Oreos were one of my favorite childhood snacks and desserts. In fact, they were one of the few things that I’d actually ask for more than ice cream!
As a child (or adult) it’s hard to say no to a delicious chocolate sandwich (made with real cocoa) with a delicious mystery filling. Are Oreos vegan, though?
Unfortunately, Oreos are not vegan-friendly. Although they don’t contain any dairy or animal by-products, they are often “cross-contaminated” with dairy products.
This means that they’re processed using the same machinery as other dairy-containing products, which makes them non-vegan.
So even though Oreos may be dairy-free, they’re still off-limits for strict vegans.
In today’s post, I’ll explain exactly why Oreos aren’t vegan, break down the main ingredients, answer some of the most commonly asked questions, and show you guys where to find vegan Oreo alternatives!
Are Oreos Vegan In The U.S.?
I’ve got some bad news for all of the former Oreo lovers out there…
Oreos are not vegan-friendly.
Although they’re not made with any animal by-products, there’s a pretty good chance that your Oreos may have been cross-contaminated with dairy or another dairy-containing snack produced on Nabisco’s giant manufacturing line.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Oreos are made on the factory line, check out this great snippet from the hit show How It’s Made:
What Are Oreos Made From?
The Oreo recipe, by itself, is pretty vegan friendly and doesn’t contain any questionable ingredients, other than refined sugar. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients so you can see for yourself.
Unbleached Enriched Flour
A couple of months ago, I wrote an in-depth post explaining why wheat flour is 100% vegan-friendly. It’s basically just ground-up wheat powder and is almost entirely plant-based.
The only difference between all-purpose flour and enriched flour is that enriched flour has added vitamins and minerals, which make the cookies slightly “healthier.”
Did you ever wonder why the Oreo cream filling was so addictive? The main ingredient in Oreos cream filling is refined white sugar, which is where its pure white color comes from.
Unfortunately, refined sugar is not vegan as it’s filtered through animal bone char. Vegan sugar is unrefined and comes in its natural, brown form.
Vegetable oil is the second main ingredient used to make the cream filling and is blended with the sugar to make it into a thick creamy filling. Oreos are made using either canola oil or palm oil.
While canola oil is perfectly vegan-friendly, palm oil contributes to rainforest deforestation and is therefore on the most vegan blacklists.
Since the label says that either oil could be used, this is another red flag.
Cocoa is just roasted, ground cacao, and is 100% vegan. In fact, cocoa can also provide some interesting health benefits. Some even take it as a replacement for coffee, as it’s known for providing a mild energy boost and improving your mood.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is the main sweetener used in a chocolate cookie. While it may be regarded as incredibly unhealthy by the majority of the health community, it is vegan since it’s plant-derived.
Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate and is a natural combination of organic molecules. It’s used as a leavening agent to keep the chocolate cookies thin and crunchy instead of soft and puffy. Like many other common baking ingredients, baking soda is 100% vegan.
Salt is… well, salt. Salt is never derived from animals, so you never have to worry about whether or not your salt is vegan.
Soy lecithin is used as a natural preservative. While it may not be the healthiest substance on earth, it is used in many vegan foods. It’s soy-based and is still a lot healthier than some of the other chemical preservatives used on the market.
Chocolate (presumably liquid chocolate or dark chocolate extract) is one of the final ingredients in Oreos. This is what gives the chocolate cookies such a deep, rich, chocolatey flavor. It’s also vegan, as it’s just made with chocolate and sugar.
Nabisco doesn’t specify what type of artificial flavoring it uses for Oreos, as it’s kind of a trade secret. However, the fact that the flavoring is artificial means that it’s vegan-friendly.
Do Oreos Contain Dairy?
As you can see, Oreos are completely non-dairy. They don’t contain any milk, cream, or dairy by-products like milk solids, whey, or casein.
In fact, there are only two non-vegan ingredients in Oreos:
- Refined white sugar
- Palm oil
What Does “Milk As A Cross Contact” Mean?
According to Oreo’s official website, Oreos are not vegan as they may contain milk as a cross-contact:
That’s a little bit of a strange term, so I had to look it up.
As it turns out, this is a common warning that’s used to alert consumers to the potential of certain allergens or possible contaminants. It means that Oreos are produced on the same exact equipment that often handles other dairy-containing products.
While the machines are usually cleaned between batches, there’s still the possibility that small milk-derived particles could find their way into your Oreos. So, Oreo’s official statement is that they’re not vegan-friendly food.
Are Oreos Vegan Or Vegetarian?
While Oreos may not be vegan-friendly, they are suitable for vegetarians. Although vegans and vegetarians are often confused, they’re actually quite a bit different from each other.
Vegans don’t consume any animal-derived products at all, while vegetarians may consume non-meat animal products like milk, yogurt, or honey.
Most vegetarians follow their diet for health or religious reasons, while most vegans follow their diet from an ethical standpoint, seeking to end animal cruelty and better the environment.
Are Oreos Vegan In The U.K.?
Many people don’t know this, but Oreos actually use a slightly different recipe in the U.K.! Most of the ingredients are exactly the same, with two exceptions:
- U.K. Oreos use sunflower lecithin in addition to soy lecithin.
- U.K. Oreos use glucose-fructose syrup instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
Let’s start with the first point. There’s more health awareness in the U.K., and consumers are aware of the fact that soy lecithin production involves more chemicals. Conversely, sunflower lecithin is cold-pressed and relatively chemical-free.
Secondly, Brits are well aware of how unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup is and prefer to use glucose-fructose syrup (derived from real sugar) instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
Is there a taste difference?
Some say yes, but most people would say that they taste the same.
Unfortunately, Oreos in the U.K. is no more vegan the Oreos in the U.S. They both contain refined sugar and palm oil, and they’re both processed on machinery that handles dairy-containing foods.
For a complete breakdown of the difference between Oreos in the U.S. and Oreos in the U.K., check out this cool video:
Is Golden Oreos Vegan?
Those looking for a loophole that still allows them to eat real Oreos are probably wondering about Golden Oreos. Unlike traditional Oreos, Golden Oreos use a golden-colored cookie sandwich instead of the classic dark brown, chocolate-flavored wafers.
Unfortunately, though, Golden Oreos aren’t 100% vegan.
The only difference between Golden Oreos and traditional Oreos is that the former doesn’t contain any cocoa powder or chocolate. Instead, natural and artificial vanilla flavoring is used to create a completely different flavor profile.
While they don’t have any directly animal-derived products, Golden Oreos still contain refined white sugar, palm oil, and are made on the same equipment as other dairy-containing snacks.
Check Out Vegan Oreo Alternatives
Thankfully, there are plenty of vegan Oreo alternatives on the market! Oreos have been around for over a hundred years, which has been more than enough time for copycats to replicate the authentic flavor.
While copycats and off-brands are generally looked down upon, vegan Oreo alternatives are not only healthier than Nabisco Oreos but taste better as well.
Some of my favorite vegan Oreo alternatives are:
- Back To Nature, Classic Cream Cookies (link)
- Catalina Crunch Chocolate Vanilla Keto Sandwich Cookies (link)
- Newman’s Own Organic Cookie O Chocolate Vanilla Creme (link)
- 365 by Whole Foods Market, Cookie Sandwich Cremes Chocolate (link)
Out of the four best-selling vegan Oreo alternatives, my favorite is Back to Nature’s Classic Cream Cookies. They use real dark chocolate to make the wafers, real cane sugar for the filling and don’t use any unhealthy hydrogenated oils.
All you need is a tall glass of oat milk to dip your vegan Oreos in, and it’ll be just like the good old days!
Vegan Oreos vs. Nabisco Oreos
Wondering what the real difference between Nabisco Oreos and their vegan alternatives is? There are a few differences, depending on the brand. However, the table below outlines some of the key differences that you can expect from a vegan Oreo alternative:
|Nabisco Oreos||Vegan Oreo Alternative|
|Contain refined white sugar, a non-vegan product that’s filtered through animal bone char.||Typically made with pure, unrefined cane sugar.|
|Often contains high-fructose corn syrup, an unhealthy sweetener that’s often associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes.||Typically use brown rice syrup, agave, or unrefined molasses instead, all of which are vegan sweeteners.|
|Are processed on the same machinery that’s used to process dairy and dairy-containing foods.||Are processed with higher regard to allergens. This means that the machinery is completely cleaned before production or that the machinery is never used for dairy-containing products.|
In Conclusion – Can Vegans Eat Oreos?
Although Oreos are vegetarian-friendly, they’re not vegan.
The fact that they contain palm oil and refined sugar, combined with the fact that they’re processed on the same machinery as other dairy-containing foods are enough to trigger my moral compass. Thankfully, there are plenty of other great vegan Oreo alternatives, though!
To see a full list of my favorite vegan cookies, check out my guide to the best vegan cookies here!