How Are Oreos Vegan? They Kind Of Aren’t..

How are oreos vegan cookie on wood table

The Oreo Cookie. This little cookie has somehow managed to spark a big debate in the vegan community. The question of if Oreo cookies are vegan has been a hotly debated topic within the vegan community. But how can a brand literally titled “milk’s favorite cookie” be suitable for vegans?

Could Oreos really be vegan? Kind of… We will present all of the facts and you can make a decision for yourself.

What Does Oreo Say?

Let’s start at the source, Oreo’s parent company, Nabisco, is a favorite national biscuit company among Americans. Nabisco does admit that there are no animal ingredients in Oreo cookies so they are suitable for a vegan diet in that sense.

But the cookie is definitely more accidentally vegan than anything, it is definitely not as though Nabisco set out intentionally avoiding animal products or to make Oreo cookies healthy by any means.

The cookies are loaded with: trans fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, soy lecithin vanillin, enriched flour sugar palm, corn starch, etc. all of which are processed foods and all of which are cause for health concerns. But as far as the milk or dairy product scheme of things they are still technically a vegan-friendly food, in that sense.

So how exactly are Oreo Cookies in line with a vegan diet?

As you can see there are not particularly any animal products or dairy products in their ingredients listed.

Oreo Ingredients:

  • Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid)
  • Sugar, Palm and/or Canola Oil, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Leavening (Baking Soda and/or Calcium Phosphate)
  • Salt
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Chocolate
  • Artificial Flavor

Even their creme filling isn’t real cream, it’s made from processed sugar.

Oreos have a wide variety of flavors and types, all of which would technically consider vegan. (With the exception of the fudge dipped varieties, as the fudge does actually contain milk and dairy.) Here are a few to note.

Oreo cookie varieties

Oreo Varieties

  • Double Stuff Oreo
  • Mega Stuff Oreo
  • Dark Chocolate Oreo
  • Cinnamon Bun Oreo
  • Golden Oreos
  • Birthday Cake Oreo(The Birthday Cake Oreo flavor comes on and off the market)
  • Peanut Butter Oreo
  • Carrot Cake Oreo
  • Mint Oreo
  • Lemon Oreo
  • Chocolate Marshmallow Oreo
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreo

None of these flavors supposedly contain dairy or foods that come from animals.

But what does that mean? Are Oreos vegan? Again… it starts to get complicated.

It really comes down to what you consider veganism is. If you define it as a diet that does not include eating meat, eggs, milk, and any product that comes from animals, then the answer is technically yes to “are Oreos vegan.”

But if you consider veganism as a much broader spectrum than just animal products but also impact on animals and the environment they live in, then you might have cause for complaint about Oreos which ironically contain no dairy milk at all.

Lots of vegans eat Oreos, but there are also a lot that do not consider Oreo cookies a vegan food. Here’s where the cause for concern and disagreements generally come into play.

Palm Oil Problems

Palm oil production for Oreo cookies

Oreo’s as you can see in the ingredients list, listed above, are loaded with palm oil. So what is the problem with palm oil? It comes from palms, no red flags there, palms are plants, right?

But the real issue starts to come in with palm oil production. Palm oil plantations use both questionable growing and harvesting practices that can both destroy habitats and exploit labor.

The plantations are one of the top causes of deforestation as every year thousands upon thousands of forest acres are cleared to create these plantations. That means millions of animals lose their homes in the production of this oil. Not to mention the overall cost to the environment as a whole that comes from plowing down acres of pristine wilderness.

Also, the plantations are often located in developing countries where there are few labor laws and very low wages. That means many workers work long hours, in unsafe conditions, for almost no money harvesting the palm that goes into palm oil. The cheap oil just may not be worth the cost to the environment or the workers who harvest it. These questionable practices make many people wonder if palm oil, and the Oreo cookies that are full of it, are suitable for vegans.

On the plus side, due to the backlash the harvesting and production practices of palm oil have caused there is somewhat of a spotlight being shown on it. There is a small amount of sustainable palm oil that is accessible on the market, but unfortunately, Oreo products are not generally among its users.

This type of palm oil is grown in a sustainable manner and harvested by workers who are fairly paid and work in safe and monitored conditions. But the majority of palm oil does not fall under this category, unfortunately, and certainly not the type of palm oil that shows up in Oreos. This is what is causing many vegans to just say no to these chocolate cookies.

Big Bad Bone Char

Non vegan sugar containing bone char

Bone char is found in sweeteners, it is used to help them sustain their white color and is also used to filter and refine them. It tends to show up a lot in chocolate-flavored food, unfortunately, as there are lots of sweeteners used in those. Bone char is low cost so it is used in many refineries and sugar refining practices.

But thankfully now most vegans know what it is and know to steer clear of it. Because bone char is made, as you may have guessed, by grinding up animal bones, which makes it decidedly not vegan.

But it’s not the only problem sweetener that can show up in the Oreo and other cookie worlds.

Artificial Sweeteners

In unsweetened chocolate in general, there are also many other cheap, sweeteners that can be used, none of which are especially good for us. Canola oil cocoa high fructose syrup, cocoa high fructose corn syrup, and many others that while not necessary animal products are definitely not good for us.

Some of them may also have their own impact on the environment or animals through harvesting and production practices similar to palm oil. It’s always good to do your research.

But as far as being classically vegan, bone char is the real bad boy as it is made directly from animals. So once again, do your research and find out which companies are notorious bone char uses, and which might be vegan safe.

Unfortunately, Oreo’s are not known for their high-quality ingredients and much of their sweeteners have most likely been refined with bone char.

So, with this additional info, are Oreos vegan? That is up to you and your definition of vegan.

Vegan Oreos on a white background

Cross Contamination

As a final note, there is also the issue of cross-contamination with milk as cross-contact often occurs in the factories that produce Oreos. Nabisco admits there is the chance that there are trace amounts and even what would be considered small amounts of milk or dairy food present in Oreos.

While it might be small, even this small percent combined with the other concerns Oreos can present is enough to make many vegans take a pass on eating these chocolate foods.

There have also been traces of whey found, which is as it comes from dairy, is also not considered vegan.

The Verdict

It is so important to know what we are eating, and with Oreos, it can still be a bit of a mystery. But with all these other snacks, vegan-friendly, healthy, cross contact-free, and ethically sound, out there, many vegans choose to steer clear of Oreos and their chocolate cookie variations.

So are Oreos vegan? The determining you! If you consider vegan as milk and animal product free, then yes Oreos may make your vegan list. If you consider veganism as something broader than milk or animal products and consider it more about the ethical choices behind it, then Oreos may not be for you. Or if even trace amounts of milk or animal by-products do not fit into your vegan lifestyle, then once again, Oreos may not be your best bet.

So the verdict is… Oreo’s are vegan…sort of.

For a healthier, vegan-friendly alternative to Oreos, check out our vegan cocoa bites or vegan banana chocolate nut ice cream recipe!

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