Are Kit Kats Vegan or Vegetarian? (Regular, Mini, Dark, Etc.)


Are Kit Kats Vegan?

The Kit Kat is a popular candy bar made of chocolate-coated wafers. It’s been around since the late 80’s so it’s an iconic candy.1 Because it’s been around for so long, a lot of vegans grew up eating the candy and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a 100% plant-based diet.

Is it vegan or vegetarian? Kit Kat bars (both original and mini) are suitable for vegetarians, but not vegans. They contain a number of animal-derived products, all of which are dairy-based. However, there is a great vegan version of the popular candy bar which we’ll discuss in this article.

What we’ll do here is go over the various animal products currently used in the Kit Kat bar and then list any vegan alternatives on the market.

Why Kit Kats Are Not Considered Vegan

Kit Kats Contain Milk Products

The food production industry separates out the various components naturally present in milk for use in confections and other food products.2

Milk can be used to produce proteins like whey and casein, which have several useful properties. Then there’s the milk fat—the component that gives milk its creamy texture—and lactose which is the simple sugar present in milk. Finally, there’s dry milk powder which is just milk with the water (and sometimes fat) removed.

Keep in mind that the Kit Kat bar is produced by the H.B. Reese Candy Company (a division of the Hershey Company) in the US, and Nestlé in Europe and elsewhere. So, the ingredients do vary depending on where the bar is manufactured.

In the US, Kit Kats contains:3

  • Sugar
  • Wheat flour
  • Nonfat milk
  • Cocoa butter
  • Chocolate
  • Lactose
  • Refined palm kernel oil
  • Milk fat
  • Soy lecithin and polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) (emulsifiers)
  • Artificial flavor
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Sodium bicarbonate

In Canada, the bar contains:4

  • Sugar
  • Modified milk ingredients
  • Cocoa butter, cocoa mass
  • Whey powder
  • Lactose
  • Soya lecithin and PGPR
  • Natural flavor
  • Wheat flour
  • Sugar
  • Modified palm oil
  • Cocoa
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Soy lecithin
  • Yeast

In Europe the bar contains:5

  • Sugar
  • Cocoa butter, cocoa mass
  • Dried whole milk
  • Wheat flour
  • Vegetable fat
  • Lactose and proteins from whey
  • Flavoring
  • Yeast and a raising agent (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Whey powder
  • Emulsifier (sunflower lecithin, soy lecithin)
  • Butterfat
  • Salt

So as you can see, Kit Kats makes use of about every milk product known to man.

I do get asked from time to time why it is that vegans can’t consume dairy. Usually, it’s by newcomers to the subject of vegan and plant-based diets.

It’s not immediately obvious to many that the vegan diet isn’t primarily concerned with health since so many in the community are mostly concerned with the health benefits offered by the eating pattern.

If that were true, it would be understandable to question whether milk would be strictly off-limits, especially if the milk and it’s derivatives are fat-free (such as whey protein isolate, etc.).

However, the vegan diet is defined by abstinence from all animal products. If one consumes dairy as a sole source of animal-based protein, then said person is a lacto-vegetarian—not a vegan.

Lacto- and ovo-laco vegetarians can consume milk by the gallons, but milk and all of its derivatives (including isolated proteins) are considered off-limits for vegans. Full stop.

Kit Kats Contain Palm oil

Keep in mind that the presence of palm oil doesn’t render a candy non-vegan by most standards. But vegans who are concerned primarily with the environmental implications of food choices often try to avoid the stuff altogether.

Palm oil is a controversial topic in the community, but not all vegans are wary of the ingredient.

Its production and cultivation have long been criticized for its effects on the environment.6,7

Specific environmental concerns include habitat loss and deforestation which threatens critically endangered species like the orangutan. 8-11

Then, there’s the issue of emissions. Palm oil cultivation requires large areas of land to be cleared which directly contributes to rising greenhouse-gas emissions.12-15

Again, not a strictly non-vegan ingredient, but many like to avoid the stuff. So, it’s just one more problematic ingredient in Kit Kat bars.

Are Dark Chocolate Kit Kats Vegan?

There are a few Kit Kat variations these days. Like the regular Kit Kat bar, the dark chocolate version is vegetarian but non-vegan. It’s a good question because while milk chocolate is never vegan, dark chocolate is often dairy-free.

Alas, this one contains several milk components.

Specifically, it contains:16

  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Wheat flour
  • Cocoa butter
  • Vegetable oil (palm kernel oil and palm oil)
  • Cocoa processed with alkali
  • Milk fat
  • Lactose
  • Soy lecithin and PGPR
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Vanillin
  • Artificial flavor
  • Baking soda
  • Milk

Best Vegan Kit Kat Alternative

So, lacto- and lacto-ovo vegetarians (which are synonymous with the term “vegetarian” these days) can consume Kit Kats, but what about vegans? How can we get our Kit Kat fix?

Enter the Little Secrets Crispy Wafers! I tried one out recently and they are amazing!

Keep in mind they don’t taste exactly the same, mostly because it’s a boutique brand so they use only high-quality ingredients. That may or may not be a bad thing depending on your preferences. Personally, I like them better than the original.

The dark chocolate version contains:17

  • Dark chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural vanilla extract)
  • Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid)
  • Sugar
  • Palm Oil*
  • Sea Salt
  • Baking Soda

*The palm oil has an asterisk because it’s sustainably sourced. For whatever reason, the “sustainably sourced palm oil” disclaimer is missing from the Crispy Wafers, but you can see it on other product pages.18

Keep in mind that both the milk chocolate and PB versions of the bar are non-vegan.

That’s it for the vegan status of Kit Kats. Thanks for reading.

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

References

  1. The History of Nestle Rowntree. https://web.archive.org/web/20070318003315/http://www.nestle.co.uk/OurBrands/AboutOurBrands/ConfectioneryAndCakes/History%2Bof%2BRowntree.htm
  2. Chandan R. Dairy-Based Ingredients. Eagen Press, 1997.
  3. Kit Kat, US. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Kat#United_States
  4. Kit Kat, Canada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Kat#Canada
  5. Kit Kat, Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Kat#Europe
  6. Clay, Jason (2004). World Agriculture and the Environment. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-55963-370-3.
  7. “Palm oil: Cooking the Climate”. Greenpeace. 8 November 2007. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010.
  8. “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.
  9. “Palm oil threatening endangered species” (PDF). Center for Science in the Public Interest. May 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 September 2012.
  10. 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.
  11. “Camera catches bulldozer destroying Sumatra tiger forest”. World Wildlife Fund. 12 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. “Researchers warn against high emissions from oil palm expansion in Brazil”. phys.org. 13 November 2013.
  15. Rosenthal, Elisabeth (31 January 2007). “Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017.
  16. KIT KAT Darkness, Dark Chocolate Candy Bar Snack Size. https://www.walmart.com/ip/KIT-KAT-Darkness-Dark-Chocolate-Candy-Bar-Snack-Size-2-Pounds-Bag/997733602
  17. Little Secrets Crispy Wafers, Dark Chocolate. https://sharelittlesecrets.com/product/dark-chocolate-wafers/
  18. Toasted Coconut. https://sharelittlesecrets.com/product/toasted-coconut/

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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