Are Tootsie Rolls Vegan?

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Known for being the original separately wrapped treat, Tootsie Rolls are a classic candy that is loved by many! With their cocoa flavors and gentle fruity notes, Tootsie Rolls are certainly tasty.

They are also suitable for a range of diets, including gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, and halal. However, vegans will have to think again before picking up a box.

Vegans differ on what ingredients count as plant-based, but Tootsie Rolls are made with several non-vegan substances. 

We’ll cover more about whether Tootsie Rolls are vegan or not in this post, including the controversial ingredients in the candy that have caused debate in the vegan community. 

Non-Vegan Tootsie Roll Ingredients

Tootsie Rolls contain four main ingredients that make them non-vegan.

Skimmed Milk

Skimmed milk is made from whole cow’s milk, except it has been skimmed to remove the fat. It’s often used in confectionary companies to reduce the cost of purchasing whole milk, but it also delivers a smooth, velvety texture in the mouth. Cow’s milk is taken from cows, meaning it is unsuitable for vegans. 


As whey is a milk derivative that contains dairy, it isn’t suitable for a vegan lifestyle. Whey is added to the toffee production, helping the candy set as it is processed with high heat. As whey is cheap to purchase, many confectionary companies use it as their main stabilizing agent. 


Also known as sodium caseinate, casein is a protein found in cow’s milk, so it isn’t suitable for vegans. Cow’s milk contains roughly 85% casein and is used to make many types of cheese sold in stores. 

In Tootsie Rolls, casein is mixed with milk and reacts with whey to thicken up the toffee. As it contains a lot of lactose, casein also caramelizes the Tootsie Roll, so it takes on a stronger color and flavor. 

Thick Cream

Heavy cream is another dairy, non-vegan ingredient that is used in Tootsie Rolls. It’s used in toffee production to make the milk ingredients blend with the fat. This provides Tootsie Rolls with a distinct toffee flavor with caramel notes. 

Other than making the Tootsie Rolls taste good, heavy cream also blends with casein and whey to shape the treats, giving them structure as they meld into their rolled-out form. 

As heavy cream is so dense and high in fat, it’s one of the reasons why Tootsie Rolls are so high in calories. Many of the ingredients in this list are dairy substances, which makes Tootsie Rolls nowhere near vegan! 

Debatable Non-Vegan Tootsie Roll Ingredients

Some vegans consider the ingredients below to be suitable for vegans, but others believe their manufacturing process makes them unsuitable for a plant-based lifestyle.


Sugar is one of the main ingredients in candy, including Tootsie Rolls, so it cannot be substituted. Many health-conscious vegans choose to avoid sugar for health reasons, but it is derived from plant matter, making it vegan.

The issue vegans have with sugar is whether bone char was used in the production process. Bone char is made from animal bones and is used to make sugar look whiter and brighter. 

Even if the char is filtered out of the sugar later, the product was still made using animal matter, going against the principles of veganism. 

Some sugar manufacturers don’t use bone char to make their products, but it’s hard to be certain unless stated explicitly on the packaging.

Soybean Oils

Soybean oil is considered vegan, but many people debate over whether the soybean oil industry makes the product non-vegan. 

The soybean oil business is known for contributing to deforestation around the world. It’s also linked to jeopardizing the livelihoods of several wildlife species, like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger. 

You can find soybean oil brands that use environmentally friendly practices, which could make them vegan-friendly. However, it’s hard to be certain if this is the case for soybean oil in other food items. 

Vegan Tootsie Rolls Substitutes

As Tootsie Rolls are so iconic, it can be hard to find vegan alternatives that have the same taste, appearance, and texture. 

Some vegan caramels, like Larabar, have flavors that slightly resemble a Tootsie Roll. You can also find many vegan Tootsie Roll recipes online that you can try to make yourself. 


Tootsie Rolls may be suitable for a range of dietary requirements, but they are not considered vegan foods. The candy contains a lot of dairy ingredients that are derived from cow’s milk. 

They also contain sugar and soybean oil. These are derived from plant matter but may be sourced using processes that harm animals, so some vegans choose to avoid them. Vegans should avoid these treats and look for recipes that can recreate the classic Tootsie Roll flavors instead.

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