The question of are Oreos vegan is often subject to intense debate. Due to their creaminess, many people assume that Oreo cookies contain dairy milk as one of their ingredients – but this is surprisingly not the case.
Oreos are made up of two chocolate biscuits sandwiched between a layer of sweet creamy filling. They were first developed in 1912, and are now available to buy in more than 100 countries in various flavors. It’s thought that more than 450 billion Oreos have been produced worldwide since their inception.
They are thought to be the “world’s best-selling cookie,” and the brand topped sales of $4 billion in 2022. But are oreos vegan? Or do they contain dairy? Here’s everything you need to know.
Jump to section:
- The history of Oreo cookies
- Are Oreos vegan?
- What about sugar used in Oreos? Is that vegan?
- What flavors of Oreo are vegan-friendly?
- What Oreos aren’t suitable for vegans?
- Do Oreos contain palm oil?
- Other vegan alternatives to Oreos
- How to eat Oreos
- Vegan Oreos recipes
The history of Oreo cookies
The Oreo cookie was developed by the National Biscuit Company (which is now known as Nabisco) in New York. The factory where Oreos were developed was located on Ninth Avenue, and the street has now been renamed to “Oreo Way”.
The original design was similar to that sold today, and it featured a wreath around the edge of the biscuit. The word “Oreo” was emblazened in big letters in the middle.
In 1921, the cookie was renamed to “Oreo Sandwich”. More than two decades later, in 1948, this name became “Oreo Crème Sandwich”. In the 1970s, this name was replaced once more with “Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie”. Early Oreos had lard (animal fat) as a main ingredient, which is neither vegan nor vegetarian. In the 1990s, amid health concerns, this ingredient was changed to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Since then, traditional Oreo cookies have not contained any animal ingredients.
Are Oreos vegan?
The vast majority of Oreos do not contain animal products. The classic Oreo filling is still to this day made with plant-based ingredients, including sugar and soy lecithin.
There is often some confusion, however, about whether or not Oreos are vegan-friendly. This is because the ingredients list says they “may contain” milk products.
When a product states this, it often means that it’s made in the same factory and that there is risk of cross contamination. Food items stating this are therefore not suitable for milk allergy sufferers. As long as there is no milk on the ingredients list itself, it is considered by most to be vegan.
Oreos are therefore, for the most part, perfectly vegan-friendly by most people’s definition. Oreos are an example of a food that can be considered “accidentally vegan” (not specifically made to be vegan-friendly, but made using no animal products).
What about sugar used in Oreos? Is that vegan?
If you’re in the US, there may be some concern about whether the sugar found in Oreos – and other confectionary – is vegan-friendly. Bone char is used in the production of sugar cane in the US. It’s incorporated to help refined sugar achieve the white color that it’s known for. While not all sugar is produced using bone char, it can be almost impossible to know if a product uses sugar that utilized bone char.
Bone char is taken from the bones of farmed animals, and meat producers often sell this traders, who in turn sell it on to sugar companies. Bone char is therefore a product of the animal agriculture, and would at first glance seem to be a non-vegan ingredient.
Don’t panic, though, that doesn’t mean US vegans can’t eat any products containing sugar. The definition of veganism is that those following the lifestyle should avoid animal exploitation as much as “possible and practicable,” as defined by The Vegan Society. Avoiding bone char-produced sugar is widely considered to be impractical, meaning products that contain it can be vegan-friendly.
What flavors of Oreo are vegan-friendly?
Oreo has a huge number of variations that’s ever-changing, so it’s difficult to give a full list of vegan-friendly flavors at any given time. However, the below flavors are examples of vegan-friendly Oreos that you can generally find in supermarkets.
- Chocolate Hazelnut
- Java Chip
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
- Chocolate Marshmallow
- Caramel Coconut
- Peanut Butter
- Carrot Cake
- Birthday Cake
- Dark Chocolate
- Oreo Mint
Please note, this list is subject to change. You should always check the packet before buying.
What Oreos aren’t suitable for vegans?
There are some Oreo cookies that do contain animal products. All fudge-covered Oreos aren’t vegan-friendly, as the coating contains dairy. Oreo Cakesters also contain dairy and egg.
You should always check the packaging of Oreos before buying, as the brand often releases new flavors that may not be suitable for those on a plant-based diet.
Do Oreos contain palm oil?
Palm oil is an ingredient listed in most Oreos. While palm oil isn’t technically non-vegan, some people will choose to avoid it due to the indirect impact it has on wildlife and the environment.
The ingredient has been linked to deforestation, habitat loss, and species extinction. Orangutans in particular have been impacted by the harvesting of palm oil, and they are currently listed as critically endangered.
Oreo has been criticized by Greenpeace in the past for its use of palm oil. In November 2018, the environmental organization referred to the ingredient as Oreo’s “dirty secret,” stating it buys palm oil from a company called Wilmar, which it said was “the world’s largest and dirtiest palm oil trader.”
On its website, Oreo states: “Since 2018 we have maintained 100 percent RSPO [which stands for Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil] in palm oil. We will take action against those shown to be part of verified palm oil fire allegations and fully support a sector-wide approach to monitoring for deforestation in palm oil production.”
Other vegan alternatives to Oreos
If you’d rather seek out a smaller brand that makes Oreo-style cookies, there are a number of alternatives available on the market.
Back to Nature – Classic Creme Cookies
Plant-based snack company Back to Nature offers a very similar alternative to Oreos. They are one of the brand’s most popular cookies, and feature a creamy white icing center surrounded by crunchy chocolate biscuit. They contain palm oil, so wouldn’t be an option for vegans seeking to avoid this ingredient.
Vegan Bakery – Cookies n Cream
Available to buy online, these vegan Oreo-style cookies are a dead ringer for the real thing. They are certified by The Vegan Society, meaning there is no risk of cross-contamination. They are also gluten-free.
365 Whole Foods Market – Chocolate Sandwich Cremes
These Whole Foods Market cookies have the added benefit of being palm oil-free. Instead, they feature canola oil (which is more ethically sourced) as an alternative.
Available in Whole Foods Market stores.
Gato – Cookies n Cream
These vegan Oreo cookies are available to buy in a number of high street stores in the UK. The company states that they are made with natural ingredients, and the packaging they come in is also recyclable.
Available in Boots and Holland and Barrett, as well as online.
How to eat Oreos
The best way to eat Oreos is often subject to debate. Some people simply eat them as they would a normal cookies, while others eat them section by section. The “twist, lick, and dunk” method is popular, which entails twisting off one of the top biscuit, licking off the cream, and dunking the different segments in milk. If you don’t consume dairy milk, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the traditional milk and cookies snack. You can enjoy Oreos with your favorite plant milk, such as soy, almond, or oat.
Vegan Oreos recipes
If you fancy making your own vegan Oreos, there are a wide variety of recipes available online.
This recipe from Addicted to Dates shows you how to make gluten-free Oreo-style biscuits with minimal ingredients. The recipe uses vegan butter and a variety of different sugars. Alternatively, this recipe from The Banana Diaries is quick, easy, and also gluten-free.
If you have a pack of Oreos at home and you want to experiment with using them as an ingredient, there are many vegan recipes that call for the cookies.
One example is this no-bake vegan Oreo cheesecake. This dessert recipe comes from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club, and is a plant-based take on the famous Oreo cheesecake from the Frankie & Benny’s menu. Ingredients such as vegan cream cheese and double cream are used, as well as Oreos and Digestive biscuits.
Alternatively, you can try out this vegan Oreo banana bread. While banana bread often contains butter and eggs, it is easy to veganize – and adding Oreos into this mix gives it an unusual twist. It calls for eight Oreo cookies to be embedded into the usual banana bread mix.
Other vegan cookie brands
Oreos are just one of a number of vegan cookies and biscuits that are accidentally vegan. Other examples include Digestives, Jammie Dodger, Lotus Biscoff, Bourbons, and Fig Rolls. You should always check the label, however, as some brands may include animal ingredients, and ingredients are also subject to change.
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