Americans may love a health trend, but that hasn’t stifled their love for the foil-wrapped toaster pastries. Pop-Tart sales have continued to grow steadily since the 1980s, selling over 2 billion Pop-Tarts a year. In fact, people love these sweet treats so much, there is even now a Netflix movie centered around their creation.

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The movie, called Unfrosted—which stars Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Grant, and Amy Schumer—is a comedy about “serious men in suits inventing silly things for kids,” according to screenwriter Spike Feresten, but it’s also based around the very real breakfast cereal rivalry that took place throughout the 1900s. It follows the story of how Kellogg’s beat Post Consumer Brands to launch Pop Tarts in the 1960s.

The movie is streaming now if you want to watch Seinfeld star as the director of Kellogg’s, but you can also find out more about how Pop Tarts came to be below, as well as how to make them vegan from scratch, because most of the store-bought versions contain not just milk, but the controversial ingredient gelatin, too. 

RELATED: Is Gelatin Vegan? Plus, 5 Plant-Based Alternatives

What are Pop-Tarts?

What mainstream culture refers to as Pop-Tarts is actually a generalized term for toaster pastries. The popularity of these treats was driven by the brand—like Kleenex is to tissues and Ziplok is to plastic storage bags, Pop-Tarts is what most people call a thin, portable hand pie often with a sugary glaze.

Vegnews.strawberrypoptartsWorld of Vegan

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Pop-Tarts date back to 1964 when Bill Post, who managed a Hekman biscuit plant in Michigan, developed them for Kellogg. The goal was to create a new, shelf-stable, convenient breakfast food that resembled toast and jam. The first advertisements even called out “made with Smucker’s pure fruit preserves” to combine a sense of wholesomeness with the convenience craze of the 1960s. The original Pop-Tarts featured a thin, flour-based pastry, filled with fruit preserves, and marked by a long diagonal indent. Advertisements encouraged customers to pop their pastry into a toaster and then break in two along the diagonal line. 

The original flavors were unfrosted and featured Apple Currant Jelly, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Brown Sugar-Cinnamon fillings. Additional frosted flavors debuted in 1967 with Dutch-Apple, Concord Grape, Raspberry, and a glazed Brown Sugar Cinnamon. The icing was introduced as a way to keep the pastries cool to the touch after popping out of the toaster. Today, Kellogg has created more than 30 flavors of Pop-Tarts, though Strawberry and Brown Sugar Cinnamon remain the most popular. 

Today, major brands and independent bakeries are whipping up their own version of these retro snacks. Keep reading for our favorite vegan varieties. 

Do Pop-Tarts contain animal products?

The vast majority of name-brand Pop-Tarts are not vegan due to one detail: the icing. There are no eggs or dairy in the pastry or the filling (with some exceptions like the Frosted Chocolate Fudge, Frosted Chocolate Chip, and Frosted Cookies & Creme), but the icing contains gelatin, making most Pop-Tarts unsuitable not only for vegans but vegetarians as well.

Gelatin contains animal collagen, a substance that makes up cartilage, skin, and bones, which is usually taken from cows or pigs. According to the brand, the gelatin in Pop-Tarts is specifically sourced from cows used primarily for beef. When these cows are sent to slaughter, their skin and bones are used to produce gelatin. 

However, there are a few Pop-Tarts that omit gelatin, and these are the three surviving unfrosted flavors: Blueberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, and Strawberry. All three of these varieties are animal-free and suitable for vegans. 

vegnews.moonchildcakesMoon Child Vegan Cakes

In regards to store-bought non-Kellogg’s toaster pastries, the pickings are slim. Bobo’s unfrosted flavors are plant-based, but Nature’s Path—another popular toaster pastry option—puts honey in its unfrosted flavor and dairy in its glazes. 

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Toaster pastries get political

There are other ways to get your hands on a vegan toaster pastry, and these don’t involve ripping open foil packaging or laboriously making your own. Vegan-friendly bakeries are embracing the nostalgic snack and are even improving it with higher quality ingredients. Some are even using the toaster pastries to take a stand.

vegngews.justwhatikneadedJust What I Kneaded

Justine Hernandez and baker Chloë Kiko Oki Schlanger of Los Angeles’ Just What I Kneaded bakery make people look when they have a frosting tip in hand. While many of their treats feature cute Snoopy images and other whimsical decorations, other pastries deliver a message alongside a sweet interior. Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade in 2022, the duo created a series of pro-choice toaster pastries featuring text such as “Bans Off Our Bodies” and two others with an anatomically correct vagina and a pair of hands breaking a hanger. Schlanger has also created Pop-Tarts art for PRIDE and decriminalizing homelessness

Moon Child Vegan Cakes in Dallas, TX also uses tender, flaky toaster pastries to send a message. In addition to the staple Pop-Tarts that look exactly like the Frosted Wildberry Pop-Tarts, baker Amaris Riddle regularly whips up Pride pastries. As a cottage business, she’s open to customizations, meaning she can write your feelings on a Pop-Tart. From sweet Valentine’s sentiments to something more serious, say it with a vegan Pop-Tart. 

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Vegan Pop-Tart recipes

A Pop-Tart is completely achievable by any moderately confident home baker. Like a pie, the key is getting the crust just right. You want something tender yet sturdy, buttery, and not too sweet. Here are five of our favorite vegan toaster pastry recipes. 

vegnew.giantpoptartHannah Kaminsky

1 Supersized Fruity Vegan Pop-Tart

The fun of making toaster pastries at home is you have the power of choice. You can choose the filling, frosting, and toppings; and you can also choose how big to make them. This recipe comes from cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky’s latest book, Vegan Cheat Sheet. You only need to make one, because this Pop-Tart is the size of a half-sheet pan. 
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vegnews.orchidspoptartsOrchids and Sweet Tea

2 Homemade Vegan Strawberry Pop-Tarts

You won’t find any artificial flavors in these classic pastries, but with a thick glaze and plenty of rainbow sprinkles, they’re just as fun as the Pop-Tarts you grew up with. The recipe provides options for a store-bought preserve filling and a homemade variety, making this customizable to how much time you have. One note: these won’t taste like Kellogg’s Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts—they’ll taste better.
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vegnews.brownsugarpoptartUpbeetandkaleingit

3 Healthier Vegan and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Sugar Pop-Tart

Pop-Tarts technically are a breakfast food. That being said, a healthier, more whole-food rendition is always appreciated. This mega-sized toaster pastry is made with oat and almond flour, almond butter, and coconut sugar for a naturally sweet start to the morning that actually contains a good amount of nutrients. 
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vegnews.minimalistbakerpoptartsMinimalist Baker

4 Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pop-Tarts

When rhubarb is in season, these pastries are on our “must-bake” list. The bitter rhubarb balances out sweet strawberries and provides a bit more texture to the filling. Each melt-in-your-mouth pastry gets a pretty pink drizzle of pomegranate-spiked glaze. 
get the recipe

Berry Vegan Pop TartsSamantha Schwab

5 Boozy Raspberry Peach Vegan Pop Tarts

Pop-Tarts aren’t just for kids. These just-for-adults vegan versions of the popular pastry are filled with champagne, as well as juicy frozen peaches, frozen raspberries, and sticky maple syrup. They’re the ultimate picnic treat. Why not sip a glass of champagne while you munch, too?
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For more sweet vegan breakfast treats, read:

Here at VegNews, we live and breathe the vegan lifestyle, and only recommend products we feel make our lives amazing. Occasionally, articles may include shopping links where we might earn a small commission. In no way does this effect the editorial integrity of VegNews.

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