Are Hostess Cupcakes Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

August 19, 2023

Identifying whether a popular treat like Hostess cupcakes is vegan can often be an uphill task. 

This difficulty stems from manufacturers often shrouding the nature and source of their ingredients in a veil of trade secrecy. 

Fear not, dear reader, as this article is here to unveil the truth, helping you sustain your noble and conscientious vegan lifestyle.

Are Hostess Cupcakes Vegan?

No, Hostess cupcakes are not vegan. They contain several animal-based ingredients which makes them unsuitable for a vegan lifestyle. Some of these ingredients have a more obvious vegan status than others, but they are all cause for concern for those following a strict vegan diet:

  • Whey, a dairy product
  • Tallow, or rendered beef fat
  • Egg
  • Sugar
  • Enzymes
  • Mono- and diglycerides
  • Natural and artificial flavor
  • Glycerin
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate
  • Polysorbate 60

Are Hostess Cupcakes Cruelty-Free?

Unfortunately, Hostess cupcakes are not cruelty-free. The use of palm oil, which Hostess makes no claim of being sustainably sourced, disqualifies this from being cruelty-free. 

The harvesting of palm oil is notorious for its deforestation and habitat destruction. Unless sustainably sourced, items containing palm oil are not cruelty-free.

What Are Hostess Cupcakes Made Of?

Let’s take a closer look at the components of a Hostess cupcake. Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Enriched flour
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Palm oil
  • Corn syrup
  • Cocoa
  • Soybean oil
  • Tallow
  • Glycerin
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cornstarch
  • Dextrose
  • Whey
  • Inulin
  • Egg and egg white
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Sorbic acid
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Calcium sulfate
  • Enzymes
  • Mono- and diglycerides
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Natural and artificial flavor
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate
  • Agar
  • Xanthan gum
  • Soy lecithin
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Cellulose gum
  • Locust bean gum
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Titanium dioxide (color)
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sunflower oil
  • Chocolate liquor
  • Defatted soy flour


Sugar provides sweetness to the cupcakes. It’s derived from sugarcane or beets and is vegan. At first glance, one would think sugar is vegan. However, it is often processed with a substance called bone char, which would make it non-vegan.


Water is used for moisture in the batter. Universally sourced, it’s vegan.

Enriched flour

Enriched flour is wheat flour with added nutrients. It’s the primary structure of the cupcakes and is vegan.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This syrup is a sweetener and adds moisture. Made from corn, it’s vegan.

Palm Oil

Palm oil offers fat and texture. Sourced from palm trees, its vegan status is debated due to environmental concerns.

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is another sweetening agent. Derived from corn, it’s vegan.


Cocoa provides the chocolate flavor. Extracted from cocoa beans, it’s vegan.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil contributes fat and moisture. Sourced from soybeans, it’s vegan.


Tallow is animal fat, often from beef. It adds richness and is not vegan.


Glycerin adds moisture. Its source can vary, so it may or may not be vegan.

Modified Cornstarch

Modified cornstarch thickens and provides texture. Made from corn, it’s vegan.

Baking soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, helps the cupcakes rise. It’s a mineral compound and is vegan.


Salt enhances the flavor. Sourced from mines or the sea, it’s vegan.


Cornstarch is derived from corn kernels. It thickens foods and is vegan.


Dextrose is a sugar from corn. It sweetens foods and is vegan.


Whey is a by-product of cheese from cow’s milk. It enhances texture but is not vegan.


Inulin is a fiber mainly from chicory root. It improves texture and is vegan.


Eggs are sourced from chickens. They bind and moisturize foods but are not vegan.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate is a natural mineral. It prevents caking and is vegan.

Sorbic Acid

Sorbic acid originates from certain berries. It preserves food and is vegan.

Potassium Sorbate

Potassium sorbate is derived from sorbic acid. It prevents mold growth and is vegan.

Calcium Sulfate

Calcium sulfate is a natural mineral. It conditions dough and is vegan.


Enzymes come from plants, animals, or microbes. Their vegan status varies based on the source.

Mono- and Diglycerides

Mono and diglycerides come from plant oils or animal fats. The vegan status of mono- and diglycerides is unclear due to the opaqueness of manufacturer recipes.

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate

This compound is derived from phosphoric acid. It leavens baked goods and is vegan.

Cottonseed Oil

Cottonseed oil is extracted from cotton seeds. It’s used in cooking and is vegan.

Natural and Artificial Flavor

These flavors come from various natural or synthetic sources. Their vegan status can vary.

Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate

This compound comes from stearic and lactic acids. Its vegan status varies based on the source.


Agar is a substance from red algae. It’s a vegan alternative to gelatin. Considering the presence of beef fat, it’s a wonder Hostess bothered with the gelatine alternative. 

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum results from sugar fermentation. It thickens foods and is vegan.

Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is extracted from soybeans. It emulsifies foods and is vegan.

Polysorbate 60

Polysorbate 60 is made from sorbitol and stearic acid. Its vegan status can vary.

Cellulose Gum

Cellulose gum comes from plant cell walls. It thickens foods and is vegan.

Locust Bean Gum

Locust bean gum is extracted from carob tree seeds. It thickens foods and is vegan.

Monocalcium Phosphate

Monocalcium phosphate is a synthetic compound. It leavens baked goods and is vegan.

Titanium Dioxide (Color)

Titanium dioxide is a white mineral pigment. It colors foods and is vegan.

Disodium Phosphate

Disodium phosphate is a synthetic compound. It adjusts pH and is vegan.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds. It’s used in cooking and is vegan.

Chocolate Liquor

Chocolate liquor is liquid cocoa from cocoa beans. It flavors foods and is vegan.

Defatted Soy Flour

Defatted soy flour is made from soybeans. It adds protein to foods and is vegan.

Vegan Alternatives to Hostess Cupcakes

Choosing the right dessert shouldn’t mean sacrificing your principles. There are a plethora of vegan alternatives to Hostess cupcakes. They fall into two categories: store-bought vegan cupcakes and homemade vegan cupcake recipes.

For store-bought options, brands like Lenny & Larry’s and Miss Jones Baking Co. offer delightful vegan cupcakes.

For homemade vegan cupcake recipes, you might consider a vegan copycat Hostess cupcake recipe. With ingredients like vegan chocolate, almond milk or coconut milk, vegan butter, and powdered sugar, you can combine fluffy chocolate cupcakes with a soft vanilla filling and a chocolate ganache.


In conclusion, Hostess cupcakes are not vegan or cruelty-free, due to ingredients like beef fat, whey, eggs, and palm oil. 

However, there are plenty of delicious and ethical alternatives available. By choosing vegan options or exploring offerings from different brands, or even making your own vegan copycat Hostess cupcakes, you can enjoy a scrumptious dessert that aligns with your values. 

Remember, every vegan choice you make is a step towards a healthier planet and a kinder world.