For over a century, Oreos have been one of the most delicious and versatile cookies around. Whether you dip it in milk, use it as a fro-yo topping (or ice cream mix-in), or put it in cheesecake, there really is no wrong way to eat an Oreo. But are Oreos vegan?
Based on the ingredients listed on the box you would assume that yes, they’re a dream food for vegans. According to the packaging, Oreo cookies contain: “unbleached enriched flour, sugar, palm and/or canola oil, cocoa powder, high fructose corn syrup, leavening, corn starch, salt, soy lecithin, vanillin, and unsweetened chocolate.” No dairy! No butter! No eggs! Hooray, not a trace of animal products in sight!
Cross-Contact with Milk
So obviously Oreos are vegan, right? Well, not so fast. Because the FAQ pageon the Oreo UK website begs to differ. (The U.S. Oreo FAQ is a little less direct—they won’t even come down with an official reply to the question of whether Oreos are black or brown!—but notes that up to 11 food allergens may be present in the cookies.) The UK FAQ, in response to the question of whether the products are suitable for vegans, bluntly states: “Oreos have milk as cross-contact and therefore are not suitable for vegans.”
So what exactly does this explanation mean? Cross-contact essentially implies that tiny amounts of milk could have come into contact with the cookies or the equipment used to make them. Basically there’s no guarantee that the Oreo you’re about to eat contains traces of milk, but there is a slight possibility that it might.
Bone Char Processed Sugar
There is also the possibility that the sugar in Oreos could be processed with bone char. Refined white sugar (and powdered sugar, which is just a more finely processed, and hence fluffier, version of the granulated stuff) is often made from sugarcane, so you might also assume sugar itself is vegan. But some producers use animal-derived bone char to bleach and refine the sugar—you can find sugar that is labeled vegan, but if you’re in doubt, you might want to stick to maple syrup, agave, stevia, and other always-vegan sugar substitutes.
So, Are Oreos Vegan?
Here’s the final verdict when it comes to Oreo cookies: If you’re a vegan and adhere to a strict diet free of all animal products, you probably want to avoid Oreos just to be on the safe side.
But if you’re really missing out, you can always try making your own at home! (Even if you’re not vegan, this ensures your dessert will contain way fewer processed ingredients than the store-bought sleeves of cookies.) You’re on your own when it comes to recreating any of their often-baffling “special” flavors, though.
These may not look much like the perfectly uniform and rather flat Oreos from Nabisco, but they’re deeply chocolatey and crunchy—and not only vegan, but gluten-free. There’s no oil in them either! And there are only five ingredients total! Be sure to buy a certified vegan brand of powdered sugar for the coconut cream-based filling—and feel free to make them double-stuffed. Get the Easy Vegan Oreos recipe.
For a raw alternative that’s also vegan and gluten-free, try these date-sweetened cookies with almonds, coconut oil, maple syrup, and cocoa powder. They have a sweetened coconut butter filling, but be warned: you won’t get quite the same snap you may be craving when you bite into one. Get the Raw Vegan Oreo Cookies recipe.
Enjoying cookies on their own is sweet, but incorporating them into other desserts may be even better. While the raw Oreo version probably won’t work so well here, the crisp vegan Oreo recipe up top should make a great chocolate cookie pie crust or edible “dirt” once whizzed up in a food processor. To finish veganizing this easy, layered parfait, just swap in a vegan chocolate mousse and whipped coconut cream for the dairy topping (like the components in this Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Coconut Cream recipe). Get our Dirt Cake recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes