Sustainability made simple

Is Nutella Vegan? The Question We’ve All Been Asking

is nutella vegan
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PhotoEnduro

It’s one of the breakfast staples in many countries all over the world. When going for a plant-based diet, many may wonder whether Nutella is vegan. We’ll give you the lowdown.

Nutella is a sweet, chocolate and hazelnut spread, originally from Italy, it was first made after the second world war, when cocoa was scarce and the idea came about to make a spread using hazelnuts and just a little cocoa. The other ingredients are sugar, palm oil, lecithin, vanillin and skim milk powder. The lecithin in Nutella, just like in nearly all other products, is made from soy. It is used to help to blend everything together and can sometimes be made from eggs. It is the skim milk powder in Nutella, from cow’s milk, making it unsuitable for vegans.

Due to the fact that sugar and palm oil are the most dominant ingredients in Nutella, it is a very unhealthy product. Palm oil contains fifty percent saturated fat. This type of fat is bad for us and contributes to health problems such as high cholesterol and obesity. Nutella is often marketed as a “healthy” breakfast for the whole family, however, due to its high levels of palm oil and especially sugar, it is probably not the best idea for children to consume too much of it — particularly in the morning when they run the risk of having a sugar low a few hours later. They could suffer from a sugar headache afterwards, or have to deal with sugar withdrawal once you try to get them off the habit.

We’ll discuss each ingredient of Nutella separately and show you some vegan alternatives, so you don’t have to miss out on a yummy chocolate spread.

Is Nutella Vegan? A Look at the Ingredients

Hazelnuts give Nutella its creamy taste.
Hazelnuts give Nutella its creamy taste.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / JolaKalmuk)

Nutella is only made from seven ingredients, find out more about what they are used for and how they give Nutella its unique taste.

  1. Sugar — The sugar in Nutella is in the form of sucrose, in Europe, it usually comes from sugar beet, and outside of Europe it comes from sugar cane. If sourced from sugarcane, it’s possible that the sugar is not strictly vegan, either. Nutella buys all of its sugar cane sucrose from sustainable sources in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and India; it is a member of Bonsucro, an NGO working to reduce the environmental and social impacts associated with the production of sugarcane.
  2. Hazelnut — Although Nutella says it is committed to one hundred percent traceability of its hazelnuts, this does not mean that they come from sustainable sources, nor that they are organic. Nutella currently sources its hazelnuts from the USA, Turkey, Italy and Chile and they are able to trace them back to individual farms — it is worth considering the carbon footprint of Nutella here with so many ingredients coming from around the world. Find out more about clever ways to reduce your carbon footprint. There have also been reports about child exploitation on the hazelnut farms which Nutella sources its hazelnuts from, perhaps another reason to avoid Nutella.
  3. Palm oil — Palm oil comes from the red fruit of the palm tree, the fruit is pressed to extract the oil. The palm oil in Nutella helps give it its smooth texture and the company claim that it is 100 percent RSPO certified, meaning it is sourced from sustainable forests. Despite this certification, it is still wise to avoid products that contain palm oil as the production of it involves cutting down vast areas of virgin rainforest which destroy the habitat of various animals such as orangutans. This deforestation also increases carbon emissions, which contributes to climate change.
  4. Cocoa — The cocoa in Nutella is bought in season from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in West Africa. This certification intends to guarantee that small farmers are treated fairly and the supply chain is transparent, however, it’s important to note that it is not a fair trade label. One of the most important points of criticism is that there are no minimum prices or wages for the contracted farmers. The focus of the certification is the management of environmental resources within a farm. The Fairtrade label has much stricter standards, and it is therefore important to stick to fair trade coffee, cocoa, and tea.
  5. Milk — The milk is from cows’ milk, which is why Nutella is not vegan. Like all other ingredients in Nutella, the milk is not organic, and therefore most likely stems from factory farming. Apart from the often cruel treatment of cows on those farms, cows have a huge environmental impact. In fact, beef and milk products appear in our list of 6 foods that are the worst for the environment.
  6. Vanillin — This is a synthetic vanilla flavoring used to enhance the taste of Nutella. However, synthetic flavorings also have the potential to cause some health problems like headaches or allergies. Alternative, especially organic, chocolate spreads sometimes use natural flavorings, such as vanilla bean powder — and so does our homemade vegan Nutella recipe below.
  7. Lecithin — Also contributing to the texture of Nutella, lecithin is usually extracted from soybeans from Brazil, Italy and India or it comes from sunflowers, it is used as an emulsifier in food.

Vegan Alternatives to Nutella

There are many vegan alternatives to Nutella.
There are many vegan alternatives to Nutella.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PhotoEnduro)

Just because Nutella is not vegan, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on this tasty spread. There are some alternatives available to vegans.

  • Firstly, you can make your own homemade vegan Nutella using hazelnuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, vanilla bean powder, agave syrup, and salt.
  • Another alternative is to use dairy-free nut butter, such as hazelnut, almond, or homemade peanut butter, all of which are great sources of protein.
  • If you want to opt for something vegan but less nutty, there are various vegan chocolate spreads available such as Date Lady Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Spread, available on Amazon**, which contains no added sugar and is made using USDA-certified organic ingredients.
  • Finally, there are some store-bought vegan-friendly brands that can be alternatives to Nutella, such as Artisana Organics Hazelnut Cacao Spread, available on Amazon**, which is also organic, or Nutiva organic hazelnut spread** which is additionally certified by Fair for Life and carries the relatively new “Palm Done Right”-label, according to some sources the most ambitious and trustworthy of palm oil sustainability labels.

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** Links to retailers marked with ** or underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.

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