I ate Wild Berry Pop-Tarts all the time as a teenager. But as a vegan adult, I recently learned: Wild Berry Pop-Tarts contain carmine, a red dye made from crushed up, dead beetles. Yuck! But what about other Pop-Tart flavors? Are any Pop-Tarts vegan?
Unfrosted Pop-Tart flavors are generally considered vegan. These include Unfrosted Blueberry, Unfrosted Strawberry, and Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon. However, even these three Unfrosted flavors contain “gray area” ingredients that some vegans dispute.
Below, I’ll explain which animal ingredients to avoid in Pop-Tarts. I’ll share a full table of non-vegan Pop-Tart flavors and what they contain. Lastly, I’ll share a fully vegan toaster pastry brand (alternative to Pop-Tarts), and recipes for homemade vegan Pop-Tarts!
5 Non-Vegan Ingredients in Pop-Tarts
Okay, so, which animal ingredients will you find in Pop-Tarts?
Here are the 5 culprits that are definitely derived from animals. Below, we’ll also discuss some “gray area” ingredients, too.
- 1. Gelatin – This is the most common animal ingredient in Pop-Tarts. Gelatin is made by boiling animal skins, bones, joints, etc. I think it’s used to get frosting to stick to the pastries. (You’ll also find it in other “frosted” products, like Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.)
- 2. Milk – Some Pop-Tarts are dairy-free, but not all of them. Whey and milk chocolate are used in quite a few Pop-Tart flavors. In addition, some Pop-Tarts have milk-derived “natural flavors,” which are clearly labeled as such.
- 3. Eggs – Some Pop-Tarts contain egg whites. These seem to be present mostly in the cookie or cupcake flavors.
- 4. Carmine – Carmine is a natural red food dye—it’s made from crushed cochineal beetles. Unfortunately, it’s used in Wild Berry Pop-Tarts. (Most other flavors stick to Red 40 and other artificial colors.)
- 5. Confectioner’s Glaze – Confectioner’s glaze is a product of lac beetle excretions (a.k.a. shellac). It’s used to make a shiny coating. For some reason, it’s present in Cherry Pop-Tarts, but no other flavor.
Now, let’s see which Pop-Tarts we can already rule out based on these ingredients.
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Non-Vegan Pop-Tart Flavors
Most Pop-Tart flavors are clearly not vegan. For quick reference, here’s a table of all clearly non-vegan Pop-Tart flavors and the offending ingredients:
|Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon||Gelatin|
|Frosted Cherry||Gelatin, Confectioner’s Glaze|
|Frosted Chocolate Chip||Milk, Egg|
|Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough||Milk, Egg, Gelatin|
|Frosted Chocolate Fudge||Milk, Egg, Gelatin|
|Frosted Chocolate Cupcake||Milk, Egg, Gelatin|
|Frosted Cinnamon Roll||Gelatin|
|Frosted Cookies & Creme||Milk, Egg, Gelatin|
|Frosted Hot Fudge Sundae||Gelatin|
|Simply Frosted Harvest Strawberry||Gelatin|
|Simply Frosted Orchard Apple Cinnamon||Gelatin|
|Frosted S’Mores||Milk, Egg, Gelatin|
|Frosted Strawberry Milkshake||Gelatin|
|Frosted Wild Berry||Gelatin, Carmine|
|Frosted Chocolatey Churro||Gelatin|
|Frosted Red Velvet Cupcake||Milk, Gelatin|
|Pretzel Cinnamon Sugar||Milk, Gelatin|
|Pretzel Chocolate||Milk, Gelatin|
|Froot Loops Pop-Tarts||Gelatin|
So, what Pop-Tart flavors does this leave without clear animal ingredients?
The 3 Vegan Pop-Tart Flavors
There are three Pop-Tart flavors that are generally considered vegan. Basically, it’s all the Unfrosted ones! Which makes sense because the frosted ones use gelatin to hold on the frosting.
- Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon
- Unfrosted Strawberry
- Unfrosted Blueberry
So for many vegans, that’s the only answer you need. However, if you’re a vegan nerd, you’ll know there’s more to the story…
4 “Gray Area” Ingredients in Pop-Tarts
There are a few more controversial ingredients in Pop-Tarts for vegans. If you’re an extra picky vegan or concerned about the following issues, then be aware!
Bone char from cattle is often used to filter sugar to make it whiter. So some vegans avoid refined sugar where this is likely. The challenge with avoiding “bone char sugar” is that it’s not labeled as such on the package.
Sugar made from beets or coconuts is not likely to be filtered with bone char. But non-organic cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and brown sugar are quite likely to be filtered with this animal ingredient. So, should you avoid “sugar”? It’s up to you. (source)
2. Palm Oil
All 3 vegan pop-tart flavors contain palm oil. But some vegans boycott palm oil. Why? Tigers, orangutans, and other animals have been losing habitat due to unsustainable palm oil farming. For more on this issue, check out this article.
Fortunately, it looks like the palm oil in Pop-Tarts is sustainably sourced. This palm oil guide from the Columbus Zoo lists brands to support as members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Kellogg is on the list—and Pop-Tarts are owned by Kellogg.
If this is an issue that especially concerns you, you can do more research into it. But it seems that Kellogg is following the best practices for palm oil, as specified by the RSPO.
3. Artificial Colors
Artificial colors like Red 40 are made from petroleum, not animals. But some vegans avoid them. Why? They’re still tested on animals, due to ongoing safety concerns.
Some of the animal tests are really sad, too. As I wrote about in my post about Blue 2, they fed blue dye to beagles to see how long it would take to kill them.
But it’s not actually clear that boycotting artificial colors will actually help stop them. I explain this more in my posts on Red 40 and the other artificial food dyes. So, I don’t boycott artificial colors—but some vegans do.
Note: If you want to avoid artificial colors in Pop-Tarts, you can choose the Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon flavor, as it contains no artificial flavors.
4. Natural Flavors
“Natural flavors” is a catch-all term to describe many things used as natural sources of flavor in foods. This means it can be animal-based or plant-based. So, should you avoid “natural flavor”? It’s an issue vegans disagree about.
In the case of Pop-Tarts, they’ve actually labeled the source of natural flavors when they’re milk-derived. So personally, I just avoid it when it actually says it’s from milk. When it’s not specified, I don’t worry about it.
Vegan Pop-Tart Brands
Unfortunately, a lot of the organic and “natural” toaster pastries out there—such as Annie’s and Nature’s Path—are still not vegan.
Are there any good, all-vegan toaster pastry brands?
Well, the Bobo’s brand that has clearly stated: “All of our […] Toaster Pastries are made free of animal products or by-products” (source). I haven’t got to try Bobo’s myself yet, but their flavors look delicious.
Bobo’s toaster pastries come in the following vegan flavors:
- Blueberry Lemon Poppyseed Toaster Pastry
- Chocolate Almond Butter Protein Toaster Pastry
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Toaster Pastry
- Strawberry Jam Toaster Pastry
- Apple Pie Toaster Pastry
- Raspberry Toaster Pastry
Vegan Pop-Tart Recipes
Another option is to make your own vegan toaster pastries at home. This is actually not as difficult as you might think at first. Here are a few of the top-rated recipes online:
- “Vegan Berry Pop-Tarts” by Minimalist Baker
- “Vegan Strawberry Pop-Tarts” by it doesn’t taste like chicken
- “Delicious Homemade Vegan Pop-Tarts” by the Yum Vegan Blog
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