The word ‘vegan’ doesn’t simply mean meatless, milk-free, or egg-free. Unfortunately, various animal parts and bodily fluids have found their way into numerous food items that are often mistaken as being plant-based. Don’t despair! This simple guide should minimize the need for extensive label reading the next time you’re out shopping for any of these products!

Food/Beverage Why it’s not vegan Vegan brands to try
1. Refined white and brown sugar White sugar is refined using animal bone char. Don’t let brown sugar dupe you either. Brown sugar is just white sugar with some molasses mixed back in to change the color, texture, and flavor. Florida Crystals Organic Sugar
Organic Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar
Rapadura Organic Whole Sugar
Hain Organic Cane Sugar
Bob’s Red Mill Date Sugar
Barry Farm Brown Rice Syrup
Maple Syrup
Agave Nectar
2. Bread Bread can contain milk and animal-derived shortening such as butter and lard. A quick glance at the ingredients label should help you identify the non-vegan breads. Ezekiel bread
Arnold Bread (many are vegan)
Vermont Bread (many vegan options)
Some French baguettes and pita breads
Garden of Eatin’ Bible Bread
Cobblestone Mill (many vegan breads)
Pepperidge Farm (some vegan breads)
3. Gummy bears Don’t be fooled by these colorful, stretchy candies. Cream gummies are obviously not vegan, but even fruit flavored gummy bears can contain gelatin. This means that they’re not even vegetarian! Gelatin is extracted from the boiled skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, hooves, and cartilage of animals. Organic Vegan Gummi Bears by Edward & Sons
Make your own vegan gummy worms!
4. Soy yogurt and cheeses Certain soy yogurt and cheese manufacturers waste the idea of using a plant-based milk for their yogurt or cheese by adding casein, a protein derived from cow’s milk to make their product more creamy. WholeSoy & Co. Soy Yogurt
For a list of vegan cheese brands see our article here.
5. Miso soup Many restaurants add dashi (fish) stock to their miso soup to enhance the flavor. All miso pastes are vegan so you can make your own miso soup. Boil seaweed such as laver, wakame, or dulse if you want your soup to have a fishy taste.
6. Non-dairy creamer Another quasi-plant-based milk product that misses the point. Contains sodium caseinate as an additive to keep the powder from clumping. Nature’s Flavors Organic Unflavored Non-Dairy Creamer
Rich’s Coffee Rich Non-Dairy Creamer
White Wave Silk Original Creamer
7. Worcestershire sauce You’d think this sauce is just a more flavorful version of soy sauce. It would have been vegan, if it didn’t contain anchovies! (fish). The Wizard’s Organic Original Vegan Worcestershire Sauce Annie’s Naturals Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
8. Jello This jiggly dessert is actually made from gelatin. Substitute instead with Irish moss, carrageenan, and agar-agar for a cruelty-free and more nutritious dessert. Flavored Dessert Jels By Natural Desserts
Lieber’s Unflavored Gel
9. Beer What? Beer isn’t vegan? Unfortunately, some breweries clarify their beers using isinglass from fish bladder, and some beers may also contain gelatin, honey, animal albumin (egg albumin and dried blood powder) and casein. Luckily, you still have a relatively long list of vegan-friendly big brands and micro-brews to choose from. Anchor Brewing
Bud Light
Dos Equis
Rolling Rock
Yuengling Brewery
Magic Hat
Sierra Nevada
Samuel Adams (except Cherry Wheat & Honey Porter)
Dogfish Head Brewing
MillerCoors Brewing
Blue Moon (except the seasonal one’s with honey)
Check out the Barnivore Vegan Alcohol Directory for more brands.
10. Wine Most wines aren’t vegan either and use animal products such as gelatin, isinglass, chitosan, casein and egg albumen as finings. But you need not be deprived of wine’s antioxidant properties because there are still plenty of brands and varieties that are cruelty-free. So go ahead and become a vegan wine connoisseur! We recommend using the Barnivore Vegan Alcohol Directory, which has an extensive and often-updated list of vegan-friendly wines and wineries. Alternatively, you can search the Organic Wine Company listing vegan wines.
11. Honey May seem like a a bit obvious to some, but people tend to be surprised when they first hear about this. Honey comes from bees; bees are insects, and insects are animals. Still not convinced? Read this to understand why honey isn’t vegan. Not Honey Rice Nectar, Suzanne’s Specialties Just Like Honey Rice Nectar,
Agave Nector and Maple Syrup are also excellent alternatives to honey.
12. Gravy/ gravy mixes A lot of gravy mixes actually contain chicken fat in powdered form. Hain Vegetarian Brown Gravy Mix
The Organic Gourmet Vegetarian Brown Gravy Mix
13. Vegetable soups A lot of vegetable soups contain chicken, beef, and pork flavorings. Read the ingredient labels carefully! Amy’s Kitchen Healthy Valley Organic and Progresso have several vegan soups.
14. Fruit juice Some fruit juices contain shellac for extra color. Shellac is a secretion of the female lac bug. Carmine (made from dried, ground-up red beetles) is also used as food coloring in some juices. Yes, we’re not kidding; bugs in your juice! In addition, some juices are fortified with vitamin D3, which is derived from lanolin (also called wool wax or wool grease). Simply Nutritious
15. Fake meats Certain faux meat products have dairy and egg whites listed in their ingredients (e.g. Morningstar Veggie Burgers). Check out our lists of vegan mock meats here and here.
16. Gum Some chewing gums unfortunately use gum bases made of gelatin or stearic acid, derived from animal sources. B-Fresh Vegan Chewing Gum
Epic Chewing Gum
Dylan & Delaney Natural Vegan Gumballs
Glee Gum

Did we miss any food items that are commonly mistaken as vegan? Let us know in the comments section below and help us build this list!

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