Are Wheat Thins Vegan? (List of Vegan Flavors)


Are Wheat Thins Vegan?

Wheat Thins is a popular brand of baked whole grain crackers distributed in the US and Canada by Nabisco. They’ve been around since the 1940’s so a lot of vegans grew up eating them and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a 100% plant-based diet.

Are they vegan? Original Wheat Thins are vegan, as they only contain whole grain flour, canola oil, sugar, salt, cornstarch, malt syrup, refiner’s syrup, leaveners, and preservatives. All of which are vegan.1 As for the flavored variety, some qualify as vegan and others contain milk products and/or honey.

What we’ll do here is go over a list of both vegan and non-vegan flavors along with an analysis of the ingredients.

Vegan Wheat Thins

The Original

Again, these simply contain:1

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Canola Oil
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Malt Syrup
  • Salt
  • Refiner’s Syrup
  • Leavening agents
  • BHT (for freshness)

The BHT is actually added to the packaging material, but it’s listed in the ingredients.

BHT is short for butylated hydroxytoluene or dibutyl hydroxytoluene.2

It’s a derivative of phenol, so it has antioxidant properties and is thus used as a preservative.3

BHT is considered vegan because it’s made industrially via chemical synthesis using non-animal-derived precursors.4

The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) considers it to be a vegan-friendly ingredient.5

Three similar products that I’ll also include here is the Hint of Sea Salt, Multigrain, and Wheat Thins BIG. They contain the same ingredients. The latter is bigger and the former two contain the original ingredients plus sea salt and multigrain flour, respectively.6-8

So, they’re also vegan.

Zesty Salsa

This is a popular flavor that was supposedly discontinued for a while but has since resurfaced.

It contains:9

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sugar, Salt
  • Malt Syrup (from Corn And Barley), Refiner’s Syrup*
  • Cornstarch
  • Dried Green Bell Peppers
  • Leavening (Calcium Phosphate And/or Baking Soda)
  • Spices (Includes Parsley), Natural Flavor
  • Onion and Garlic Powders
  • Citric Acid, Distilled Vinegar
  • Vegetable Color (Annatto Extract, Turmeric Oleoresin)

*Refiner’s syrup is an ingredient that you don’t run across too often. But, folks do encounter it from time to time when scanning labels for vegan friendliness.

Refiner’s syrup is also called golden syrup or light treacle.10,11

It’s a thick amber-colored form of what’s known as invert sugar. It’s simply a byproduct of the process in which sugar cane and sugar beet juice are refined into sugar.10

It can also be produced by treating a sugar solution with acid.

So, it’s 100% plant-based and thus vegan.

Sundried Tomato Basil

Ingredients for these include:12

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sugar, Invert Sugar, Salt
  • Cornstarch, Yeast Extract
  • Malt Syrup (from Corn and Barley)
  • Leavening (Calcium Phosphate and/or Baking Soda)
  • Tomato Powder, Sundried Tomato Powder
  • Garlic and Onion Powders
  • Spices (Including Basil)
  • Dried Red and Green Bell Peppers
  • Vegetable Color (Paprika, Annatto Extract, Turmeric Oleoresin, Paprika Extract)
  • Caramel Color*
  • Natural Flavor
  • Sulfur Dioxide and/or Sodium Metabisulphite (for Color Retention)

*Caramel color is not to be confused with actual caramel. Real caramel (the confection) is derived from heating milk which causes lactose (the simple sugar in milk) to undergo browning via the Maillard reaction which results in the flavor and aroma characteristic of caramel.

Caramel color is produced via the same reaction, but using other simple sugars like glucose, fructose, and vegan-friendly sugary substances like malt syrup, molasses, and invert sugar.13

Hence, caramel color is considered suitable for vegans.

Spicy Buffalo

These contain:14

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sugar, Salt
  • Cornstarch, Maltodextrin*
  • Malt Syrup, Refiner’s Syrup
  • Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • Leaveners
  • Tomato and Garlic Powders
  • Citric Acid, Yeast Extract
  • Natural Flavor, Spices
  • Vegetable Color
  • BHT

I sometimes get asked if Maltodextrin is vegan. Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide made up of glucose chains.15

It is produced via partial hydrolysis of vegetable starch.16

Starch is only found in plants (animal tissue contains glycogen), so maltodextrin is always considered vegan.

Non-Vegan Wheat Thins

Honey-Containing Wheat Thins

Smoky BBQ

Ingredients include:17

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sugar, Salt, Fructose
  • Leaveners (Calcium Phosphate And/or Baking Soda)
  • Cornstarch, Yeast Extract
  • Malt Syrup (from Corn And Barley), Invert Sugar
  • Tomato Powder
  • Garlic and Onion Powders
  • Spices (includes Mustard)
  • Honey
  • Vegetable Color (Annatto Extract, Turmeric Oleoresin, Paprika Oleoresin), Caramel Color
  • Citric and Malic Acids
  • Caramel Color
  • Natural Flavor (Includes Smoke)
Honey Mustard

These contain:18

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sugar, Salt
  • Cornstarch
  • Malt Syrup (from Corn And Barley), Refiner’s Syrup
  • Maltodextrin, Dextrose
  • Leavening (Calcium Phosphate And/or Baking Soda)
  • Onion Powder
  • Prepared Mustard (Distilled Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Spices, Garlic Powder)
  • Honey Solids
  • Citric Acid
  • Spices, Natural Flavor
  • Vinegar Solids
  • Vegetable Color (turmeric Oleoresin, Annatto Extract)
  • Yeast Extract
  • Sodium Diacetate (a Flavor)
  • Lactic Acid

Keep in mind that the presence of honey doesn’t render a food product non-vegan by all standards in the community. There’s always been somewhat of a divide among vegans when it comes to insect-derived substances like honey and confectioner’s glaze.19

But, it is largely considered non-vegan.

If you’re okay with honey, there aren’t any other problematic ingredients in the above two flavors.

Smoke flavor was included in the Smokey BBQ flavor and lactic acid in the Honey Mustard variety and these two ingredients sometimes raise alarms.

Smoke flavor is fine for vegans as it’s just derived from the destructive distillation of wood.

Lactic acid is usually considered vegan.5

It’s not the same as lactose. While it can be produced from milk sugar, it tends to be made industrially via fermentation of LA-producing bacteria or by chemical synthesis using precursors from the petroleum industry.20,21

Milk Containing Wheat Thins

I won’t bother listing all of the ingredients here, but both the ranch and chili cheese flavors contain milk in one form or another.

The ranch flavor contains whey protein, buttermilk, lactose, and cultured milk.22

The chili cheese flavor contains whey, non-fat milk, cultured milk, and buttermilk.23

That’s it for the vegan status of Wheat Thins. Thanks for reading.

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

References

  1. Smart Label, Wheat Thins Original. https://smartlabel.mondelezinternational.com/44000030377#
  2. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butylated_hydroxytoluene
  3. Yehye, Wageeh A., et al. (2015). “Understanding the chemistry behind the antioxidant activities of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): A review”. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 101: 295–312. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S022352341530101X?via%3Dihub
  4. Helmut Fiege, et al. “Phenol Derivatives” in Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2002. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/14356007.a19_313
  5. Vegetarian Journal’s Guide To Food Ingredients. https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/
  6. Nabisco Wheat Thins, Big. https://www.fooducate.com/product/Nabisco-Wheat-Thins-Big/87AD36C6-E10B-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471
  7. Nabisco Wheat Thins Hint of Salt Snacks, 9.1 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Wheat-Thins-Hint-of-Salt-Snacks-9-1-Oz/20897689
  8. Nabisco Wheat Thins Multigrain Snacks, 8.5 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Wheat-Thins-Multigrain-Snacks-8-5-Oz/20897691
  9. Wheat Thins Zesty Salsa Crackers 9 oz. https://www.instacart.com/kroger/products/35368-wheat-thins-zesty-salsa-crackers-9-oz
  10. Golden Syrup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_syrup
  11. Joe Pastry – Refiner’s (a.k.a. “Golden”) Syrup. https://joepastry.com/2012/refiners-syrup/
  12. Wheat Thins – Sundried Tomato Basil Ingredients. https://www.nutritionix.com/i/wheat-thins/wheat-thins-sundried-tomato-basil/51d2fe31cc9bff111580ef7b
  13. Caramel Color. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramel_color
  14. Smart Label, Nabisco Wheat Thins Spicy Buffalo Snacks 9 oz. https://smartlabel.mondelezinternational.com/44000030292#
  15. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 420). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
  16. Maltodextrin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltodextrin
  17. Wheat Thins Nabisco Wheat Thins Snacks Smoky BBQ 9 oz. https://www.instacart.com/hy-vee/products/39413-wheat-thins-nabisco-wheat-thins-snacks-smoky-bbq-9-0-oz
  18. Wheat Thins Honey Mustard Crackers 9 oz. https://www.instacart.com/kroger/products/76651-wheat-thins-honey-mustard-snacks-9-oz
  19. The Great Vegan Honey Debate. Is honey the dairy of the insect world? https://slate.com/human-interest/2008/07/why-vegans-can-t-decide-whether-they-re-allowed-to-eat-honey.html
  20. Lactic Acid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactic_acid
  21. 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
  22. Wheat Thins, Ranch. https://www.fooducate.com/product/Nabisco-Wheat-Thins-Ranch-Crackers/7E36078A-9F50-11E1-882E-1231381BE564
  23. Wheat Thins, Chili Cheese. https://www.instacart.com/big-y/products/3240182-wheat-thins-chili-cheese-flavor-9-0-oz

Drew

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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