Are Rice Cakes Vegan?

Delicious with just about every kind of dip or topping imaginable, but are rice cakes vegan? The short answer is yes, most of the time. As with any mass-produced food, there are always exceptions but it is good to know that it is more likely that they are fine for a plant-based diet.

We’re going to look at how they are made, and the brands making vegan-friendly options.

Ingredients

The variety widely available in the US is the puffed kind, but Rice Cakes can take many forms. We’re going to concentrate on this version and not the sticky dessert kind available in Asia.

The main ingredients are rice, vegetable oil, water, and salt, nothing to worry about, right? Well, different varieties can be an issue, so let’s take a closer look.

Is There Dairy?

Some flavors include animal-derived ingredients that can include butter, cheese, chocolate, and eggs among others.

Caramel is another culprit. This depends on the recipe as some use lactose which would make the rice cakes non-vegan. 

When it comes to cheese, most Rice Cakes that are typically non-vegan are easy to identify. This is because they have ‘cheddar’ or something similar as part of the branding. 

Milk is a surprising find, but it does happen. Lactose, the sugar found in milk, can be used to add a tang to certain foods so it is not uncommon to find it in a handful of flavors. 

How They’re Made

According to madehow.com, rice is soaked in water until the moisture level is found. The now moist rice is fed into hoppers. They are then moved above popping machines before being put into molds in the popping machine. A combination of heat and pressure causes the rice cake to expand. Anything too puffed out will mean there is too much air in the rice cake so there only needs to be a max of 10 seconds of exposure to high heat. This locks in flavor and provides the desired texture, 

The rice bonds as a result of the popping meaning there are no gummy additives required to make them stick together. 

The circular cakes are then moved onto a conveyor belt where they are passed through spraying heads to add flavor.

They are then dried, and moved to a bagging area before being packed and sealed, ready for distribution. 

Commercial Brands

Quaker

Arguably the most recognizable brand out there, and here are a handful of their most common flavors, along with the ingredients:

Quaker Lightly Salted

With just whole grain brown rice and salt as the sole ingredients, this is an easy one. They are vegan and can be enjoyed by anyone following a plant-based diet. 

Quaker Salt-Free

The sole ingredient is whole grain brown rice, so expect less flavor but a healthier snack. They can be complemented with any vegan-friendly topping as they are, of course, plant-based. 

Quaker Caramel Corn

The sweeter rice cakes will rightly be cause for suspicion, but the ingredients list makes for pleasant reading:

Whole grain brown rice, degerminated milled corn, sugar, fructose, maltodextrin, caramel color, natural flavor, salt, soy lecithin.

Yes, there is caramel color, but this should not be cause for concern. It is derived from the heating of simple carbs such as fructose and sucrose among others, and is used in place of caramel that contains lactose. 

So, this is another Rice Cake flavor that is vegan.

Quaker Apple Cinnamon

Sweetened by apple, this has a basic ingredient profile that makes it vegan:

Whole grain brown rice, sugar, fructose, maltodextrin, natural flavor, cinnamon, soy lecithin. 

Other Brands

Lundberg Organic Cinnamon Toast

A favorite among many vegans, these are certified organic and are thin and crunchy. The ingredients make for pleasant, plant-based reading:

Organic Brown Rice, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Spices, Sea Salt, Cinnamon Oil, Organic Natural Flavor.

Liebers Dark Chocolate

Made vegan despite the chocolate topping, this is the sort of sweet treat to satisfy any cravings. 

Final Thoughts

Rice Cakes are one to add to your list of vegan snacks. The Quaker brand isn’t unique in that many store-bought rice cakes are vegan. 

Just keep an eye out for dairy, especially in the flavored versions and you should find yourself biting into most brands.