Are Goldfish Vegan? Here is Everything You Need to Know

Goldfish are fish-shaped cheese crackers manufactured by Pepperidge Farm, which is a division of the Campbell Soup Company, the multinational that also owns names like SpaghettiOS and Pacific Foods.

These crackers are mostly known for their cheese-flavored variety, but there are several varieties, including the Original, Parmesan, Pizza, Pretzel, Baby Cheddar, and Colors. Sadly, not a single Goldfish variety is vegan. 

They all contain at least one ingredient derived from milk, which is not surprising, considering that most flavors represent foods that are not vegan.

This article will look at each Goldfish flavor closely and analyze its ingredients, and I will also provide you with the only vegan alternative to this product I know.

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to continue reading.

Goldfish are not suitable for vegans

Unfortunately, Goldfish crackers are not suitable for vegan as all of the flavors contain at least one milk derivative, which is saddening since the remaining ingredients are considered plant-based.

This means that Goldfish products are more or less one ingredient away from being vegan.

Let’s look at each Goldfish flavor and analyze its ingredients.

Goldfish Original

goldfish original

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Original:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Nonfat Milk
  • Sugar
  • Baking Soda
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion Powder

This specific variety is supposed to have a quasi saltine cracker flavor, but those types of crackers are usually made with three or four ingredients, namely wheat flour, yeast, baking soda, and a light sprinkle of coarse salt.

Unlike simple saltine crackers, the Goldfish Original has 12 ingredients and one of them is milk.

Recommended Read: Are Ritz Crackers Vegan?

Goldfish Cheddar

goldfish cheddar

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Cheddar:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion Powder
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Baking Soda

There’s no mistaking this one since the packaging suggests it’s made from 100% real cheese. With this one, you don’t even need to look at the label to see that it’s not vegan.

These are Goldfish’s most popular crackers.

Recommended Read: Are Graham Crackers Vegan?

Goldfish Baby Cheddar

goldfish baby cheddar

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Baby Cheddar:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Baking Soda
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Onion Powder.

These Baby Cheddar have the same ingredients as the Cheddar flavor but they are miniature-sized crackers.

Recommended Read: Are TUC Crackers Vegan?

Goldfish Colors

goldfish colors

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Colors:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid),
  • Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion Powder
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Baking Soda
  • Colors (Beet, Huito, And Watermelon Juice Concentrates; Paprika And Turmeric Extracts).

This one and the Original flavor were the two only flavors I was hopeful about. If you look at a box of Goldfish Colors, you can find the phrase: “sourced from plants”. But apparently, they are strictly referring to the food colorings used to provide the crackers with their different colors.

Unfortunately, this one still contains cheese, making it unsuitable for vegans.

Goldfish Parmesan

goldfish parmesan

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Parmesan:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Parmesan Cheese (Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Onion Powder
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Baking Soda.

Goldfish Pizza

goldfish pizza

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Pizza:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Tomato Paste
  • Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Baking Soda
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Paprika Extract (Color)
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Onion Powder.

Goldfish Pretzel

goldfish pretzel

These are the ingredients in Goldfish Pretzel:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, And/Or Soybean)
  • Salt
  • Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate)
  • Malted Barley Flour
  • Dextrose
  • Nonfat Milk. 

I actually had my hopes for this pretzel flavor because some pretzels are vegan. At their core, they are a mixture of yeast, water, and flour. But later throughout confection, animal fats and additives (in the form of toppings and dipping sauces) may be added to enhance the flavor.

In fact, the plain pretzels bought in-store are normally vegan, but you need to keep an eye on alternative varieties that include cheese and honey.

With that being said, this pretzel-flavored Goldfish is not vegan, as it contains milk.

Recommended Read: Are Pretzels Vegan? 

Other questionable ingredients in Goldfish

Aside from obvious ingredients like cheese and milk, Goldfish also contain some dubious plant-based ingredients that may or not be vegan. Those ingredients are sugar and palm oil.

Sugar

Unfortunately, not all sugar is vegan.

Products that contain sugar derived from sugarcane might not be vegan because cane sugar is sometimes processed with a charcoal-like powder called bone char.

Bone char is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures.

cattle

According to PETA, these bones come from countries like Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan, which sell the bones to traders in Scotland, Egypt, and Brazil that later resell them to sugar suppliers in the US.

The good news is that a lot of sugar suppliers are now employing vegan-friendly methods in their processing by using alternatives like activated carbon and ion-exchange raisins.

Recommended Read: Why is Refined Sugar Not Vegan?

Palm Oil

Even though palm oil is clearly an ingredient derived from a plant, its mass production is heavily associated with both environmental predicaments and animal cruelty.

Palm oil leads to the massive deforestation of rainforests, which causes entire habitats to disappear and thereby puts animal species at risk. This study by Cell.com points out that between 1999 and 2015, 100,000 Bornean orangutans died as a result of massive deforestation created by palm oil demand.

Additionally, conventional palm oil production is also associated with climate change and increased greenhouse gases. Clearly, it’s a dangerous ingredient, not only to the planet but to the species that inhabit it.

A vegan alternative to Goldfish

earth balance vegan cheese squares

It’s hard to come across exceptional alternatives to some of our favorite foods, but we have managed to find an adequate alternative in this particular case.

While they’re visually different from the Goldfish crackers, their vegan cheddar-flavored squares are a true delicacy, and it’s hard to tell them apart from the real thing.

The ingredients in Earth Balance’s vegan cheddar-flavored squares are:

  • Unbleached Pastry Flour
  • Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Canola Oil
  • Corn Starch
  • Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Gum Acacia, Natural Flavor)
  • Palm Oil
  • Sunflower Lecithin
  • Salt
  • Baking Soda
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Ammonium Bicarbonate
  • Sugar
  • Paprika Oleoresin Color
  • Yeast Extract
  • Annatto Extract (Water, Annatto)
  • Lactic Acid
  • Dehydrated Toasted Onion
  • Garlic Powder.

This plant-based alternative indeed has ingredients like palm oil and sugar, but I also know that being vegan doesn’t necessarily involve taking those ingredients out of your diet.

Stricter vegans tend to avoid anything that is associated with animal cruelty, but at the same time, these ingredients are ultimately plant-based, and less strict vegans find it okay to eat them.

Therefore, it’s really down to you as an individual to choose between eating or not eating these crackers.

Summary

Unfortunately, we’ve learned throughout this article that not a single Goldfish variety is vegan, as they all contain at least one milk-derivative.

However, that’s only to be expected when we look at some of the flavors such as cheddar and parmesan.

With that being said, you don’t have to abandon your vegan diet to taste cheddar-flavored crackers. We have found a suitable vegan alternative to the Goldfish crackers produced by Earth Balance.

Our Recommendation For Vegans

Future Kind’s Essential Vitamins: This is our favorite multivitamin. It’s not the typical multivitamin because it was formulated to specifically address potential shortcomings in the vegan diet. It contains the essential vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA) delivered in necessary doses so you don’t have to worry about potential deficiencies. Want to learn more about it? Check out the review we did on it.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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