Since they were first launched in 1964, Pop-Tarts have been an iconic American breakfast snack.
The most popular flavor is arguably the Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts, but the brand has a constantly growing list of flavors such as S’Mores, Chocolate, Blueberry, Cinnamon, and even some unfrosted varieties as well!
Are Pop-Tarts vegan, though?
Sadly, most Pop-Tarts aren’t vegan. Many of the flavors contain milk by-products (used for the frosting) and others also contain gelatin, which comes from animal fat.
If you’re a strict vegan who doesn’t believe in consuming white sugar or palm oil, then you should avoid ALL Pop-Tarts flavors, as they contain palm oil and refined white sugar.
I ate enough Pop-Tarts as a kid to last a lifetime, so I’m not really disappointed. However, I understand that this may be a bit disappointing for some.
Whether you’re looking for the best vegan-friendly Pop-Tarts flavors or you just want to find out what’s in Pop-Tarts, you’ve come to the right place!
Below, I’ll give you an in-depth look at what Pop-Tarts are made with and why they’re not vegan-friendly food.
Are Pop-Tarts Dairy-Free?
Although there are some Pop-Tarts flavors that are dairy-free, the majority of Pop-Tarts contain dairy.
Dairy and dairy by-products are one of the key ingredients used to make the iconic Pop-Tarts frosting. The frosting is typically made using a mixture of milkfat, non-fat milk, and sugar. Some varieties may also contain the milk protein casein to provide added texture.
The only dairy-free varieties of Pop-Tarts are the unfrosted Pop-Tarts. In my opinion, though, this kind of defeats the purpose of Pop-Tarts to begin with. Personally, I’d rather eat a slice of toast with vegan bread and fresh jelly than an unfrosted Pop-Tart!
You even have to be careful with unfrosted Pop-Tarts, as some of the unfrosted varieties may use milk products in the Pop-Tarts filling.
The only way to tell for sure if a flavor of Pop-Tarts is dairy-free is by closely examining the lengthy ingredients list.
Do Pop-Tarts Have Animal Gelatin?
Almost all flavors of Pop-Tarts contain gelatin. Gelatin is the primary ingredient in Jell-O and is used to give food a gel-like texture.
It’s also used as a stabilizing agent and can help ingredients remain solid and consistent, even when they’re left on store shelves for months at a time.
Although most people tend to associate gelatin with the fun, family-friendly Jell-O treat, gelatin is far from vegan.
In fact, gelatin is pretty much just powdered animal fat. After animals are butchered for their meat, the remaining bones, ligaments, fat, and connective tissues are reduced into a number of animal by-products.
Some animal fat by-products find their way into cosmetics such as keratin or collagen. The rest is turned into gelatin, which is one of the most commonly used food additives in processed foods
Which Flavor Pop-Tarts Are Vegan?
If you’re a vegan, pretty much all flavors of Pop-Tarts with frosting are off-limits. These all contain added white sugar, gelatin, and milk by-products used to make the frosting.
That being said, if you’re a not-so-strict vegan, then the unfrosted varieties of Pop-Tarts are somewhat vegan.
These are the Pop-Tarts flavors that are most commonly regarded as vegan-friendly:
|Vegan Pop-Tarts Flavors||Questionable Ingredients|
|Unfrosted Blueberry Pop-Tarts||Palm oil|
|Unfrosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts||Palm oil|
|Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon||Palm oil|
Technically, if you’re not a strict anti-palm oil vegan, then you could consume unfrosted Pop-Tarts without compromising your morals. Palm oil tends to be a pretty big deal among vegans, though.
Although some palm oil is ethically sourced and harvested, the majority of the world’s palm oil either comes from the South American rainforest or Indonesia.
Sadly, these countries have very little regard for their natural resources and few laws against over-farming.
Over the past couple of decades, a large percentage of both Indonesia and Brazil’s natural rainforest has all but disappeared… mostly due to palm fruit farming.
The loss of trees isn’t the most concerning thing. As forests are chopped down, animals die out as their homes are destroyed. Often, already endangered animals find their way into human civilization, where they’re hunted down and killed as “pests.”
So, if you really break it down, even unfrosted Pop-Tarts aren’t vegan-friendly.
Pop-Tarts Ingredients: Listed
So now that you know a little bit more about why most Pop-Tarts aren’t vegan, I’ll do my usual breakdown of the key ingredients used to make Pop-Tarts.
To give you a good idea of everything that’s in Pop-Tarts, here’s a snapshot of the ingredients used in Pop-Tarts’ best-selling flavor, Frosted Strawberry:
Now, let me take a few more minutes to break some of the key ingredients down.
1) Enriched Wheat Flour
The main ingredient is enriched wheat flour. This is what’s used to make the crust, which consists of about 80% of the Pop-Tart itself.
Wheat flour, by itself, is completely vegan-friendly. It’s a plant-based food ingredient that comes from grinding down dried wheat into a fine, pulverized powder.
It’s enriched with all-natural vitamins and minerals that make it somewhat healthier. This is what allows the company to market itself as a “healthy” breakfast.
2) Corn Syrup + High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Both corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are technically plant-based vegan-friendly sweeteners. They come from processing the natural sugars in corn.
These are used to create the sweet, sugary filling that Pop-Tarts lovers enjoy the most. That being said, neither of them is very healthy for you. Dr. Berg tells it best:
Here’s the first non-vegan ingredient in Pop-Tarts. Refined white sugar is one of the main ingredients used to make the Pop-Tarts frosting. Although cane sugar is vegan, refined white sugar is not vegan.
This is because the all-natural cane sugar is filtered through animal bone char, which is what gives it its all-white appearance.
Unfortunately, this is also what makes it non-vegan.
4) Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil (soybean and palm oil) is used during the baking process and provides fat, which holds the Pop-Tarts together. While soybean oil is generally regarded as vegan-friendly, palm oil is unfortunately not vegan.
5) Bleached Wheat Flour
Although it’s unhealthy, bleached wheat flour is vegan-friendly. This is used to coat the outside of the Pop-Tarts and provides a light, powder-like finish that keeps the Pop-Tarts from sticking to the packaging (or your hands).
6) Dried Fruit
Other than the wheat flour, the dried fruit used to make the Pop-Tarts filling is about the only natural ingredient. The most commonly used fruits in Pop-Tarts include strawberries, pears, and apples.
Salt is a key baking ingredient and is 100% vegan. Pop-Tarts contain very little salt, though, so they’re not a high-sodium food.
As you can tell from the list above, Pop-Tarts contain a couple of preservatives. The most common preservatives used in Pop-Tarts are citric acid and soy lecithin.
9) Starch & Artificial Food Additives
Pop-Tarts contain tons of starch, food coloring, and xanthan gum. These all help to keep the Pop-Tarts together and give them a longer-than-natural shelf life.
Conclusion – Are Pop-Tarts Vegan?
If you don’t have a personal problem with palm oil, then sure – go ahead and eat a few unfrosted Pop-Tarts!
However, if you’re a strict vegan and don’t want to consume any food products that damage animals and the environment, then Pop-Tarts are not a vegan-friendly food.
If you’re looking for a delicious, slightly sweet vegan breakfast, then I recommend any one of these delicious vegan cereal brands!