A saltine or soda cracker is a thin, typically square cracker with a dry crispy texture. Saltines are pretty much synonymous with the word cracker, at least in North America. Most vegans grew up snacking on them and crumbling them up into soups, and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a 100% plant-based diet.
Are they vegan? Yes, saltine crackers are vegan by most standards. Recipes vary, but they’re usually some combination of enriched flour (wheat flour, iron, and the usual B vitamins), vegetable oil, yeast, and malted barley flour.1
What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons saltine crackers are generally considered vegan. Then we’ll list a few brands that are known to make saltine crackers that are suitable for 100% plant-based eaters.
Why Saltines Are Considered Vegan
Salt Is Vegan
This may sound obvious to some, but I get asked quite a bit if table salt is suitable for vegans, largely because the bad wrap sugar has gotten over the years for using bone char.
Table salt and white sugar are nearly identical in appearance, and it’s not exactly obvious to most that you wouldn’t need bone char to remove impurities from salt in the same way you need it to turn crude cane sugar (which is initially brown) into a shiny white substance.
Fortunately for vegans, salt does not require the use of bone char to become white.
Sodium chloride is colorless (though white in appearance) because its electrons are bound very tightly to the ions of sodium and chloride. I’ll spare you the chemistry lecture, but this just means that visible light can’t absorb.
No bone char needed.
Enriched Flour Is Vegan
According to the Vegan Society, there was a time when folks debated whether white flour was vegan, or whether or not animal products were needed to remove impurities, but the myth (that it did use animal products in its production) was soon debunked.2
Then there’s the question of whether or not the nutrients added to enriched flour are vegan. Enriched flour is flour that’s had iron and a few B vitamins added to it—namely, thiamin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
Unlike vitamin D, which is derived from a precursor extracted from wool oil, these vitamins are produced microbially, or via chemical synthesis (without animal-derived precursors).3,4
Fortified flour can be non-vegan, but enriched flour is always free of animal products. So you know, the term fortification refers to the process by which nutrients, not originally present in the food product, are added to it to boost the nutritional profile.
Enrichment, on the other hand, is the process of adding back in, nutrients that were originally present in the food, but lost during processing (milling, etc.).
Wonder Bread, one of the more processed bread varieties, is fortified with vitamin D—a nutrient not naturally present in grains. Since the form of vitamin D used (D3), is animal-derived, Wonder Bread is non-vegan.
Saltine crackers are made with enriched flours, which means they only contain iron and B vitamins.
Saltine Crackers Don’t Contain Milk Derivatives
A lot of crackers have a buttery flavor to them. Think Ritz, etc. Now, butter flavor can be vegan-friendly, but some buttery crackers do make use of dairy derivatives like milk fat and whey protein (the second most abundant protein in milk).
Saltine crackers are known for being very bland, which is why they’re often recommended as a home remedy to deal with nausea.
They’re pretty minimalistic when it comes to ingredients, and are usually composed of little more than white flour, yeast, baking soda, and lightly sprinkled with coarse salt.
The distinctively dry and crisp texture is the hallmark of saltine crackers—not so much the flavor profile.
Commercial Vegan Saltine Crackers
Just because a food product is generally considered vegan, doesn’t mean that some manufacturers won’t find clever ways to add in animal-derived products.
So, to ease your mind, we’ll go ahead and list the ingredients for some of the more popular brands.
Nabisco Premium Original Saltine Crackers
- Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
- Palm Oil
- Canola Oil
- Baking Soda
- Sea Salt
- Malted Barley Flour
- Calcium Carbonate
No problems here. Some versions of Premium contain palm oil, which some vegans like to avoid. But overall, the presence of palm oil doesn’t render a food product non-vegan by most standards.6
Lance Saltines Crackers
- Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
- Vegetable Oil (Canola, Corn, Palm, and/or Soybean)
- Sodium Bicarbonate (Leavening)
- Malted Barley Flour
As you can see, no problems here.
Keebler Zesta Original Saltine Snack Crackers
Ingredients for these include:7
- Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid)
- Soybean Oil w/TBHQ for Freshness
- Corn Syrup
- Baking Soda
- Soy Lecithin
The lecithin is fine because it’s from soy and not egg yolks.
TBHQ stands for tert-butylhydroquinone. It’s a synthetic aromatic organic compound that’s used as a preservative for foods containing unsaturated vegetable oils like soybean and canola.8
It’s a derivative of hydroquinone (reduced vitamin K) and is vegan.
Annie’s Organic Saltine Classic
- Organic Wheat Flour
- Organic Expeller-Pressed Sunflower Oil
- Sea Salt
- Organic Barley Malt Extract
- Baking Soda
Per usual, Annie’s puts out the least processed version of the snack, with no extraneous ingredients. This is always good, because the fewer ingredients there are, the fewer chances that an animal-based ingredient will be present.
As expected, these are 100% vegan.
That’s it for the vegan status of saltine crackers. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Lance Saltines Crackers, Single Serve Packs, 500 Ct. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lance-Saltines-Crackers-Single-Serve-Packs-500-Ct/291648574
- Sarah Cook cracks out her top tips and favourite recipes this National Baking Week. The Vegan Society. https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/all-you-need-know-about-successful-vegan-baking
- Jose L. Revuelta, Ruben M. Buey, Rodrigo Ledesma‐Amaro, and Erick J. Microbial biotechnology for the synthesis of (pro)vitamins, biopigments and antioxidants: challenges and opportunities. Microb Biotechnol. 2016 Sep; 9(5): 564–567. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993173/
- Riemenschneider, W.; Bolt, H. M., “Esters, Organic”, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/14356007.a09_565.pub2
- Nabisco Premium Original Saltine Crackers, 16 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Premium-Original-Saltine-Crackers-16-Oz/10292621
- General Faqs. https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/general-faqs
- Keebler Zesta Original Saltine Snack Crackers 16 oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Keebler-Zesta-Original-Saltine-Snack-Crackers-16-oz/11045775
- TBHQ. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tert-Butylhydroquinone
- Annie’s Organic Saltine Classic, Baked Crackers, 6.5 oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Annie-s-Organic-Saltine-Classic-Baked-Crackers-6-5-oz/33319230