Is Crisco Shortening gluten and dairy-free?

Crisco shortening is a popular vegetable oil-based alternative to lard or butter for baking and cooking. With the rise in food allergies and sensitivities like gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance, many home cooks wonder if Crisco contains any gluten or dairy ingredients that could cause problems.

Quick Answer

Yes, original Crisco shortening is certified gluten-free and dairy-free, making it safe for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It’s also vegan and contains no animal products. Crisco is made from soybean and palm oils only.

What is Crisco Shortening?

Crisco shortening is made from fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, originally derived from cottonseed oil when it was first introduced in 1911. Today’s Crisco vegetable oil blend contains both soybean and palm oils.

Hydrogenation is a process that turns liquid vegetable oils into solid fats by adding hydrogen. Fully hydrogenating the oils allows Crisco to be solid at room temperature, creamy, and have an extended shelf life compared to liquid oils.

The original Crisco vegetable shortening contains no additional ingredients – just hydrogenated soybean and palm oils. However, there are also butter flavored Crisco sticks and baking sticks with added butter flavor.

Crisco Shortening Varieties

Crisco shortening is available in a few different varieties:

  • Original all-vegetable shortening (gluten-free, dairy-free)
  • Butter flavored shortening sticks
  • Baking sticks with butter flavor
  • Organic shortening
  • Crisco Zero Trans Fat shortening

The original Crisco vegetable shortening, the organic shortening, and the zero trans fat shortening are all gluten-free and dairy-free. However, the butter flavored options do contain milk ingredients and are not dairy-free or vegan.

Common Questions About Crisco and Allergies

Is Crisco gluten-free?

Yes, original Crisco shortening is certified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). It contains no wheat, barley, rye, or other gluten-containing ingredients. The gluten-free status also applies to Crisco’s organic shortening and zero trans fat shortening.

Crisco states on their website: “Crisco oils and shortening (the plain no-additive varieties) have been labeled ‘gluten-free’ for many years. Every bottle and can states ‘zero grams trans fat per serving’ on the front label, indicating no gluten-containing ingredients.”

The GFCO audits and certifies gluten-free foods to contain less than 10 parts per million of any gluten proteins. This very low level gives those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity assurance that Crisco won’t trigger adverse reactions.

Is Crisco dairy-free?

The original Crisco vegetable oil shortening does not contain any dairy ingredients like milk, cream, butter, whey, or casein. It’s entirely vegan and dairy-free.

However, Crisco does make shortening sticks and baking sticks that are butter flavored. Those butter flavored products do contain milk ingredients and are not dairy-free or vegan.

To ensure you are purchasing a dairy-free Crisco product, read the ingredient list and select the plain original shortening without any butter flavor added.

Is Crisco nut-free?

Yes, Crisco products are free of any nut ingredients like peanut, tree nuts, coconut, or soy nuts. Crisco is safe for those with tree nut and peanut allergies.

Is Crisco soy-free?

No, regular Crisco shortening is not soy-free. While it contains no soy proteins, it is derived from both soybean oil and palm oil. The soybean oil is highly refined and should contain only tiny residual amounts of soy protein, but it is not considered soy-free.

Those with soy allergies may be able to tolerate highly refined soybean oil, but should exercise caution and consult a doctor if concerned about potential soy protein residues.

Crisco Ingredient List

Below are the ingredients for a typical Crisco all-vegetable shortening product:

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Beta Carotene (Color). Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Artificial Flavor, Mono And Diglycerides, TBHQ and Citric Acid (To Protect Flavor).

As you can see, it contains no gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, or other allergenic ingredients.

The palm oil and hydrogenated palm oils give Crisco its semisolid texture, while the soybean oil adds polyunsaturated fats. Small amounts of preservatives, salt, and citric acid help preserve freshness and stabilize the shortening.

The artificial butter flavor and milk ingredients are only added to Crisco’s butter flavored varieties, not the original plain shortening.

What About Trans Fats in Crisco?

When Crisco shortening was first introduced, it contained trans fats formed during the hydrogenation process. But in 2004, Crisco reformulated to become trans fat free.

The FDA banned artificial trans fats in 2018, requiring food manufacturers to remove partially hydrogenated oils or reduce trans fat levels below 0.5 grams per serving.

Today’s Crisco contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, coming from partially hydrogenated oils. The total fat content is 12g per serving, coming from heart healthier unsaturated fats.

Comparison of the Original Crisco vs. Zero Trans Fat Crisco

Crisco Type Total Fat Trans Fat
Original 12g 0g
Zero Trans Fat 12g 0g

As you can see, both varieties now contain 0 grams of trans fat per serving and meet the FDA guidelines for trans fat free labeling.

What About GMO Ingredients in Crisco?

There has been some consumer concern about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Crisco vegetable oils. Crisco states on its website that as a food, vegetable oil does not generally require GMO labeling and they consider their ingredient sourcing to be proprietary information.

However, food advocacy groups like the Non-GMO project allege that most Crisco products likely contain GMOs:

Soybean oil, palm oil, rapeseed oil (canola oil), corn oil, and cottonseed oil are the most common vegetable oils used in processed foods and are usually from GM sources.

There is ongoing debate regarding potential health and environmental impacts of GMOs. While there are non-GMO oil alternatives, Crisco and many other brands do likely source conventional GMO soybean oil containing crops.

What is Crisco Shortening Used for? Is it Healthy?

Crisco shortening offers some advantages for baking:

  • It makes flakier pie crusts and pastries.
  • It creams well with sugar to incorporate air into batters.
  • It provides tenderness in cookies and cakes.
  • It has a long shelf life compared to butter or oils.
  • It allows frostings and doughs to hold shape at room temperature.

However, here are some downsides of shortening from a health perspective:

  • High in saturated fat and calories compared to oils.
  • Made from refined oils stripped of nutrients.
  • Contains chemical additives and preservatives.
  • Often derived from GMO crops.
  • Palm oil production raises environmental concerns.

While Crisco reformulated to remove trans fats, the saturated fat content is still similar to lard or butter. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to no more than 13 grams per day.

For better heart health, the AHA recommends using liquid plant oils like olive oil or canola oil when possible rather than tropical fats like palm oil or coconut oil that are solid at room temperature.

However, small amounts of shortening won’t significantly affect health for most people. Crisco can provide useful baking properties in moderation, especially for those needing to avoid dairy and gluten.

Healthier Shortening Alternatives to Crisco

For those wanting a more health-conscious shortening option, here are a few alternatives:

Spectrum Organic Shortening

Spectrum makes a non-GMO certified organic shortening from palm oil and canola oil. It has no hydrogenation so contains no trans fats. Available in both palm and palm-free versions.

Nutiva Organic Shortening

Nutiva offers a vegan and organic shortening made from coconut oil and red palm oil. Certified non-GMO and sustainably sourced. Contains 5g of saturated fat per serving.

Earth Balance Shortening Sticks

Earth Balance makes shortening sticks blended from palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax, and olive oils. Non-GMO and vegan. 5g of saturated fat per serving.

Coconut Oil

Solid at room temperature, coconut oil can substitute for shortening in a 1:1 ratio. Has health benefits but also high in saturated fat.

Ghee or Clarified Butter

Clarified butter offers similar properties to shortening without milk proteins. Ghee provides rich flavor for pastries and pie dough.

Finding Gluten and Dairy-Free Crisco Products

When shopping for Crisco shortening, read the labels closely to identify gluten-free and dairy-free options. Avoid those with added butter flavor or milk ingredients.

Crisco shortening is commonly stocked in the baking aisle at grocery stores like Walmart, Target, and local supermarkets. Many stores now have designated allergy-friendly sections that may carry alternative brands too.

Natural food stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts will have a bigger selection of non-GMO and organic vegetable shortening options.

Online stores like Amazon, Thrive Market, Vitacost, and Walmart.com also carry a wide variety of shortening products to suit special diets and preferences.

Cost Comparison of Shortening Brands

Here’s how some popular shortening options compare in terms of cost:

Brand Type Size Price
Crisco Original shortening 16 oz $4
Spectrum Organic shortening 16 oz $6
Nutiva Organic shortening 16 oz $8
Earth Balance Shortening sticks 16 oz $7

As you can see, Crisco tends to be the most budget-friendly option, while organic and non-GMO brands range from $2-4 more per 16 oz container.

However, specialty shortening alternatives can often be found on sale or in bulk sizes to reduce the prices. Coupons and store promotions can also help cut costs on pricier natural brands.

Does Crisco Go Bad or Expire?

When stored properly, Crisco has a relatively long shelf life compared to other oils or butter. An unopened tub can last 2-3 years in the pantry.

Once opened, Crisco maintains quality for about a year. Look for an expiry or best by date on the packaging. Discard if the shortening smells rancid or tastes off.

Signs of expired Crisco shortening include:

  • Rancid odor
  • Change in color or texture – becomes too yellow or watery
  • Mold development
  • Dry, cracked appearance

For optimal freshness and shelf life, store Crisco in a cool, dry place and keep the lid tightly sealed. Refrigeration can extend its shelf life once opened.

Conclusion

Crisco vegetable shortening offers gluten-free and dairy-free properties that make it a useful staple for allergy-friendly baking. With reformulated recipes removing trans fats, it provides a shelf-stable alternative to butter or lard for flakier pastries.

While not the most health-conscious choice, Crisco can be used moderately by those avoiding gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, and soy. Proper storage allows it to keep well in the pantry for months.

Opt for organic brands like Spectrum or Nutiva if you prefer to avoid GMOs in your ingredients. Coconut oil, ghee, or butter provide more natural alternatives. But for an affordable, widely available option, original Crisco shortening remains a good choice for gluten and dairy-free cooking needs.

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