May 28, 2024

Are any Duncan Hines Cake Mixes or Frostings Vegan?

Recently Nick wanted to know if any Duncan Hines cakes mixes or frostings were vegan. I was doubtful but it turns out that many varieties are:

Duncan Hines website lists products and ingredients. I was surprised that many of the cake mixes and some of the frostings seemed vegan when I first looked them over.

I did however spot two other ingredients that could possibly be animal derived: Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids AND Mono & diglycerides. Both ingredients are noted on the internet many time over as food additives that could be animal derived OR vegetable derived. In most cases, I have always suspected that these ingredients are more cheaply made in the lab using vegetable oils, but I fired off an email to Pinnacal Foods asking if they are suitable for vegans just to check (and to see if they would respond).

They wrote me back in a few hours:

Reference #: 9275483
Dear Valued Consumer,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding Duncan Hines Cake Mix. We genuinely appreciate your time and loyalty to our brand.
Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids: These are mixed partial esters formed by reacting polymerized glycerols with fatty acids from a vegetable source (oil). Mono & diglycerides in frostings & cake mixes: These are part of our vegetable oil shortening and are not from animal source. It is Kosher pareve.

At Pinnacle Foods Group Incorporated, we are proud of the wide array of products that we have to offer our consumers. Pinnacle Foods brands are rich in history and heritage (over 1,000 years combined!), each one with a different and interesting story. You will find many of your all time favorite food brands which span across a variety of categories. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, Pinnacle Foods has your entire day covered! To learn more about our brands and promotional activity, we invite you to visit us online at

If there is anything additional we can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact us again in the future.
Phyllis Thompson
Consumer Relations Representative

Now I know this leaves the question about sugar. Whether or not the sugar used in commercially produced foods is processed with bone char comes up in the comments fairly frequently here. Claire Gosse of did an excellent short video detailing her research of several sugar refineries in the US and Canada last year.

Like with everything in life, we make choices about what is important to us. You may choose not to consume sugar that is produced using bone char, and that’s okay. There are alternatives on the market, especially for individual use. These are the sugars you, the consumer, should be supporting and using. Going forward, we will call out products that contain ANY sugar, but we won’t necessarily call them “not vegan” just because they contain sugar.

Now, the next issue we need to address is the process of making a cake from scratch…but I’ll leave that for another day.

58 thoughts on “Are any Duncan Hines Cake Mixes or Frostings Vegan?

  1. great stance on sugar. you really hit the nail on the head, “…life, we make choices about what is important to us” is so true.
    sugar, whether bone-char produced or not, is not made from animals per se; it’s from sugar cane or beets so it is vegetarian, imo, at the least (unless you eat the bone-char) if not vegan.
    on the other hand, honey, imo, is definitely not vegan (unless you define it as such in your book and then in that case it’s your book not mine) as it is an animal product.
    for me, being vegan is all about the maximum avoidance of animal-based products of any and all kinds, whenever possible. i am sure that one can’t be 100% as there are unknowing instances of cross-contamination, by-products and other cases like materials such as film, rubber, etc that are made from animal parts, and then there’s animal testing, too… but one can certainly be mindful to what one does and do what is correct for them regarding what they know.

    1. Paul, you sound very silly. Honey isn’t an “animal product”, it’s made by bees, which are classified as INSECTS.

      Gee, hope you’ve never killed a cockroach.

      1. @Smarter Vegan: silly i may be but my vegan lifestyle choice is based both on ethics & morals and reality.

        i don’t think animals & animal products are disgusting or not tasty however i chose not to eat or wear them.

        i avoid honey as, in my book, i classify insects as animals (not as plants or minerals).

        that said, i am sure every step i take, every fresh produce i eat, water i drink, and every breath i inhale some microscopic critters so i wont ever be 100% vegan, i just try for that.

        re: cockroaches and other insects, i usually capture them then liberate them.

        ehh, i guess you could say i am a freak and weirdo but as popeye says i am what i am.

        to thine own self be true?

        1. Awesome philosophy Paul and my family and I can relate and don’t think you’re weird at all <3

        2. Paul-you are SPOT on!! thanks for this list btw…I just got a fantastic recipe for Pineapple Angel food cake (hubbys b-day is next week!) and although I’ll be making it from scratch, in a pinch, it was nice to see a list of Vegan ready-make cake info. ps..I also refer to bee’s as animals, some “people” just don’t get it!

        3. I completely agree with you Paul! As being a vegan these same morals apply to me as well.

        4. Right on Paul! All living things can be divided into two main groups: the Animal Kingdom and the Plant Kingdom. As an ethical vegan, I try very hard not to injure, exploit, utilize, wear, or consume any type of animal.

        5. I really appreciate your care toward all creatures great and small. I cannot kill anything either, I catch and release too so I guess I am. a bit freaky !

      2. Never learned your nomenclature, did you? Insects are classified, and rightly so, as part of the Animalia Kingdom. Insects are not plants, fungi, algae, bacteria, or other single-celled life, and have a great deal in common with animals.

      3. Insects are classified as animals, every basic biology class teaches that. Therefore, honey is an animal product and Paul is actually correct.

      4. SmarterVegan: He’s not silly because he has an opinion that differs from your own. Your UN bothers me b/c it sounds like you feel you’re above others & that’s SUCH a common stereotype we vegans face.
        Stop being so self-righteous.
        I’ve been a vegan for a/b 17 yrs now (vegetarian for nearly 30) & one thing that pisses me off is the number of vegans who feel entitled to pass judgment on their fellow animal rights advocates. Get over yourself! Who are you to lecture anyone, let alone someone who shares your deepest values and is doing the best they can to be a good vegan?
        Personally, for the majority of the years I’ve been vegan (by my personal standards), I’ve consumed honey. I made the decision to do so after contacting many companies and beekeepers to inquire a/b the treatment of the bees. HOWEVER: bees ARE animals. I’ve never known a vegan who didn’t consider insects animals. They are intelligent, strong, advanced creatures w/ a high-functioning society that ought to awe us. They have brains, feel pain, protect their young, have specific roles amongst their own kind, etc. You may as well say that birds or fish are not animals (which imo, is an absolutely ridiculous statement).
        Point: I eat honey, but I DO believe insects are animals who deserve to live. Even if Paul thinks my choice to eat honey is wrong and that I’m not a vegan in his book, I respect his point of view. I admire his vigilance.
        For those of us who don’t ingest/wear/use animal products for ethical reasons, we need to remember that we’re all on the same side! There’s no such thing as “perfect”, and none of us are the ultimate authority when it comes to who is or is not, technically a vegan.
        In my many years of experience as the weirdo among my peers (growing up, I couldn’t buy lunch at school b/c they were clueless as to how to feed a basic vegetarian, & my pediatrician told my mom I may not develop properly if I didn’t eat meat), I’ve learned that what is truly important is that each of us just DOES WHAT WE CAN.
        Even w/ the major steps forward the vegan population has made in my lifetime, we still all deal w/ prejudice and ridicule on a regular basis. We need to stick together, encourage each other, and never judge/lecture our fellow veggies/vegans.
        Every time someone chooses not to eat meat for just one day, or chooses to buy the brand that doesn’t test on animals, etc, they are doing something important to help animals and those of us who want to liberate them. Let’s give each other words of encouragement and be thankful! If we continue to criticize others who are striving for the same goal, we’re hurting our own reputation (as a group in the eyes of society) as well as hurting animals.
        If a person makes the choice to be meat-free just one or two days a week, praise them for their contribution, don’t tell them they aren’t good enough. We NEED eachother to make progress! Respect everyone in our veggie community even though we are not all the same.

  2. have used your cake mixes for years and loved them—-now how do i make a vegan cake? can applesauce be used instead of the eggs? thanks

    1. You’ll have to send your regards to Duncan Hines. We are not affiliated.

      Applesauce is a good replacement for sweet/fruity cakes. Banana also works there. And you can always use egg replacer (the product) for other flavored box cakes. Homemade cake is the same story, but with way more options.

    2. you can also use 10-11 ounces of soda (regular soda, not diet) in place of eggs, oil and/or water. just cake mix and soda. you can also do one can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), which is great with a spice cake mix. both options are very simple, delicious and most importantly – VEGAN!

      1. I happen upon this by chance. I am looking for an easy (junk-foody) type cake dish that is also vegan to take to a bbq. I am also not big on cooking so I needed something easy. I found a recipe for 2 ingredient cake: 1 box of spice cake mix and 1 can of pumpkin, mix and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. I will make a practice cake before the one I take to the bbq. Thanks for posting this useful info!

    3. I add a can of soda. I dump the mix in a bowl, pour the can of soda in, mix well and pour into the baking pan. I following the baking times recommended on the box of mix. Whatever the flavor of the soda you add will enhance the flavor of your cake. You can get real creative an experiment with different flavors.

    4. add one can of soda. coke or pepsi is great in the chocolate cakes! sprite or seven up in the lemon cakes, cream soda in the vanilla ect

  3. “SmarterVegan” should change their name.. Insects, bees included ARE indeed part of the Animal Kingdom. That’s like saying since fish are not mammals they are not animals either. Last time I checked bees have brains, eyes, lungs, organs, nervous system, can feel pain. Smart people know that insects are part of the animal kingdom. If you’re not smart, you usually have half a brain to look it up and verify the facts herein stated.

  4. THANK YOU for getting clarification on the “..diesters, mono..”! I’ve had a box of Duncan cake mix in my cupboard that I haven’t touched since going vegan, due to those suspect ingredients. Now I don’t have to run to the store for more flour to make a cake from scratch for hubby’s b’day tomorrow! šŸ˜€

  5. I found the best, yummiest and easiest way to make a boxed cake mix. All you have to do is add a package of silken tofu to the mix and about 3-4 tablespoons (as needed) of soy milk or creamer to the mix, blend well and bake! It’s SO delicious! You use the silken tofu and milk in place of all the ingredients that the box instructs you to add such as milk, eggs, oil, etc. It comes out exactly as it would if it were made the non vegan way. I read this on a dieting website. Try it and you’ll be really shocked at how good it is.

    Paul, I agree with you 100%. I always tell the same thing that you said to everyone who questions me about being vegan. In this world, it is impossible to be completely vegan, but living a vegan lifestyle means to me that I try to avoid using animals or animal “by products” in any way that I can. That includes insects! I also trap and release them. šŸ™‚

    Thank you so much for the list of vegan cake mixes!

    1. Yes bees have life….we are all given purpose to our being. I believe one of the bees purpose is to gather the beauty and magic of our plants, flowers and herbs and spin magic as they produce the super amazing honey that gives and expands life. I value and appreciate our bee community and we should all protect them and honor them for the extraordinary creative process that is uniquely theirs. However, I do not feel I am eating animals when I have the privilege to consume their art in the form of nourishment. Every bee keeper I have ever met value their bees and nurture and care for them. Honey is a product coming from plants by the harvest and work of bees….I do not feel that is a consumption of animal.

  6. This article is so so helpful. I transitioned to a primarily vegan diet a year and a half ago and would find myself compromising when it came to special occassions, like eating cake or baked goods. It is so nice to know I can get a vegan cake mix without having to go to a speciality store. Thank you!

  7. Not only is this article helpful, this website is amazing! Thanks to the wonderful owner of this site, people can come and ask what is or isn’t vegan. It can get confusing at times, but with time you really get used to reading labels and finding accidentally vegan stuff!

    I personally found this site when I searched to see if ready made cake mixes were vegan. I signed up for the email updates and I find the questions to be interesting and the answers are always so well researched and informative. Thanks again for running such an awesome site! šŸ™‚

  8. I totally agree with you, Paul. Many vegans won’t eat honey since it comes from bees. Some may see that as too strict. It depends on your beliefs. Also, I recently discovered figs are not vegan. Apparently, figs contain dead wasps! You can read more here: Again, avoiding figs and honey may be extreme to some but technically they are NOT vegan.

    1. great points, Tangie, i think you hit the nail on the head when you say “depends on your beliefs”… and there certainly many levels and layers of vegan/vegetarians. that said, i doubt there is any human that can live 100% according to their beliefs 100% of the time either but perhaps it is our intention and effort that are more meaningful than our ideals. great link, too, i think i read that before and it also brings up some excellent points, as well!

      if memory serves me well (and a quick google search reinforces that) some figs are vegan and others are not

      “commercially produced fresh figs are from a variety that do not need pollination to produce fruit, thus no wasps involved. Dried figs on the other hand are usually from varieties that DO need pollination”.

  9. What do you think insects are, plants?
    Insects are a sub-group of animals. Just like birds, mammals, reptiles, etc., they’re just different kinds of animals, but they are all animals.
    And there’s nothing wrong with choosing not to hurt insects, by your food choices or by your actions, not everyone kills cockroaches.

  10. I don’t know about apple sauce, but I do happen to know some other easy ways to replace eggs in cake. Depending on the kind of cake, you could use banana, flax seed, soy/rice/coconut yoghurt or silken tofu. And there are also some egg replacers on the market, like no-egg, ener-g egg replacer, etc.
    The girls from Post Punk Kitchen have a nice article on their website about Vegan Baking, where they explain which one to use in which case (but I don’t know if I’m allowed to post a website here).

  11. Do you know if the white cake mix is vegan? I have a FAB sugar cookie recipe that uses only a cake mix and margarine so if I can find a white cake mix that is vegan…well, the world just might be a happier place! šŸ™‚

      1. I have seen (and bought) vegan white cake mix, but I can’t remember if it was betty crocker, duncan hines or which it was. There’s definitely one out there tho! Can you share the cookie recipe please? I would love to make vegan sugar cookies!!!!

      2. What about these two? I bet they’d work just as well…
        Moist Deluxe Butter Golden Cake Mix
        Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix

        1. I have only tried it with a white cake mix, but guessing that is so that the sugar cookies come out the right color. I would think the yellow or golden cake mixes would still yield great flavor, they would just be yellow in color. The Sugar cookie recipe is a pampered chef recipe. It sounds crazy with all the margarine, but I’ve made them about 10 times and they are amazing!

          Sugar Cookies
          4 sticks margarine or butter
          **(must be sticks, cannot substitute spreadable margarines or light versions)
          2 3/4 cups flour
          1 package white cake mix

          Preheat oven to 350. Microwave 2 sticks of margarine on high for 1 minute or until melted. Slice remaining sticks into 1/2 inch pieces; add to melted margarine, tossing to coat the pieces. Allow margarine to stand 3-5 minutes or until softened.

          Meanwhile, measure flour into large bowl. Add cake mix to flour, blend well to break up any large lumps.

          Whisk margarine until smooth. If necessary, return margarine to microwave for 10-20 seconds or until creamy and pourable (looks a bit like pudding or custard at this stage). DO NOT MELT COMPLETELY! Pour margarine, all at once, into dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is smooth.

          Form dough into a ball and chill. Roll dough on lightly floured surface, cut shapes as desired.

          Bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are firm. (I don’t even let mine brown on the edges because I don’t like mine crispy at all!)

  12. I’m still confused on sugar in icing or cake mix. I thought it was bone char, so some Duncan Hines mixes and icing are not vegan?

  13. If you want a couple good vegan cake recipes that you mix up in the pan, look to Shirley Corriher’s, Bake Wise, the gingerbread and chocolate cake recipes are killer. If you want to make a decent frosting/icing use earth balance or vegetable shortening. Many commercial icings use vegetable shortening…there are several good organic ones. The sugar is a choice you have to make. Also, many quick cakes or dump cake recipes during the 2 WWs and in between, (the depression) are vegan or can be modified to vegan in a snap. Eggs, butter and milk were hard to come by or were rationed, so clever cooks took the initiative to invent alternatives. Dates, bananas and applesauce are all great egg replacers.

  14. By commercial frostings, i mean your favorite local vegan bakery probably uses a crisco type vegetable shortening. Most have for years, it doesn’t get rancid when left out for a couple days on your counter.

  15. I have not found any cake mixes that don’t have dairy products in them or made on shared equipment, THUS NOT TRUE VEGAN!

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