Is Nutella Vegan?

Nutella, the creamy hazelnut-chocolate spread brought to the United States from Italy, is an indulgence that nearly everyone loves. A closer look at the ingredients list, though, reveals a fact that might be more than a little tragic for chocolate-lovers who don't eat dairy, because it turns out that Nutella is not vegan

There's one major ingredient in Nutella that all vegans would agree is a no-no: dairy milk. Milk is produced by cows, and vegans eschew milk and dairy products (via Healthline). 

But there are two other ingredients in Nutella that some strict vegans would also consider to be not-vegan. One is sugar, and one is palm oil. 

The reason why many vegans don't eat non-organic white cane sugar is because it's processed with bone char, usually made from cow bones. The juice of the sugar cane is processed and then filtered through bone char, which bleaches it to a pure white. Since an animal product is used to make non-organic white cane sugar, many vegans consider it to be not-vegan, and opt for beet sugar, USDA-certified organic sugar (via VRG), or sugar from companies that specifically brand themselves as vegan (via Huffington Post). 

Then there's palm oil, a fat which is extracted from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (which grows in many tropical areas, not just in Africa). Palm oil isn't processed with any animal products, and doesn't contain any animal ingredients, but some vegans consider it to be not-vegan because of the method in which it's grown and harvested (via The Guardian). In 2018, The Independent reported that it's estimated that the clearcutting of rainforest to make way for palm oil trees has lead to the death of more than 100,000 orangutans since 2002, and the Rainforest Action Network says it also threatens the habitat and lives of Sumatran elephants, tigers, rhinos, and sun bears.

Nutella also includes vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring, but this isn't to be confused with castoreum, a vanilla substitute procured from the anal sac of beavers which is not vegan, and which is usually included in ingredient lists as "natural flavoring" (via National Geographic).

Vegans who crave Nutella are definitely better off whipping up a homemade version of the chocolate-hazelnut spread, but your local health food store might have a vegan chocolate nut butter that's to your liking, too. Just be sure to read those ingredient lists carefully.