Twinkies were invented in 1930, around the same time as Snickers candy bars. Since then, the popular cream-stuffed sponge cakes have been an iconic convenience store snack.
When Hostess discontinued Twinkies for a brief period of time, Americans lost their minds and started selling “vintage Twinkies” on eBay for hundreds of dollars each.
If you’re reading this post, though, the real question on your mind is probably, “Are Twinkies vegan?”
Hostess Twinkies are NOT vegan. They contain a host of non-vegan ingredients, such as beef fat, eggs, and refined white sugar. Additionally, they are packed full of artificial, unhealthy ingredients.
While they may be small, each Twinkie has over twenty-one ingredients. Most of the added ingredients are preservatives and chemical emulsifiers designed to give Twinkies their signature “spongy” texture.
Below, I’ll answer some of the most common vegan-related questions about Twinkies. Then, I’ll give you a full rundown of all of the ingredients in Twinkies, so you can see for yourself why Twinkies are neither vegan nor good for you.
Are you ready to learn a bit more about what’s really in your food?
Is There Animal Fat In Twinkies?
It’s no secret that Twinkies aren’t healthy. For decades, Twinkies have been blamed for obesity, diabetes, and a number of other sugar-related illnesses. While the problem certainly goes deeper than Twinkies alone, this food certainly isn’t contributing to anybody’s health.
What many people don’t know about Twinkies is that they contain animal fat.
If you take a close look at the ingredients list (see below), you’ll see tallow listed right after high-fructose corn syrup. Tallow is a “nice word” for reduced beef fat.
To make tallow, slaughterhouses boil down cows’ remains, such as bones, ligaments, organs, and tendons. This releases natural fatty oils within the cow flesh, which are then extracted, filtered, and used as a fatty food additive.
The process is somewhat similar to gelatin, another fatty animal-derived food additive used in food like marshmallows and gummy bears.
Are Twinkies Non-Dairy?
Twinkies are stuffed with a thick, creamy filling. Many people assume that this is a dairy-based filling, similar to the stuffing used in certain varieties of donuts.
Twinkies contain whey, which is powdered milk protein. This, in turn, means that Twinkies are not suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals.
How Long Do Twinkies Last?
One of the main things that Twinkies are known for is their incredibly long shelf life. They can, quite literally, last for years. This is why they’re a favorite snack among “doomsday preppers” for their underground bunkers! Some even say that Twinkies can last up to a hundred years…
Why Aren’t Twinkies Vegan? Check Out The Ingredients
Now that I’ve answered some of your main questions, it’s time to take a deeper look at what exactly is in those Twinkies that you scarfed down as a kid! After reading through these ingredients, I promise that you’ll never crave a Twinkie ever again.
Food can’t be designed to last up to a hundred years and still be remotely healthy. I hope to show you why below. In the meantime, here’s the shortlist for your own reference (obtained directly from the Hostess website):
Sugar (in this case, refined white sugar) is the main ingredient in all varieties of Twinkies. Unfortunately, this sweetener isn’t quite as plant-based as it may seem.
Although it comes from the sugarcane plant, the raw cane sugar is first filtered through animal bone char to remove its natural color and turn it into a sweeter, more “pure” form of sugar.
Sadly, this filtration process is the main reason why many vegans are beginning to boycott white sugar. Instead, most vegans look for products that contain organic cane sugar, unrefined cane sugar, or other forms of natural, plant-based sweeteners.
2) Enriched Wheat Flour
Wheat flour (and water) are used to create the dough used to make the spongy Twinkie bread. Wheat flour, by itself, is vegan and comes from dried, ground wheat. This flour is then enriched with natural vitamins and minerals to make it healthier and more nutrient-dense.
3) High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is a highly processed, refined version of traditional corn syrup. This highly concentrated sweetener is far from healthy for you. However, it is 100% vegan, as it’s not processed or refined through any animal bone char.
4) Tallow & Hydrogenated Tallow
Twinkies contain two forms of tallow or beef fat. Both forms of fat are derived from beef broth, but the hydrogenated tallow is chemically modified to turn it into a solid.
Hydrogenated fats are very unhealthy for you and are difficult for the body to digest, so you should avoid these whenever possible.
Of course, as we described above, both of these ingredients are non-vegan as they come straight from animals.
Dextrose is a simple starch that’s typically extracted from corn or potatoes. In some cases, it’s used as a sweetener. However, in Twinkies, it’s used as a starchy thickening agent to make the sponge bread softer and help keep it dry.
Like other sponge cakes, Twinkies contain real eggs. When used in baking, eggs create a thicker, fluffier dough. Eggs are generally regarded as non-vegan, through, and are the product of animal cruelty. The poultry and egg industry is notorious for the inhumane treatment of chickens.
7) Soybean & Cottonseed Oil
Both soybean and cottonseed oil are used in Twinkies. These natural plant-based cooking oils are vegan-friendly and sustainably sourced. This makes them better options than palm oil. However, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of the Twinkie is non-vegan.
8) Corn Starch
Corn starch is a common food additive used in baked goods and bread. It’s a simple powdery starch that’s extracted from corn kernels. Basically, it’s just a super-refined version of cornflour.
It’s often used in fried foods to create a crispier outer texture or in soups and gravy, as a thickening agent.
Corn starch is 100% vegan and plant-based. It’s used in both vegan and non-vegan foods, so don’t worry about this one!
Whey is yet another non-vegan ingredient, as it’s a direct by-product of cow’s milk. This is used to create the thick, creamy stuffing on the inside of Twinkies.
Glycerin (or glycerol, in Europe) is a type of sugar alcohol derived from natural fat that can either be plant-based or derived from animals. Based on the label, it’s not clear what type of glycerin is used in Twinkies.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s animal glycerin, seeing as the food already contains other forms of beef fat.
Salt is added to almost all baked goods and is used in the Twinkie dough. When added to the dough, salt becomes a strengthening agent, making for a thicker, chewier, more resilient bread (or cake, in this case).
Salt is always vegan, and is generally sourced from oceanic salt deposits or artificially created in a lab.
12) Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a powerful acid that’s used as a chemical preservative. Strong acids are almost always used to preserve foods, as they change the pH level of the food, making it more acidic.
The more acidic a food is, the longer its shelf life is. This is because bacteria cannot live in an acidic environment. This is why you can drop a Twinkie on the ground, come back a week later, and it still won’t have spoiled.
13) Baking Soda
Baking soda is a natural leavening agent that’s used in baking bread, crackers, and other forms of dough. Basically, it prevents the bread from rising too much, giving it a thinner, stronger consistency. Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate and is vegan-friendly.
Enzymes (similar to the ones in your own stomach) are added to the creamy stuffing to “pre-digest” it. This is what makes the stuffing so creamy. Otherwise, it would naturally remain thicker.
While some food enzymes come from plants, many also come from the stomach of cows and pigs. In this case, it’s impossible to know where these enzymes come from.
15) Potassium Sorbate & Sorbic Acid
Both of these acids are added as additional preservatives, further preserving the Twinkies and giving them a crazy-long shelf life.
16) Mono & Diglycerides
Mono and diglycerides are emulsifiers. They help the oily ingredients mix with the watery ingredients in Twinkies. Basically, they hold the whole cake together and prevent it from separating, no matter how long it sits.
17) Cellulose Gum
Cellulose gum is a natural fibery gum that works similarly to an emulsifier. This gum is extracted from plant fibers, so you shouldn’t worry about this ingredient.
18) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
This is a chemical additive that’s designed to improve the texture and consistency of food. It’s one of the reasons why Twinkies don’t get hard, even if they’ve been left sitting out for a long time.
19) Soy Lecithin & Xanthan Gum
Both soy lecithin and xanthan gum are naturally-derived (although chemically altered) fats that act as emulsifiers and natural preservatives in food. They aren’t very healthy. However, they’re commonly used in both vegan and non-vegan food, so you shouldn’t worry too much about them.
20) Polysorbate 60
“Poly 60” is a dangerous chemical that’s somehow FDA-approved for use in food. According to studies, though, frequent exposure to this emulsifier can damage your reproductive system and even cause cancer.
21) Monocalcium Phosphate
This is a form of calcium that’s often added to foods like cereal, bread, and crackers. It’s mostly harmless and provides added calcium to the food, making it somewhat more “nutritious.”
22) Natural & Artificial Flavors
All Twinkies are flavored with both natural and artificial flavors. These flavors can vary, depending on what flavor of Twinkies you’re looking at.
23) Artificial Food Dye
Twinkies use two artificial food dyes to achieve that perfect yellow color: red 40 and yellow 5. Both of these are lab-derived and vegan.
The Verdict – Twinkies Are Not Vegan (Or Healthy)
Twinkies are probably one of the least healthy foods ever created. They’re packed with so many chemicals that you could start your own chemistry lab by breaking one down. Plus, they’re not at all vegan and contain dairy, eggs, and beef fat.
If you’re looking for a healthier sweet snack, then I suggest checking out my list of vegan ice cream brands next!