When I was little, I remember that one of my grandma’s favorite snacks was Ritz Crackers topped with a small slice of cheese and a piece of salami. Obviously, the cheese and salami are off-limits for vegans. What about the crackers, though?
Are Ritz Crackers vegan?
Ritz Crackers are generally regarded as a vegan because they don’t contain any immediate animal products. However, they do contain both palm oil and refined sugar, which most ethical vegans avoid. If you’re a strict dietary vegan, though, Ritz Crackers are a great animal-free treat!
I know, the answer isn’t exactly clear. Like most mainstream foods, Ritz Crackers contain some questionable ingredients that fall into a gray area for most vegans.
Below, I’ll break down the ingredients in Ritz and explain why ethical vegans may not be okay with some of the additives used in the popular brand of crackers. Then, I’ll leave it up to you to decide!
Ritz Crackers: A Semi-Vegan Cracker
If you run a quick Google search for the keyword, “Are Ritz Crackers Vegan,” you’ll see that most of the top-rated posts claim that Ritz is, in fact, vegan. This is, in part, true.
Ritz Crackers don’t contain any animal products.
That being said, they contain palm oil and white sugar; one of which is filtered through animal bones, while the other contributes to rainforest destruction on a global scale. This is where it really comes down to what type of vegan you are.
A dietary vegan is somebody who’s vegan for purely dietary reasons. More and more doctors are coming out and saying that a plant-based diet is far better for your long-term health and well-being. As a result, many people are going vegan purely for health benefits.
On the other hand, you have ethical vegans. These are people who go vegan to better the planet.
Ethical vegans choose the lifestyle to prevent animal cruelty and help the planet’s ecosystem by completely abstaining from any and all products that have even the slightest relation to the meat or are destructive to the environment.
The Problem With Sugar & Palm Oil In Ritz Crackers
As far as ethical vegans (and PETA) are concerned, both white sugar and palm oil are completely off-limits. This is because both of these popular food additives are the result of non-ethical industries.
Let’s start with sugar since that’s one of the most common ingredients that’s used in at least 75% of every item on the grocery store shelf…
Cane sugar, in its natural form, it’s completely vegan. It’s the result of extracting juice from the sugarcane plant and evaporating the water. The crystals left behind are pure sugar (commonly referred to as turbinado sugar).
At one point in time, this was the only sugar that ever existed. Then, somewhere along the way, some companies decided that they wanted sugar to be white. To achieve this white color, the natural sugar needs to be filtered through a high-carbon animal bone char.
Unfortunately, this process is responsible for turning the otherwise plant-based sweetener into a non-vegan sugar, as it directly supports the meat industry.
Next, we have palm oil, which is a natural cooking oil that’s extracted from the fruit of palm trees. Some palm oil is completely vegan and is ethically and responsibly farmed and processed. However, most palm oil isn’t sustainable and is therefore non-vegan.
You see, the palm oil industry is, by far, one of the biggest contributors to the wholesale destruction of our natural rainforests.
Greedy farms burn down hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest every single year to fuel the ever-increasing demand for cheap palm oil. As the forest is destroyed, tens of thousands of animals are burned alive and pushed to the brink of extinction.
In short, ethical vegans abstain from white sugar and palm oil because they’re industries that use animal products in production or directly contribute to animal death.
Do Ritz Crackers Have Butter?
Ritz Crackers are known for their classic buttery taste. Thankfully, though, they don’t contain any actual butter. This makes Ritz okay for lactose-intolerant individuals and dietary vegans to consume!
Ritz Crackers Ingredients: Listed
Now that I’ve outlined the ethical arguments surrounding Ritz Crackers, it’s time to give you a full breakdown of all of the ingredients, so you can decide for yourself. For reference, here’s the shortlist straight from the manufacturer:
1) Enriched Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is 100% vegan and is just finely ground wheat that’s used for baking and cooking. It’s enriched with vegan-friendly vitamins and minerals to make for a healthier cracker.
2) Canola Oil
Canola oil is the main cooking oil used in Ritz and is a vegan-friendly oil made by extracting plant oils from canola flowers.
3) Palm Oil
Palm oil is one of the most popular cooking oils due to how cheap it is to produce. Sadly, most palm oil isn’t vegan due to the fact that it’s destroying our planet’s limited rainforests.
White refined sugar is used to give Ritz Crackers a slightly sweet aftertaste. Unfortunately, it’s filtered through animal bone char, making it a non-vegan additive, as far as ethical vegans are concerned.
Every cracker is topped with a bit of salt to give it flavor. Salt is always vegan-friendly!
6) Leavening Agent
Baking soda and calcium phosphate are added to the cracker dough to prevent the dough from rising in the oven. This is essential for all crackers!
7) High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is one of the least healthy sweeteners in the world. However, it is vegan-friendly and plant-based, so it’s generally accepted by most vegans.
8) Soy Lecithin
Soy lecithin is a natural soy-based additive that’s often used as a mild preservative. This helps keep the crackers shelf-stable and allows them to sit in your pantry for months without going bad.
9) Natural Flavoring
Ritz Crackers uses natural flavoring in its crackers to give them their unique taste. This is a very questionable ingredient, as Ritz isn’t forthcoming about what type of flavoring is in their crackers.
While some natural flavoring additives are vegan-friendly, others are derived from animal sources, such as butter, dairy, or meat. Unfortunately, this is the end of the trail, as Ritz has never disclosed what type of flavoring they use. Presumably, it’s a trade secret.
Are Ritz Crackers Gluten-Free?
All Ritz Crackers are made with wheat flour, which has very high levels of gluten. So, if you’re gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, then you’d do well to avoid Ritz!
The Verdict – Ritz Crackers Are Okay For Some Vegans
Ritz Crackers are a good snack for those who are simply dietary vegans. However, if you’re an ethical vegan, then you should avoid Ritz Crackers since they contain palm oil and refined white sugar.
If you’re looking for a crunchy, vegan-friendly snack without sugar or palm oil, be sure to check out my list of the best vegan chips next!