Is Cream of Mushroom Soup Vegan or Vegetarian?


Is Cream of Mushroom Soup Vegan?

The presence of the word “cream” in the description of a food product usually doesn’t bode well for vegans. But, not all definitions of cream involve milk and sometimes the word can be used to refer to a texture. After all, facial creams don’t contain milk.

Anyway, is it vegan? No, cream of mushroom soup is not vegan. Nor is cream of celery or cream of broccoli, etc. While the soup does get much of its creamy texture with the help of starch, it still contains several dairy-based ingredients.1

Is it vegetarian? Cream of mushroom soup is generally vegetarian unless lard or bacon grease is used for the roux—which is much more common in homemade soup. Specifically, it’s suitable for lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians, the subgroup of vegetarians that allows for dairy.

What we’ll do here is look at the various reasons cream of mushroom soup falls short of being suitable for vegans.

Why Cream of Mushroom Soup Is Non-Vegan

Cream of mushroom soup contains milk cream.

It’s what’s known as a thickened soup, which is  a type of soup that’s made with added milk, cream, or sour cream.2

For example, ingredients for Campbell’s Classic Cream of Mushroom include:1

  • Water
  • Vegetable Oils (Corn, Canola, and/or Soybean Oils)
  • Mushrooms
  • Modified Food Starch, Wheat Flour
  • Salt, Yeast Extract
  • Cream (Milk)
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Dehydrated Whey
  • Flavoring
  • Dehydrated Garlic

This isn’t obvious to some folks at first, because most of the creaminess comes from the starchy components.

In fact, if you check out the food label you’ll see that the two dairy ingredients are included in the ingredients that make up 2% or less of the soup.

Cream of mushroom and similar soups (celery, broccoli, and chicken) are made with what’s called a basic roux.3

One of the first steps in making a sauce (including those that are incorporated into soups) is the addition of a starch thickener in the form of either slurry, beurre manié (pronounced “burr mahn-yay”), or a roux (“roo”).4

Roux is what you get when you mix flour with a fat source and cook them together to be used to thicken sauces and soups.5,6

The flour is mixed with the oil or melted fat, blended, and cooked to the desired level of brownness.

Roux is often non-vegan as various animal products can be used for the fat source—usually butter, but bacon grease and lard are also common. But, it can be vegan-friendly if plant oils are used.

Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup contains vegetable oils (not butter), but it still has some amount of milk. This is because, for cream of mushroom and similar soups, the roux (regardless of the fat source) is thinned out with milk or milk cream.

Other milk ingredients are also common. For example, whey protein is used in the Campbell’s version.

So you know, whey protein is only found in milk so it’s always non-vegan. The protein content of cow’s milk is about 20% whey and 80% casein.7

Whey is the protein that’s left over when milk is curdled during cheese production and it contains all of the soluble components of milk after the pH drops past a certain point in the coagulation process.8

Whey protein has a lot of useful properties in food production and is often used to assist with texture and gelling.9

I searched several other brands to be sure.

Health Valley puts out one that contains:10

  • Filtered Water
  • Organic Mushrooms
  • Organic Cream (from Milk)
  • Organic Rice Flour
  • Organic Mushrooms
  • Organic Soy Sauce (Organic Soybeans, Organic Maltodextrin)
  • Organic Mushroom Powder
  • Organic Butter (Organic Cream, Lactic Acid)
  • Organic Molasses
  • Yeast Extract and Salt
  • Organic Potato Flour, Organic Rice Starch
  • Organic Flavor, Natural Flavor
  • Organic Canola Oil
  • Organic Onion Powder, Organic Spices

I suppose it’s intended to be a healthier version of the soup. And the cream is organic if that’s any consolation. But, it’s still non-vegan.

I looked at several others. One company put out a gluten-free version of the soup, but it still contained dairy. They just swapped out the wheat for other grains.

What About the Fat-Free Version?

Then there’s the low-fat or fat-free version of the soup to consider. I know Campbell’s makes one.

Sometimes fat-free products offer hope to vegans because a lot of animal products like whole milk and butter are filled with saturated fat. So, those ingredients are often replaced with plant oils which are, of course, vegan.

Sure enough, some fat-free foods swap out butter with plant oils which works out well for plant-based eaters.

Unfortunately, fat-free cream of mushroom soup seems to be every bit as non-vegan as the full-fat version.

In fact, Campbell’s FF cream of mushroom soup contains several times the amount of animal products.

Ingredients include:11

  • Water
  • Mushrooms
  • Modified Food Starch, Wheat Flour
  • Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Cream (Milk)
  • Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, And/Or Soybean)
  • Dehydrated Butter (Cream, Salt)
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Buttermilk
  • Flavoring
  • Enzyme Modified Butter
  • Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate
  • Skim Milk
  • Lactic Acid
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Enzyme Modified Butter Fat And Oil
  • Whey Protein
  • Soy Lecithin

I’m not sure why they went with so many milk products for this version. I’d imagine they cut back on vegetable oils to drop the overall fat content, and then boosted the number of dairy derivatives to make up for the lost texture. But, that’s just speculation.

That’s it for the vegan status of cream of mushroom soup. Thanks for reading.

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

References

  1. Campbell’s® Classic Cream Of Mushroom. https://www.campbellsfoodservice.com/product/campbells-classic-cream-of-mushroom/
  2. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 328). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
  3. Cream of Mushroom Soup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_of_mushroom_soup
  4. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 399). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
  5. Roux Definition, Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/roux
  6. Berolzheimer, Ruth (1942). The American Woman’s Cook Book. New York: Garden City Publishing. p. 307.
  7. Jay R. Hoffman & Michael J. Falvo (2004). “Protein – Which is best?”. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (3): 118–130.
  8. Whey Protein. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whey_protein
  9. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 211). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
  10. Health Valley Cream Of Mushroom Soup, 14.5 oz (Pack of 12). https://www.walmart.com/ip/Health-Valley-Cream-Of-Mushroom-Soup-14-5-oz-Pack-of-12/17353113
  11. (4 pack) Campbell’s Condensed 98% Fat-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup, 10.5 oz. Can. https://www.walmart.com/ip/4-pack-Campbell-s-Condensed-98-Fat-Free-Cream-of-Mushroom-Soup-10-5-oz-Can/781303384

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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