When you transition to a vegan lifestyle, you have to make a lot of changes. Some can be hard, like giving up a favourite product because you realise it just isn’t in line with your ethical position. Isn’t it great, then, when you find out that you can bring some of your favourite grocery staples with you on your vegan journey? Things like corn chips, crisps, tortillas and other tasty snacks and treats are perfectly compatible with your vegan diet. One example is saltine crackers. You can safely stock your pantry with these crunchy crackers for a convenient, feel-good snack.
Are saltines vegan? Yes, they are. As long as you’re careful to avoid varieties that are flavoured with non-vegan ingredients such as cheese, you can enjoy saltines as a vegan. Some saltines are produced by large, possibly unethical companies so you may want to choose those made by companies with a more positive ethical profile.
Perhaps you’re a recent vegan who’s still finding their way around the grocery aisle. Maybe you’re an experienced vegan who’s just looking for a little variety and wants to try something new. Either way, you have questions about saltine crackers and whether they’re okay for your vegan diet.
- Are saltine crackers vegan?
- Are there any brands or varieties that vegans should avoid?
- What are some vegan dips and toppings that you can enjoy with your crackers?
We have the information you’ve been searching for. Keep reading to find out all this and more.
Are Saltines Vegan?
There are no ingredients in a basic saltine cracker recipe that are derived from animals. Some recipes use controversial ingredients, such as small quantities of sugar. As a vegan, you will also need to watch out for flavoured varieties that might be made using non-vegan ingredients. Rarely, animal fats might be used. On the whole, though, plain saltines are a great choice if you want something easy and quick to keep in your larder.
In mass-produced saltines, you might find a few ingredients that are a little controversial or otherwise dubious. Some crackers are made with a touch of sugar in the recipe, which may be of concern to strict ethical vegans. Cane sugar, which may have been refined with bone char, is a point of some contention among vegans. Some argue that the contact with an animal product is incidental and doesn’t much matter, while others feel that the use of bone char renders refined sugar non-vegan. There may also be additives with obscure origins, which could be concerning for some.
For the very strict vegan, the company making the food is part and parcel of whether they’ll consider the product vegan or not. Personally I’m a little more relaxed and just avoid foods with animal ingredients but others may be more cautious. It’s worth noting that most of the companies making saltine crackers are large multinationals who may or may not have a good ethical profile. If nothing else, they’re likely to sell goods that are made with animal ingredients even if some of their products are vegan. We’ll go into more detail on these problem ingredients later in the article.
Another consideration is health. Many people are motivated to become vegans — at least in part — by the demonstrable health benefits of such a lifestyle. Are saltines healthy food? Not especially. Saltines contain a lot of processed ingredients and aren’t particularly nourishing. They can be made more healthy by selecting a variety that’s made with whole-grain flour and fortified with vitamins — but they’ll remain a heavily processed food. As their name suggests, saltines are high in salt and you might want to limit your consumption of sodium is a concern.
Personally I don’t think saltines are too terrible for your health as an occasional snack when you’re too busy to prepare something healthier. I tend to use them as an accompaniment for more nourishing fare, such as a filling bowl of fresh vegetable soup with crackers, or a substrate for healthy toppings and dips. I know people who prefer to avoid all processed foods of this sort as part of their diet. It’s a decision that’s up to the individual. In my own case, if I wasn’t nibbling saltines with raw cauliflower dip I might not eat anything at all for some meals so having a convenient snack, one I can dress up with healthier ingredients makes sense.
Which ingredients should you watch out for when buying saltines?
Assuming that you’re not overly worried about the companies you buy from, the actual ingredients of your crackers are going to be your biggest concern.
The commonest problematic ingredient in saltines seems to be whey. Whey is derived from milk, a by-product of the cheese-making process. This watery leftover substance is used to give some baked good more body and turns up a lot in crackers and cookies. A quick glance at the ingredients should tell you whether whey is present in the product you’re buying.
As we’ve already noted, you should be especially careful when buying saltine crackers with additional flavouring. Dairy products like whey are commonly added to crackers, especially if they’ve been given a cheese flavour.
There are a few ingredients that may be contentious, such as the small quantities of sugar found in some brands. Another plant-based ingredient present in some saltines is palm oil, which is associated with environmental damage and deforestation. As a vegan, concern for the environment is probably one of your motivations so you might want to skip saltines that include palm oil.
Some saltine crackers are enriched with vitamins. This is usually a positive addition, especially if you’re looking for ways to boost your vitamin B12 intake. Additional B12 is sometimes added to saltines and is especially useful for vegans. However, you need to keep your eyes open for vitamins that might have animal origins, such as vitamin D3.
What can I eat with saltines?
Saltines are great by themselves but they’re even better with healthy, tasty plant-based toppings. If you’re looking for a B-vitamin boost, a few saltines with vegan yeast paté is a delicious and really simple way to add those crucial nutrients to your diet. This combination can be a little more-ish, so keep an eye on how many you eat. There’s often a surprising amount of sodium in those patés a some of them are high in hydrogenated fats.
Another great accompaniment for saltine crackers is a delicious fresh salsa dip. Shop-bought salsa is fine, of course, but I find it a little disappointing when compared with fresh home-made salsa. I like to make small batches of salsa and keep them overnight — the taste really improves the next day.
If you’re a fan of strong umami flavours, spreading a thin layer of yeast extract on your saltine crackers is a taste sensation. This really ramps up the salt levels so don’t have too many at once. I find this snack fantastic if I need a quick pick-me-up — probably because of the extra B vitamins in the yeast extract.
Guacamole dip goes well with saltines. Even just crushed avocado is really nice. Avocado is delicious and is also packed with healthy fats and B vitamins — including that elusive B12.
Raw vegetable dips are delicious and super easy to make. Just whizz up some of your favourite veggies in a bullet blender with whatever herbs or spices take your fancy. My go-to is raw cauliflower with a little nutritional yeast and maybe a dash of vegan aioli.
Home-made saltine crackers
Want to be absolutely certain that your saltines are free from any non-vegan ingredients? Make them at home. Vegan saltine crackers are very easy — they use only four ingredients and you can whip up a batch in half an hour. You’ll need plain flour, your preferred healthy oil (I like avocado oil), water, and sea salt. I generally use pink Himalayan salt — that rosy colour comes from iron compounds in the salt that help protect against anaemia. It also looks really pretty sprinkled on crackers.
Mix 200g of plain flour with a pinch or two of sea salt. Add 35ml (2 tablespoons) of oil and 125ml (7 tablespoons) of water. Mix the ingredients into a soft dough and then roll out thinly. Place on a greased baking tray and cut into squares. A pizza cutter works well for this; if you want wavy edges to your crackers like the ones from the shop, use a bevelled cutter. If you like, you can brush the tops with oil and sprinkle a little additional salt on top. This will make the saltines look more like the kind you buy in stores and will give them a tasty, salty crunch. Be aware that this adds more salt and fat to the recipe and allow for this.
Pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F or Gas Mark 6) and bake the saltines for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can very quickly burn, and adjust the time for your oven.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever ingredients you want to the basic dough. Try mixing a spoonful or two of nutritional yeast, a little cracked black pepper or some chilli flakes in with the dry ingredients at the beginning. You can also sprinkle pepper or herbs on top before you bake the crackers. You can also experiment with different oils, like garlic or herb-infused oils. If you want a healthier cracker you can substitute half the white flour with wholewheat. If you want a gluten-free dough, swap the plain flour for chickpea or rice (you may need to tweak the quantities a little).