If you’re focusing on putting plants on your plate and eliminating animal products in your foods, you probably know the easiest way to go vegan is to eliminate all meat and dairy products. That means selecting olive oil over butter for sautéing vegetables, nut milk over cow’s milk for your morning cereal, and flax seed eggs over chicken’s eggs for baked goods.
What you might have a hard time with is fully eliminating all of the sneaky sources of animal products in food. Unassuming pantry and fridge standards like orange juice and baking mixes can be a no-go for vegans. Many common foods have hidden animal products that may only be spotted with a thorough reading of the ingredients list.
These 15 foods may pass as vegan for many people, but vegans and people avoiding animal products will find they need to return them to the shelves. Not all of these products are non-vegan, so reading the label is important. Plus, many vegan-friendly versions of these foods are available, but they may not promote their animal-free nature on the packaging. You’ll need to flip the bottle or bag over to read what’s in them.
1. Worcestershire Sauce
This popular condiment is used to season meats, boost flavor in gravies, and add major umami to soups. It’s even a necessary ingredient in classic Bloody Mary cocktails, but vegans need to steer clear. In addition to garlic, onions, soy sauce, tamarind, lime, vinegar, and seasonings, many Worcestershire sauces contain anchovies. Look for vegan-friendly varities like Edward and Sons.
2. Caesar Dressing
This classic salad may seem like a good vegan option, but a few ingredients rule it out for many non-meat eaters. Many Caesar dressings are served with an egg and Parmesan cheese. Ask to leave those off, but you still may have another trap: a dressing made with Worcestershire sauce, which uses anchovies. Some Caesar salads even contain tiny bits of the Mediterranean fish, chopped up so it’s almost undetectable. Before you order one at the restaurant or pick up a bottle at the grocery store, confirm your salad is fish free.
3. Gummy Candies
They don’t contain chocolate, so they may seem vegan friendly, but gummy candies aren’t always animal-free. Gelatin, an odorless, tasteless, and colorless additive, is used as a thickening agent in many foods, from jellies to soups. Gelatin is derived from the bones, cartilage, and tendons of animals. Pig skin is frequently used to produce gelatin, too. Check that any gummy candies you pick up use agar agar or pectin as their animal-free thickener.
Gelatin is hiding in marshmallows, too. The same animal products that give chewy candies their bounce give marshmallows their fluffy texture. Dandies makes an all-natural and vegan alternative to traditional marshmallows.
5. Non-Dairy Creamer
You swapped your morning half and half for a coconut creamer? That’s one step toward vegan, but you need to double check that the non-dairy option you’re using is fully vegan. Some non-dairy creamers still contain casein, a protein found in milk. That also means some people who are especially lactose sensitive may need to avoid non-dairy creamers.
6. Lactose-Free Cheese
Lactose-free cheese may be a dream come true for cheese lovers whose stomachs don’t seem to appreciate dairy too much, but vegans still need to turn down these products. Almost all lactose-free cheeses still contain casein. In the case of lactose-free cheese, casein is added to the cheese to help it melt better, a common issue with vegan cheeses.
7. Some Beers and Wines
Tread lightly at the bar. Some popular beer and wine brands use isinglass, a gelatin made from fish bladders, to make their brews clear, bright, and more visually appealing to customers. However, because the animal product is only used for aesthetics, many brands are leaving behind the byproduct and making their concoctions OK for vegans and vegetarians. Guinness announced in 2015 they would stop using isinglass so their beers would be vegan.
8. Orange Juice
The fruit juice section has seen an explosion of options in recent years, as companies began offering myriad options of fortified juices. One of those, orange juice with omega-3s, is not kosher for vegans. Fish are a natural source of these heart-healthy fatty acids, so oils from the sea animals may be used to boost the citrus juice. Verify on the label that the juice uses a non-animal source before you pour yourself a glass.
9. Refried Beans
Frijoles refritos, or refried beans, are a popular Mexican side dish. To make them, red beans or pinto beans are cooked, mashed, then fried in lard. Lard is rendered and clarified pork fat, which means they’re a sneaky source of an animal product. You can assume restaurant refried beans are made in lard, but it’s worth asking the server if there’s a vegan option.
10. Flavored Peanuts
Flavored peanuts—think of the honey, BBQ, and chipotle-spiced snacks—may seem like an A-OK nosh, but gelatin is often added to the flavoring to help the spices stick to the nuts.
These oil-based spreads and shortenings are touted as a dairy-free alternative to butter, but some brands still contain some dairy for flavor and texture. Read the labels to know if your preferred spread is truly animal-free.
12. Olive Tapenade
You can add pesto, tapenade, and romesco sauce to just about any dish—vegan or not—for a boost of flavor, but before you scoop, read the label. Pestos often contain cheese, and olive tapenade frequently uses anchovies. Romesco sauce is almost always vegan, but sauces and spreads are worth investigating before digging in.
13. Cornbread and Baking Mixes
Boxed mixes may not contain liquid milk or stick butter, but they may hide lard and buttermilk still. Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, for example, has lard listed in its ingredients, and Krusteaz Southern Cornbread mix has buttermilk. However, Jiffy Vegetarian Corn Muffin Mix is lard free, and Krusteaz Honey Cornbread & Muffin mix is dairy-free, too.
14. Pie Crusts
Store-bought pie crusts are certainly convenient, but their ingredients lack a bit to be desired if you’re eating vegan. That’s because many use milk and lard to make the crusts flaky and buttery. If you know you’ll need crusts soon and want to save yourself time, make several vegan pie crusts, roll the dough into a ball, and flatten them into a disk about two inches thick. Wrap each crust in plastic wrap, and freeze until you’re ready to use.
15. French Fries
Restaurant fries offer a lot of what’s good in the world—crispy, buttery, fried potatoes. However, before you place your order, ask the sever what type of fat the fries are cooked in. Some restaurants boost flavor by using animal fat, like beef fat, to fry their spuds.
Vegan Meal Planning Made Easy
Eating vegan is easier when you have a meal plan you can trust. Our new Vegan Meal Plan offers seven healthy and delicious plant-based dinners for each night of the week. These recipes feature loads of vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes. Each is designed to be filling and hearty without a spot of meat—and to save you time with planning and shopping.