This list of non-vegan ingredients might surprise you.
So you've decided to remove animal-derived ingredients from your diet. Whether you made that choice in the name of health, ethics, or environmental stewardship, it's all good! Luckily, there are so many great options out there, it's no longer a Herculean task to go vegan.
You might be surprised, though, by the number of seemingly vegan foods that actually contain animal products. We're here to help with this list of everyday non-vegan ingredients and products you may have thought were vegan but really aren't, and we'll offer you tasty, vegan-friendly alternatives to try.
7 Common Non-Vegan Ingredients and Foods
1. Cane sugar
Sad but true: Almost all the sugar found on grocery store shelves (as well as in the ingredients list of nearly every processed food) has been filtered through bone char (burned animal bones) to remove raw sugar's naturally brown coloring. Regular brown sugar isn't vegan either; manufacturers simply add molasses to filtered white sugar.
Try this instead: Look for white sugar labelled "vegan." You can also avoid white sugar entirely and choose less-refined options such as turbinado sugar or Sucanat®.
2. Worcestershire sauce
Not just for steaks, savory Worcestershire sauce is often used to lend umami flavor to Bloody Marys, gravies, and soups. Its white sugar content alone gets Worcestershire kicked off the vegan ingredient list (see above). Another problem is the condiment's main ingredient – fermented anchovies.
Try this instead: Homemade Worcestershire Sauce – no funky fish required! Lora Wade McKinney said, "My husband is allergic to fish, so I decided to give this a go. So glad I did, I may never buy it in the store again."
3. Miso soup
Despite the innocent appeal of those teeny tiny tofu cubes floating amid flecks of soft seaweed, this classic, light Japanese soup traditionally includes dashi, a broth made from dried bonito fish flakes. Miso paste contains plenty of flavor on its own, however, and makes a great soup base.
Try this instead: This Miso Soup II recipe uses only vegan ingredients, and you can customize it by using whatever vegetables you like. "I used this recipe for my first-ever attempt at making miso soup at home," said neiciebeans. "I had no carrots, so I left them out and added kelp instead of spinach. It turned out great. The family loved it."
4. Nondairy creamer
Stopping into your local convenience store for a cup of road coffee seems vegan-approved when you spot the shelves of nondairy creamer nearby. Except that, in the case of many popular brands, "nondairy" is non-accurate. Quite a few coffee creamers contain a protein that comes from cow milk, often listed as "milk derivatives" on the label, putting them solidly on the list of ingredients vegans should avoid.
Try this instead: Make your own good and good-for-you Paleo and Vegan Pumpkin Spice Creamer. Allrecipes home cook Buckwheat Queen says, "This is simply a great way to flavor coffee and get something good out of it rather than the store-bought syrups or additives."
5. Veggie burgers
Frozen or refrigerated veggie burgers are a mainstay of vegetarian convenience. Not all meat-free burgers are created vegan, however. Hidden animal ingredients can include eggs or egg derivatives, as well as dairy products such as casein or cheese.
Try this instead: Make your next patty perfectly vegan with these Vegan Black Bean Burgers. Home cook Cheri says, "They were moist and tasty. I usually make my veggie burgers using chickpeas, but this was definitely a better-tasting burger."
6. Refried beans
That classic and creamy Mexican side dish known as refried beans gives all appearances of being meat-free. What you don't see, however, is the lake of lard that the beans are traditionally cooked in.
Try this instead: Always check ingredients before ordering out or buying prepared food – or better yet, make your own flavorful and vegan version of Instant Pot Refried Beans. "This was perfect and quite impressive," said Soup Loving Nicole. "I hand-mashed mine instead of using a stick blender, because I wanted some texture. I panicked at first when I added a cup of the cooking liquid because they were quite runny. Give them 5 minutes and they will set up to the perfect texture."
7. Fast-food bread
Industrial bakers often turn to chemicals to successfully produce massive amounts of uniform baked goods. A commonly used dough softener, L-cysteine, is most often derived from duck feathers, making that chain-store veggie sub decidedly non-vegan.
Try this instead: Chef John's Sandwich Rolls let you make your own simple, soft sandwich bread with no funny feather business. Allrecipes home cook grandmeow says, "Really hard to mess these up! Perfect for novice bakers and pros! If you've never made your own homemade sandwich rolls, you've gotta give these a shot! I don't have a bread maker, and this is the only white sandwich roll recipe I use."