Golden Grahams have been branded as being “A Honey of a Cereal,” and being a “honey graham ridged cereal.” But you may be surprised to learn that normal Golden Grahams today don’t even contain honey! So let’s dig into whether this cereal is fully vegan or not.
Golden Grahams are generally considered vegan. However, they do contain sugar, natural flavor, and in the United States, vitamin D3. Some flavors, like Golden Grahams Crunch and “Retro Recipe,” also contain honey. These are all gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
Below, I’ll explore each of these controversial ingredients and what you should know before deciding whether to eat Golden Grahams as a vegan! I’ll also share some interesting history on how this cereal not only contained honey, but also, a version of it had marshmallows!
What Are Golden Grahams Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at the ingredients for Golden Grahams. To be clear, I will be looking first at General Mills’ Golden Grahams, which is the most widely sold version of the cereal in the United States. I’ve bolded in red the ingredients that some vegans avoid:
Golden Grahams Ingredients: “Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Meal, Sugar, Brown Sugar Syrup, Canola Oil, Dextrose, Baking Soda, Salt, Natural Flavor. Vitamins & Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Iron and Zinc (mineral nutrients), Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), Vitamin A (palmitate), A B Vitamin (folic acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.” (source)
So what’s up with these three controversial ingredients?
- Sugar: Gray Area. Sugar is debated by vegans. That’s because non-organic cane sugar is often filtered with bone char to make it whiter. And on a food label, you can’t tell whether bone char was used or not. So some vegans avoid it, but others don’t. Personally, I don’t really worry about it.
- Natural Flavor: Gray Area. “Natural flavors” can include animal ingredients, and the exact recipe is usually secret, not listed on the label unless it contains an allergen. So we can’t know for sure if it’s vegan. But in the case of Golden Grahams, I personally doubt animal ingredients are used. So I’m okay with it.
- Vitamin D3: Gray Area. Fortified vitamin D in cereal is most often sourced from lanolin, which is from sheep’s wool. So yes, it’s an animal ingredient. But it’s used in such small amounts (it’s the absolute last ingredient in Golden Grahams)—some vegans (like me) decide it’s okay to eat. Here’s a full explanation of my view on this.
So, some vegans would consider Golden Grahams non-vegan due to these ingredients. Probably vitamin D3 would be the most objectionable of the three ingredients to a lot of vegans.
However, a vegan like is a bit more relaxed about things. I don’t strictly avoid any of those three ingredients—so General Mills Golden Grahams are vegan in my opinion.
Do Golden Grahams Have Dairy?
Golden Grahams does not contain milk, lactose, or any dairy product. In fact, on my Golden Grahams box, there is not even any allergen warning for “traces of milk” or “may contain milk.” So even people with milk allergies or lactose intolerance should be okay with Golden Grahams.
More Flavors and Off-Brands
In the US today, you may be hard pressed to find any variations on the regular General Mills Golden Grahams. However, in other countries and specific grocery stores in the US, you might find some of the following flavors and brands. I’ll explain each as we go.
Are Nestle Golden Grahams Vegan?
Nestle Golden Grahams are generally considered vegan. However, they do contain sugar and natural flavouring, which are gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
Nestle Golden Grahams is sold more in other parts fo the world like Europe, whereas the General Mills brand is sold more here in the US.
Compared to the US version of Golden Grahams, the Nestle version has 1 less sketchy ingredient from a vegan perspective, and that’s vitamin D3.
Here’s the full list of ingredients for the Nestle product:
Nestle Golden Grahams Ingredients: “Golden Grahams Ingredients – Cereal Grains (Whole Grain Wheat (70.8%), Wheat Flour (36.3%), Maize Semolina (34.5%)), Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Maize Starch, Sunflower Oil, Invert Sugar Syrup, Brown Sugar, Vitamins and Minerals (Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin), Raising Agent: Sodium Bicarbonate, Salt, Molasses, Caramelised Sugar Syrup, Natural Flavouring.” (source)
Is Golden Grahams Crunch Vegan?
Golden Grahams Crunch is generally not considered vegan. It contains honey, sugar, and natural flavour, which are all gray-area ingredients to vegans. That said, some vegans are okay with eating all three of those ingredients.
I believe Golden Grahams Crunch is offered in Canada. Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Golden Grahams Crunch Ingredients: “Whole Grain Wheat, Degermed Corn Meal, Sugar And/Or Golden Sugar, Golden Syrup, High Monounsaturated Canola Oil, Honey, Baking Soda, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Dextrose, Trisodium Phosphate, Natural Flavour. Vitamins And Minerals: Iron, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folate.” (source)
Is Golden Grahams Retro Recipe Vegan?
Golden Grahams Retro Recipe is generally not considered vegan. It contains honey, sugar, natural flavor, and vitamin D3 which are all gray-area ingredients to vegans. That said, some vegans are okay with eating all four of those ingredients.
Golden Grahams Retro Recipe came out in 2020, and it’s yet to be seen if it will stick around. But as a vegan, I don’t really care—I won’t be getting it anyway! Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Golden Grahams Retro Recipe Ingredients: “Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Meal, Sugar, Brown Sugar Syrup, Canola Oil, Honey, Baking Soda, Salt, Dextrose, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin C (sodium Ascorbate), Iron And Zinc (mineral Nutrients), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B1 (thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (palmitate), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), A B Vitamin (folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.” (source)
A History of Golden Grahams Not Being Vegan
Golden Grahams is imperfectly vegan today—but in the past, this cereal was even less vegan. Let’s take a look at its history with honey and marshmallows (gelatin… yuck)!
When Did Golden Grahams Stop Using Honey?
Golden Grahams stopped using honey in their regular recipe in 2012. However, some of their other products, such as Golden Grahams Crunch, Golden Grahams Honey Graham, and Golden Grahams Retro Recipe, still use honey today.
Did Golden Grahams Have Marshmallows?
In the 1980s, General Mills sold a cereal called S’Mores Crunch—later rebranded as S’Mores Grahams—which was essentially a chocolate version of Golden Grahams that included marshmallows. It was discontinued in 1992. (source)
More Vegan Cereals
I’ve been writing a bunch of guides about which popular breakfast cereals are vegan. Here are a few more that might interest you:
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.