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There is perhaps no sandwich cookie more popular than the classic Oreo. This chocolatey, creamy delight has been a snacking staple for over 100 years, making it one of the best-selling cookies in the world, but does anyone really know what’s in these things?

You may have heard some rumors that the cookie’s signature white filling contains real dairy cream or even animal fat, or you may have heard that this famous cookie is actually every vegan’s worst-kept secret. So, are Oreos vegan or not? The answer may be more complicated than you think.

A controversial cookie

broken piece of oreo near a stack of sandwich cookies on a wooden surface

Chances are you’ve heard some conflicting information about Oreos. Perhaps you’ve been told by a conspiracy-loving friend or family member that Oreos aren’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan, because of the supposed use of lard in the cookie’s cream.

Surprisingly, if that claim had been made prior to the 1990s, it would’ve been true. That’s right — once upon a time, “milk’s favorite cookie” did contain lard, or pig fat, but it has since been replaced by hydrogenated oils, so you can rest assured that Oreos are pig-free!

Then, of course, there is the question of dairy. Are Oreos actually dairy-free?

According to the FDA, yes. In fact, that’s why the Oreo’s filling is referred to as “creme” rather than cream — under FDA regulations, only cream, reconstituted cream, dried cream, and something known as “plastic” cream (um, no thanks) may be considered “cream,” which means that Oreo’s sugar- and oil-based filling doesn’t qualify.

READ NEXT: IS SODA VEGAN OR OFF LIMITS?

Vegans say yes, Nabisco says no

three oreo cookies stacked up with one either side on their ends

Well, if Oreos are free of lard and dairy, does that mean their ingredients are fine for plant-based practitioners to eat, ending the whole “Are Oreo’s vegan?” debate?

Many vegans will be quick to confirm that they are, but Oreos’ official website tells a somewhat different story. According to the company’s FAQ page:

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

That statement alone may cause some people, both vegans and non-vegans alike, to emphatically declare that Oreos are not vegan. But before you resign yourself to a sad life without these sandwich cookies, let’s consider what the company’s statement really means for vegans.

It’s true that Oreos may contain trace amounts of milk due to cross contact, but so do many of the packaged food products you consume. Even products that are explicitly labeled as “vegan” have likely come into contact with one animal ingredient or another due to shared factory equipment, hence the “May contain eggs, milk, etc.” disclaimer you see under many ingredient labels. However, what you decide to do with that information is entirely up to you!

oreo cookies in a white bowl on a gray table

So, can vegans eat Oreo’s? There is no official vegan rulebook that states that vegans are prohibited from consuming foods that may have come into contact with animal products during the manufacturing process. That means that you have the freedom to decide for yourself how “vegan” Oreos really are.

If you wish to be the purest, strictest vegan possible, then you may choose to pass on the Oreos, as well as many other products that have potentially been cross-contaminated. On the other hand, if you simply wish to be the best vegan you can be within reason (because nobody’s perfect!), you may feel comfortable eating anything as long as it doesn’t have animal products in its main list of ingredients.

If you do choose to eat Oreos, you may be wondering about the dozens of other weird and wonderful flavors that Oreo has come up with in recent years, such as Watermelon, Birthday Cake, Cinnamon Roll, and Red Velvet, to name just a few. Surprisingly, many, if not most, of these flavors are vegan-friendly — just be sure to double check the ingredient label before purchasing.

If you’ve hopped on the Oreo-eating bandwagon and are eager to make a dessert with these cookies, try this easy, 5-ingredient vegan cheesecake:

What are some alternatives to Oreos?

If you’re still not convinced of the “vegan-ness” of Oreos but you’re craving creme-filled sandwich cookies, there are a few alternatives to consider.

Back to Nature’s natural take on the Oreo is made without high fructose corn syrup, while Annie’s chocolate Grabbits and Country Choice’s chocolate sandwich cookies are made with organic ingredients.

Any of these may be a slightly more wholesome alternative to the Oreo, but perhaps the most popular Oreo alternative among vegans is Newman O’s. These sandwich cookies are made with ethically sourced cocoa, approved by the Food Empowerment Project, which gives them the edge over Nabisco’s Oreo and most of its alternatives, putting the ethical vegan’s mind at ease.

Plus, they come in an array of delicious flavors such as Hint-o-Mint, Peanut Butter, Ginger n’ Creme, and Chocolate Creme (see the range here), so what’s not to like? Keep in mind that, while they are vegan-friendly and made with mostly organic ingredients, they still have about as much fat and sugar as regular Oreos, so they should be eaten in moderation.

That being said, everyone deserves to indulge in something sweet every now and then, and an even more indulgent and delicious Oreo alternative than another store-bought sandwich cookie is your very own batch of freshly baked, vegan “Oreos.” This recipe from Valises & Gourmandises will make about 20 vegan creme-filled sandwich cookies for you to bring to your next potluck or family gathering (or secretly eat all by yourself — I won’t tell anyone!).

TRYING TO CUT BACK ON UNHEALTHY OILS? CHECK OUT THESE 9 PRACTICAL TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR OIL INTAKE!

Are Oreos vegan? Answered!

Whether or not Oreos are vegan depends mostly on how you look at them. Are they vegan in the traditional sense of not explicitly containing any listed animal ingredients? Yes. However, they may contain traces of milk due to shared factory equipment, so some vegans choose to avoid them for that reason.

Another important thing to consider is your health when eating any processed food. Just because Oreos are vegan (or at least can be in some people’s opinion) doesn’t mean they should be part of your regular diet. Keeping them as occasional treats is okay. Eating a packet daily, isn’t!

What’s your take on this complicated cookie? Are Oreos vegan in your eyes? Will you be picking up a pack of these famous sandwich cookies on your next grocery trip, or opting for a different treat? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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