Are Goldfish Vegan?


Are Goldfish Vegan?

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Goldfish is a popular brand of fish-shaped crackers put out by Pepperidge Farm, a division of the Campbell Soup Company.1

I get asked quite a bit if they’re vegan. They are known for being cheese-flavored, but it’s still a good question because not all cheese-flavored snacks contain actual cheese, and Goldfish has a variety of flavors these days. The product is advertised as a “baked snack cracker” with a number of varieties and flavors.2,3

Is it vegan? No, Goldfish are not vegan as there are currently no 100% plant-based varieties of the snack on offer by Pepperidge Farm. Each flavor contains at least one milk derivative.

If you’re in a rush, the best vegan Goldfish alternative can be found here. I’ve tried them and they are basically indistinguishable from the original, and they contain as few ingredients as possible. All high-quality.

What we’ll do here is go over each of the flavors and their animal-derived ingredients.

Struggling to find good vegan food to eat? Then check out our best vegan cookbooks for beginners.

Why Goldfish Are Not Considered Vegan

Goldfish® Original

Ingredients for the Original Goldfish include:4

  • Enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Canola and/or sunflower oil
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Nonfat milk
  • Sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion powder

As you can see, non-fat milk is the only offending ingredient here. In a cheese-flavored snack, I would have expected cream, cultured milk, enzymes, etc. But, these are surprisingly almost vegan.

Contrast that with Doritos, who’ve long been known to have everything but the kitchen sink in their ingredients label. Back in 1996, The Onion (a satirical website and newspaper) featured an article with a headline reading “Doritos Celebrates One-Millionth Ingredient”, to poke fun at Frito-Lay for the outlandish number of ingredients used in Doritos.5

Check out this article for a list of vegan Doritos flavors.*

Pepperidge Farm is a bit more dignified so they try to have fewer ingredients to appeal to a more health-conscious crowd.

In any case, these are still non-vegan due to the presence of milk.

Goldfish® Cheddar

These are like the original (cheese flavor), but I suppose with a sharper cheddar profile.

These contain:6

  • Enriched flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Cultured milk
  • Salt
  • Enzymes
  • Annatto
  • Canola and/or sunflower oils
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Baking soda
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion powder

Goldfish® Baby Cheddar

These contain:7

  • Enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Cultured milk
  • Salt
  • Enzymes
  • Annatto
  • Canola and/or sunflower oils
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Baking soda
  • Paprika
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Onion powder

Goldfish® Colors

These contain the usual cheddar ingredients plus a few natural colors:8

  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes)
  • Canola and/or sunflower oils
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Onion powder
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Baking soda
  • Colors—annatto extract, beet juice concentrate, paprika, turmeric extract, huito juice concentrate*, watermelon juice concentrate.

* Huito is a plant belonging to the genus Genipa that grows in the rainforests of southern Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean Islands.

The fruit is an important source of dye that can be used to market food products and other goods as natural.9

Goldfish® Parmesan

These contain:10

  • Enriched wheat flour (the usual micronutrients)
  • Plant oils like canola and/or sunflower oils
  • Parmesan cheese (milk, cultures, salt, and enzymes)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Baking soda

Goldfish® Pizza

Like cheese, pizza is always a red flag. I don’t think I’ve encountered a vegan-friendly cheese-flavored product before and these are no exception.

Ingredients include:11

  • Enriched wheat flour (the usual micronutrients)
  • Plant oils like canola and/or sunflower oils
  • Tomato paste
  • Cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes)
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Baking soda
  • Spices
  • Celery
  • Paprika (for color)
  • Monocalcium phosphate
  • Onion powder.

Goldfish® Pretzel

Most pretzels I’ve run across are vegan-friendly, so I had my hopes up for this one. It’s not immediately obvious that you’d need milk products for flavoring. But, milk is used for a variety of reasons in food manufacturing due to the many properties it imparts to food products.

Processed snacks often contain milk products in one form or another, usually as a preservative or to impart flavor and improve mouthfeel.

For example, casein—the most abundant protein in milk—contributes to emulsification and stabilization of baked goods. I.e. it helps keep ingredients nice and mixed.

This particular product contains non-fat milk which is likely used for texture or to boost the nutritional profile of the snack.12

Anyway, these ingredients pop up all over the place and can even be found in foods like pretzels that should be accidentally vegan.

Best Vegan Goldfish Alternative

Most searches for vegan Goldfish alternatives will render recipes for making your own. But, commercial vegan Goldfish substitutes are hard to come by.

The closest thing I’ve come across are Earth Balance Cheddar Flavor Squares. I’ve had them before and they are nigh indistinguishable from regular cheese-flavored crackers. So good. You’ll have to do without the fish shape, but they really nailed the taste.

These include:13

  • Unbleached and unenriched wheat flour
  • Water
  • Enriched bleached wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • 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

A Quick Word on Palm Oil

You may have noticed palm oil in the ingredients.

Palm oil is controversial in the vegan community, but its presence doesn’t make a food product non-vegan, at least by most standards.

It’s popular for use in baked goods so it’s pretty ubiquitous in snack foods. It’s controversial due to it’s connection to the rainforest destruction that results from its cultivation.

Regions of the world that are home to endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger are subject to habitat loss which threatens the already endangered species even more.14-17

The production of palm oil is also connected to climate change and increased greenhouse gasses.18-21

Anyway, this is something to keep in mind if you’re particularly prudent vegan or vegan for environmental purposes.

A Quick Word on Lactic Acid

Lactic acid (LA), as a food additive, is not to be confused with lactose, the simple sugar found in milk. Lactose is always animal-derived as it’s produced as a by-product of the dairy industry.

LA, on the other hand, can be made from lactic acid bacteria cultivated on simple sugars.22

However, it can be animal-derived if galactose is used in its production, depending on how the galactose is sourced. Galactose is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) found in animal products, but also certain veggies like sugar beets.23

Anyway, the inclusion of LA as an ingredient doesn’t render a food product non-vegan for most in the community. But, if you want to be extra careful, you may want to avoid the additive.

Anyway, that sums it up for Goldfish. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:

References

  1. Myers, Dan (May 4, 2015). “Things you didn’t know about Goldfish crackers”. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/things-you-didnt-know-about-goldfish-crackers
  2. Smith, A.F. (2012). Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat. Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of what We Love to Eat. ABC-CLIO. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-313-39393-8.
  3. McDonough, J.; Egolf, K. (2015). The Advertising Age Encyclopedia of Advertising. Taylor & Francis. p. 2321. ISBN 978-1-135-94913-6
  4. Goldfish® Original Baked Snack Crackers. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-original/
  5. “Doritos Celebrates One-Millionth Ingredient”. The Onion. May 14, 1996. https://www.theonion.com/doritos-celebrates-one-millionth-ingredient-1819563896
  6. Goldfish® Cheddar. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-cheddar/
  7. Goldfish® Baby Cheddar. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-baby-cheddar/
  8. Goldfish® Colors. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-colors/
  9. Huito. https://www.onlyfoods.net/huito.html
  10. Goldfish® Parmesan. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-parmesan/
  11. Goldfish® Pizza. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-pizza/
  12. Goldfish® Pretzel. https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/goldfish-pretzel/
  13. Earth Balance Cheddar Flavored Squares. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Earth-Balance-Vegan-Cheddar-Flavor-Squares-6-Oz/187547638
  14. “The bird communities of oil palm and rubber plantations in Thailand” (PDF). The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  15. “Palm oil threatening endangered species” (PDF). Center for Science in the Public Interest. May 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 September 2012.
  16. Shears, Richard (30 March 2012). “Hundreds of orangutans killed in north Indonesian forest fires deliberately started by palm oil firms”. Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  17. “Camera catches bulldozer destroying Sumatra tiger forest”. World Wildlife Fund. 12 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  18. “Palm oil: Cooking the Climate”. Greenpeace. 8 November 2007. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010.
  19. Foster, Joanna M. (1 May 2012). “A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  20. Yui, Sahoko; Yeh, Sonia (1 December 2013). “Land use change emissions from oil palm expansion in Pará, Brazil depend on proper policy enforcement on deforested lands”. Environmental Research Letters. 8 (4): 044031. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044031. ISSN 1748-9326.
  21. “Researchers warn against high emissions from oil palm expansion in Brazil”. phys.org. 13 November 2013.
  22. H. Benninga (1990): “A History of Lactic Acid Making: A Chapter in the History of Biotechnology”. Volume 11 of Chemists and Chemistry. Springer, ISBN 0792306252, 9780792306252
  23. Galactose. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactose#Sources

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

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