Applesauce is a culinary sauce that primarily uses apples as the main ingredient. A flexible dish, applesauce can be used as a sweet sauce for desserts as well as a savory side dish for meat. Although preparing sauces from apples can be dated back to medieval Europe, the term ‘applesauce’ is credited to a cookbook authored by Eliza Smith back in 1769 (1). As applesauce is widely consumed in North America and Europe, it is important to determine if the sauce is appropriate for individuals with vegan lifestyles.
The traditional ingredients used to make regular unsweetened applesauce should be perfectly fine for vegans as the only ingredients used are apples, lemon juice, and water. However, other recipes can call for additional ingredients for flavors such as sugar, cinnamon, or butter. Recipes with butter cannot be considered vegan since butter is a direct animal product. Recipes with sugar can be divisive because sugar is commonly considered a gray area ingredient. For vegans who avoid sugar, it would be best they stick with unsweetened applesauce.
The methods used to make applesauce have remained largely unchanged regardless of if it was homemade or made in a factory. The process of making applesauce begins with apples. Although applesauce can be made from any variety of apples, it is suggested by some that the use of different varieties of apples can help improve the flavor profile of the resulting applesauce.
The apples are first rinsed to make sure they are clean and free of debris. Some producers leave the peel while other applesauce producers peel the apples. The core and seeds are also removed. Once the parts of the apples that will be used are prepared, they are then diced into smaller pieces. The apple pieces are then placed in a pot with water. At this point, lemon juice is traditionally added. Lemon juice helps slow down oxidation in the apples as well as maintains the acidity of the applesauce.
Other ingredients can also be added for flavor at this step. Others add sugar for sweeter applesauce while others add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla extract. Some producers are also known to add butter for a richer flavor and creamier texture.
Then the mixture is heated to a boil until the apple pieces soften. The bits of apples can be pureed for a finer texture with an immersion blender or a food processer, but some people leave it as is for chunkier applesauce.
It can immediately be consumed after cooking. Homemade applesauce can also be put in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Factory-made applesauce can possibly last longer due to preservatives.
Since unsweetened applesauce can essentially be made with apples, lemon juice, and water, the sauce should be perfectly fine for vegans as a sweet or savory sauce for a wide variety of culinary applications. However, it should still benefit vegan consumers to make sure what ingredients are added to the applesauce.
When purchasing from the store, it is best to check the ingredients list to determine if all the ingredients listed are vegan. Other applesauce products can possibly have ingredients that are outright non-vegan such as butter.
There are also vegans that would prefer unsweetened applesauce because of the presence of sugar in sweetened applesauce. While sugar is not necessarily a non-vegan product, it is potentially problematic due to its production process. Some sugar companies use bone char, an animal product, in sugar refinement. Thus, some vegans generally avoid sugar as a precaution.
Dairy is the term used for products that use milk as their principal ingredient. These products include butter, cheese, yogurt, cream, and more. These products are considered to be highly nutritious and serve as excellent sources of calcium and protein.
However, dairy cannot be considered vegan since they typically come from animal sources. Mammalian milk can include goat, buffalo, and sheep. However, the vast majority of the dairy industry obtains milk from cows.
Aside from being directly obtained from animals, dairy products are typically avoided by vegans and animal rights activists alike due to ethical reasons. It has been heavily documented that many dairy farms treat cows poorly (2).
Female cows are forcefully impregnated to induce lactation since only pregnant cows and cows that have given birth produce milk. After they give birth, their offspring can also be separated from them to maximize the milk that can be collected. Although more and more dairy farms are allowing cows to roam around the farm, many dairy farms still place cows in tiny enclosures that do not allow them to move freely.
Sugar is a common ingredient that can be found in a wide variety of food products. Although sugar is conventionally used as a sweetener, the substance can also be used as a preservative due to osmotic pressure. While sugar is obtained from plant sources such as sugarcane or sugar beets, sugar is still considered a gray area in the vegan community due to how it is produced.
After the sugar is extracted from its plant source, it is typically subjected to further refinement processes to appeal to mass consumers. These additional refinement processes make the sugar whiter and finer.
One process involved in sugar refinement is filtration. By passing the sugar juice through a sieve or porous material, debris and non-sugar particles are removed from the solution. Thus, filtration aims to increase the overall purity of the product.
Different sugar companies approach filtration via different methods. While most methods are perfectly fine for vegans, the problem is that some sugar companies use bone char for filtration (3). Bone char is the charred bones of animals. Although bone char is a cheap and effective filter material, sugar produced with bone char cannot be considered vegan since bone char is an animal product.
The problem with bone char is that it is not easy for vegan consumers to obtain the necessary information to make an informed decision when it comes to sugar. Sugar companies are not required to include that information in their product labels, making it difficult for vegans to know which sugar companies use bone char and which do not.
The issue is further exacerbated when large food companies add sugar to their products because it becomes increasingly difficult to determine if the sugar used was processed with bone char or not. This problem is especially difficult for large food companies that have multiple sources of sugar to meets their demands.
The practice of using bone char in sugar refinement is typically associated with the US. Vegans from other parts of the world are less worried about the use of bone char in their local industries.