Surprise! These Are Foods That Aren’t Vegan
hot cocoa with marshmallows

You’ve embraced a healthy, plant-based lifestyle, and you’re so proud of your smart food choices. But could you inadvertently be getting an unwelcome surprise and eating foods that aren’t vegan? While labeling has gotten better over the decades, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may be unwittingly ingesting animal-based products.

Here’s a list of just some of the things you might be eating now because you think they’re plant based, but surprise! These foods aren’t vegan:


Gelatin is the base of Jell-O and is made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones of pigs or cows with water. Some people don’t understand what goes into Jell-O, so they consider it to be vegan, but it’s not. Agar agar is a plant-based thickener that does the same thing as gelatin, if you’re up for making some homemade Jell-O.


Innocent sugar comes from beets or cane, so it’s not the sugar itself that is the culprit; it’s the way it’s processed. Bone char is often used to make sugar white, rendering it not vegan. Even brown sugar can fall into the non-vegan trap since it’s made by mixing white sugar with molasses to turn it brown. Your best bet for a sweetener is to opt for a certified organic sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, monk fruit, or stevia. For liquid sweeteners, agave and maple are excellent options.


You might think a nice s’more on a hot summer day is a tasty vegan treat, but you’d be wrong. Marshmallows’ primary ingredients are gelatin and sugar, and powdered sugar is used to keep them from being sticky. All three of those ingredients fall into the category of foods that aren’t vegan. Thankfully, there are now vegan marshmallows on the market to fulfill your need for the sweet stuff.

Alcoholic Drinks

Wine, beer, and spirits are similar to sugar on the vegan/not vegan scale in that they’re inherently vegan. However, it’s the distillation, or processing, process that causes the issue. Fish bladders, gelatin, and egg whites can be used in manufacturing your favorite libation, and unfortunately, the FDA does not require that information to be included in labeling. If you want to be sure you’re drinking a vegan beverage, do a little research on the company first (or Google “vegan wines” for instance).

Red Foods

The dye used to make some foods red is listed on the ingredient label (if it’s listed at all) as carmine. Carmine is harvested from crushing cochineal beetles. If you hike in Arizona, you may have even seen these little parasitic bugs who live and feed on cacti in the desert. It’s not a foregone conclusion that red foods have carmine, but you should definitely read ingredients if you want to avoid these foods that aren’t vegan.

Fortified Foods

From cereal to fruit juice, many of the foods in modern supermarkets are fortified. The goal here is to provide consumers with the vitamins and nutrients they’re not getting from a well-balanced diet. But in doing so, manufacturers may add fish oils for omega and dairy products for calcium. This is, of course, in addition to the refined sugars (not vegan) so many prepackaged foods contain. Read the ingredients of fortified foods to ensure you’re not getting something you don’t want along with your bowl of Raisin Bran!

Avoid Foods That Aren’t Vegan

Choosing a healthy lifestyle can be arduous at times. For a person with celiac disease, for example, gluten lurks in way more foods than breads and pastas. The same is true for so-called vegan food. Not everything is as it seems, and if you truly want to avoid foods that aren’t vegan, you need to be diligent in what you’re eating.

Lucky for you, The Vegan Taste ensures that every ingredient we use is vegan. We don’t use anything that’s even questionable, opting instead for fresh, wholesome, and delicious ingredients. Take the worry out of living a plant-based lifestyle and check out what Chef Jason has on the menu this week.

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