Vanilla Wafers are small, delicious, soft, wafers that are made using a lightly sweetened flour mixture combined with the unmistakably rich flavor of real vanilla extract.
At least, that’s how they started out. Most of today’s vanilla wafers contain several other additives, some natural and others artificial. Despite the added ingredients, they’re still one of the most popular cookies!
However, are vanilla wafers vegan?
Unfortunately, most vanilla wafer recipes call for dairy and eggs, both of which are non-vegan ingredients that come from exploited animals.
Most vanilla wafer brands may also contain white sugar and palm oil, which represent a gray area due to the fact that they are harmful to the environment.
That being said, there are a few brands of vegan-friendly vanilla wafers that don’t contain eggs, dairy, palm oil, or refined sugar! You just have to know where to look.
In today’s post, I’ll explain exactly why most brands of vanilla wafers aren’t vegan, give you a quick rundown of the main ingredients in vanilla wafers, and show you some of my favorite vegan-friendly vanilla wafer brands!
Are Nilla Wafers Vegan?
Vanilla wafers first gained widespread fame after Nabisco purchased the recipe for the cookies from a German baker in 1898. They used the same recipe, branding their product as Nilla Wafers. Ever since then, they’ve been a household name!
Unfortunately, though, Nilla Wafers are not vegan. The original recipe calls for eggs, whey, white sugar, and palm oil, all of which are non-vegan ingredients.
Back then, veganism wasn’t really on anybody’s mind, and the commercial food industry was nowhere near as awful and cruel as it is today. Given the fact that the recipe has been around for over a century, Nabisco isn’t particularly motivated to change it.
Although this may be a bit disappointing for those who love the delicious vanilla wafers, there are several vegan-friendly alternatives to Nilla Wafers that I’ll list below!
Why Aren’t Vanilla Wafers Vegan?
As I mentioned above, vanilla wafers usually aren’t vegan-friendly because they contain several animal by-products. They also contain a couple of ingredients that aren’t vegan-friendly because of their environmental impact.
Here’s a brief review of the culprits preventing vanilla wafers from being vegan.
Historically, wafers have always been made with dairy. When added to cookie dough, milk or milk by-products create a softer, sweeter-tasting cookie. The smooth, milky texture is one of the things that makes wafers so addictingly delicious.
Unfortunately, it’s also what makes them non-vegan.
In addition to dairy, wafer dough is almost always made with eggs. The eggs act as a natural emulsifier, helping the dough bind together and creating a slightly more crispy texture. Eggs are a common baking ingredient used in everything from cookie dough to brownie batter.
Unfortunately, eggs aren’t vegan since they come from exploited hens. Although eggs aren’t technically animals, they’re an animal product. This means that they’re no less cruel than milk from cows or wool stripped from sheep.
Most dietary vegans don’t mind consuming white sugar since it’s technically a plant-based sweetener. However, many ethical vegans are against consuming it because white sugar is refined and filtered through animal bone char.
This not-so-vegan process is what turns the raw brown cane sugar (which is 100% vegan) into the pretty white sugar crystals used in baking applications.
Keep in mind that no bone char actually ends up inside of the sugar. However, the mere fact that it’s used as part of the process is enough for many vegans to boycott it altogether.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do with this issue, though. Personally, I try not to consume white sugar when I can help it. Instead, I use organic cane sugar.
However, I don’t freak out if I accidentally eat a little bit of white sugar here and there, as it’s pretty hard to avoid in our society.
Palm Oil or Butter
Vanilla wafers, like most other types of cookies, are almost always made with some type of fat.
Traditionally, they were made with butter. If you’re not aware, butter isn’t vegan, as it’s a direct derivative of cow’s milk. Instead, vegans use vegetable oil-based spreads, as they’re sustainably sourced from plants.
Unfortunately, not all vegetable oil is sustainable. Palm oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in the world and is often used in different brands of vanilla wafers (including Nilla Wafers).
Despite the fact that palm oil is plant-based, the industry behind palm oil is very destructive to the environment. Every year, tens of thousands of acres of natural rainforests are burned down by palm oil farmers in Brazil and Indonesia to make room for more palm crops.
This destructive greed is one of the biggest contributors to our shrinking rainforests and the endangerment of rainforest species and ecosystems.
Sometimes, indigenous tribes even get caught in the middle and are violently displaced from tribal lands that have been in their families for generations.
This is why most vegans don’t consume palm oil unless it’s Fair Trade Certified or comes from an organic, sustainable palm farm.
What Brands of Vanilla Wafers Are Vegan?
Now that you know a little bit more about why vanilla wafers aren’t the most vegan-friendly snack, it’s time to show you some alternatives.
Vegan vanilla wafers are dairy-free, egg-free, naturally flavored, and usually use cane sugar or other plant-derived sweeteners instead of refined white sugar.
So, if you’re having some serious cravings, here are some of my favorite brands of vegan vanilla wafers:
Of those two, I prefer the Whole Foods 365 Vanilla Wafers! They taste almost exactly like Nilla Wafers and are made with organic palm oil, organic cane sugar, and don’t contain any dairy or eggs. Plus, they’re made with real vanilla extract!
Conclusion – Are Vanilla Wafers Vegan-Friendly?
Most brands of vanilla wafers are not vegan-friendly. Most brands are made with at least some type of dairy or egg-based ingredient.
However, if you get a chance to visit Whole Foods Market, they do offer a delicious vegan-friendly brand of vanilla wafers. You can also purchase them online!
To see a full list of my favorite vegan cookies, be sure to read my list of the best vegan cookie brands next!