Is Captain Crunch Vegan?

It is one of the most widely known breakfast cereals that has been flying off of supermarket shelves since 1963, but is Captain Crunch vegan? The answer is that it can be, depending on how strict you are.

We’re going to take a close look at the label as although there are no animal-derived ingredients to be found, some vegans will take exception with some of them.

Captain Crunch Ingredients

With so many bright colors in every bowl, it is a little surprising to see such a short list of ingredients in Captain Crunch cereal. The contents of every box are as follows:

Corn Flour, Sugar, Oat Flour, Brown Sugar, Palm and/or Coconut Oil, Salt, Reduced Iron, Yellow 5, Niacinamide*, Yellow 6, BHT (to preserve freshness), Thiamin Mononitrate*, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride*, Riboflavin*, Folic Acid*.

For the untrained eye, there doesn’t appear to be a lot wrong. Sure, there are no animal-derived ingredients, but this doesn’t mean they are cruelty-free. 

Time to take a closer look.

Non-Vegan Ingredients In Captain Crunch

Many of these can be considered as a grey area for some vegans, so anyone who is less strict may turn a blind eye. Still, for the rest of us, here are the controversial ingredients in Captain Crunch:


Sugar itself is a reason to call any food non-vegan, but the way it is processed is important. Since a large portion of the sugar produced in the US is processed using bone char, it is a contentious ingredient.

Made from the charred bones of cattle and pigs, bone char is used to decolorize sugar to make it a more desirable white. This is unethical and should be enough for most vegans to avoid certain brands, but it isn’t so simple.

Because companies do not need to disclose this information on their label, it is hard to determine who uses bone char and who does not. 

The safest approach is to look for organic sugar or sugar derived from coconuts and beets. 

Palm Oil

It is a similar story, but the way palm oil is sourced is cruel to animals. It has contributed to the deforestation of the rainforest, displacing animals from their natural habitat including orangutans. 

Trees are cut down, leaving animals vulnerable and without a valuable food source, so many starve to death. Because of this many vegans will not buy products that contain palm oil.

Artificial Colors

Captain Crunch contains both Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 and although these are made from petroleum by-products, they have been routinely tested on animals. 

Yellow 5 is still tested on rats and mice and it is found in everything from baking goods to cosmetics. At the end of testing, animals are often killed. 

It has also been linked to hyperactivity in children which can put a lot of parents off buying the likes of Captain Crunch, vegan or not. 

Are Any Captain Crunch Flavors Vegan?

Most cereal brands have a long list of flavors available, and Captain Crunch is no exception. Here is a rundown of some of their other flavors, all of them feature non-vegan ingredients:

  • Captain Crunch Berries – Contains Sugar, Palm Oil, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Natural Flavor
  • Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch – Sugar and Palm Oil
  • Captain Crunch Oops All Berries – Sugar, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1
  • Captain Crunch Cotton Candy Crunch – Sugar, Palm Oil, Blue 1, Red 3, Natural Flavor
  • Captain Crunch – Chocolate Caramel Crunch – Sugar, Palm Oil, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6, Blue 2, Red 3, Natural Flavor

You may be wondering why the natural flavor is non-vegan, well it isn’t always. However, it can be derived from animal or plant sources, and brands do not need to specify. A lot of companies will include this information on their FAQ page, but not all of them.

Does Captain Crunch Contain Dairy?

After reviewing a variety of their flavors, we have not found any dairy in their products. This means no milk, butter, whey, or dairy by-products.

Are There Any Vegan Alternatives?

Cascadian Farm Organic Fruitful O’s Cereal

Made with organic ingredients, including organic sugar that means it was not processed with bone char. These are non-GMO and sweetened with natural fruit flavors making them an excellent alternative to Captain Crunch.

Here are the ingredients:

Whole Grain Oat Flour*, Sugar*, Corn Meal*, Oat Fiber*, Tapioca Syrup*, Wheat Starch*, Sea Salt, Sunflower Oil*, Color (Carrot Concentrate*, Elderberry Juice Concentrate*, Annatto*, Pumpkin Concentrate*, Apple Concentrate*), Fructose*, Dextrose*, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols), Added To Preserve Freshness. *Organic

BARBARA’S Puffins Peanut Butter Cereal, Non-GMO, Vegan

The word vegan is on the box of this kiddy plant-based cereal which is what we always like to see. With a simple ingredient profile, and made without tonnes of sugar, they are non-GMO, and popular within the vegan community for good reason:

Corn Meal, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Natural Peanut Butter (Ground Peanuts, Salt), Whole Oat Flour, Rice Flour, Sea Salt, Natural Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols to maintain freshness), Baking Soda. Contains soy (in corn) and peanut butter. 

Cascadian Farm Organic Berry Vanilla Puffs Cereal, Gluten-Free

This cereal is colorful like Captain Crunch but does not contain anything controversial for a vegan. Full of organic ingredients, they are non-GMO and made without artificial colors or flavors.

Whole Grain Purple Corn Flour*, Yellow Corn Meal*, Cane Sugar*, Whole Grain Yellow Corn Meal*, Sunflower Oil*, Sea Salt, Natural Flavor*, Calcium Carbonate, Vanilla Extract*. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. *Organic

Final Word

Captain Crunch will be fine for any vegan who is less strict about some of the ingredients. Sure, they are completely plant-based but are not cruelty-free. 

Understanding the label is half the battle for vegans, but once you know what you are looking at, finding vegan alternatives for your breakfast table is easier. 

Featured image by Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

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