Crepe or Crêpe is the French word for a thin pancake-like quick bread used to wrap other ingredients, like cheese, or Nutella, etc. They can also be served flat or stacked like pancakes with several toppings.
The fillings in crepes can range from sweet—creams, syrups, or fruit—in which the crepes are considered a dessert (crêpes Jacques, crêpes Suzette crêpes soufflé, and crêpes empire) to more savory breakfast items.1
Are they vegan? No, crepes are not vegan. From the crepe itself to the fillings often accompanying them, this food product poses a number of problems for vegans.
This goes for homemade crepes (made with standard recipes), as well as those from restaurants and grocery stores.
But, this particular food product is surprisingly easy to make and really only requires ingredients you’d typically use for a vegan-friendly pancake recipe and a crepe maker or pan if you don’t mind a little extra work.
Most of you, I’d imagine, are wondering about commercial crepes including those you’ll encounter in restaurants and grocery stores. So, we’ll focus on these.
What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons why standard crepes (not made with a modified recipe) do not qualify as vegan.
Why Crepes Are Not Considered Vegan
Crepes tend to contain milk, butter, and egg. For example, World Variety Produce Melissa’s Crepes contain all three.2
Crepes Contain Milk and Butter
With the articles on pancakes and waffles, we’ve been talking a lot lately about quick breads. In case you’re new to the subject, quick breads are simply bread products that don’t use yeast as a leavener, and that typically don’t rely on gluten formation.
These include crepes, as well as pancakes, waffles, and popovers.
They’re made very quickly by mixing just to the point where the dry ingredients are moistened and then cooked immediately.
Quick breads rely on steam to rise, and many also use chemical leaveners. Pancakes and waffles both make use of chemical leaveners—namely, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Crepes, on the other hand, are extra thin because they do not use any leaveners other than steam.
This brings us to milk. Crepes are made with a thin pour batter—pour batters are made with enough liquid to allow the batter to pour over pans and skillets.3
Crepe batters are usually made in advance and allowed to sit in the fridge for several hours to allow the flour to absorb all of the liquid.
Then they’re thinned out with… you guessed it: milk.4
Milk is the primary source of water in crepes. Alternatively, water and powdered milk are used. But, you can be fairly sure that any crepe you encounter has milk in one form or another.
Then, we have butter to contend with. Butter tends to be an ingredient in commercial crepes. And if you order crepes at a restaurant, you can be pretty sure butter was used to grease the skillet.
Though not required, a special pan is usually used, usually about 6 inches in diameter. It’s heated up and then brushed lightly with melted butter. Granted, margarine can be used, but butter is pretty standard.
Crepes Contain Egg
Eggs are used for a number of reasons in bread products and other baked goods. Crepes, specifically, use egg for flavor and coagulation.5
The specific functions of egg in crepes and similar food products include:6
- Flavor. In combination with other ingredients, eggs have a unique ability to add flavor to the mixture.
- Color. They also help add color due to the lutein and zeaxanthin in the yolk, as well as the browning they help achieve.
- Emulsification. Then we have the lecithin content of the egg yolk which allows them to help stabilize and emulsify ingredients. Lecithin is a compound that helps ingredients mix by attracting both fat and water molecules.7
- Binding. The proteins in the egg help bind ingredients by being spread throughout the mixture and then coagulating/hardening once heated.8,5
In theory, there are a few different vegan-friendly ingredients that could be used in commercial crepes in place of egg products.
For example, soy lecithin is often used in processed foods to help with emulsification. Several vegan-friendly pancakes and waffles contain this ingredient.
There are several plant substances that could be used to replace the binding properties of egg. Any kind of plant material that gels up when exposed to water can be used to replace the matrix achieved with egg proteins.
Despite the availability of vegan-friendly alternatives, the food industry doesn’t seem to make use of them when it comes to making crepes.
I found one blintz (a variation of the crepe) that was dairy-free, but the product ended up containing egg.9
It wasn’t an accidentally milk-free product and proclaimed “dairy-free” quite proudly on the label. I suppose it was marketed toward those with milk allergies because it didn’t seem to try to hide the presence of egg.
Crepes Often Come With Non-Vegan Fillings and Toppings
Though you can buy crepes on their own, the crepes that are served at restaurants usually come with some type of filling.
For example, blintzes are sweet crepes that’ve been filled and then sautéed. They often come stuffed with cheese. Some crepes can are filled with savory preparations like meat, chicken, and seafood.4
Another popular way to serve crepes is to top them with various ingredients. Some crepes are served with Nutella on top or sandwiched between two crepes. Nutella is a non-vegan product as it contains milk.
Are There Any Commercial Vegan Crepes?
This is normally where I’d list a few vegan-friendly products on the market. Unfortunately, there doesn’t currently seem to be any. This is bound to change though, and new vegan products are surfacing every day.
I’ll keep an eye out for any vegan-friendly crepes that hit the market and post them here in the future.
For the time being, you can make your own crepes by using a vegan-friendly pancake recipe minus the baking soda and baking powder (you don’t want them to be chemically leavened). It would also be useful to purchase a crepe maker, though a tortilla maker or even a frying pan or standard skillet can be used.
Crepe makers are just the right size (around 6 inches), and they cook both sizes which really speeds up the cooking process. Most also allow you to tilt the surface to quickly spread the batter out evenly before it solidifies.
That wraps it up for crepes. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following articles:
- Are Pancakes Vegan? (Some Are, Aunt Jemima’s Are Not)
- Are Waffles Vegan? (Frozen Waffles, Waffle Mix, Eggos, Belgian)
- Are Cinnamon Rolls Vegan?
- Is Apple Pie Vegan? (List of Vegan Options)
- Friberg B. The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2002.
- World Variety Produce Melissas Crepes, 10 Count. https://www.walmart.com/ip/World-Variety-Produce-Melissas-Crepes-10-Count/195211224
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 408). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 409). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 256). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 267). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Anton M, and G Gandemer. Composition, solubility, and emulsifying properties of granules and plasma of egg yolk. Journal of Food Science 62(3):484–487, 1997.
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 254). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Tofutti Brands Tofutti Mintz’s Blintzes Crepes, 6 Each. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Tofutti-Brands-Tofutti-Mintz-s-Blintzes-Crepes-6-ea/133232961