Your Complete Guide to the Flammability of Doritos

Doritos are really something special. That spicy, cheesy goodness is exactly what you need when you’re relaxing and unwinding in front of a Super Bowl game. They taste spectacular with some dips, and they’re even suitable for vegans.

Why Are Doritos Flammable

This makes them the perfect, all inclusive snack for all sorts of different people. What you may be wondering, however, is do Doritos burn easily? If this is the case, is there any particular reason why?

The vast majority of us haven’t tried to light a Dorito on fire, so we may not know the answer to this question.

Well, you may be surprised to know that it is in fact not the best idea to stick your Doritos in the fireplace - they are very flammable and can burn in an instant. Why is this? Doritos are made out of something known as corn starch, which is a kind of carbohydrate.

This is not the only reason - the main reason that they burn like a bonfire is that they are covered in vegetable oil.

This doesn’t mean that they are going to go up in flames when the temperatures are low, but if you fancy lighting them on fire as a prank with your friends, you’re going to see the flames begin. 

As it happens, chips in general are capable of burning without much trouble, and this also goes for Doritos.

They don’t tend to be a massive fire risk most of the time of course, but it’s probably not the best idea to cover your floor in Doritos and then put a lit matchstick on top. Let’s do a deep dive into the reasons why your favorite chips are so flammable. 

The Dorito - What Is It?

First of all, it’s worth establishing what exactly Doritos are. Specifically, Doritos is a brand of American tortilla chips - the brand sometimes makes dipping sauces too. These chips are made by Frito-Lay.

The Frito-Lay made chips have been in circulation since 1964, and before this they didn’t taste like anything.

The very first flavored Doritos made their way into the world in 1966, and they were called ‘ Toasted Corn’ Doritos. Not long after this, Taco flavor and then Nacho Cheese Flavor Doritos were released.

Ever since the 1980s, more and more flavors have made their way into the market. Doritos were born from a whimsical idea from the inventors in Disneyland, California.

What you may not know is that the Doritos name is derived from a Spanish word, Doradito. This translates to ‘small, fried’ golden thing.’ Seems pretty appropriate!

They were created thanks to the fact that a restaurant called Casa De Fritos has a lot of additional tortillas that needed to be used. 

They then got to work on these chips. They put some salt and pepper on the tortillas, fried them, cut them up and they were incredibly popular. An executive from Frito-Lay’s marketing team, Arch West, recognized the potential in these golden tasty treats and from there, Doritos were born.

What’s especially cool is that by the time 1993 rolled around, almost a third of the sales that Frito-Lay had were from Doritos alone. They managed to rake in more than $1 billion dollars per year. Imagine all the things that kind of money could buy! 

The most basic plain tortilla chips are no longer available in the United States as of 2019, but you can still find them in other countries around the world.

These are made out of ground corn (also known as Maize, which is a crop traditionally grown in Mexico) , a little bit of salt and a sprinkle of vegetable oil.

The ingredients of the other flavors vary based on the desired taste. For instance, there are a number of them that are jam packed with artificial ingredients. If you look on The Onion, you will even find a satirical article called ‘Doritos Celebrates Its One Millionth Ingredient.’

The healthy eating community has some worries about the number of unhealthy ingredients in these snacks, including the flavorings, vegetable oils and more.

Thankfully the brand isn’t using trans fat anymore, but there are a number of ingredients still in these potato chips that certainly aren’t good for you.

Why Would My Doritos Catch Fire?

Let’s just get one thing out of the way. Doritos can be spicy and hot, but that’s just the flavor. They aren’t just going to spontaneously combust when you’re chowing down. They aren’t damaging to your health in that sense - just in the way that they are rather unhealthy in general.

Of course, if you do decide to whip out your lighter and see what happens, you should expect to see an impressive flame that will stay for quite some time. 

We've already made it clear that it is indeed possible to  burn doritos. This is primarily because two of the main ingredients are highly flammable.

Doritos are made out of ground corn, and this is basically corn starch. It’s a form of carbohydrate that is certainly more complex in the make up than sugar is. It remains a perfect fuel for a fire.

As you can probably expect, vegetable oil is designed to be flammable. If you pour vegetable oil onto an open flame then it’s more than likely going to catch fire - people that work in a kitchen will be able to attest to that.

With that being said, many packs of Doritos don’t actually contain any liquid oil and as a result they don’t tend to be quite as easy to burn. Of course, if a Dorito is put in front of an open flame for long enough, you can get some pretty scary side effects.

You will see an exothermic reaction occur as a result of this. This means that it will extinguish the heat and the Dorito is self-sustained. As such, if you burn a single Dorito then it’s going to set the nearby Doritos alight too.

The Flammability Of A Dorito

Okay, so if you light a Dorito on fire, just how bad can the flame get? Thankfully, they aren’t super flammable - if you compare a Dorito to gasoline, an ignition certainly isn’t going to occur as quickly.

When they do begin to burn however, Doritos can keep on burning for a long time. This is thanks to the vegetable oil in the Dorito in most cases. The flame then has plenty of fuel for it to keep on burning.

Why Will A Dorito Catch Fire?

Your favorite tortilla chips only tend to burn if they are put in front of a flame for a long time. Of course, if they do manage to catch fire then this can cause some major problems. You can even intentionally start a fire using corn chips - not that it’s something that we recommend. 

These chips can burn for a long enough time that the flames can pass onto other things in the area. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out where the fire started in these circumstances.

How Problematic Are These Fires?

They’re pretty bad - stick a bunch of Doritos on fire in a store and your whole establishment may be up in flames in no time. This has even happened thanks to a man in Spokane. 

Ultimately if the fire has enough oxygen and fuel, the fire can get pretty large. It doesn’t matter what started it.

Can You Start a Fire With Doritos?

Indeed you can - ideal for your next camping trip! They’re pretty cheap, and any Doritos that you don’t use for the fire can be eaten afterwards. You can test it out, much like The Star newspaper did.

If you don’t have any matches and you want to start a bonfire, then this is something that you can do.

Other Chip Varieties

As you can probably imagine, a lot of other chips like potato chips are quite flammable. It’s usually for the same reasons that you can light a Dorito on fire. It’s because the salt, oil and potatoes will light on fire easily because they are carbohydrates.

Add some oil to the mix and you’ve got yourself a fire. Carbs and oil are both fuel, so they’ll keep your fire going. Basically, be careful the next time that someone asks you to light your chips on fire as a prank.