10 Surprising Foods You Think Are Vegan, But They're Not

We asked a registered dietitian to weigh in on foods that are often assumed to be vegan but actually aren't, and you won't believe what made the list.

August 31, 2021
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Surprise, Surprise

While there are many shades of vegetarianism, the vegan diet is more straightforward. You know meat, eggs, fish and dairy are off-limits on a vegan diet, but there are several foods you probably assume are free of animal products and would be surprised to learn otherwise. Here are 10 foods you may think are vegan but may not actually be 100% plant-based.

Wine

Many (but not all) varieties of wine and even some beers use animal-based substances to help with the clarification or "fining" process. Beef, fish, and even milk and egg-derived products may be used as part of the fining process. Ask your local wine shop keeper for vegan options.

Sugar

Good old white sugar (aka granulated sugar) may or may not be vegan. Some manufacturers process their product using animal bone char to help it turn that bright shade of white. If you want to stick to vegan sugar, opt for certified organic; they can’t use bone char products.

Gelatin

This comes as a big surprise to many gelatin lovers — how can this fruity and jiggly snack not be vegan?! As it turns out, traditional gelatin is made from animal bones. Seek out a vegetarian source of gelatin-like products, like agar, instead.

Honey

Cultivated by bees, this golden syrup is considered a no-no on vegan diets. Some vegan enthusiasts choose to consume honey, as they are not actually eating the animal itself.

Gummy Bears

Gelatin and sugar may also be lurking in your kiddo’s favorite candies — even those cute little gummy bears and similar gummy candies tend to be the most common culprits. Brands including Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks and Surf Sweets Organic Fruity Bears are vegan.

Chocolate

It may come as no surprise that milk chocolate is made with ... milk! What is less well-known is that even dark chocolate may contain milk. If you are seeking to satisfy a chocolate craving, look for brands of certified vegan chocolate such as Enjoy Life Foods.

Sriracha

Turns out everyone’s favorite spicy sauce isn’t vegan-friendly. Many brands of this chili and vinegar sauce are vegan-friendly, but some are made with bone char-processed sugar, so check the product labeling on your favorite brand.

Coconut

This one needs a question mark: COCONUT? A controversial debate sparked by PETA suggests that coconut is off-limits for vegan diets because some producers use monkeys for labor in their supply chain. This one is a personal call, for sure; that being said, we do consider coconut to be vegan in our recipes.

Caesar Salad Dressing

In addition to Parmesan cheese, egg yolks and anchovies are staple ingredients in this classic dressing. Delicious vegan versions can be created with umami-rich ingredients like miso and avocado. Bottled versions are also available.