According to the dictionary, a crouton is a small piece of fried or toasted bread, sometimes seasoned, used as a garnish for soups, salads, and other dishes.
Unfortunately, most croutons contain animal ingredients. They usually contain milk products or derivatives, including natural butter flavor, and sometimes whey protein or just milk. Other varieties might contain cheese. However, there are some exceptions that don’t have animal ingredients, which I listed further down this article.
A crouton is a small-sized bread, so it’s quite disheartening that most brands use animal ingredients when all you would need is wheat flour, plant-based oils, and a bit of seasoning. Some people claim it wouldn’t be possible to create crouton’s unique crunchy texture without animal ingredients, but some vegan versions are also as good.
In this article, I closely analyze different crouton brands to see why they’re not vegan, and I also list vegan crouton brands and a few vegan crouton recipes you can make at home.
Why Most Croutons Are Not Vegan
Croutons have several ingredients derived from animals.
Among them you can find natural butter flavor, whey protein, casein, and other milk-derivatives like cheese.
Natural butter flavor
One of those ingredients is “natural butter flavor”, which may not always come from an animal source.
While most brands use natural butter flavor derived from milk, there are certain brands that might not. Spice House, an online seasonings store, sells natural butter flavor that is suitable for vegans, so there’s a chance that some crouton-producing brands might use this type of ingredient when devising their croutons.
This is easily detectable by checking the label for potential allergens. If you find “milk” among the allergens, then the natural butter flavor is made from milk.
Whey protein, casein, or cheese
Certain proteins like whey and casein are commonly used in processed food products because they improve properties in foods, namely solubility, gelling, viscosity, emulsification, and foaming.
Adding milk also imparts the food with flavor and improved mouthfeel.
Most croutons will contain a milk-derivative, typically whey protein or simply milk. Cheese is also a very common ingredient in croutons, but that’s usually quite obvious from the name of the flavor.
List of Vegan Croutons
After doing some research online, I found three brands of vegan croutons:
Ingredients: organic multigrain bread (unbleached white, whole wheat, rye, and soy organic flours, water, yeast, sea salt), organic sunflower oil, organic granulated garlic and oil, organic paprika, organic basil, organic pepper, and organic parsley.
Ingredients: sourdough bread (enriched wheat flour (niacin, reduced iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), malted barley flour, water, salt, calcium sulfate, enzymes, ascorbic acid), cultured vegan butter (organic coconut oil, organic safflower oil or organic sunflower oil, organic cashews, sea salt, cultures), olive oil, fresh garlic and spices (onion, mustard seed, paprika, vegan sugar, mushroom), gourmet cheezy parmesan (raw cashews, nutritional yeast, and spices).
Ingredients: wheat flour, organic expeller-pressed palm oil, salt, yeast, yeast extract, natural flavors, organic garlic powder, organic onion powder, organic paprika, and organic chili pepper.
Make Vegan Croutons At Home
Another way to get your hands on vegan croutons is to make them at home. I personally enjoy the recipe shown in the video below by Chef Ani. They’re simple garlic croutons, but extremely delicious.
Are Olive Garden Croutons Vegan?
Unfortunately, Olive Garden’s croutons are not vegan as they contain milk.
Here are the ingredients present on the label:
Ingredients: bread (enriched flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], sugar, salt, yeast, canola and/or sunflower oil, enzymes, ascorbic acid), canola and/or sunflower oil with rosemary extract and ascorbic acid [to preserve freshness]), seasoning whey, maltodextrin, garlic powder, salt, hydrolyzed corn, soy, wheat, and gluten protein, dehydrated parsley, romano cheese solids from cow’s milk [part skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], corn syrups solids, caramel color, paprika [color], extractive of paprika [color], and natural flavors).
Are Ruby Tuesday Croutons Vegan?
The croutons at Ruby Tuesday are also not suitable for vegans.
While I can’t get access to the full ingredient list, their allergen menu points out that their popular croutons contain both milk and eggs.
Unfortunately, most croutons contain animal ingredients, generally in the form of milk and respective derivatives.
With that being said, there are vegan croutons, although they’re not easy to find. If you want to taste vegan croutons that badly, refer to the short list of vegan croutons I’ve shared above.