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Items You Think Are Vegan But They Aren’t

Adopting a vegan lifestyle is a commitment to abstaining from the use of animal products in all forms, not just in your diet. However, the journey to veganism can be fraught with unexpected challenges, especially when it comes to food. Many items that seem vegan-friendly at first glance can contain hidden animal-derived ingredients. This can be particularly confusing for those new to veganism, but even seasoned vegans can be caught off guard. In this post, you will get a look at some of these deceptive items, shedding light on their non-vegan components and offering tips on how to find truly vegan alternatives.



Chocolate, a favorite treat for many, is often assumed to be vegan, especially when it comes to dark varieties. After all, the primary ingredient, cocoa, is plant-based. However, the reality is that many chocolate products contain milk or milk derivatives. Even dark chocolate, which is often marketed as a healthier and purer form of chocolate, can contain dairy additives. These can include ingredients like milk fat, milk solids, or whey, all of which are derived from dairy.

In addition to these obvious dairy ingredients, some chocolates may contain a protein called casein, which is also derived from milk. Casein is often used in chocolate to improve its texture and shelf life. Therefore, it’s crucial for vegans to read the ingredient list carefully when purchasing chocolate. Look for chocolates that explicitly state they are vegan or that have a short and clear ingredient list. Brands that prioritize ethical and transparent sourcing are often a good bet for finding vegan-friendly chocolates.

Beer And Wine


The world of alcoholic beverages can be a minefield for vegans. Beer and wine, two of the most popular alcoholic drinks, can contain hidden animal-derived ingredients. One such ingredient is isinglass, a substance derived from the swim bladders of fish. Companies use isinglass in the fining process, which is a method used to clarify beer and wine and remove any cloudiness or impurities.

In addition to isinglass, other non-vegan ingredients like casein (a milk protein) and egg whites can also be used in the fining process. These ingredients are rarely listed on the labels of beers and wines, making it difficult for vegans to identify whether their drink of choice is truly vegan. If you’re unsure, it’s best to ask a store employee, contact the brand directly, or look for beer and wine specifically labeled as vegan.



Candy, particularly gummy and sour varieties, is another food item that often contains hidden animal-derived ingredients. The main culprit here is gelatin, a substance derived from animal collagen, which is used to give candies their characteristic chewy texture. Gelatin is commonly sourced from the bones, skin, and connective tissues of animals, making it a non-vegan ingredient.

While it might seem like a daunting task to find vegan-friendly candies, there are actually many alternatives available. A number of candies use plant-based gelling agents like agar-agar or pectin instead of gelatin. These candies are often labeled as vegan or vegetarian. As always, reading the ingredient list is key. Avoid candies that list gelatin, and opt for those that use plant-based alternatives instead.



Sugar, a staple ingredient in many kitchens, is another product that can be surprisingly non-vegan. While the source of sugar, either sugarcane or sugar beets, is plant-based, the refining process often involves using bone char. Bone char, made from animal bones, is used to bleach and filter cane sugar, giving it a white, pure appearance. This process does not apply to beet sugar, which is naturally white and does not require the same level of processing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan-friendly sugar options available. Organic sugar, for instance, is never processed with bone char, making it a safe choice for vegans. Additionally, many sugar brands have started to label their products as vegan, indicating that they do not use bone char in their refining process. Another safe option is unrefined sugar, such as raw cane sugar or coconut sugar, which retain their natural color and are not processed with bone char.

Non-Dairy Creamers


Non-dairy creamers, often used as a vegan substitute for milk or cream in coffee, can be misleading. Despite the “non-dairy” label, many of these creamers contain small amounts of sodium caseinate, a milk-derived protein. This is because the term “non-dairy” is regulated by the FDA and allows for the presence of milk proteins as long as the product is lactose-free.

When choosing a creamer for your coffee, it’s essential to look beyond the “non-dairy” label and check the ingredient list for sodium caseinate. There are many truly vegan creamers on the market, made from almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and other plant-based milks. These creamers will often explicitly state that they are vegan on the packaging, making them a safer choice for those following a vegan diet.

Red Foods


Many red-colored foods and drinks, such as candies, juices, and sodas, contain a dye called carmine. Carmine, also listed as cochineal or carminic acid, is derived from the cochineal scale insect. The insects are crushed to produce the red dye, which is then used to color a variety of foods and drinks.

To avoid consuming carmine, it’s important to read the ingredient list on any red-colored food or drink. Look for natural plant-based colorings, such as beet juice or red cabbage extract. Many companies are moving away from using carmine due to consumer demand for vegan and allergen-free products, but it’s still widely used, so vigilance is key.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce, a popular condiment used in a variety of dishes, traditionally contains anchovies. These small fish are used to give the sauce its unique umami flavor. This means that traditional Worcestershire sauce is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians. However, there are vegan-friendly versions of Worcestershire sauce available on the market. 

These sauces use a combination of spices and other ingredients to mimic the flavor of the traditional sauce without the use of anchovies. When shopping for Worcestershire sauce, look for brands that explicitly state they are vegan or vegetarian on the label. Alternatively, you can make your own vegan Worcestershire sauce at home using ingredients like soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and various spices.

Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers are a popular choice for vegans seeking a plant-based alternative to traditional meat burgers. However, not all veggie burgers are created equal. Many brands use eggs or dairy products as binding agents to hold the burger together. This means that, despite their vegetable-based ingredients, these burgers are not suitable for vegans.

When shopping for veggie burgers, it’s essential to read the ingredient list carefully. Look for burgers that are labeled as vegan, as these will not contain any animal-derived ingredients. There are many delicious vegan veggie burgers on the market, made from a variety of ingredients like beans, lentils, quinoa, and more. With a bit of research and label-reading, you can find a veggie burger that fits your vegan diet.

Don’t Be Tricked By The Items You Think Are Vegan!

Navigating the world of veganism can be tricky, especially when it comes to identifying hidden animal-derived ingredients in seemingly vegan-friendly products. However, with a bit of knowledge and careful label-reading, it’s entirely possible to maintain a vegan diet without falling into these common traps. Remember, the key is to educate yourself about what goes into your food and to always check the ingredient list. Veganism is more than just a diet—it’s a lifestyle commitment to avoiding harm to animals. By being vigilant about the products you consume, you can uphold this commitment and enjoy a wide variety of delicious, plant-based foods!