If you walk into most large gas stations and convenience stores in the US, you’ll likely find an entire drink station dedicated to ICEE products.
The bright-colored, fruity-flavored slushies have been around since 1958, and are one the most recognizable brands in the United States. The only question is, “Are ICEEs vegan?”
Surprisingly, all ICEE slushies are 100% vegan! They’re made from a combination of artificial and chemical ingredients, none of which come from animals or involve the use of animal by-products to create them.
So go ahead – the next time you’re craving something icy and cold, be sure to grab an ICEE from your local corner store! Below, I’ll show you exactly what ICEEs are made of and explain why they’re okay for vegans to drink.
Are ICEEs Dairy-Free?
When it comes to cold, frozen beverages like slushies, shakes, and smoothies, dairy is one of the biggest concerns. It’s usually the only non-vegan product that you’ll find regularly used in frozen drinks. Even healthy shakes often contain added whey protein (a milk derivative).
Thankfully, ICEE products are all dairy-free. You’ll never find milk, cream, whey, casein, or any other dairy products used in any of ICEE’s slushies, no matter what flavor you’re looking at!
This means that ICEEs are suitable for both vegans and dieters who are lactose-intolerant as well. While it’s possible to find issues with all of the artificial colors and sugar in ICEEs, they’re as vegan-friendly as a slushy can get!
Are All Slushies Vegan?
ICEE is the original slushy. Oddly enough, they were the result of broken machinery in a small Dairy Queen location in Kansas. The owner, Omar Knedlik, was frustrated after his soda cooler broke and had to place all of his sodas in the freezer.
To his surprise, people still wanted the frozen bottles of soda. In the hot Kansas summers, the frozen sodas would quickly turn into a slush that his customers absolutely loved. This was in 1958.
Two years later, Omar took a trip to Dallas to work with a company to manufacture the first-ever ICEE machine. This machine would keep soda in a constant state of “slush” – the perfect blend between a liquid and frozen soda that could be sipped with a straw.
From there, the ICEE brand caught the attention of 7-Eleven and other retailers. The rest is history, and now ICEE products can be found everywhere!
For the most part, slushies are usually vegan. The machines they’re stabilized in aren’t designed to handle dairy products, so the slushies are usually vegan.
That being said, it’s still a good idea to double-check the ingredients before you try any other brands of slushies. For example, some store-bought slushies may also contain refined white sugar, which many vegans don’t consume.
White sugar goes through a refining process in which the natural cane sugar is filtered through animal bone char.
This, of course, supports the meat industry and is why most vegans are switching to products that contain cane sugar or man-made sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.
If you want to be 100% sure that your slushy is vegan, I recommend sticking to the ICEE brand, as all of the flavors are vegan-friendly!
Conversely, you can make your own slushy at home using some ice, a blender, and your favorite fresh fruit, vegan sodas, tonics, or juice drinks:
Are ICEEs Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a hot-button topic in today’s dietary society. While gluten often gets a bad reputation, there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with it. Gluten is just a plant-based protein that’s found in wheat and other grains.
The problem is that an increasing number of people are becoming sensitive to gluten and developing an allergy to it. When gluten-intolerant individuals consume gluten, they can suffer from moderate to severe reactions that range from minor stomach pain to severe swelling.
Thankfully, all ICEE products are gluten-free. None of ICEE’s slushies contain wheat, barley, rye, or triticale (a type of grain) products.
Those with inflammatory conditions may still want to be wary of the high amounts of sugar in ICEEs, though. Often, gluten intolerance is the result of a deeper inflammatory condition, such as celiac disease, IBS, ulcerative colitis, or fibromyalgia.
All of these conditions can be triggered into “flare-ups” when excessive sugar is consumed.
What is Icee Made Of? Ingredients Analyzed
At this point, you’re probably getting curious as to what ICEEs are actually made of. As I mentioned earlier, the original ICEE beverages were just frozen sodas that had been placed in a Dairy Queen freezer and then allowed to thaw.
For the most part, ICEEs are made with a few simple ingredients. Compared to some of the other sodas and processed drinks I’ve seen on the market, ICEEs actually contain fewer ingredients!
For example, here are the ingredients in the best-selling ICEE flavor – Blue Raspberry:
Most of the other flavors also use the same base ingredients, so this ingredient breakdown also applies to most of ICEE’s other flavors as well. Here’s a quick explanation of each ingredient, so you better understand what’s in your slush!
1) High-Fructose Corn Syrup
The primary sweetener used in ICEEs is high-fructose corn syrup. This is essentially a more concentrated, processed version of normal corn syrup. Due to its highly concentrated nature, not as much of it needs to be used, compared to other sweeteners like white sugar or normal corn syrup.
While high-fructose corn syrup isn’t very healthy for you (since it’s a super-concentrated form of sugar), it is 100% vegan-friendly. Unlike white sugar products (which are filtered through animal bone char filters), high-fructose corn syrup is made without any animal by-products.
Like most sodas and juices, water is one of the main ingredients.
Water, of course, is always vegan! It’s essential to all life on earth and is not vegan. Sure, there are some companies that offer more sustainable water brands, which I try to support. But you shouldn’t worry too much about the water used in your food products.
3) Citric Acid
Citric acid is a natural acid that’s found in citrus plants (oranges, lemons, limes) as well as other fruits. That being said, most of the citric acid used in our food is made in a lab, where it’s 100% pure and unadulterated.
Since citric acid is either all-natural or lab-made, you never have to worry about it being non-vegan!
Citric acid serves two primary purposes when added to beverages. First and foremost, it’s a natural preservative. When you add citric acid (or any acid) to a food or drink, it becomes more acidic.
The more acidic a food or beverage is, the harder it is for bacteria to set in and start repopulating. This is the basis of all modern food preservation.
The second reason why citric acid is used is to provide a citrusy, fruity flavor. It’s often paired with sour flavors (such as this Blue Raspberry ICEE) or citrus flavors.
4) Yucca & Quillaja Extracts
Yucca and quillaja are both natural roots that are used in a variety of food and drink products. The primary goal of yucca is to act as an antimicrobial, preventing bacteria. However, yucca and quillaja both act as “foaming agents.”
Whenever quillaia extract is added to food, it creates a foamy texture. For example, root beer gets its foamy top from the quillaia root extract used to make it.
If you’ve ever had an ICEE before, then you may remember how it had a thick, foamy texture. When combined with the half-frozen texture of the beverage, these root extracts help to create the perfect consistency.
Plus, they’re all natural, which I really appreciate!
5) Artificial Flavors
All ICEE slushies are artificially flavored, depending on the variety. While some doctors suggest that artificial flavors aren’t good for humans, the FDA still claims that they’re safe to consume.
Personally, I stand somewhere in between. I don’t think that they’re good to consume all the time. However, as long as they’re consumed in moderation, they shouldn’t cause issues.
The good thing about artificial flavors is that they’re always vegan! You never have to worry about them coming from animal or bug-derived sources since they’re all lab-made.
6) Sodium Benzoate
Sodium benzoate is a common preservative used in a number of beverages. It’s an artificial chemical that’s very acidic, so it’s definitely not the healthiest for you. It is vegan-safe, though.
7) Artificial Coloring
Last but not least, all ICEEs are artificially colored. Like artificial flavors, man-made colors are also vegan-friendly since they don’t involve any animal cruelty.
Are All ICEEs Made With The Same Ingredients?
Most ICEEs are made with the same basic ingredients:
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Citric Acid
- Yucca and Quillaja
- Artificial Flavors and Colors
For example, here are the ingredients used in ICEE’s famous Cherry slushy:
Conclusion – Are ICEEs Vegan-Friendly?
If it’s a hot day and you’re looking for the perfect drink to cool you down, then you can’t go wrong with ICEE slushies. They’re always vegan-friendly and they don’t contain any animal by-products, so you never have to worry about mystery ingredients.
If you’re looking for another great treat to beat the heat, then vegan ice cream is another great option! Keep on reading to see my favorite vegan ice cream brands next!