Biscuits are an American classic, and Pillsbury Biscuits are, arguably, some of the best-tasting, flakiest biscuits you’ll find on the market. But are Pillsbury biscuits vegan?
Although they’re not vegan-certified, Pillsbury’s original Grand! Flaky Layers biscuits are “accidentally” vegan, as they don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients like butter or eggs.
However, not every flavor of Pillsbury biscuits are vegan. Below, I’ll break down the ingredients in Pillsbury’s classic biscuit recipe and show you which biscuit flavors are vegan and non-vegan, so you know what to buy for your next homemade breakfast.
Traditionally, biscuits are made with a very simple recipe consisting of:
- Baking powder
- Vegetable oil or butter
Unlike the yeast-based bread dough, which must be left to rise overnight, biscuits can be made “on the fly,” as they use baking powder as a leavening agent. Baking powder is an artificial chemical that helps the dough rise, albeit over a shorter period of time. The result is a thicker, less airy dough.
Just as waffles are distinctly Belgian, biscuits are distinctly American.
One of the reasons why biscuits became so popular in American culture was that they could be made quickly, using simple ingredients that could be found in any general store.
For cowboys and pioneers traveling west, speed was of the essence and they didn’t have time to sit around all day waiting for bread dough to rise.
Other than the baking powder used to make them, biscuits are generally plant-based.
Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients in Pillsbury’s classic Grands! Flaky Layers biscuits:
Although most of the main ingredients are natural and plant-based, these biscuits contain a number of artificial or chemically-modified ingredients. This means that Pillsbury biscuits can’t be considered 100% plant-based.
However, they’re still generally acceptable for vegans to eat, as they don’t contain animal-derived ingredients.
In the company’s search to create the perfect biscuit, Pillsbury experimented with a number of different recipes and additives. The company has been around since 1889, so they’ve had plenty of time to develop the perfect recipe to create the flakiest, crispiest texture.
Curious about what they’re made of?
Here’s a complete breakdown of the ingredients used to make Pillsbury’s classic flaky biscuits.
Flour, by itself, is always vegan, as it’s simply made from ground plant material that’s been dried and pulverized to create a fine powder.
Bleached enriched wheat flour is a type of flour that has been treated with chemicals to bleach the color and improve its texture. It is made by milling wheat grains into a fine powder, then enriching it with nutrients like iron, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
Although bleach (i.e. Clorox) isn’t added to the flour, it’s chemically bleached using other food-safe ingredients. The bleaching process is what gives the flour its distinctive white color.
This type of flour is commonly used in commercial baking, as it produces a softer, lighter texture in baked goods, which is why Pillsbury uses it for all of its biscuit recipes.
Water is vegan when used as a baking additive because it is a natural element. As humans, we ourselves are 70% water! Water is simply a chemical compound made up of hydrogen atoms and one oxygen.
When used in baking, water acts as a medium to dissolve other ingredients and help them mix together. It also helps to moisten and tenderize baked goods, making them softer and more flavorful.
Pillsbury biscuits are made using two distinct types of vegetable oil:
- Soybean oil
- Palm oil
Soybean oil is 100% vegan and is used in many vegan and plant-based snacks.
Palm oil, on the other hand, is problematic for many vegans. While it’s technically plant-based, the farming and production of palm oil is harmful to the environment. Palm oil farms are typically located in tropical regions, where large swaths of rainforest are cut down to make room for these mega farms.
The rainforest is one of our planet’s most valuable natural resources as it helps to filter our air and is home to many of our most endangered species.
As a pure dietary vegan, palm oil is okay to consume. However, if you’re concerned about ethical issues, then you may want to avoid this ingredient.
Sugar, while naturally derived, is often a problematic ingredient for vegans. Natural turbinado sugar is always vegan. However, this natural product is then further filtered using bone char filters, which are made with the charred remains of animal bones (obtained directly from meat farms).
Like palm oil, many ethically-driven vegans try to avoid refined sugars when possible. However, sugar is technically a plant-based ingredient, so dietary vegans shouldn’t have an issue.
Although baking powder isn’t natural, per se, it is vegan-friendly.
It’s commonly used in baking to help dough and batter rise. It is made up of a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a moisture-absorbing agent.
When mixed with liquid, the acid and baking soda react to produce CO2 gas, which causes the dough or batter to rise.
Gluten is a concentrated protein found in wheat and a few other grains.
It’s 100% vegan and plant-based and is often added to dough recipes as a thickening and strengthening agent.
Dextrose is a simple, starchy sugar that’s added for flavor and texture. It also helps to absorb moisture, creating a dryer, flakier dough mixture. Interestingly enough, it’s also one of the key ingredients used in vegan mass gainers.
Salt is an essential ingredient used to strengthen protein bonds within dough. This results in a thicker, hardier dough, which is essential for baking flaky biscuits.
Potassium chloride is commonly used as a salt substitute in vegan cooking and baking, as it can provide the same flavor enhancement as regular salt without the negative health effects associated with high sodium intake.
Xanthan gum is a man-made preservative agent. While it’s considered a vegan ingredient, it’s not the healthiest to consume on a daily basis.
Mono and diglycerides are used in baking as emulsifiers to help mix ingredients together. Essentially, they’re fatty acids found in natural vegetable oils, which means they’re vegan-friendly.
Preservatives TBHQ and citric acid are used to help Pillsbury biscuits stay fresh in their container. TBHQ is artificial and citric acid is naturally-derived. Both are vegan-friendly additives, though.
In an effort to create a more “golden” color, Pillsbury has chosen to add beta-carotene coloring to its biscuit dough. Beta-carotene is 100% vegan and is derived from natural plant-based sources, such as carrots.
Although the ingredients list appears to be vegan-friendly, all Pillsbury biscuit packages feature a disclaimer stating that the biscuits, “may contain milk ingredients.”
This is because all of Pillsbury’s biscuits are made on the same machinery, including the buttermilk flavors, which contain dairy-derived ingredients.
Here, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this is a problem. As long as you’re consuming a dairy-free variety of Pillsbury biscuits, then they’re technically vegan. However, there’s always the risk of cross-contamination.
Curious about which flavors are more vegan-friendly than the rest?
Although all Pillsbury biscuits contain the, “may contain milk ingredients” disclaimer, some directly include milk in the recipe, while others are simply at risk for cross-contamination.
Here’s a table detailing which flavors are safer than others:
|Vegan-Friendly Pillsbury Biscuits||Non-Vegan Pillsbury Biscuits|
|Grand! Flaky Layers Original Biscuits||Grand! Flaky Layers Buttermilk Biscuits|
|Grands! Southern Homestyle Biscuits||Grand! Flaky Layers Butter Tastin’ Biscuits|
|Grands! Flaky Layers Hawaiian Style Biscuits||Grand! Flaky Layers Honey Butter Biscuits|
Are Homemade Biscuits Vegan?
Homemade biscuits are often made using butter, which is a dairy ingredient made from cow’s milk. However, vegan-friendly biscuit recipes made with vegetable oil or vegan butter are also popular.
Your best bet is to ask the individual who baked them what the biscuits were made out of, so you can be 100% sure.
While all Pillsbury biscuit varieties contain a, “may include milk ingredients” statement, only about half of the company’s biscuits actually contain dairy as a main ingredient.
However, all Pillsbury biscuits contain palm oil and white sugar, both of which are avoided by ethical vegans.
So, this is a bit of a tough one.
Personally, I’d go with a more natural, organic biscuit recipe. However, I wouldn’t be too concerned about eating a non-dairy Pillsbury biscuit from time to time.
Looking for more vegan breakfast ideas? Keep on reading to see Dunkin’s vegan breakfast menu!