Palm Oil-free Baking Guide


Holiday spoiler alert: Most store-bought desserts and baked sweets — everything from cookies and cupcakes to donuts and pies — use palm oil. So do packaged cookie doughs, pie crusts and dry cake or brownie mixes. Sadly, most bakeries also use palm oil, palm kernel Oil (PKO) and palm oil derivatives, including mono- and diglycerides, glycerin, polysorbate 80 and more. Most donuts, cookies and specialty cakes that you buy from Panera, Cheryl’s or Krispie Kreme have palm oil.

The good news is that with a bit of a time investment, you can bake your own goods and avoid palm oil all together. Truly, the best way to know that your baked goods are palm oil-free is to make them yourself. Many recipes are pretty easy to convert- shortening and margarine have palm oil, but butter does not. A basic cookie dough recipe: eggs, flour, sugars, vanilla, baking powder, butter… well, that’s pretty straight forward. This is, by far, the easiest way to ensure you’re serving dishes that align with your morals.

Wait… what’s the deal with palm oil?

Rain forests are hotspots for biodiversity and filter vast amounts of carbon and pollution. Today, rainforest area the equivalent of 300 football fields is being destroyed every hour. Not only does this kill or displace endangered animals such as tiger and orangutans, but it causes numerous problems for the climate, environment, and people living in the forest. It’s estimated that fewer than 4,000 tigers still live in the wild, as their territory disappears daily. New roads allow poachers to hunt more easily and fires and machinery kill and injure animals. Palm oil is BIG business, with nearly half of our breads, donuts, nut butters, baby formulas, make up, cereal, cookies, pet food, potato chips and shampoo containing palm oil.

By saying no to palm oil, you’re standing up to commercial interests and voting with your dollar bills. It’s supply and demand. If you and I can avoid palm oil, it’s one less acre of forest that is burned to make way for new plantations. And one more tiger that keeps its home.

Are My Purchased Baked Goods Safe?

Whether you buy pre-made treats from a grocery store, a bakery or from Costco, they will likely have palm oil. Yes, it is so easy to just grab a package of those perfectly baked, meticulously decorated delights, so we totally aren’t judging you. Donuts and cakes are other common offenders.

Here are some favorite holiday treats that almost always have palm oil: whipped cream, whipped toppings, margarine, shortening, sprinkles, cooking spray, canned frosting, almond bark, candy melts, yeast, imitation vanilla extract, peanut butter, refrigerated cookie dough and biscuits, and butterscotch, raspberry, peanut butter and white baking morsels.

That’s a long list of holiday traditions! Luckily, making things from scratch adds a level of certainty. When you swap margarine or shortening for butter or coconut oil, your recipe affects tiger habitats less. Milk or dark chocolate chips and M&M’s don’t contain palm oil. Here’s a list of palm oil-free candies that can be incorporated into your holiday baking.

Learn to read ingredients

Many times you will see in the ingredients the word “palm,” which makes it easy to avoid them. Examples include: palm oil, palm kernel oil or vegetable oil (too vague to definitively tell if it’s palm oil) and palmitate and palmitoyl. However, also learn to look for laur-, stear-, and glyc-, as they are usually made with palm oil ingredients. The challenge is that some of these ingredients could be palm OR coconut-derived, making it hard to definitively know.

A great way to know for sure is to download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Palm Oil Guide and scan your item for more information about that item. This is available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s free to download and easy to use.


These Products are Free of Palm Oil

Pilsbury Brownie Mix

  • Chocolate Fudge
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Classic Fudge
  • Purely Simple Chocolate Chunk

Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream – All Flavors!

Pepperidge Farms Chessmen cookies

Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse Thin & Crispy cookies

About Carolina Tiger Rescue
Carolina Tiger Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

Carolina Tiger Rescue

1940 Hanks Chapel Rd.
Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-4684
(919) 542-4454