Carrageenan is a thickening agent added to a variety of processed foods commonly found at your local grocery store.
Carrageenan is plant-based and is sourced from red seaweed — also called Irish moss — and it’s added to food and drinks to “thicken, emulsify, and preserve.” While carrageenan is found in many meat and yogurt products, due to the fact that carrageenan is plant-based, it’s also used in popular vegan and vegetarian nut milk, cheese, and yogurt alternatives. Carrageenan also makes its way into “all-natural” labeled products due to the fact that it’s “naturally” sourced from a plant.
Turns out this food additive is a bit controversial.
Beginning in the late 1960s, studies began to suggest “that carrageenan triggers inflammation, gastrointestinal ulcerations, and … damage [to] your digestive system.” Plus, further limited studies have found that carrageenan consumption may be linked to bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, glucose intolerance, colon cancer, and even the development of food allergies.
On top of that, while degraded carrageenan was found to be carcinogenic — cancer-causing — and is not approved by the FDA for use, a review by the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa suggested that “there may be no substantial difference between “food-grade” (undegraded) and degraded carrageenan.” In fact, in a report published by the Cornucopia Institute, “test results of food-grade carrageenan carried at least 5 percent degraded carrageenan,” and “one sample had about 25 percent.”
While more studies must be conducted to verify these findings, the initial outlook is not so great for this plant-based thickener. If you love your plant-based dairy-free alternatives, but you want to avoid those carrageenans, here are some carrageenan-free options!
Almond milk is one of the most popular nut-based milk alternatives. With that said, some brands use carrageenan to thicken. This Silk Unsweetened Original Almond Milk is carrageenan free and filled with protein! This almond milk alternative can be used just like cows milk including in smoothies, a bowl of cereal, baking, in tea or coffee, and even straight from a glass. Along with being wholesome and nutritious, Silk Unsweetened Original Almond Milk is cholesterol and saturated fat-free. This bulk package of two 6-packs of 32-ounce jugs costs $62.29.
Stonyfield Farm is a long-standing trusted brand for dairy-free alternatives. This Stony field Farm Organic O Soy Fruit on the Bottom Vanilla Soy Yogurt is yet another successful product! This yogurt is nutritious, carrageenan-free, kosher certified, and USDA organic certified with only a touch of Madagascar vanilla. On top of that, Stony Field Farm promises this product to be vegan-friendly, non-GMO, gluten-free, and available in multiple flavors. A bulk 12-case of 6-ounce cups costs $46.27.
If you haven’t heard of Eden Foods, here’s your chance to get acquainted with this wholesome, additive-free brand! This Eden Foods Organic Unsweetened Edensoy has it all without any of the additives. It’s gluten-free, wheat-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, low-sodium, tested GEO free, and carrageenan free. Plus, this soy milk is super healthy using only organic whole soybean with all 18 amino acids and reverse osmosis purified water. A bulk 12-pack of 32-ounce boxes costs $63.55.
Dabblertante says “I like that there are no additives in this. Just reverse osmosis purified water and organic soybeans. It has a full-bodied flavor and is great as a milk substitute. Even works well as a coffee creamer, better that almond milk in my opinion. Almond milk feels thin.”
This Native Forest Simple Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk is not only carrageenan-free but incredibly rich and creamy making it perfect for stovetop cooking or even baking. Native Forest is proud to offer a coconut milk product free of guar gum and gluten, as well as non-GMO, vegan-friendly, paleo-friendly, keto-friendly, kosher, organic, and low sodium. This coconut milk has been ethically and sustainably sourced from Sri Lankan coconut palms. A bulk 12-can package costs $34.09.
Leigh E. Lennox says “This is a wonderful coconut milk, one of only a couple out there that does NOT contain guar gum. A nutritionist once told me that guar gum (and all the gums, such as xanthan) is inflammatory, so I try to avoid it now. I go through a LOT of this since I learned an easy recipe for quick chia pudding (I can coconut milk, 1 tsp vanilla, honey or stevia sweetener, and 1/2 cup chia seeds. Mix up and refrigerate. Top with berries and nuts.) It’s delicious, nutritious and easy.”
This Rice Dream Classic Original Organic Rice Drink is a wonderful dairy-free substitute. Rice Dream is proud to offer a product that is carrageenan-free, USDA certified organic, non-GMO project verified, all-natural, and kosher certified. Made from organic brown rice, this rice milk has no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and is enriched with vitamins A, D, B12, and calcium. Plus, it’s 99 percent fat-free! A bulk 12-pack of 32-ounce boxes costs $22.24.
E. Pearl says “Rice Dream is the greatest thing since sliced bread! In fact, I like it better than the “other” stuff made with almonds. Rice Dream doesn’t bother my ultra-sensitive tummy! I use it in all recipes that require milk products. It’s also convenient to keep on the shelf until needed. Even better, it’s great to have around during winter storms when it is difficult to get around due to snow or other bad weather. Love it!”
One of the most difficult food items to replace on a dairy-free diet is cheese, yet Daiya is a trusted brand that does vegan cheese right! These Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds are dairy-free — including all components such as casein, whey, and lactose — soy-free, gluten-free, and carrageenan-free. With that said, Daiya promises that it does not sacrifice the creaminess, flavor, or savory goodness of traditional cheese. An 8-ounce bag costs $3.49.
Mary says “I absolutely love Daiya Cheese Shreds. Made a great topping added to my pizza. Melted well in my bean and veggie burrito. Was a tasty addition to my salad. I will continue to buy and recommend to others.”
7. Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate
Want a sweet frozen dairy-free treat? This Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate is the perfect carrageenan-free, coconut-based ice cream replacement to hide away in your freezer. This frozen dessert is made from naturally rich coconut milk with a bit of sweetened agave syrup. Luna & Larry’s promises this dessert to be 100 percent vegan, kosher pareve, and made with certified fair trade ingredients. A 16-ounce container costs $4.34.
CoolGramma says “Absolutely delicious! I’m more of a pistachio fan than a chocolate fan, but a friend recommended this highly to me, and I must admit that even as a non-chocoholic, this is great tasting – and addictive. That’s really saying something because I never go out of my way to buy anything chocolate. Try this and you’ll love it. It’s free of any harmful contents and what is best is that it’s kosher which is the top item on my list when it comes to food – it must be kosher. For those of you for whom this is a concern, it’s a good hechsher; I checked it out with Star-K.”
This Pacific Foods Hemp Vanilla Plant-Based Beverage is a unique twist on plant-based beverage alternatives. This vegan-friendly, carrageenan-free blend is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essential amino acids, calcium, magnesium, vitamins D, B12, and riboflavin. Plus, hemp milk is naturally lactose-free and cholesterol-free. Pacific Foods accomplishes all of this without sacrificing its signature rich, nutty flavor or smooth and creamy texture. A bulk 12-pack of 32-ounce boxes costs $45.36.
Winnie says “If you’re like me, lactose-intolerant, and now facing low-calcium results on your bone scans, this is what you need to buy! Hemp milk has more calcium than almond or soy milk, tastes delicious, and has NUMEROUS other benefits (anti-oxidants, etc.). I drink this milk twice a day in my battle to protect my bones – wish I had found this years ago. I put the purchase on Subscribe and Save and it comes to the door routinely. This is an excellent product.”
This So Delicious Dairy Free Strawberry Coconut Milk Yogurt is a wonderfully healthy carrageenan-free, vegan-friendly yogurt alternative. These organic coconut-based cups are only 120 calories a pop with 4 grams of healthy fat, zero cholesterol, and 2 grams of dietary fiber. They use organic coconut milk, organic can sugar, strawberries, and rice starch to make a completely plant-based, dairy-free yogurt. A bulk 8-pack of 5.3-ounce cups costs $46.91.
Ann says “best yogurt – tastes great and no milk … HOWEVER … Not sure why someone would pay $40 for this 8 pack when they sell for 1.70 x 8 = 14.32, same size etc. I searched to see if 8 pack meant more than 8 5.04 oz servings and see nothing to make me think so. Otherwise … BEST product!!”
Oat milk has dropped into our lives at the perfect time for a new milk alternative. This Pacific Foods Organic Oat Original Plant-Based Beverage is a great place to start if you haven’t tried oat milk yet. This oat milk beverage offers natural sweetness (from organic oats) and full-bodied creaminess in a full serving of whole grains. Pacific Foods offers a carageenan-free, lactose-free, cholesterol-free, soy-free and vegan-friendly. Plus, oat milk is a great source of plant-based protein offering four grams per serving. A bulk 12-pack of 32-ounce boxes costs $34.38.
Jimmy Two Times says “No Carrageenan in all 12 boxes of mine. They have left this ingredient out. Milk tastes great. Very creamy and sweet. Taste like oatmeal. My only complaint would be the sugar content is a bit high, granted there is no added sugar. All the sugar comes from the oats, but it’s still a bit high per serving for me.”
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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