10 Foods You Probably Think Are Vegan—But Aren’t

Last Update: September 28, 2022

Going vegan can sometimes feel like all things sinful are suddenly out of reach, and blandness is the price to pay for a soul-soothing, cruelty-free diet. On the other side of the coin, you may be cheerfully gulping apple juice and melting soy cheese on a veggikne pizza, proudly reveling in your ethical choices, oblivious to what’s really in your food.

First of all, kudos to you for caring. As a reward, you can feel free to indulge in a few foods you might not have known fall within the confines of a vegan diet. But there are also those items that are easy to assume are totally free of animal products. After all, why would you have any reason to believe that orange juice is pulling the wool over your eyes?

You have the right to know exactly what you can and cannot put into your body based on your beliefs. To help you navigate the world of veganism a little more easily, here are 10 foods that most of us would assume are vegan, but actually contain animal products. And we’ve added 10 more surprises—foods that don’t seem vegan, but are!

Surprisingly Not Vegan:

1. Stout Beer

Certain stout beers (particularly British ones) are filtered with isinglass, a membrane from tropical fish bladders. Some apple juices are filtered with the same stuff. R.W. Knudsen organic apple juice boxes are totally vegan-friendly, though.

2. Worcestershire Sauce

This sauce often contains anchovies. Luckily, Annie’s Homegrown makes a vegan version.

3. Boxed Cake Mixes

Beef fat, labeled as lard, can be hiding inconspicuously in many boxed cake mixes.

4. Sugar

Refined sugar isn’t naturally white—it’s processed with bone char (sometimes labeled as “natural carbon”) to make it so. Instead, opt for unrefined sugar such as Thrive’s Organic Coconut Sugar or Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar.

5. Red Candies

These are often dyed with red pigment extracted from a cochineal insect, which is typically listed as cochineal, carminic acid or carmine. It’s also found in some wine, vinegar, juice and colored pasta.

6. Orange Juice

Juices enhanced with omega-3s often get those amino acids from fish oil and gelatin. Also, added vitamin D is derived from lanolin, a natural oil in the fiber of sheep’s wool.

7. Bread

Omega-3 enhanced bread also uses fish oil, along with animal-derived ingredients typically found in bread including eggs, milk, whey, butter, and honey.

8. Margarine

This may seem like an ideal butter alternative, but it sometimes contains whey, gelatin, and a milk protein called casein.

9. Packaged Peanuts

Certain brands, including Planter’s, contain gelatin.

10. Soy Cheese

What’s the point of soy cheese if it’s not vegan? Casein sometimes gives this stuff its cheesy taste and meltable texture. But don’t give up on it, because vegan versions do exist if you keep a discerning eye out.

Surprisingly Vegan:

1. Chipotle Sofritas

Not only has Chipotle opted out of serving their popular carnitas due to a supplier’s poor treatment of farmed pigs, but they now offer a vegan alternative called sofritas. They’re also making strides in going GMO-free.

2. Oreos

Those creamy centers are unbelievably vegan.

3. Clasico Bacon Habanero Tortilla Chips

Can it be true? Vegan bacon flavor? Yup.

4. Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch

Oddly enough, this childhood staple contains no animal products whatsoever.

5. Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Noodle Kit

Restaurant pad thai typically contains fish sauce, but this kit allows you to make a vegan version of pad thai at home.

6. Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate

The chocolate hazelnut, chocolate mocha, and double chocolate flavors are creamy, yet totally vegan.

7. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (Original)

Buttery goodness with no butter at all.

8. Monster and Red Bull Energy Drinks

These gas station staples are vegan, but Guru Natural Energy Drink is a healthier option.

9. Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Frosting

Chocolate and classic vanilla frosting can be paired with your favorite vegan cake recipe.

10. Nature Valley Granola Bars (Brown Sugar)

These vegan granola bars bring a whole new meaning to the “crunchy granola” stereotype.

Photo credit: penguincakes via Flickr

Share this article

Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

Download the app for easy shopping on the go

By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive marketing text messages from Thrive Market. Consent not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates apply. Msg frequency varies. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel.

If you are visually-impaired and having difficulty with our website, call us at 1‑855‑997‑2315

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

© Thrive Market 2024 All rights reserved.