Are Onion Rings Vegan?

are onion rings vegan?

Onion rings are a very popular snack food in the United States. Typically, you can find onion rings in fast food restaurants, and in most supermarket chains.

From what I’ve seen, in most supermarkets, you can find onion rings that are vegan, even though you might also come in contact with recipes containing milk. As far as restaurants are concerned, It depends on the establishment as well.

Let’s start first by looking at the nutrition facts of certain onion rings sold at Walmart. This is by far the largest supermarket chain in the United States and should provide us with some varieties. At least enough to clear our doubts.

Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings.

Funyuns onion rings

Ingredients: enriched corn meal (corn meal, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), vegetable oil (corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil), salt, and less than 2% of the following: corn starch, sugar, corn flour, BUTTERMILK, maltodextrin (made from corn), onion powder, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed corn protein, dextrose, garlic powder, natural flavors, gum arabic.

Right off the bat, we can see that it contains buttermilk— a milk-based ingredient.

Traditionally, buttermilk was known as the liquid leftover after churning butter. An unpasteurized cream that sat “ripening” for a few days before churning while natural occurring bacteria caused it to ferment. After the milk sugars converted into lactic acid through that fermentation process, the buttermilk gained its thick and creamy appearance.

However, nowadays all milk and cream is pasteurized at high temperatures — a process which inevitably kills all the bacteria that made it ferment.

As a result, all buttermilk sold today is essentially cultured milk; created by introducing lactic acid bacteria into pasteurized skim or low-fat milk.

industrial buttermilk
Industrialized buttermilk.

Quite frankly, buttermilk also looks scary no matter how you look at it. But my goal with this short explanation was also to help you understand that it’s always crucial to look at labels.

Even though the majority of brands may use soy lecithin to replace animal-based ingredients, there’s always a chance you may find an outlier using buttermilk, for instance.

Alexia Crispy Onion Rings

alexia onion rings

Alexia onion rings

Ingredients: onions, wheat flour, Whole wheat flour, expeller pressed canola oil, corn starch, cane sugar, sea salt, onion powder, inactive dried yeast, garlic powder, yeast, guar gum.

These are the highest-rated onion rings available on Walmart’s website. And guess what, they’re considered vegan and they also have a lot fewer additives.

This being said, there’s also something I’d like to mention, especially when reviewing foods containing sugar. Sometimes there are ingredients that may have directly impacted animals via the manufacturing process, even though it’s not present on the label.

If you’re familiar with cane sugar, then you know there’s a slim chance the cane sugar in these onion rings (and others) may not be vegan.

Why Refined Sugar May Not Be Vegan.

Refined sugar can be either made from sugar cane or beet sugar. They both share the same taste, and they’re both equally in demand throughout the United States.

However, their refining process is quite different. While refined sugar made from sugar beet is made using a diffuser and mixed with additives to grant it that pristine color, the one from sugar cane may have been refined using bone char.

bone char
Bone char.

Bone char is essentially the carbonized bones of cattle. This “black powder” is used to confer sugar its crystalized color. But how do you know this stuff prior to buying anything?

Well, you don’t. The only way you have of knowing which type of sugar is used throughout the manufacturing process is by:

  • Contacting the company selling the product;
  • Or, contact the actual manufacturer.

But even then, it’s very difficult to know for sure.

In this blog post about the Oreo cookies, I’ve learned that NOT all sugar suppliers use bone char, but there’s some that do. Plus, the oreo company, in particular, can’t tell you which tube of Oreos contains bone char-refined sugar as it changes from supplier to supplier.

The same might happen with other companies.

Whether you act or not after learning this information is your choice, but I personally won’t stop eating Oreos for knowing that. That is my choice.

Are Onion Rings Sold In Restaurants Vegan?

This question has a yes and no answer.

In some restaurants, buttermilk and eggs are used to create the dough. This is how they confer onion rings with its crispiness. Another possibility is that onion rings may get deep-fried in animal fat, instead of vegetable oil.

From the information I gathered from different websites, I managed to figure out where vegan onion rings are sold.

RestaurantVegan Onion Rings?
SonicYes
Harvey's (Canada)Yes
Pizza Pizza'sYes
Burger KingContain Milk
Carl's JrContain Milk
FatburgerYes
Jack In the BoxContain Milk
Astro BurgerNot Certain
A&W RestaurantsContain Milk
Arby'sContain Milk
Pizza HutYes
Dairy QueenContain Eggs and Milk
PopeyesContain Eggs and Milk

Frankly, we’ve gone a long way since the days where vegan options were RARE. Today we have way more options, and that is something we should feel GREAT about.

As you can see from the list above, there are fewer restaurants offering vegan-friendly onion rings than the ones that do. But don’t let that put you since vegan onion rings can be found in most supermarkets, as well as some restaurants.

Homemade Vegan Onion Rings.

The best way of ensuring you eat the MOST VEGAN of all onion rings is by buying the ingredients yourself and making them at home.

Quite frankly, creating homemade onion rings allows you to exclude all animal ingredients and also make the onion rings healthier since you can choose to bake them or use an air-fryer which completely removes the need to use oil.

vegan fat-free onion rings

Vegan & Fat-free Onion Rings.

At the same time, you can also preserve the crispiness onion rings are known for.

Here are three delicious vegan onion ring recipes:

I’d recommend you to start out with first if you have an air-fryer at hand. Otherwise, the other two are equally amazing. Leave them a comment after you try out the recipe. 🙂

Summary

Basically, onion rings can be both vegan and non-vegan. It all depends on the brand of frozen onion rings you buy, and also on the restaurant you’re visiting.

Most restaurants will probably use buttermilk and eggs since it makes it easier to achieve that notable crispy texture, which is what most people prefer. But at the same time, you can also find delicious vegan onion rings in a panoply of other restaurants.

What’s important is that there are vegan options available, so it’s just a matter of looking at labels, and speaking to the workers in the restaurant.

Last but not least, thank you for reading this blog post! I truly appreciate it!

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About the Author: 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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