley.

Is Malt Vinegar Gluten Free?

Vinegar adds tangy flavor when cooking and also serves as a preservative. Common types of vinegar include:

  • White vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Malt vinegar

Vinegars made from gluten-free sources like apples, grapes, rice and other fruits are gluten-free. However, malt vinegar is not gluten-free.

Malt vinegar is made by fermenting barley malt or wheat. Barley contains gluten, so barley malt vinegar is not safe for a gluten-free diet. Even though the gluten protein may be broken down during the vinegar production process, there still could be trace amounts of gluten in malt vinegar derived from barley.

Some brands of malt vinegar specify on the label if it is derived from wheat or barley. Barley malt vinegar poses a risk for those sensitive to gluten. Wheat-derived malt vinegar should also be avoided since those with celiac disease or wheat allergy must omit all forms of wheat.

Gluten-Free Substitutes for Malt Vinegar

Instead of malt vinegar, people following a gluten-free diet can use these alternatives:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Pure distilled white vinegar

Always check the label or contact the manufacturer to confirm other types of flavored vinegar like red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar are 100% gluten-free and not derived from barley malt.

What is the Gluten Content of Schlotzsky’s Chips?

Since Schlotzsky’s salt and vinegar chips contain barley malt vinegar, are they still safe to eat if you are gluten-free?

According to Schlotzsky’s consumer affairs department:

“Schlotzsky’s Potato Chips are produced in a facility that also processes wheat and barley products. The Potato Chips themselves do not contain any wheat, barley, rye, oats or their derivatives as ingredients. However, due to the use of shared equipment, we do not recommend this product for customers with Celiac Disease.”

So while there is no wheat, barley, rye or oat ingredients directly added to their chips, shared equipment and facility with other gluten containing products makes cross-contamination possible.

For this reason, Schlotzsky’s cannot guarantee their chips are 100% gluten-free or safe for those with celiac disease. The chips should be avoided by those with celiac or high sensitivity to trace gluten exposure.

People with mild gluten sensitivity who can tolerate small amounts of cross-contamination generally do fine with chips fried in dedicated fryers and facilities with good allergen protocols. But the malt vinegar and shared equipment make Schlotzy’s chips too high risk to consume for those requiring very strict gluten avoidance.

Gluten-Free Chips and Snacks

While Schlotzky’s classic salt and vinegar chips aren’t the best choice for a gluten-free diet, lots of other tasty chips and gluten-free snacks are available. Here are some better options:

Kettle Brand Potato Chips

Kettle Brand makes classic potato chips flavored with sea salt, vinegar and olive oil. Their potato chips are certified gluten-free to less than 10 ppm. Kettle Brand chips are fried in rice bran oil and made without wheat, barley, rye or malt vinegar.

Pringles Gluten Free Potato Crisps

Pringles now offers several flavors of potato crisps made without wheat or barley malt. These gluten-free options are produced on dedicated equipment to prevent cross-contamination. Flavors include original, sour cream and onion and cheddar cheese.

Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Chips

For a healthier option, Food Should Taste Good makes crunchy Tortilla Chips, Sweet Potato Chips, Multigrain Chips and Bean Chips. They are all certified gluten-free with delicious flavors.

Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs

Mary’s Gone Crackers makes gluten-free pretzel sticks and breadsticks without wheat, barley, rye or malt. They come in tasty varieties like Everything, Sea Salt and Seeds.


These popped potato crisps have a lighter texture than deep fried chips. Popchips come in flavors like Barbeque, Cheddar and Sour Cream and are gluten-free certified.


Black bean and white bean chips are a protein-packed snack. Beanitos are baked, gluten-free and non-GMO verified. Flavors include Hint of Lime and Nacho Cheese.

Simply 7 Lentil Chips

Simply 7 makes grain-free lentil root veggie chips in flavors like Sea Salt, BBQ and Sour Cream and Chive. They are gluten-free with 7 grams of plant protein per serving.

Other Schlotzsky’s Foods to Avoid with Gluten Issues

In addition to the salt and vinegar chips, here are some other Schlotzsky’s products that contain gluten or risk cross-contamination:

  • Buns and bagels – contain wheat
  • Pizza crust – contains wheat
  • Mac and cheese – contains wheat
  • Chicken tenders and nuggets – may be breaded with wheat flour
  • Cheese bread – contains wheat
  • Chips and bread sold in-store – risk for cross-contact with wheat

Of course, those with celiac disease or NCGS should always confirm directly with the restaurant on preparation and risk of cross-contamination when ordering.

How to Confirm if a Product is Gluten-Free

When evaluating if a packaged food product is gluten-free, here are some tips:

  • Carefully read the entire ingredients list – including flavorings and preservatives. Look for wheat, barley, rye, malt or ambiguous terms like “spices” or “natural flavors”.
  • Check for a “gluten-free” label claim on the packaging. FDA rules require foods labeled gluten-free contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
  • Look for certification from GFCO (Gluten-Free Certification Organization). This confirms the product has been rigorously tested to be under 10 ppm of gluten.
  • Don’t rely solely on front package claims like “made in a gluten-free facility”. Always check the ingredients list on the back.
  • Contact the manufacturer if any ingredients are unclear or concerning. Ask if gluten grains were used in flavorings or shared equipment.
  • When dining out, ask about preparation and risk of cross-contact with menu items.
  • Research restaurant allergen information online or call ahead to ensure gluten-free options.

Being proactive and asking questions is key to ensuring packaged foods and restaurant meals are safe when eating gluten-free.

The Bottom Line

Schlotzsky’s classic salt and vinegar potato chips unfortunately are not gluten-free due to containing barley malt vinegar and risk of cross-contamination in manufacturing. The chips should be avoided if you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive to gluten exposure.

Many other tasty gluten-free chips, crackers and snacks from dedicated brands are a safer bet. When selecting packaged foods, always carefully inspect the ingredients list, look for a gluten-free certification label and call the manufacturer with any questions to determine for sure if a product is gluten-free.

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