Are Oreos Vegan? The Uncomfortable Truth

Oreo cookies are so popular in the US that they’re celebrated every year on March 6th, a day known as National Oreo Cookie Day! But can vegans celebrate it?

Are Oreos Vegan?

No, Oreo cookies are not vegan! 

They all use uncertified sugar that, while not derived from animals, is in some cases processed with animal bone char. While I can’t guarantee that every Oreo cookie is manufactured with sugar refined from bone char, according to the company, it’s likely. So vegans beware. 

Additionally, all Oreos are produced on machinery that could be contaminated with dairy products, making them unsuitable for vegan consumption. 

This dairy contamination occurs because “fudge covered” varieties of Oreo contain dairy-based ingredients and they are all produced on the same machinery.

Besides non-vegan sugar, Oreos contain some other problematic ingredients that cannot be considered vegan! Oreo cookies contain unethically produced palm oil and high fructose corn syrup, which many vegans avoid because of their environmental effects. They also contain uncertified artificial food dyes that may be tested on animals. 

What Are Oreos Made Of?

Here are the ingredients of Classic Oreos:

  • Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate {vitamin b1}, riboflavin {vitamin b2}, folic acid)
  • Sugar
  • Palm and/or canola oil
  • Cocoa (processed with alkali)
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate)
  • Salt
  • Soy lecithin
  • Chocolate
  • Artificial flavor

Ingredients may change with different Oreo flavors, so check the label at the time of purchasing, but these are the basic ingredients that you’ll find present in nearly every Oreo flavor. 

Let’s break down each ingredient of Classic Oreos:

Unbleached enriched flour

Enriched flour doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredient, making it the best flour for a vegan diet.

Sugar

You may think sugar is a plant-sourced ingredient and 100% vegan, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sugar can be vegan or non-vegan, depending on the production method.

Refined sugar is made using bone char (cow’s bone, or “natural carbon”) to decolorize the sugarcane during processing. According to the Huffington Post, “To make bone char, animal bones are heated at incredibly high temperatures and are reduced to carbon before being used in a refinery. The sugar does not actually contain bone char particles, but it does come into contact with them.” The white color of sugar is a result of this processing step. Although some manufacturers also use vegan-friendly decolorizing agents, Mondelez uses a mix of both. 

Only “unrefined” and “raw” sugar is 100% vegan. 

Palm oil

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of oil palms and doesn’t involve any animal-derived product.

Although it’s vegan, the large-scale tree cutting to make palm oil sparks controversy among vegans and non-vegans alike.

Palm oil production causes massive deforestation, an unethical and gruesome process that destroys animal habitats, exacerbates climate change, and exploits workers.

Oreo claims to use palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)—an organization that ensures companies produce, source, and use only sustainable palm oil. But many environmentalists believe that this certification doesn’t make palm oil any more sustainable

More needs to be done to make this ingredient eco-friendly. 

Cocoa (processed with alkali)

Oreo uses cocoa that is extracted from cocoa beans and refined using an alkalization process. During the process, cocoa is treated with a food grade alkali solution to make it sweeter and darker in color. 

No animals are exploited in the process.

Chocolate

Chocolate used by Oreo is derived from cocoa beans. 

All Oreo cookies use plain chocolate, with no milk or other animal products added or used. 

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

HFCS is a sweetener made by breaking down the glucose in corn syrup to fructose using enzymes. Enzymes used in this process are not animal-derived, so the end-product is safe for a vegan diet.

However, the production of corn syrup is not environmentally friendly and results in soil erosion and water pollution. Corn is mostly grown as monoculture, which uses large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers for proper growth. When it rains, all the toxic chemicals are washed into nearby waterways, harming aquatic life and polluting drinking water. In addition, monoculture destroys the soil’s ability to replenish itself. 

Another big concern is that corn is one of the most genetically modified (GMO) foods. Animal genes are often used to modify these crops to grow better and withstand attacks from pests. 

Leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate)

Leavening agents, such as baking soda, are commercially made using materials like table salt, ammonia, and limestone, making them vegan. No animal is exploited during the processing of such ingredients.

Soy lecithin

This ingredient is extracted from the soybean plant and involves no animal exploitation.

Coloring agents

No colors are used in the making of Classic Oreos. However, dyes such as Blue 1, Yellow 5, Red 3, and Red 40 are used in variants such as Toffee Crunch, Mint, Java Chip Flavored, Caramel Coconut, and Birthday Confetti Cake.

Although these synthetic colors are not sourced from animals, they may be tested on animals. People in the vegan community usually avoid products containing artificial food dye because they believe animal testing is unethical.

Since Oreos don’t have a certification to prove they use only vegan food coloring, those practicing a vegan lifestyle should be wary of its vegan status. 

Why Aren’t Oreos Vegan?

Oreos contain no animal-derived ingredients, but they use refined, or processed, sugar that may be processed using bone char. Bone char is unequivocally an animal product and, therefore, the Oreo cookie is not vegan or vegan friendly. 

Additionally, they may have traces of dairy milk in their cookies, from equipment cross contamination. According to the company:

“OREOs have milk as cross contact and therefore they are not suitable for vegans.”

While cross-contamination and uncertified sugar are big issues, they also use artificial colors, natural flavors, and palm oil, all of which are gray-area ingredients avoided by many vegans. 

To clear up my doubts, I emailed Oreo’s parent company about the nature of the refined sugar and artificial dyes they use in their cookies. They clarified that their ingredients are NOT vegan certified and they may use some animal products, such as processed sugar, artificial dyes, glycerin, and enzymes. 

Moreover, they contain some questionable ingredients, like HFCS and palm oil, which may not be technically vegan because of their effects on wildlife and the environment.
 

Are Gluten-Free Oreos Vegan?

No. Gluten-free Oreos are manufactured using processed sugar that could be refined with animal bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be vegan friendly. However, these cookies are made with rice flour instead of wheat flour, making them gluten-free.

Are Golden Oreos Vegan?

No. Golden Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans. 

Are Mint Oreos Vegan?

No. Mint Oreos are made of refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be vegan friendly.

Are Vanilla Oreos Vegan?

No. Vanilla Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans.

Are Lemon Oreos Vegan?

No, Lemon Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be vegan friendly.

Are S’mores Oreos Vegan?

No. S’mores Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans.

Are The Lady Gaga Oreos Vegan?

No. The Lady Gaga Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans.

Are Double Stuf Oreos Vegan?

No. The Double Stuf Oreo cookies contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans. 

Are Carrot Cake Oreos Vegan?

No. Carrot Cake Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be vegan friendly. 

They also contain an ingredient called “adipic acid.” Adipic acid is obtained from both animal and plant sources. Unless the manufacturers clearly state the origin of this ingredient, I can’t know for sure if it’s 100% vegan. 

Are Birthday Cake Oreos Vegan?

No. The Classic Birthday Cake Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans.

Are Chromatica Oreos Vegan?

No. Chromatica Oreos are not vegan friendly! They contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all processed ingredients that may not be suitable for vegans.

Are Gingerbread Oreos Vegan?

No. Gingerbread Oreos contain refined sugar that could be processed with bone char. They also contain other questionable ingredients, such as palm oil, HFCS, and artificial dyes, all which may not be suitable for vegans.

Which Oreos Are Dairy-Free?

So, sadly, Oreos are not vegan. But if you’re only looking for vegan Oreos because of a dairy allergy, there’s good news. They have dairy-free options! Now, keep in mind that these cookies may have traces of milk in them from processing with equipment that also processes products containing milk. 

Dairy-Free Oreos:

  • Classic Chocolate 
  • Double Stuf Chocolate
  • Mega Stuf Chocolate
  • Gluten-Free Chocolate
  • Double Stuf Gluten-Free Chocolate
  • Golden Sandwich
  • Golden Double Stuf
  • Toffee Crunch Chocolate
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Creme
  • Java Chip Flavored Creme
  • Mint Flavored Creme
  • Birthday Cake Flavored Creme
  • Chocolate Crème
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie 
  • Carrot Cake
  • Chocolate Marshmallow
  • Caramel Coconut Flavored Creme
  • Lemon Flavored Creme
  • Oreo Thins (all flavors) 

Final Words

No Oreo cookie can be considered vegan. All Oreos could contain uncertified refined sugar processed using bone char, palm oil, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial dyes, which may be tested on animals. They don’t have any certification to prove that these ingredients are completely vegan or cruelty free. 

Whether the cross-contact with milk or the unethical production of some of the ingredients make Oreos non-vegan is up to your beliefs as a vegan, but the bone char used to process refined sugar will surely put off strict vegans. 

If this bothers you, you can always find other “certified” vegan cookie brands on the market that are 100% safe to consume.