Crisco has been vaguely referred to as lard in the past. Lard is the animal fat that was popularly used in food products until doctors warned of its severe negative health impacts. Although Crisco never contained lard, many vegans still speculate this answer: Is Crisco vegan?
Crisco is actually vegetable shortening and is quite vegan. It is often used as a replacement for vegan butter in baking pies. Crisco also overrides the shortcomings of coconut oil when it comes to baking. Even then, there are looming doubts about Crisco’s few problematic ingredients and the overall effects on health.
Vegans are suspicious of some ingredients in Crisco
Crisco does call this an “all-vegetable shortening”, the truth is, Crisco is too highly processed to be called a completely vegan vegetable shortening. Although there are no directly non-vegan ingredients: soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, palm oil, TBHQ, mono and diglycerides, and also citric acid as an antioxidant.
Crisco doesn’t contain any dairy or animal-based products, not even in the butter flavor. There is no evidence of butter or cream except the qualities. This makes Crisco a good replacement for margarine and lard, even in non-vegan kitchens.
No animal fats are used in Crisco. The main constituents are soybean and palm oil. Its Kosher certification further proves the lack of animal fats. The only problematic ingredients are mono and diglycerides and palm oil.
Mono and diglycerides are a doubtful ingredient
Mono and diglycerides serve the purpose of emulsification in the shortening. It is known in the vegan community that this ingredient can be obtained from both plant and animal-based sources.
It isn’t known where the mono and diglycerides used in Crisco are obtained from. Some vegans choose to ignore the speculation around doubtful ingredients and consume the product anyway.
It is difficult for stricter vegans to assume that they may probably have been obtained from a plant-based source.
The manufacturers of Crisco once clarified that all ingredients used in their products are sourced from vegetables. Crisco is vegan if your speculation was solely about mono and diglycerides.
Palm oil is environmentally unethical
Palm oil is often considered vegan because it is essentially plant-based and derived from palm plants. The truth about palm oil is not so simple. Palm oil is obtained from large commercial palm plantations that pose many environmental, social, and ethical challenges.
Large areas of unreplenishable rainforests have to be uprooted to make space for the increasing capitalist demand of palm oil. This has led to huge losses of rare fauna and flora species. It is feared by environmentalists that many of the yet undiscovered species of plants and animals will have been completely eradicated.
Endangered animals have been pushed to the edge of survival. They have to struggle even more hard to find adequate food and shelter. This has led to a sharp decline in the viable populations of the Orangutan, the Bornean Pygmy Elephant, the Sumatran Rhino, and the Sumatran Tiger. The fast mushrooming plantations have conquered their natural homes.
The rampant deforestation along with the notorious release of methane gas from these plantations has resulted in a spike in global warming. We are constantly putting in little efforts to combat worldwide global warming, but our reliance on palm oil reverses them every bit.
The labor employed in these plantations is far from fair and ethical. The poor laborers are bonded by meagre contracts that abuse and scald them for lives. The children, women, and men work in unhealthy conditions unsuitable to human growth and sustenance.
Many vegans choose to avoid palm oil while others deem it as going too far. It is somewhat important to ascertain that all products you use are made ethically under fair trade regulations.
Vegans may choose to boycott brands that practice animal testing
From 1911 to 2002, Crisco was owned by Procter & Gamble. The company continues to participate in animal testing and many vegans boycott Procter & Gamble for this reason. You may have been suggested by vegans to avoid this brand that engages is animal cruelty.
Crisco is now owned by J.M.Smucker and the new parent does not conduct animal testing for any of its products. Purchasing Crisco now will not contribute to animal testing.
Crisco is not good for your health
Despite being vegan, Crisco cannot be classified as a healthy addition to your diet. As a vegan diet is meant to improve your overall well being while reducing animal suffering, Crisco is one food that can actually contribute to more health problems.
The calorie content in Crisco is very high as compared to the nutritional value. There are no carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, or vitamins in this product.
The total fat content in each serving of Crisco is much higher than butter or coconut oil that it often replaces. The company mentions on the label that Crisco contains 50% less saturated fat than butter. This is not true.
In many countries, Crisco claims to contain zero% trans fat in each serving. This is completely false. The amount of trans fat in Crisco is indeed less than 1% but it isn’t really zero.
Vegans often worry about the use of hydrogenated oil in Crisco. It has been linked with a variety of health issues. Hydrogenated oil is known to cause a wide range of health issues. It can lead to increased sugar levels in the blood and heighten the risk of diabetes. There is also the danger of developing heart disease.
Regular consumption of Crisco could result in weight gain because Crisco has 100% fat content. And the fact that it has no nutritional value makes it empty calories that don’t do anyone good.
People with a soy allergy should remember that soybean oil is one of the key ingredients in Crisco. Such highly processed food items cannot be really known as whole food.
Processed foods should be minimized or reduced in vegan diets.
There are healthier alternatives to Crisco
The healthiest alternative to Crisco is coconut oil. Just like Crisco, coconut oil is also solid at room temperature and melts when heated. It can be easily used for similar applications.
Coconut oil is also not as much processed as Crisco
Moreover, unlike Crisco, coconut oil shortening is not hydrogenated. While Crisco lacks carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, coconut oil is believed to be a magic ingredient with several health benefits.
Regular use of Crisco could result in a drastic increase in weight. On the other hand, coconut oil can assist in weight loss. Coconut oil also does wonders for hair and skin.
Crisco raises the sugar content in your blood and predisposes you to develop diabetes and heart problems. Some investigations prove that coconut oil increases the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood. Others have proven that both bad and good cholesterol levels are increased by coconut oil, so processed food may not ever be actually good for health.
Although coconut oil may easily be called the healthiest amongst all other available options, it doesn’t do as well as a shortening agent as Crisco.
Crisco has a higher melting point which ascertains that the dough will be raised and firm while baking. It takes some practice to attain equally good results with coconut oil.
It is important to consider that coconut oil adds a distinct coconut flavor to the food which you may not always want.
Olive oil and sunflower oil can come to the rescue when you don’t want a distinct coconut flavor
Olive oil and sunflower oil exist as liquids at room temperature. They can be very well used in frying but may not work as well as leavening agents.
Go for vegan-friendly butter or margarine
Unlike sunflower oil and olive oil, margarine and vegan butter exist in a solid-state at room temperature and melt when heated. This makes them capable of being used as good alternatives to Crisco or coconut oil in baking.
You always need to practice when using new ingredients. Find out what quantity of butter or margarine works best for your recipe.
On a final note, Is Crisco vegan?
Many people consider Crisco a boon for being an ideal replacement for unhealthy and non-vegan butter. While that may not be true, Crisco is definitely vegan to an extent.
Although such highly processed foods are seldom healthy and often not advised in vegan diets, it is vegan when it comes to the ingredients.
Mono and diglycerides and palm oil are the only problematic ingredients present in Crisco.
We personally recommend you to not worry about the possibly non-vegan ingredients. It is always possible that they are vegan. Your avoidance of minor non-vegan ingredients will not have as much impact,
When it comes to palm oil, it is ethically non-vegan. Palm oil cultivation has been disastrous for our planet and its continued use needs to be stopped.
So is Crisco vegan? It really depends on how strict a vegan you are. And whether you avoid ethically non-vegan products.