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Is Crisco Vegan?
The Complete Guide on Vegetable Shortening

Dr. Keisha Eberwein
Published by Dr. Keisha Eberwein
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 27, 2021

Being the first solid fat made entirely of liquid vegetable oils in 1911 by Procter & Gamble, Crisco used to hold a prized spot in the American kitchen as a healthier alternative to animal-sourced butter and lard. The golden era of the famous Crisco shortening ended when the harmful effects of trans fats were confirmed by science.

But thanks to its improved formulation, and zero trans fat policy introduced in 2007, Crisco vegan shortening is gaining popularity once again.

What Exactly is Shortening?

crisco shortening in a cup

The term “shortening” applies to any kind of fat that’s solid at room temperature and is commonly used to make pastry and other baked products.

In the past, shortening was mainly made of animal fats, such as lard, but luckily for vegans, the majority of shortening brands that you’ll find in stores today are vegetable shortenings, which is typically clearly stated on the product label.

However, the word ‘’vegetable’’ printed on the package does not make shortening vegan every time.

So let’s see what Crisco is all about and why so many vegans have been racking their brains about whether this product is truly vegan or not.

Is Crisco Vegan?

Although Crisco advertises as an ‘’all-vegetable’’ shortening that doesn’t include anything but plant-based ingredients, it’s not so easy to say whether Crisco is really a vegan-friendly product.

That’s why we’re going to explore the ingredients list and the process involved in producing this vegetable shortening to answer the deceptively simple question: is this shortening vegan?

To put it simply, Crisco vegetable shortening is vegan in terms of ingredients and it’s a good option for those who choose to stay away from animal fats.

However, some vegans are suspicious about a couple of ingredients: palm oil and mono and diglycerides, to be precise.

What’s the Problem with Palm Oil?

Just because a product is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s ethical and cruelty-free. The same goes for palm oil.

One of the biggest issues that the vegan community has with this ingredient is that the production of palm oil causes massive deforestation that creates numerous environmental challenges, such as loss of habitat and extinction of some animal species.

Stricter vegans who are concerned about animal cruelty might want to boycott products that contain palm oil, including Crisco.

Mono and Diglycerides are Questionable Ingredients

‘’Mono- and diglycerides help oil and water to blend. Because of this, they can be used to improve the texture or consistency of foods. For example, they help improve the consistency of margarine and prevent the oil in peanut butter from separating.’’ [1]

They can be sourced from vegetables or animals, which is a problem for vegans and vegetarians because their source is not always clearly marked on product labels.

Although Crisco once confirmed that all ingredients used in their shortening are plant-based, the doubt around mono and diglycerides remains and some vegans chose to stick to 100% vegan-confirmed alternatives like vegan butter or coconut oil.

We should also mention that the Vegan Resource Group has conducted research that showed that the majority of mono and diglycerides come from palm oil or soybean oil, not animal sources [2].

What are the Ingredients of Crisco Shortening?

soybeans in a bag

Now that you know what ingredients to look out for, let’s see what else you get when buying Crisco:

  • 12 grams of total fat per serving
  • 0 grams of cholesterol
  • 0 grams of trans fat
  • 3.5 grams of saturated fat
  • Soybean Oil
  • Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • Palm Oil
  • Mono And Diglycerides
  • Contains ALA omega-3 fatty acid that comes from vegetable oils
  • TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) is a synthetic antioxidant that is added to foods to prevent or delay oxidation [3]
  • Citric Acid (Antioxidants)

According to the manufacturer, Crisco is completely free from lard and any kind of animal fat and animal products. The fat in Crisco comes exclusively from vegetable oils and does not contain any dairy.

There are two different types of Crisco shortening — original and butter-flavored. Both versions are made from the same ingredients and even butter flavor Crisco is completely dairy-free and doesn’t contain any animal fat.

What About Animal Testing?

Until recently, Crisco was owned by Procter & Gamble, a company that no longer conducts testing on animals ‘’unless required by law’’.

The good news for vegans is that in December 2020 the brand was acquired by B&G Foods, a company that doesn’t conduct animal testing and is even listed by PETA as confirmed cruelty-free company [4].

How to Use Crisco?

If pies and pastries are frequently on your vegan menu, then you have probably used something similar to Crisco at least once in your kitchen.

Melting point of shortening is higher than butter, which is great for baking. Solid fats ensure that the dough will be raised, so Crisco can be used in doughs for puff pastry, pie crust, and shortbread to achieve that crumbly, crunchy texture. You can even add it to your vegan ramen.

The good news is that vegans can also enjoy flaky pie crusts and pastries when using Crisco shortening, but is it a healthy option?

Is Crisco Healthy?

thumbs up

Only because Crisco is all-vegetable shortening, it doesn’t make it the healthiest food choice, but this convenient butter substitute also comes with some benefits:

Low trans fat content

Not so long ago, shortenings and similar products posed a health risk because of high trans fat content, but thanks to modernized formulation, this is no longer the case with most shortenings on the market, including Crisco.

Artificial trans fat has been linked to heart disease and is now prohibited in the US and many other countries.

Compared to partially hydrogenated oils that are high in trans fats, fully hydrogenated palm oil that is used in Crisco has a very low content of these harmful fats, which makes it a healthier alternative to other similar products.

Unlike animal-sourced lard that is free of trans fat but high in cholesterol, Crisco shortening contains less than 1% of trans fat and 0% cholesterol. Crisco also has less saturated fat levels than butter. 

On the other hand, compared to its nutritional value, the calorie content in Crisco is very high. This product also doesn’t contain carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, or vitamins.

Also, similarly to other shortenings, Crisco shortening is 100% fat, unlike margarine and butter that are 80% fat.

Although Crisco contains vegan-friendly soybean oil, this is not good news for people with soy allergy.

Overall, Crisco is definitely safe to use, but it still is highly processed and may not be suitable for a clean and healthy vegan diet.

Also Read: Are Takis Vegan-Friendly?(Are They Healthy for You?)

What Are Alternatives to Crisco?

coconut, and butter in a cup

1. Coconut oil

Many vegans use coconut oil as butter replacement in baking, and this is a great go-to alternative for those who enjoy homemade vegan pastries. The good thing is that, unlike Crisco, coconut oil is far less processed and it actually comes with some health benefits.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, in other words, ‘’good fat’’, that is ‘’more rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body. This makes them a quick energy source and less likely to be stored as fat’’ [5], which is great for those who want to stick to their weight loss diet.

On the flipside, coconut oil may not give you the same results in baking as Crisco. It takes time and practice to perfect baking with this natural vegan ingredient.

Also, if you don’t want all of your pastries to have nutty or coconut flavor, try using refined or deodorized coconut oil.

2. Sunflower oil and Olive Oil 

Unlike coconut oil, these vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature, so they can be used for frying, but may not be a good option for baking.

3. Vegan Butter or Vegan Margarine 

Main feature of vegan margarine is that it remains solid at room temperature, unlike sunflower oil and olive oil, which makes it a good replacement for Crisco or coconut oil in baking.

Another great thing for vegans is that there are a lot of brands of plant-based butter replacements to choose from. Smart Balance Light vegan butter with flaxseed oil is one of them. Also, if you have any health concerns and would like to skip on processed products, you can easily make your own homemade vegan butter.

Should Vegans Use Crisco?

According to the definition, a product qualifies as vegan if it doesn’t include animal ingredients and doesn’t involve any form of animal suffering in its production process.

So, is Crisco vegan?

Based on the above information, the ingredients used in this shortening is what makes Crisco vegan.

However, as we mentioned above, some ingredients in Crisco are debatable in terms of animal-friendliness, such as palm oil.

Also, such highly-processed foods are not usually recommended in a healthy vegan diet, so many clean eaters turn to more natural alternatives.


References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monoglycerides#uses
  2. https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php
  3. https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/tbhq-what-is-it-and-is-it-dangerous/
  4. https://www.peta.org/features/victories-food-drink-companies-refuse-animal-tests/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-101#metabolism-of-mc-ts

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