You can enjoy this food-centered holiday and still have a Thanksgiving without palm oil. Here I discuss some ways palm oil may be hidden in your celebratory dishes.
Once you know what to look out for, it’s much easier to make palm oil free choices when cooking from scratch. When you read labels and make these easy substitutions, you can have a palm oil free holiday. Before making your grocery list, please consider the following:
Thanksgiving Without Palm Oil
Here are some Thanksgiving foods and ingredients which often contain palm oil. Watch for them. Below I offer palm oil free solutions.
- Margarine, buttery spreads and butter alternatives
- Refrigerated canned crescent rolls and biscuits
- Crispy fried onions
- Salad dressing
- Instant potatoes
- Stuffing mix
- Cornbread mix
- Gravy mix and gravy in jars
- Whipped cream, whipped frozen toppings
- Heavy whipping cream
- Canned frosting
- Pie crust
Does that seem like palm oil is everywhere? The good news is cranberry sauce is typically palm oil free. You can easily make your own with fresh cranberries, sugar, and orange zest.
Margarine, Buttery Spreads, Butter Alternatives
Depending on the brand, margarine and buttery spreads will typically contain Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Distilled Monoglycerides, Vegetable Mono- and Diglycerides, and Vitamin A Palmitate.
Instead, choose real butter for your bread and rolls, baking, and potatoes.
Unless you choose whole milk, there is probably palm oil in your milk. It’s in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate. This is the case for skim milk, low fat, 1%, 2%, chocolate, soy, nut, and other milks as well.
When you use milk to make your mashed potatoes and scalloped potatoes, be sure to choose whole milk. Choose whole milk but read the label before buying. Some whole milk brands are also fortified with Vitamin A Palminate; however, the majority are not.
Many plant-based and nut-based milks are also fortified with Vitamin A Palmitate. Make your own!
Refrigerated Canned Crescent Rolls, Biscuits
Any refrigerated bread dough in a can is sure to have palm oil ingredients listed many times. Look at all of these palm oil ingredients in one can of refrigerated crescent rolls:
Palm Oil, Shortening (Palm Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Fractionated Palm Oil), Mono- and Diglycerides, Monoglycerides
These are “just” the palm oil ingredients. There is also a long list of additional ingredients.
Instead, buy bread from your grocery store’s bakery. Just be sure to read the ingredients to ensure it’s free from palm oil and Mono- and Diglycerides.
Even better? Make your own rolls and breads in a bread machine. (It’s easier than you think!) You don’t even need a bread machine. Try this easy vegan biscuits recipe.
Crispy Fried Onions
Is green bean casserole one of your favorite Thanksgiving foods? It’s those crispy fried onions, isn’t it? Typically, the French fried crispy onions contain palm oil.
We found a few brands made with sunflower, safflower, and canola oil instead of palm oil. Read labels before buying. Remember to use whole milk in your green bean casserole.
Many dressings list soybean oil so you may assume they are palm oil free. Watch for hidden palm oil derivatives, including Propylene Glycol and Mixed Tocopherols.
If you buy salad dressing, choose the ones with the least amount of ingredients. You can easily make your own with olive oil, vinegar and fresh garlic and herbs.
Boxed and Instant Mashed Potatoes
Avoid buying packaged instant potatoes if possible. Most boxes and packages of instant potatoes contain Mono- and Diglycerides, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, and Mixed Tocopherols, all palm oil derivatives. Citric Acid is sometimes derived from palm oil and is used to preserve freshness.
Make your own mashed potatoes and scalloped potatoes with whole milk and real butter.
Stuffing Mix in a Box or Bag
Do you make your own stuffing/dressing?
If so, make sure your bread doesn’t have Mono- and Diglycerides. When you choose broth and spices, the less ingredients the better. If you buy a stuffing mix in a box or bag, read labels. Many store brand labels contain palm oil; however, some of the name brand ones do not. Buy the ones that don’t list “palm oil.”
When buying baking mixes, it’s essential to watch out for Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil. We found some cornbread / muffin mixes without palm oil. Read labels. Of course, you can make cornbread and cornbread muffins without palm oil on your own.
Gravy Mix and Gravy in Jars
You must read labels when buying gravy. Most are free from palm oil; however, some brands contain it. There are lots of chemicals in gravy mixes and gravy jars so it’s best to make your own. It’s easy with turkey drippings, flour and real butter.
Whether you choose canned shortening or shortening sticks, read labels. Don’t be swayed by labels that state “all vegetable shortening.”
The palm oil products in shortening will likely include more than one of these palm oil ingredients: Palm Oil, Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil, and Mono- and Diglycerides.
You will find shortening in crispy fried foods, frosting, pie crusts and other baked goods — even homemade and from the bakery. To avoid palm oil, replace shortening with butter.
Whipped Cream, Frozen Whipped Toppings
Thanksgiving desserts often include pie topped with whipped cream. Whipped cream in cans and frozen whipped toppings in tubs contain palm oil. They often may include Mono- & Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60 and Sorbitan Monostearate, palm oil derivatives.
You can make your own using heavy cream. Choose heavy cream without palm oil ingredients (don’t buy if it contains Mono- & Diglycerides and Polysorbate 80) and blend with confectioners sugar.
Heavy Whipping Cream
Whipping cream often contains Mono- and Diglycerides and Polysorbate 80. Read labels and choose palm oil free options. You can use palm oil free heavy whipping cream in sauces and to make whipped cream (see above). Choose organic heavy whipping cream which is typically made without palm oil ingredients.
Avoid buying canned frosting as it is laden with palm oil. We pulled one random name-brand canned frosting off the shelves. In addition to containing additional ingredients, it contained all of these palm oil ingredients in descending order:
Palm Oil, Mono- and Diglycerides, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Mixed Tocopherols, Vegetable Oil (palm and palm kernel)
Another leading brand’s frosting contained these palm oil ingredients: Palm Oil, Distilled Monoglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
Even the organic versions typically contain palm oil. (ALL the ones I have seen contains it.)
Pie Crusts for Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Apple Pie, Sweet Potato Pie
Pie crust will most likely contain palm oil unless you make it from scratch without shortening. There are many recipes for pie crusts using butter. Pie crust without palm oil is easy to make.
Most all prepared desserts at the grocery store contain palm oil ingredients. This includes cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, scones, tarts, and more.
Instead, make your own desserts without palm oil. Use real butter and whole milk, and avoid shortening.
Before you do your Black Friday shopping, see our post, Holiday Candy Without Palm Oil if you plan to add candy to stockings or to give as gifts.
Palm Oil Free Thanksgiving
Palm oil is in many of our favorite Thanksgiving foods. When you prepare your shopping list, use the suggestions above to be sure you can enjoy your Thanksgiving feast without palm oil.
Healthy cooking from scratch means less palm oil.
The turkey, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce should be free from palm oil. When you make your sweet potato casserole, be sure to use real butter.
All year long, when you choose processed and pre-made foods, read labels. Typically, you can find palm oil free products. They usually have the least amount of ingredients. You can choose palm oil free options most of the time.
Our son has a sensitivity to palm oil and has allergic reactions to it. Learn more:
Disclaimer: Read labels at the point of sale. Manufacturers change ingredients. This list isn’t guaranteed and is meant to be a starting point. Do your own due diligence. Products should be certified Palm Oil Free by the Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark (POFCAP) or Orangutan Alliance to ensure they are palm oil free.