Are Hawaiian Rolls Vegan?

Hailing from 1950’s Hawaii, this Portuguese sweet bread-inspired roll can be vegan, but it isn’t usually. Some brands are making them without animal-derived ingredients, but expect most to be full of unsuitable ingredients for a plant-based diet.

We’re going to take a look at the good and the bad, and see how we can get them into our diets without hurting animals in any way.

Ingredients

The ingredient lists on one of the most popular brands show just how a typical Hawaiian roll is not vegan. The ingredients read as follows:

‘ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, SUGAR, LIQUID SUGAR (SUGAR, WATER), BUTTER (PASTEURIZED CREAM, SALT), EGGS, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: POTATO FLOUR, YEAST, WHEY, NONFAT MILK, SOY FLOUR, SALT, DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN FLOUR, WHEAT GLUTEN, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, DATEM, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, WHEAT FLOUR, CALCIUM SULFATE, SODIUM SILICOALUMINATE, ASCORBIC ACID ADDED AS A DOUGH CONDITIONER, AMMONIUM SULFATE, WHEAT STARCH, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, ENZYMES, MICROCRYSTALLINE CELLULOSE, CALCIUM SILICATE.’

Where to start? There is butter, eggs, whey, and nonfat milk. This is a cocktail of non-vegan ingredients to make them non-vegan. This is typical of the Portuguese sweet bread recipe that is very similar. 

Also, look out for honey which is a popular ingredient used to sweeten the rolls. 

Do They Contain Dairy?

Yes, Hawaiian rolls contain butter, whey, and nonfat milk. This makes them unsuitable for any vegan. 

Not everyone understands why, but it is as much to do with the health benefits as it is the moral stance of not mistreating animals. Cows are often injected with steroids to enhance their milk production. 

Many people are waking up to the fact that dairy farming is not only painful but cruel. It is widely considered to be worse than meat farming both in terms of animal welfare and the environment. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism#Eggs_and_dairy_products

This is why Hawaiian rolls cannot be consumed as part of a vegan lifestyle.

Do They Contain Honey?

Not every recipe does, but it is a popular ingredient as it sweetens the rolls. You may find honey wheat flavors of certain brands, but the animal-derived ingredient isn’t exclusively found in these versions.

A secret ingredient that some don’t even realize is in there, honey is part of what makes these fluffy rolls a sweet bread.

Popular Brands

There are plenty of brands on the supermarket shelves so let’s see if any of them are vegan:

Sara Lee

The mono and diglycerides (https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monoglycerides#trans-fat) in these rolls make them problematic, but the ingredient is not necessarily wrong for a vegan. 

Working as an emulsifier, they are used in food to help oil and water to blend. Fatty acid chains can be derived from animals but also plants. Since many brands do not specify, it is difficult to tell how suitable the ingredient is. 

Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, Sugar, Yeast, Salt, Soybean Oil, Wheat Gluten, Potato Flakes, Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid), Datem, Corn Flour, Ethoxylated Mono And Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Monoglycerides, Reb A (Stevia Leaf Sweetener), Sucralose, Spice & Coloring, Citric Acid, Grain Vinegar, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Iodate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin.

Schwebel’s

Another popular option, these again contain monoglycerides, but there aren’t any other problematic ingredients. It depends on how in-depth you wish to go but many people like to reach out and contact a company directly to find out just how suitable the monoglycerides used are.

Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sugar, Potato Flour, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Rye Flour, Contains 2% or less of the following: Soybean Oil, Corn Flour, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Annatto, and Turmeric Extracts, Artificial Flavor, Salt, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Calcium Sulfate, Monoglycerides, Ascorbic Acid.

Pillsbury

This is an interesting variety that is shaped more like a croissant but again, they contain mono and diglycerides. The inclusion of palm oil is also a problem for many vegans because of the impact sourcing it has on the rainforest. 

As a result, many would agree that these are not vegan.

Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (soybean and palm oil, hydrogenated palm oil, fractionated palm oil, water, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, and citric acid [preservatives], beta carotene [for color]), Sugar, Baking Powder (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate). Contains 2% or Less of Soybean Oil, Vital Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Salt, Monoglycerides, Potassium Chloride, Natural Flavor, Sucralose, Yeast Extract, Annatto Extract (for color).

King’s

We’ve already looked at the original recipe and have found numerous dairy products and eggs to make them non-vegan. 

Here is a list of some of their other flavors, and why they are not vegan:

  • King’s Hawaiian Honey Wheat Dinner Rolls – Contains butter, honey, eggs, whey, and nonfat milk.
  • King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Sub Rolls – Contains butter, eggs, whey, non-fat milk. 
  • King’s Hawaiian Savoury Butter Dinner Rolls – Contains butter, non-fat milk, whey, and eggs.

The Best Vegan Options

Sara Lee Sweet Hawaiian Rolls are the closest commercial Hawaiian rolls that a vegan can enjoy. There don’t seem to be any strictly vegan options outside of this, so the best bet could be making your own and substituting the dairy and eggs. 

With many vegan recipes online, you will not be short of options for making these sweet fluffy rolls for yourself. 

Final Word

Whilst the most popular brand may include a whole host of dairy and non-vegan ingredients, there are viable options for any plant-based diet to enjoy these sweet rolls. 

Sometimes, the safest way to enjoy any food is to make your own, but Sara Lee could be a viable alternative worth trying.