Guess what? These 19 Foods Aren’t Vegan

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If you are on a vegan diet, you may be surprised to learn that some of your favorite foods are not actually vegan. Many people think that just because a food doesn’t contain meat or dairy products, it must be vegan. However, this is not always the case. There are many surprising foods that contain animal-derived ingredients such as fish sauce so by definition are not considered vegan.

Whether you choose to eat vegan for health benefits or live a completely vegan lifestyle for moral reasons, there are a number of things out there that you may be eating now thinking that they are vegan when the truth is, they aren’t. I’ve compiled this list of surprising things that aren’t vegan, so you can know what to be on the lookout for.


Smores with marshmallow, chocolate and crackers
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Nothing is better than toasting marshmallows on a campfire, but if you’re going vegan-free, you’ll need to check the ingredient list carefully to find some that don’t contain gelatin. Gelatin is a protein made from animal by-products. It is used as a thickening agent in many foods, including marshmallows. Check out the vegan marshmallows by Dandies.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce in a bowl
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

This sauce is great to adding a kick to different dishes, but most brands contain anchovies. Anchovies are a small, salt-water fish that is often used as a flavoring in food. It is usually found in Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and many other sauces. Fortunately, there are also vegan-friendly brands that you can enjoy without worrying.

White Sugar

Decorative spoons with white sugar
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Many white sugars are processed using bone char. Bone char is a substance made from the animal bones. It is used to filter sugar and make it white. Some vegans avoid sugar that has been processed using bone char, while others don’t mind. There are a few vegan-friendly white sugars on the market that don’t use bone char in the filtering process. Some of these brands include Wholesome!. Always look for cane sugar and organic sugar.

Beer and Wine

Bottles of Red Wine
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Not all, but some types of beer and wine are clarified with bone marrow, gelatin, casein, or even isinglass (fish bladders). To make sure you’re drinking gluten-free, take some time to research your drink of choice.

Jam and Jellies

Toast with jam
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Nearly all jellies contain gelatin as one of their key ingredients and so do some types of jam, so be sure to check the packaging before you buy just to be safe or just make your own. While you’re at it, go ahead and add gummy bears and other gummy candies to this section. If you’re trying to eat clean, you wouldn’t go near these things anyway!

Apple Juice

Fresh apple juice. Against a dark background.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Like some types of beer, there are some types of apple juice that are clarified with isinglass, which is a fancy way of saying fish bladders. While it is not clear why apple juice needs to be clarified with fish bladders, it is thought that it may help to remove any impurities in the juice. Some people also believe that it helps to improve the flavor and clarity of the juice. However, there are a number of vegan-friendly apple juices on the market, so you don’t have to worry if this is something that concerns you.

Red Food Dyes

Watermelon jelly
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

If you’re eating any type of food that has “Natural Red #4” listed as a colorant, then you’re eating something colored with insect scales. Natural? Yes. Vegan? Definitely not.

Red food dye #4, a common ingredient, also known as carmine, is made from crushed cochineal insects. Cochineal insects are a type of beetle that is found in South America. The insects are dried and then ground into a powder, which is used to dye food red. While it is not clear why red food dye needs to be derived carminic acid, it is thought that the color may be more stable and intense than other natural red dyes.

Vegetable Soup

Spring vegetable soup
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

It’s a good idea check the ingredients list before buying vegetable soup in a can. Quite often, the stock used for canned vegetable soup is actually beef stock or chicken broth.

Pop and Soda

Cold soda with lemon at the bar
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Many types of soda contain a surprising number of animal products and are certainly not vegan-friendly. However, many of the colorants used in soda are derived from insects or other animal by-products.

Non-Dairy Creamer

Variety of non-dairy milk
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

You would think that having “non-dairy” in the name would mean something, but most of the non-dairy creamers out there contain caseinate. Caseinate is a milk-derived protein that is often used as a thickening agent in food. It is thought that it may help to improve the texture and consistency of the creamer.

Dry-Roasted Peanuts

Roasted peanuts
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Not all, but some of the dry-roasted peanuts that you’ll find on your grocery store shelf contain gelatin, so make sure you read the ingredient list before buying to stay vegan! If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly alternative to dry-roasted peanuts, why not try roasted chickpeas or sunflower seeds?

Orange Juice

raw sea buckthorn and orange juice in glasses. with rosemary. antioxidant drink for immunity
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Unfortunately, not all brands of orange juice are vegan. Some contain lanolin and fish oils. The good news is there are a number of vegan-friendly orange juices on the market.

BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

Crunchy Barbecue BBQ Potato Chips
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Most brands of BBQ-flavored chips actually contain some animal fat or traces of milk, so be sure to check the bag before you buy if you’re looking for a vegan snack.

Grapefruit Juice

Bottle of grapefruit juice with glass and fruit
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Ever wonder how grapefruit juice gets its dark coloring when the juice part of grapes isn’t actually that dark? The truth is that many popular brands add insect-derived dyes to achieve the color.

Miso Sauce

Tofu miso soup
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Miso soup is a Japanese dish that is made from a broth that is typically flavored with miso paste. While there are many variations of miso soup, all of the versions typically contain some type of stock, tofu, and seaweed. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, rice, or barley, so it is considered a vegan-friendly ingredient. However, some brands of miso paste may contain fish oil or other fish by-products, so be sure to check the ingredients before you buy.

Soy Sauce

Shoyu soy sauce
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Most soy sauces are vegan. However, some brands of soy sauce may contain anchovies, so be sure to check the ingredients before you buy. If you are looking for a soy sauce alternative, you can try using tamari sauce. Tamari sauce is a type of soy sauce that is made without wheat. It is considered a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce.


Honey comb and lavender flowers on a dark concrete background
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

While honey is technically a vegan ingredient, it is not always considered to be vegan-friendly. Many vegans do not consume honey because they believe that it is an exploitation of bees.

Plant Based Meats

Vegan lentil burger
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

There is some debate over whether or not fake meats such as veggie burgers are vegan. This is because many of the ingredients used to make these meat substitutes, such as egg whites and milk, are not technically vegan. However, many of these products can be made vegan-friendly by simply omitting the non-vegan ingredients. So, if you’re looking for a vegan alternatives to meat, it is best to check the ingredient list carefully to see if the product is suitable for your diet.

Pesto Sauce

bowl of basil pesto
Photo Credit: Envato Elements

Pesto sauce is a delicious Italian condiment that can be used on pasta, pizza, or as a dip. Many people are surprised to learn that pesto sauce is not vegan-friendly. The main ingredient in pesto sauce is Parmesan cheese, which is made from cow’s milk.

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Meet Dee

Meet Dee

I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:) My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen. I'm introverted at heart but know how important socializing can be for maintaining good relationships, when writing not only am looking forward to sharing information - It's also building connections between readers who love good food as much as I do!

4 Responses

  1. As someone who’s been forced into a partially vegan lifestyle due to a tick bite (hecking alpha-gal syndrome), ensuring there aren’t hidden mammalian ingredients hidden in my food is a matter of life and death. I definitely learned the hard way that most mass-produced (aka grocery store) brands of wine aren’t vegan. Thanks for the tips of other products I need to triple check before consuming.

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