Sprinkles were first created by a Dutch confectioner in 1913, as he was looking for a way to make his delicious treats more appealing to his customers.
Since then, they’ve remained a very popular baking item and are used for cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more! The real question you’re probably wondering, though, is, “Are sprinkles vegan?”
It depends on the brand. Some sprinkles contain non-vegan ingredients, such as palm oil, confectioner’s glaze, or gelatin.
However, other brands are specifically made with vegan-friendly ingredients or are classified as “accidentally vegan,” meaning that they’re vegan-friendly without actually meaning to be.
Today’s post is going to be all about sprinkles! With so many options on the market, it can often be hard to figure out which sprinkles are vegan and which sprinkles you should avoid.
Below, I’ll discuss some of the most common non-vegan ingredients used in sprinkles, show you the ingredients in the most popular brand of sprinkles, and why it’s not exactly vegan. Then, I’ll show you some of my favorite vegan-friendly brands of sprinkles, so you know what to shop for.
Let’s get colorful!
What Is In Sprinkles That Isn’t Vegan?
For the most part, sprinkles are fairly simple. If you’ve ever eaten a plain handful of sprinkles (I certainly did as a kid), you may remember that they don’t really taste like much of anything.
They’re pretty much just a blend of sugar, wax, and artificial food coloring. That’s because they’re more for show than they are for taste.
Sadly, simple recipes are almost impossible to come by in today’s artificially processed world. This means that many brands of sprinkles contain ingredients that aren’t vegan-friendly.
Here’s a quick list of some of the most common non-vegan additives you may find in sprinkles and why they aren’t vegan.
|Non-Vegan Ingredients In Sprinkles||Why They’re Not Vegan|
|Refined White Sugar||As far as dietary vegans are concerned, sugar is perfectly fine to consume. However, ethical vegans try to avoid refined white sugar. Natural unbleached cane sugar is perfectly fine, as it’s 100% plant-based. However, the bleaching process that turns cane sugar into white sugar involves animals. Animal bone char (typically from slaughterhouse cows) is used to extract the color from the sugar, giving it the bleached white appearance that most people are used to.|
|Confectioner’s Glaze||As I mentioned in my post about donuts, confectioner’s glaze is not vegan. This is because it’s made with both refined white sugar AND shellac. Shellac is a special type of organic, shiny, crystallized additive that’s added to sweets to give them a delectable “shine” that makes them look pretty. Unfortunately, shellac is obtained from crushed-up lac beetles, which are grown, slaughtered, and processed for our food.|
|Palm Oil||Although it’s a plant-based oil, the palm oil industry is incredibly destructive to our planet’s natural rainforests. It’s mostly sourced from South American countries and Indonesia, where there are no environmental protection laws. As a result, farmers burn thousands of acres to make room for more palm trees to feed the ever-increasing demand for palm oil.|
|Whey Or Dairy By-Products||Sometimes whey or dairy by-products are added to sprinkles to give them a smoother, softer texture. Unfortunately, whey and milk by-products like casein or sodium caseinate are not vegan, as they’re derived from exploited cows.|
|Cochineal Dye||Thankfully, cochineal dye isn’t used as often these days as it used to be. However, some brands still use cochineal dye to make red-colored sprinkles. Cochineal dye is obtained from crushed-up cochineal beetles, which have a bright red exoskeleton. Their remains are then used as a red food dye.|
|Beeswax||The beeswax used to be very common in sprinkles. Now, it’s not as common, as carnauba wax is slowly replacing it in food products. Although it’s all-natural, beeswax is obtained from exploited bee colonies, which need the wax to survive and feed their young. This means that it’s not vegan, as it doesn’t follow the “do no harm” motto.|
Wondering how sprinkles are made? Check out this informative video by Discovery UK:
Do Sprinkles Have Gelatin?
Gelatin is a very common food additive that’s often used as an emulsifier in food products or used to give them a soft, gummy texture.
Unfortunately, gelatin comes from the boiled-down remains of animal tissues and bones. It’s pure, powdered animal fat, which makes it very non-vegan, as it’s a direct by-product of the meat industry.
Although some brands of sprinkles may contain gelatin, it’s not a common ingredient used for sprinkles.
What Sprinkle Brands Are Vegan?
Looking to bake the perfect dessert for that special somebody? Sprinkles are an awesome way to add some color and festivity to cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more!
Although many popular brands of store-bought sprinkles aren’t vegan-friendly, here’s a list of some vegan-friendly sprinkles brands, courtesy of PETA:
- 365 by Whole Foods, Chocolate Sprinkles
- Color Kitchen Rainbow Sprinkles
- Let’s Do Organic Sprinkelz Organic Confetti
- Natural Sprinkles Co. (any type of sprinkles by this company)
- The Bakers Party Shop Sprinkles
- Vegan Sprinkles By Marshall’s Creek Spices
Sprinkles Ingredients: Listed
Whenever I do these types of posts, I always like to provide you all with a list of the most common ingredients, so you can tell for yourself.
As a vegan, being aware of all of the ingredients in your food is very important, and you should never just listen to somebody saying food is vegan, without an ingredients list to back it up.
I can’t count how many times I’ve seen vegan blogs say that certain foods were “vegan-friendly” only to find out that they contained not just one but several non-vegan ingredients!
So, for the sake of transparency, here’s the ingredients list of one of the best-selling store-bought brands of sprinkles, Betty Crocker Sprinkles.
Although it doesn’t contain any noticeable animal products, the product does contain some questionable ingredients that ethical vegans like myself try to avoid.
Sugar (specifically refined white sugar) is the most common ingredient used in most brands of sprinkles. As I mentioned above, ethical vegans try to stay away from white sugar, as it’s bleached using animal bone char.
Vegan-friendly sprinkles use raw, unrefined cane sugar or beet sugar instead of refined white sugar.
2) Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is the main “fat” that holds the sprinkles together. Unfortunately, Betty Crocker’s Sprinkles are made using palm oil and palm kernel oil. Both of these oils are non-organic and contribute to deforestation and threaten endangered species.
Vegan-friendly sprinkles use more sustainable cooking oils, such as canola oil, sunflower oil, or soybean oil.
Cornstarch is a natural plant-based starch that’s extracted from corn (surprise, right?). It acts as a binding agent and keeps the sprinkles moisture-free. It may not be very healthy, as it’s pure carbs, but it is vegan-friendly.
4) Confectioner’s Glaze
The confectioner’s glaze is used to make the sprinkles look shiny and more attractive to the eye. Sadly, though, the shine in this glaze comes from the shiny exoskeletons of crushed beetles. We asked for sprinkles, not beetles!
Dextrin is a simple sugar that’s extracted from corn, potatoes, rice, and other starchy vegetables. It’s similar to cornstarch and helps keep the product moisture-free, and dry, and prevents the sprinkles from melting into each other.
6) Artificial Coloring
Artificial food coloring, such as a yellow lake, blue 2, and red 40 are used to give sprinkles their colorful appearance. These are all vegan-friendly food colorings, as they’re synthetically derived!
7) Natural & Artificial Flavors
Sprinkles typically contain some artificial and natural flavors designed to give them a slightly “fruity” flavor. Thankfully, these are all vegan.
8) Carnauba Wax
Last but not least, carnauba wax (which comes from palm trees) is used to give the outer coating of the sprinkles a waxy texture. This prevents them from melting and keeps moisture from getting inside. It’s a vegan-friendly alternative to beeswax.
The Verdict – Are Sprinkles Vegan-Friendly?
While many of the most popular mainstream brands of sprinkles aren’t vegan-friendly, there are plenty of great vegan sprinkles brands to choose from! To find them, your best bet is to visit a natural grocery store like Whole Foods or shop online at Amazon.
Trader Joe’s is another awesome vegan-friendly grocery store that sells some of my favorite vegan snacks! I’ve even found vegan sprinkles there too. Check out my favorite Trader Joe’s snacks next!