Navigating the world of food labels can be a daunting task, especially when you’re trying to determine if a product is vegan.
The complexity often arises because ingredients often come from obscure sources.
But fear not, this article is here to shed light on the truth and support you on your journey to uphold a compassionate, vegan lifestyle.
Is Crisco Vegan?
Upon examination, Crisco Shortening is vegan. But, like many processed foods, the vegan status of this product isn’t without its complexities. The ingredients in Crisco Shortening include soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, palm oil, mono- and diglycerides, TBHQ, and citric acid.
Soybean oil and fully hydrogenated oils, such as palm oil, are plant-based and therefore meet the criteria of a healthy vegan diet. TBHQ and citric acid, used as antioxidants, are typically synthetic and don’t involve animal products in their production.
The potential issue for vegans might be with mono- and diglycerides, which can be derived from either plant or animal fats. However, given that Crisco is labeled as “all-vegetable shortening,” it’s reasonable to conclude that the mono- and diglycerides in this product are derived from vegetable oils, not animal fats.
Is Crisco Shortening Cruelty-Free?
No, Crisco is decidedly not cruelty-free. While Crisco vegetable shortening appears to be vegan, it’s not necessarily cruelty-free. The palm oil used in the product has been a subject of controversy due to the negative impact its production has on the environment and wildlife, as well as human labor.
Although the palm oil in Crisco vegetable shortening is fully hydrogenated (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are banned), which eliminates trans fats, the sourcing and production process could contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction, primarily affecting orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia.
However, the company asserts they are committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil, which if true, would make this product cruelty-free.
Furthermore, TBHQ, an additive for freshness, is a synthetic product that is regularly tested on animals. And according to the Environmental Working Group, the mono- and diglycerides are from GMO crops. Soybean oil is also overwhelmingly GMO. GMOs, like synthetic ingredients, are tested on animals.
What Is Crisco Shortening Made Of?
Crisco Shortening is a well-known and widely used product in baking and frying. Its ability to enhance the texture and flavor of various recipes is highly praised. The product primarily consists of the following ingredients:
- Soybean oil
- Fully hydrogenated palm oil
- Partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils
- Mono and Diglycerides
- Citric acid
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean plant. It is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils due to its versatility and health benefits, such as providing good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
In Crisco Shortening, soybean oil is used to give the product its soft, smooth consistency, making it easier to blend into recipes. Being plant derived, soybean oil is vegan.
Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil
Fully hydrogenated palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. The oil is processed, through hydrogenation, to be solid at room temperature and to increase its shelf-life. This process also reduces the risk of trans fats.
In Crisco Shortening, fully hydrogenated palm oil provides a stable, solid structure that is ideal for baking. Since palm oil comes from a plant source, it is technically vegan. However, it’s important to note that the palm oil industry is often associated with significant environmental and ethical concerns.
Partially Hydrogenated Palm and Soybean Oils
These oils are similar to their fully hydrogenated counterparts but the hydrogenation process is not carried to completion. This results in oils that are semi-solid and have a longer shelf life than their non-hydrogenated versions.
These oils are used in Crisco to aid in maintaining its structure and texture. While they are vegan in nature, partially hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fats, which are associated with negative health effects.
Mono- and Diglycerides
Mono- and diglycerides are types of fat that act as emulsifiers, meaning they help oil and water mix, which is important for creating a consistent texture in food products like Crisco. They can be derived from both plant and animal sources, but in the case of Crisco, they are derived from vegetable oils, making them vegan friendly.
TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) is a synthetic antioxidant used to extend the shelf-life of oily and fatty foods. It prevents rancidity by inhibiting the oxidation process. It is synthesized from compounds like butane and phenol, and is not derived from animal sources, making it vegan. It is, however, tested on animals.
Citric acid is a natural acid found in citrus fruits. It is used as a preservative in many food products, including Crisco, to enhance their shelf-life. It also adds a slight tangy taste. Citric acid is typically derived from a mold that is fed sugar solutions, often from cornstarch or sugar beets, hence it is vegan friendly, but also often GMO.
Vegan Alternatives to Crisco Vegetable Shortening
If you’re uncomfortable with the use of palm oil, or just try to steer clear of hydrogenated oils in general, there are vegan alternatives available that can deliver similar results in your baking and cooking. Here are a few suggestions:
- Melted coconut oil: Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and provides a similar texture to Crisco when used in baking. Be aware that it can impart a slight coconut flavor to your dishes.
- Vegetable oils: Canola oil and sunflower oil are great vegetable oils for baking and frying due to their neutral taste. Avocado oil is also great because it has a neutral taste and a high smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil, EVOO as it’s known affectionately, is the kingpin of vegetable oils. It’s good for you and it tastes great.
Just make sure you get them vegan because otherwise, they’ll be GMO.
- Vegan butter: Brands like Earth Balance and Miyoko’s make vegan butter that can be a perfect substitute for shortening in many recipes. Look for non-GMO.
Crisco shortening is technically vegan because it doesn’t contain any animal products. However, ethical vegans might take issue with the use of palm oil due to environmental concerns, as well as several ingredients that are tested on animals.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives available that are not only vegan but might also be a healthier choice. As always, it’s important to check labels and make informed food decisions that align with your values and dietary needs.
Remember, every small step towards a more compassionate lifestyle makes a big difference. Keep asking questions, keep learning, and keep making choices that feel right for you. You’re doing a fantastic job!