Are Graham Crackers Vegan? (Here’s Why It Depends)

Are Graham Crackers Vegan? (Here’s Why It Depends)

Crackers are oftentimes the best choice when you want a snack but don’t want to be stuffing yourself with relatively unhealthier options. Most Graham Crackers have a certain amount of sugar, but they don’t come close to more caloric snacks.

From a health perspective, you’re usually better off eating a pack of Graham Crackers than eating a pack of Oreos, for instance. And while that is true, Graham Crackers are still quite delicious.

Graham Crackers are traditionally made with honey. As a result, you have brands like the Honey Maid that create Graham Crackers using honey. However, that is not to say you can’t find alternatives free of honey. In fact, there are many plant-based honey alternatives, and that’s what you will find when seeking vegan Graham Crackers.

At the same time, Graham Crackers are also traditionally made using cinnamon. Despite that, honey still plays a major role in highlighting the sweetness in cinnamon Crackers. Something else to consider is that Graham Crackers were once made using lard, which is essentially pig fat.

Thankfully, they’ve moved on from that system of production and now use less harmful ingredients, other than honey. In any case, we’re going to provide you with everything you need to know about Graham Crackers, including a list of vegan-friendly Graham Crackers you can indulge in without feeling like you’re committing a serious crime against bees.

Graham Crackers: Ingredients

graham crackers

Because there are multiple options, it’s hard to determine exactly what the staple ingredients in Graham Crackers are. Originally, they were prepared with graham flour, oil, shortening or lard, molasses, and salt, but because of mass-production and rising competition, the ingredients have slightly changed and proceed to vary from one brand to another.

This being said, it helps to look at the biggest brands of Graham Crackers in the market and have an idea of what to expect on a trip to the supermarket.

One of the most popular Graham Crackers in the world is brought to you by Honey Maid.

Honey Maid Ingredients

honey maid crackers

Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid), Graham Flour (Whole Grain Wheat Flour), Sugar, Soybean Oil, Honey, Leavening (Baking Soda and/or Calcium Phosphate), Salt, Soy Lecithin, and Artificial Flavor.

Obviously, there is an ingredient that poses a grave concern to vegans worldwide.

That ingredient is honey which through the lenses of vegan’s eyes is associated with animal exploitation, for several reasons we will mention in more detail.

Although the despair of bees doesn’t resemble the cries of a calf as it gets separated from its mother, the injustice that befalls upon bees is equally as saddening, even though it’s hard for some people to feel the same level of compassion.

The honey aside, all of the ingredients in the Honey Maid Graham Crackers are vegan. As we’re able to see, they still make use of some traditional ingredients, with the exception of lard. That in itself is great because brands that want to create alternatives for vegans can do so by removing honey, and replace it with an equally sweet alternative such as agave, maple, or what have you.

That brings me to another popular brand of Graham Cracker.

Nabisco Graham Crackers

nabisco graham crackers

Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Graham Flour (Whole Grain Wheat Flour), Sugar, Canola Oil, Molasses, Palm Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda And/Or Calcium Phosphate), and Salt. 

The ingredients within the Nabisco Graham Crackers are very similar to the Honey Maid brand, but there is an obvious exception to be noted — there is no honey. Because instead of honey, molasses are being used as a replacement.

Molasses is essentially a thick, sticky syrup that results from the boiled down sugar cane juice or sugar beet juice. To make the molasses from sugar cane, you press the sugar cane stalks to extract the juice, and then reduce the liquid to form crystallized sugar. Once the crystals are removed, you’re left with light molasses.

It’s likely that the molasses in the Nabisco Graham Crackers are extracted from sugar cane because molasses that come from sugar beets are extremely bitter, which isn’t something you would want to use in food. However, like honey, light molasses have a strong, sweet flavor.

Why Are Vegans Against Honey?

beekeepers

Most vegans see no difference between bee farming and animal farming, often because commercial bee farmers employ practices that are unethical.

To keep things simple, here are two reasons why vegans don’t eat honey:

1 – Honey is Obtained by Exploiting Bees

Honey’s main function is to provide bees with carbohydrates and other essential nutrients like amino acids, antioxidants, and antibiotics. Bees store honey and consume it over the winter months so that they can stay healthy and survive during cold weather.

However, commercial honey farming implies taking away their honey and replacing it with sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup, ingredients that don’t provide bees the beneficial nutrients found in honey. In addition, these sweeteners harm the bees’ immune systems and may cause genetic changes that reduce their defenses against pesticides.

In other words, by doing this, bee farming can lead to the downfall of beehives.

2 – Bees Also Suffer Physical Damage

Commercial honey farming also implies clipping the wings of queen bees in an attempt to control swarming. In other words, If the queen bee is unable to fly, the worker bees are forced to stay in the beehive, and cannot fly elsewhere to create a new colony.

This basically ensures there isn’t a decline in production and profit.

Furthermore, in conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity, a method that narrows the population gene pool and increases the chances of bees catching diseases and dying in the process.

Diseases can also be caused by importing diverse species of bees to beehives.

Doing this can also lead to the spreading of diseases to other thousands of pollinators, which means both we and other species may be affected in the process.

Bottom Line
Large-scale bee/honey farming is detrimental to the health of bees, which is why vegans stand against the consumption of honey.

Which Graham Crackers Are Vegan?

Brand:  Non-vegan ingredients: Verdict:
Nabisco Graham Crackers N/A Vegan
Keebler Graham Crackers N/A Vegan
Honey Maid Graham Crackers Honey Not Vegan
Teddy Graham Crackers Honey Not Vegan
Annie’s Organic Honey Grahams Honey Not Vegan
Trader Joe’s Honey Graham Crackers Honey Not Vegan
Keebler Cinnamon Graham Crackers Honey Not Vegan
Pamela’s Graham Crackers Honey Not Vegan

There is a vast difference between the amount of Graham Crackers that are vegan and the ones that aren’t. As you can see, the majority of popular Graham Crackers contain honey.

That said, it’s still possible to find some vegan Graham Crackers. In fact, don’t think that the two I’ve listed above are the only options available. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the only ingredient that sets these two apart is honey, so you’re bound to find more options if you dig a bit further.

Other Controversial Ingredients

Frankly, I hate to bring this up, but there are still ingredients that some vegans may not be willing to consume despite being considered plant-based.

Some of these ingredients can be found in certain Graham Crackers, so if you’re quite strict with your preferences, you have to keep them in mind. For instance, the Graham Crackers I’ve identified as being vegan contain refined sugar, as well as (light) molasses.

Both these ingredients often originate from sugar cane.

Why Are The Ingredients Controversial?

To first understand why these ingredients may not be vegan, you have to know that sugar is often obtained from two sources: sugar canes and beets.

They’re both used in similar amounts in the United States, and they also share a similar taste and texture. That said, their refining processes are not the same, cane sugar being the most worrying.

It turns out that in some cases, cane sugar can be refined using bone char.

What is bone char? Do All Companies Use It?

Bone char is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures, resulting in a decolorizing and deashing agent with a similar appearance to charcoal. This agent is then used to filter and bleach sugar— removing inorganic impurities like sulfates or ions of magnesium and calcium, leaving the sugar white and immaculate.

Thankfully, not every company uses bone char, so if you’re keen on avoiding products that contain sugar refined with bone char, you have to reach out to them.

Earlier, I’ve mentioned the Nabisco Graham Crackers being vegan. However, Nabisco belongs to Mondelez International, which is an American multinational company that admits to having multiple sugar suppliers, including ones that use bone char. 

Email by mondelez international

In the end, it’s up to you whether or not you consume sugar refined with bone char, but I know vegans that utterly despise that practice.

Do Molasses Come Before Or After Bone Char Is Used?

As I’ve mentioned, molasses fit for human consumption are derived from sugar cane.

However, this type of molasses does not go through bone char or a carbon filter. Actually, 95% of the molasses are removed before the sugar travels through the bone char or carbon filter. Any molasses that go through filters are used as animal feed or for fermentation purposes.

In conclusion, Molasses used for human consumption are not filtered using bone char as most of it is removed prior to being filtered. 

Other Controversial Ingredients To Keep In Mind

There are other ingredients you have to keep in mind, especially if you’re going to look for products beyond those I’ve mentioned in this blog post. While they’re not wildly common in vegan Graham Crackers, I found them to be used by certain brands.

These ingredients include:

Natural Flavors: The issue with “natural flavors” is that they can be derived from either plants or animals, but companies are not required to disclose their source unless it’s considered a major allergen. Unfortunately, there are companies that “hide” animal ingredients under the “natural flavors” umbrella, so be wary of that.

Artificial Flavors: Although man-made, some vegans choose not to consume artificial flavors because these are a byproduct of animal testing. In some cases, periodic tests must take place to confirm the safety of an ingredient (i.e: Red #40 (artificial color)).

Palm Oil: Technically, palm oil comes from a plant. However, in order to create palm oil plantations, acres of forests are decimated, as well as natural habitats. Because of this, certain species are now endangered. Between 1999 and 2015, palm oil production has lead to the demise of 100,000 orangutangs according to this research.

Not all vegans avoid these ingredients. In fact, most vegans are fine with consuming these “controversial ingredients”, as long as they avoid the more flagrant ones. In other words, whether or not you avoid these ingredients, it all comes down to your personal definition of veganism.

Feel free to consume them or avoid them if you wish.

Summary: Not All Graham Crackers Are Vegan

Unfortunately, the majority of the brands I’ve found actually include honey in their Graham Crackers. That said, don’t despair. If you search for “vegan graham crackers” on websites like Amazon or Walmart, you’ll be able to find honey-free options that will delight you!

You can also try out the Graham Crackers by Nabisco and Keebler. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve included them earlier in a colorful table.

Anyway, thank you for reading and I hope this blog has helped answer your question!

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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