You’ve just discovered that cashew milk “ice cream” tastes pretty awesome. Or maybe you’ve perfected your vegan chocolate cupcake recipe. What’s a better dessert topping than sweet, crunchy, and colorful sprinkles? Sprinkles sound like a no-brainer for vegans, since they seem to be made of not much more than colored sugar. But before you reach for that jar, there's something important you need to know about the ingredients in a typical container of sprinkles. You might be surprised to learn that they have an insect-derived ingredient that gives them their glossy coating. Here's what you need to know about sprinkles.
Sprinkles Ingredients List
- Vegetable oil
- Confectioner's glaze
- Food coloring
- Natural and artificial flavor
- Soy lecithin
- Carnauba wax
Are Sprinkles Vegan?
You can think of sprinkles as little tiny sugar candies. The primary ingredient of most sprinkles is in fact sugar. As you can see from the ingredient list on a typical container of sprinkles that's commonly found at most grocery stores, they contain sugar, vegetable oil, cornstarch, different food colorings, and soy. So far so good, right? Not so fast! If you see an ingredient called “confectioner’s glaze” on your sprinkles bottle and think that means sugar…as in confectioner's sugar...think again. Confectioner's glaze is where that insect ingredient comes into play.
What is Confectioner's Glaze?
Confectioner’s glaze is a shellac used to coat candy and other things like gum and pills. When you hear the word "shellac" the first thing that comes to mind is probably a can of shiny varnish that's applied to things like wood floors and furniture. But shellac is also used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as a coating for things we consume. Believe it or not, shellac is a resinous substance secreted by a bug called the Lac insect. Specifically, the female Lac insect produces this resin which is then attached to twigs or branches, forming a kind of shelter for the bugs.
You can think of it as similar to how bees produce honey. Food experts estimate that 25% of lac contains “insect debris.” It’s also thought that approximately 300,000 Lac insects are killed for every kilogram of lac produced. It is for these reasons that many vegans choose not to consume products made with confectioner's glaze.
Best Vegan Sprinkle Brands
You can still enjoy commercially-produced sprinkles that are 100% vegan. Some companies do make vegan sprinkles and other colorful decorations that look and taste like the ones made with confectioner's glaze. They also tend to be free of the artificial flavors and colorings commonly found in non-vegan sprinkles. Here are just a few to try (click on the name to shop):
Quality Sprinkles Natural Color Rainbow Sprinkles: In addition to being vegan, these sprinkles are also gluten and GMO free, suitable for Halal and Kosher diets, and contain no artificial ingredients.
Let's Do Organic Sprinkelz Organic Confetti: These sprinkles are vegan, fat and gluten free, and are made from natural colorings that are derived from seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Marshalls Creek Spices All Natural Vegan Cake Decorations: Star-shaped vegan sprinkles that are also gluten and GMO free, all natural, and Halal certified.
Make Your Own Vegan "Sprinkles"
Consider topping your frozen desserts and baked sweets with yummy all-natural vegan decorations like toasted coconut, shaved chocolate, chopped nuts, and fresh or dried fruit instead! Ben & Jerry's recently came out with new flavors in their line of non-dairy ice cream. We can't imagine a better topping for vegan Cherry Garcia than some shaved dark chocolate or a few slivers of toasted almonds!
What's the bottom line for anyone looking to top special-occasion desserts with natural, healthy, and 100% vegan decorations? If you want to avoid confectioner’s glaze, read all sprinkles labels carefully before buying. Make sure to read the labels on colored sugar granules too, as they can contain confectioner's glaze as well. As a matter of fact, it's a good idea to read all candy and gum labels carefully, especially if they have a waxy or shiny coating. You may also want to check the pills in your medicine cabinet too, as drug companies often coat pills with pharmaceutical glaze (confectioner's glaze used in the pharmaceutical industry).
Do you have a favorite brand of vegan sprinkles? Let us know about them in the comments!