In 1928 former Hershey employee, Harry Reese left his employer to start his very own chocolate company.
He used wholesale milk chocolate that he got from Hershey’s and used it to create a unique peanut butter-stuffed treat designed to make peanut butter lovers go wild. Today, Reese’s is one of the most popular candies in the world!
However, are Reese’s vegan?
Unfortunately, Reese’s are NOT vegan. Although the candy is made with real peanuts, the milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate used in Reese’s are not vegan, as it contains dairy products. Reese’s are also made with white sugar, which is boycotted by a number of vegans.
Below, I’ll give you a full breakdown of all of the main ingredients in Reese’s and explain exactly why the candy isn’t vegan-friendly. Keep on reading to learn more!
Why Are Reese’s Not Vegan?
When I first went vegan, I thought that for sure, I wouldn’t have to give up Reese’s… I’d always been an avid lover of all things chocolate-peanut butter, so Reese’s were a regular indulgence for me.
Anytime that I’d go to the movie theater – Reese’s.
Binging my favorite show on Netflix – Reese’s.
Feeling “hangry” on my period – Reese’s.
I was fine giving up pretty much every other candy and sweet treat that I’d grown used to; just not Reese’s. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that Reese’s isn’t a vegan-friendly candy.
Thankfully, both chocolate and peanut butter, by themselves, are usually vegan. So, I started making my own homemade treats using real chocolate and peanut butter! Check out the recipe I use here:
So, why aren’t Reese’s vegan?
The main reason why Reese’s aren’t vegan is that they contain milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is a special type of sweet, light-tasting chocolate that’s made using milk, cream, or some form of dairy powder. Vegans, of course, don’t consume dairy because it’s an animal product.
However, that’s not the only problematic ingredient in Reese’s. The white sugar used to sweeten Reese’s is also a questionable additive in the vegan community.
Although white sugar comes from sugarcane (a plant), the raw cane sugar is processed through animal remains before it’s sold on store shelves.
Vegans are fine with raw cane sugar. However, white sugar is refined through animal bone char to remove the natural brown color from the crystals. Unfortunately, this process makes one of the most common sweeteners in the world non-vegan.
On the low, the fact that white sugar is used for 99% of all sweets is the reason why most vegans don’t indulge in sweets very often. If you ever get the chance to visit one of New York’s amazing vegan bakeries, you’ll notice that most of the recipes are made using raw cane sugar instead!
Do Reese’s Contain Dairy?
Although most people just see Reese’s as a chocolate and peanut butter candy, what they don’t realize is that Reese’s contains a good bit of dairy. This means that Reese’s aren’t suitable for vegans or those who are lactose-intolerant.
Can Vegetarians Eat Reese’s?
Vegans don’t eat Reese’s because they contain dairy, which is an animal by-product. Dairy is obtained through the exploitation of cows, and therefore, it doesn’t align with the vegan creed of, “Do no harm.”
Vegetarians, on the other hand, differ from vegans in the fact that they are okay with eating animal by-products; just not the animals themselves.
This means that vegetarians consume dairy, honey, eggs, and other foods that vegans don’t consume. Since Reese’s only contains dairy (and no meat-derived products), they are technically still vegetarian.
Which Reese’s Are Vegan? Are There Any Vegan Reese’s?
Unfortunately, there are no vegan-friendly Reeses. All of the varieties of Reese’s are made with milk chocolate or chocolate that contains milk.
What Are Reese’s Made Of? Ingredients Analyzed
Since Reese’s were first produced (almost a hundred years ago), the original recipe has changed very little. The three main ingredients in the candy are still chocolate, peanut butter, and sugar.
The only difference is that more preservatives and starch are added today. These are added to improve the shelf life and consistency of the product.
Take a look at the list of ingredients used in the original Milk Chocolate Reese’s Cups:
Whenever I write these types of posts, I always like to give my readers an easy-to-understand breakdown, explaining all of the ingredients in terms that we can all relate to.
It seems like there’s often a lot of confusion when it comes to the ingredients in our food. As vegans, it’s incredibly important to understand the ingredients in our food. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to tell which additives are and aren’t vegan.
Relying on Google isn’t enough either. While I certainly try to provide you with the most accurate information, I’ve seen plenty of inaccurate information on other vegan blogs.
So, the best way to stay vegan is to learn more about food ingredients, so you can easily identify vegan-friendly foods!
With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of all of the ingredients used to make Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
1) Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is the main ingredient in almost all Reese’s (except for the Reese’s Dark Chocolate variety). Milk chocolate is the main reason why Reese’s is not vegan. As the name implies, milk chocolate is made with milk (specifically nonfat milk, milk fat, and lactose).
Milk chocolate is also the reason why many brands of chocolate chips traditionally aren’t vegan either.
The dairy industry is very cruel and unsustainable. It also contributes to greenhouse gas pollution and global warming, which is another reason to abstain from dairy.
Peanuts are about the only thing that’s “healthy” about Reese’s. They’re used to make the base of peanut butter, which is where Reese’s gets all of their flavors from.
Peanuts are a healthy, plant-based food that is rich in unsaturated fats and natural minerals. They’re also very fibrous and filling, so they make for a more satisfying meal.
Unlike real peanut butter, Reese’s adds sugar to its peanut butter to make for a sweeter-tasting candy. Unfortunately, the white sugar used to make Reese’s peanut butter isn’t vegan, since it’s filtered through bone char to remove its natural malt flavor and brown shade.
Each serving of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups also contains 22 grams of sugar, which is a lot more than you need to consume in one sitting. In my mind, this is just another reason to say “No” to Reese’s!
Dextrose is very similar to maltodextrin and is a starch that’s very commonly used in snacks, candy, and other processed foods. Dextrose is a sugary starch that’s typically extracted from corn, potatoes, or rice.
Dextrose, while unhealthy, is vegan-friendly. It’s a purely plant-based food additive. The main reason that it’s unhealthy is that dextrose is just empty carbohydrates and sugar. Consuming dextrose is no different from eating a bunch of sugar.
While dextrose is often added to food as a sweetener, it’s added to Reese’s as a caking agent. It’s mixed in with the peanut butter to create a more solid, slightly candy-like version of Reese’s.
A bit of salt is added to Reese’s peanut butter to balance out the sweet taste. It’s commonly used in peanut butter, so there’s nothing unexpected here.
Salt is a vegan-friendly additive, so you never have to worry about this ingredient. It’s a very common ingredient that’s added to many snacks and vegan foods.
Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a mouthful ingredient.
TBHQ has been the source of lots of debate among scientists and nutritionists. Although it’s vegan-friendly, it’s nowhere near close to healthy.
In high doses, TBHQ has been shown to cause liver damage, cause seizures and convulsions, and even paralysis in lab-tested animals.
Aside from the disturbing fact that TBHQ is an animal-tested ingredient, it’s not anything that I want to be putting in my body. I’d much rather stick to all-natural peanut butter and chocolate.
7) Citric Acid
Citric acid is a very common additive that’s found in candy, snacks, and other processed foods. It’s a simple, citrus-derived acid that’s usually synthesized in a lab.
It’s safe to consume and acts as a natural preservative, increasing the pH level of the food and making it harder for bacteria to reproduce.
Are Reese’s Pieces Vegan?
Unfortunately, Reese’s Pieces are made with the same milk chocolate that Reese’s cups are made with. This means that Reese’s Pieces are NOT vegan.
Are Reese’s Dark Chocolate Vegan?
I know what you’re thinking… “Milk chocolate might not be vegan, but what about dark chocolate? Can vegans eat Reese’s Dark Chocolate Cups?”
While dark chocolate is often dairy-free, unfortunately, Reese’s Dark Chocolate Cups are still non-vegan. Reese’s Dark Chocolate is technically made with semisweet chocolate, which contains dairy. It just doesn’t have quite as much dairy as milk chocolate.
The Verdict – Are Reese’s A Vegan-Friendly Treat?
Sadly, there are no vegan-friendly Reese varieties on the market. They’re all made with dairy and all contain white sugar, which is a non-vegan sweetener. Additionally, the fact that most Reese’s contain TBHQ is very disturbing, given recent studies.
If you’re craving a chocolate fix, then I’d recommend baking your own chocolate treats using real cocoa powder, which is 100% vegan! To learn more about cocoa powder, continue reading here!