If you’re like most kids in the US, then you grew up eating animal crackers. When I was little, I used to eat them all the time. I’d eat them for breakfast and my mom would pack them as a snack for school lunches.
Then, when I was at school, teachers would often give me even more! The cute animal-shaped snacks were my favorite…
Just because a food is shaped like animals, though, doesn’t mean that it’s vegan.
So, are animal crackers vegan?
It ultimately depends on the brand. For the most part, animal crackers are vegan-friendly and don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. However, some brands of animal crackers may contain refined sugar, which many vegans regard as a not-so-vegan sweetener.
Below, I’ll give you the low-down on animal crackers. I’ll show you exactly what animal crackers are made of and explain the difference between vegan animal crackers and other mainstream brands. Let’s take a look!
Do Animal Crackers Contain Dairy?
One of the main things that make animal crackers so delicious is their super-soft, smooth texture. Unlike most crackers, which are hard and brittle, animal crackers are slightly crunchy but also soft.
This isn’t an accident either. Animal crackers are specifically made softer because they’re mostly eaten by younger children, whose teeth are still growing in! This makes them a more kid-friendly food.
Also, parents don’t have to worry about sharp pieces of crackers hurting their children’s gums or getting stuck in their throats.
Whenever you taste a soft cracker or eat a cracker that has a smooth outer coating, you should be a bit wary. Often, this texture and softness are created by dairy additives like whey or casein. These are often used as coatings to create smoother, softer snacks.
Thankfully, animal crackers are dairy-free. They aren’t made with milk or any other dairy by-products.
This means that animal crackers are as good of a choice for lactose-intolerant individuals as they are for plant-based eaters! If you’re curious and want to learn more about how these delicious crackers came to the United States, check out this little bit of history:
Are Barnum Animal Crackers Vegan? Ingredients Revealed
Barnum Animal Crackers are arguably one of the best-selling and most memorable brands of animal crackers on the market. They’re often sold in small boxes that are covered with drawings of circus animals. Growing up, this was the brand that my family typically kept in stock.
For the most part, Barnum Animal Crackers are vegan-safe. The only questionable ingredient they contain is refined sugar. Aside from that, all of the other ingredients are plant-based or artificial.
Take a look for yourself:
Barnum Animal Crackers aren’t quite as natural as some of the more organic brands that I’ve seen. However, the recipe used by Barnum is very similar to the recipe used by other mainstream brands of animal crackers, such as Stauffer, Kirkland, and other popular household names.
So, I figured that Barnum Animal Crackers would make an excellent example of what you should expect from most consumer brands!
Now, let’s take a few minutes to go through the list and break down the ingredients.
1) Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour
The main ingredient in these crackers is unbleached enriched wheat flour. This is basically just a more processed version of all-purpose wheat flour that contains added vitamins and minerals. This makes for a more nutritious cracker that parents are more likely to buy for their kids!
Wheat flour, by itself, is always a vegan-friendly product. It’s an all-natural plant-based product that’s made by drying and grinding wheat berries until they’re a fine powder. This flour is then used to create bread, crackers, cookies, cake, chips, and everything in between.
Out of all of the ingredients used in Barnum Animal Crackers, there’s only one that leaves some vegans questioning whether or not this food is right for them – sugar.
You see, sugar isn’t quite as all-natural as some people believe. Yes, it comes from the sugarcane plant. However, to turn the natural cane sugar into the refined white sugar that you buy in the grocery store, it must go through a filtration process that involves animal remains.
The natural cane sugar is passed through a high-carbon filter that’s packed full of animal bone char. This is basically the fire-roasted remains of cattle and pigs that have been killed for their meat.
The filter removes the outer layer of the cane sugar, leaving the pure sugar crystal behind. This product is more potent, finer, and easier to blend, which is why it’s used more often than cane sugar.
The problem, of course, is that most vegans aren’t too happy about the fact that their sugar is being filtered with animal remains.
As a result, many vegans have chosen to boycott white sugar. Instead, they prefer an all-natural sweetener like unrefined cane sugar, agave, or brown rice syrup.
Not all vegans agree on this topic, though. Technically, there’s no bone char in the sugar, which still makes it a plant-based product. It all depends on how strict you are with your personal diet and ethics.
3) Canola Oil
Like most cookies and crackers, animal crackers are made with a bit of vegetable oil. Thankfully, Barnum Animal Crackers aren’t made with any palm oil! Palm oil is an unsustainable oil that’s been contributing to rainforest deforestation.
This, in turn, has pushed endangered animals and indigenous tribes away from their homelands, causing human conflict and often death.
Instead, these animal crackers are made with all-natural canola oil. Like palm oil, canola oil is pure vegetable oil. However, canola oil is ethically sourced from the seeds of the canola flower. These flower fields are grown in vast open plains and don’t need to grow in a tropical climate.
4) Yellow Corn Flour
If you’ve ever eaten an animal cracker, then you may have realized that they don’t taste like most other crackers. That’s because they’re also made with yellow corn flour.
Corn flour is similar to wheat flour, except it has a slightly smoother, sweeter flavor. This is one of the reasons why animal crackers are softer and slightly sweeter than other crackers.
Corn flour is 100% vegan and is simply made from dried and ground corn.
Dextrose is a highly processed starch that’s typically extracted from corn, rice, or potatoes. In processed food, dextrose serves several purposes. First and foremost, it’s a light form of sugar. It’s not as concentrated as sugar and has a subtler taste.
Additionally, dextrose can serve as a drying agent. It keeps the crackers dry, prevents them from sticking to each other, and prevents the animal cracker dough from getting clumpy.
The one downside of dextrose is that it can raise your blood sugar dangerously high. It’s a simple sugar that doesn’t need to be processed before it’s absorbed into your bloodstream. This can also lead to rapid weight gain, which is why it’s often used in vegan mass gainers.
Fructose is another simple sugar that’s often used in candy and snacks. Fructose is typically extracted from fruits and other plant-based sources.
While it is vegan-friendly, it’s not very healthy. Many studies have shown that consuming too much fructose can raise your blood sugar and cholesterol to dangerous levels.
7) Calcium Carbonate
Next, we have calcium carbonate. While this sounds like a bit of an artificial ingredient, it’s actually 100% natural! Calcium carbonate is an organic compound that’s simply made up of calcium and carbon.
This compound is easily absorbed by our body and converted into pure calcium, which is great for our bones, teeth, and joints.
Vegans, in particular, should supplement with calcium carbonate since we don’t consume dairy.
8) Baking Soda
Baking soda is the everyday term used for sodium bicarbonate. Again, while this sounds like a mouthful, it’s actually an all-natural organic compound. Sodium bicarbonate is just the chemical term for a sodium molecule with two carbon molecules attached.
This common baking ingredient is used in bread, crackers, chips, pastries, and more to help the dough rise. This creates air bubbles within the dough, making for a softer, flakier. Product.
9) Soy Lecithin
Soy lecithin is a soy-derived additive that’s used as both a mild preservative and an emulsifier. It prevents bacteria from laying hold of the crackers and also helps to act as a “glue” holding the crackers together.
Although animal crackers aren’t exactly salty food, they do contain a little bit of salt. This ingredient is added to the dough mixture to create stronger bonds. This, in turn, makes for a sturdier cookie that won’t crumble and fall apart as easily.
11) Natural & Artificial Flavors
Last but not least, animal crackers also contain some natural and artificial flavors. This can vary depending on the brand. Some brands use lemon or citrus oils to give their crackers a fruity aftertaste, while others use vanilla or caramel flavoring.
Barnum hasn’t revealed what their secret flavors are, but one can only assume that they’re vegan, as the crackers don’t have meat or dairy-like flavor.
What Are The Best Vegan Animal Crackers
So far, the best vegan animal crackers that I’ve found are Trader Joe’s Animal Crackers. Their animal crackers are made with just a few simple, organic ingredients:
If you’re not lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your city or town, you can also buy them online from Amazon!
Conclusion – Can Vegans Eat Animal Crackers?
Yes! Animal crackers are almost always vegan-friendly. Although some brands may contain refined white sugar, you’ll never find any animal by-products or meat-derived ingredients in animal crackers. Plus, there are several brands that offer all-organic, vegan-certified varieties.
If you’re looking for some more great vegan-friendly snacks, be sure to check out my list of the best vegan cookies next!