Are Tootsie Rolls vegan? They are certainly vegetarian, kosher, halal, and even gluten-free, but are definitely not vegan.
Granted, even vegans differ on their stance regarding some ingredients; however, my close inspection of Tootsie Rolls ingredients leaves no room for doubt about their non-vegan status.
Famous for being the first individually wrapped candy ever sold, and almost heroic in the role it played in saving the Marines during the Second World War and the Korean War, the Tootsie Roll is a candy classic that has stood the test of time.
Read on for a vegan breakdown of the Tootsie Rolls ingredients, their sources and any possible alternatives to this sweet yet environmentally caustic candy.
The current ingredients for the original Tootsie Roll include:
- Corn Syrup
- Heavy Cream
- Skim Milk
- Soybean Oil
- Sodium Caseinate
- Soy Lecithin
- Artificial Flavors
Non-Vegan Ingredients in Tootsie-Rolls
These four ingredients are the ones that make the Tootsie-Roll a non-vegan option.
Skim milk is whole cow milk that has been skimmed for fat. Used frequently in the confectionary business as a less expensive alternative to whole milk, it also helps create a smooth mouthfeel and accelerates Maillard’s reaction in caramel making.
The easily soluble skim milk creates a lump -less refined caramel, which is further cooked into the thick brown toffee we recognize so well.
Another dairy component and milk derivative, whey is added separately to the toffee making process as it helps sets the confectionary when heated at higher temperatures. Its low cost makes it the ideal stabilizing agent in large scale confectionery manufacturing.
Known commonly as Casein, this whey by-product dissolves in milk and reacts with the sweet-tasting whey to help the toffee mix thicken and cook down. Loaded with lactose, Casein helps the caramelization of the Tootsie-Roll into a deeper flavor and color. However, despite its wide usage in commercially manufactured foods, Casein is one of the world’s top allergens.
Cream is added to the toffee making process to help the milk components emulsify with the fat. It gives Tootsie Rolls their unique caramel, toffee flavor and texture, and helps release the flavor of the other additives.
Not only does it add to the taste, but the cream combines with the whey and Casein to give structure to the sweet treats and helps them achieve their rolled out shape. Heavy cream also adds nutritional satiety to the candy and adds to its caloric count.
As is apparent from the ingredient list, Tootsie Rolls are a heavily dairy-filled treat, making them far from vegan. However, the vegan community makes this more contentious because the influx of dairy in the revised ingredient list is promoted as high protein content for each serving portion of the candy.
Controversial Ingredients in Tootsie-Rolls
The following three ingredients found in Tootsie-Rolls are technically vegan. But many vegans feel as though the production process make them non-vegan, and this has led to many fierce debates.
Sugar is naturally one of the central ingredients in candy and therefore can’t be avoided. Regardless of the nutritional value of sugar, it is still vegan. However, the way refined cane sugar is processed raises ethical questions due to bone char use.
Bone char is an animal derivative and is used to polish sugar granules to give sugar its pure white color. Although the processed sugar itself doesn’t contain any bone char particulates, the principles underpinning its manufacture go against what veganism stands for.
Purchasing sugar brands that use the bone char process can do more harm than good to the environment, but since we can’t be too sure of the sources unless clearly stated, it is best to be wary of commercially produced sugar products.
Although soybean oil and its derivative Soy Lecithin are considered vegan, they are equally embroiled in controversy about their widely used counterpart: palm oil. Considered a common allergen for many people, soy products are best avoided by those who like to remain cautious and, of course, by those who are allergic to it.
However, apart from its label as an allergen, the soybean oil industry is also infamous for contributing to deforestation worldwide and endangering many wildlife species such as the Sumatran tiger and orangutan.
Choosing an environmentally friendly soybean brand for personal use is certainly doable. Therefore, avoiding purchasing something of potential dubious origins is important for many vegans.
3.Artificial Flavorings and Colorings
I included this in the list even though Tootsie-Rolls does not have any artificial colors. This is because many people think Tootsie-Rolls have artificial coloring to give it that distinct brown color.
Vegans are very careful when looking at artificial flavorings in food. Consuming anything artificial seems like a risk, but this is especially a concern for coloring agents. Dyes like the Red 4 are derived from Carmine, a component of Carminic acid taken from indigenous red beetles, non-vegan.
Tootsie Roll Alternatives
Finding commercial vegan alternatives to the iconic Tootsie Rolls could be a bit tricky. Vegan caramel or toffees are hard to find, but there are some exceptions, like the Larabar, which can taste similar to a Tootsie. If all else fails, though, there are hundreds of vegan Tootsie Roll recipes to try at home.
Finally, Are Tootsie Rolls Vegan?
Tootsie Rolls are not vegan, but they are vegetarian. Vegans would want to steer clear of this nostalgic yet pre-dominantly dairy treat and stick to home recipes or alternatives that recreate the Tootsie Rolls great taste.