Are Cinnamon Rolls Vegan?

The cinnamon roll (aka cinnamon bun, and cinnamon snail or cinnamon swirl) is a classic breakfast sweet roll commonly found in Northern Europe (mostly in Scandinavia), the US, and Canada.

Are they vegan? Cinnamon rolls are not typically vegan. Commercial cinnamon rolls and most recipes you’ll encounter have a number of animal-derived ingredients. That’s not to say you can’t find any vegan-friendly varieties, but the standard ingredients include milk and egg products.

Cinnamon rolls consist of a rolled sheet of leavened dough with a cinnamon and sugar mixture spread over a thin coat of butter. The dough is rolled together, cut into several portions, and baked.

There are tons of animal products used in this process, but none are actually needed. So, what we’ll do here is name the common ingredients, their functions, and what you can use to replace them if using a store-bought mix or simply making them from scratch.

At the end, I’ll list some store-bought cinnamon rolls that are suitable for vegans. So, if you’re like me and too lazy to make your own you’ve come to the right place.

Why Most Cinnamon Rolls Are Considered Non-Vegan?

A lot of food products contain milk in some form or another. It’s usually used as a preservative and to impart flavor and improve mouthfeel.

Cinnamon rolls are one of those foods that tend to rely on milk and its derivatives.

For example, Pillsbury’s Flaky Cinnamon Rolls With Butter Cream Icing uses modified whey.

Milk products common to cinnamon rolls and other pastries include:

  • Milk and milk cream
  • Whey
  • Casein—these contribute to emulsification (stabilization) of the dough. I.e. it helps keep the ingredients nice and mixed.
  • Dry whole milk
  • Lactose—the natural sugars found in milk. It’s often used in baked goods as it helps contribute to color by browning the exterior.

Anyway, these ingredients will pop up regularly when scanning the label of cinnamon rolls and other pastries.

Plant-based milks can be used here. They’re equally effective and if you find a neutral tasting one
(e.g. almond milk) you won’t know the difference.

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