vegan friendly

15 Surprising Foods That Aren’t Vegan Friendly

Are you trying to find out what does vegan friendly mean? Or are you trying to start to follow a vegan diet for beginners?

In this article we are talking about some foods that you might have thought were vegan but actually aren’t!

There are many amazing vegan food options available but there are also some sneaky non-vegan foods out there too. Foods that you would never suspect contained animal ingredients. That is why I wanted to make this list. To help you to not make the same mistakes that I did when I first started to become vegan.

Not that mistakes are bad by any means! Because you are going to make mistakes along your way to becoming vegan because you are human. But it is nice to be a little more prepared!

So, keep reading to find out which 15 foods are actually not vegan!

Surprising Foods That Aren’t Vegan Friendly

There are so many foods out there that sound and look completely vegan but are surprisingly not.

These are the kinds of foods that you are going to learn about as you begin your vegan diet for beginners.

It used to be much harder to recognize these foods when there was much less information out there on the subject of veganism. But thankfully, there is so much more information that is available to you!

So, keep reading to find out what sneaky foods are pretending to be vegan. And don’t forget to read till the end to find out what does vegan friendly mean.

Related: Surprising Vegan Foods You Need to Know About

1.    Candy

Now before you panic don’t worry. Not all candy isn’t vegan but there are many kinds that aren’t suitable for a vegan diet that you would never suspect.

Such as gummies, sour candies, and just about any kind of chewy candies. These types of candy are not vegan because they contain gelatin which gives them that chewy, gummy texture.

Gelatin is derived from animal collagen. The good thing is that gelatin is listed on the food label, so it is easy to find unlike some other ingredients.

Other kinds of candies might also contain ingredients like butter and milk. This usually goes for creamy candies and even some hard candy flavors.

You should also look for candy containing shellac which is a glaze that often contains bug derived ingredients.

You will need to pay close attention to candy food labels as they can be the most deceptive and sneaky.

2.    Marshmallows and Jell-O

Gelatin is the culprit once again as it makes marshmallows and Jell-O not suitable for a diet free of animal products.

Gelatin is a common ingredient that you are going to come into contact with as it is often used as a thickening agent.

This also goes for store bought rice crispy treats as they contain marshmallows!

The good thing is that there are now vegan brands that sell both Jell-O and marshmallows that are thickened with agar instead of gelatin!

You can still find gelatin free marshmallows from this brand of Dandies Vegan Marshmallows! They are just as good as regular marshmallows, though they are pricier.

vegan friendly

3.    Pesto

You might think that pesto is vegan friendly because it’s just made out of plant ingredients, right?

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case as pesto usually contains a cheese like parmesan or even milk sometimes. Making pesto not suitable for those following a plant-based diet.

The good thing is that pesto is incredibly easy to make at home with just a few base ingredients!

4.    Non-Dairy Creamer

You hear the words dairy-free or non-dairy and automatically think that it must be vegan. But unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Many non-dairy products are made with the intention of being sold to those who are lactose intolerant not necessarily vegan.

Because of this most non-dairy creamers will still contain milk ingredients such as casein or sodium caseinate. Both being derived from milk. This is why it is best to stay away from non-dairy foods and drinks as they don’t usually cater to vegans.

Related: Best Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives for Vegans

5.    Potato Chips

While many potato chips are suitable for those following a vegan diet for beginners not all chips are free of animal products.

Many chip flavors contain milk powder or cheese powder some of them you would never even suspect.

Some chip brands include these ingredients in all of their chips so you will have to read the food labels carefully.

As a general rule, any cheese or sour cream flavored chips usually contain dried milk and dried cheese for flavor.

Ironically enough, most barbecue flavored chips are entirely vegan friendly! Like these Lays barbecue potato chips!

6.    Non-Dairy Cheese

Dairy free cheeses are another product that you might find yourself unsuspectingly reaching for, but they usually aren’t vegan either.

Like dairy free creamers, most dairy free cheeses contain some form of milk derivative as they are only formulated for those with a lactose intolerance.

Your best bet is to only buy vegan cheese brands as you can rest easy in knowing that those are free of any milk derivative. They are really your only option unless you want to experiment in making your own vegan cheeses at home.

7.    Frozen French Fries

This was a food item that I would have never suspected when I first went vegan. And I suspect that I probably ate quite a few servings of fries that contained animal products.

Many brands of frozen fries contain milk in order to help the seasonings to stick.

The good thing is that many brands don’t use milk so you can still enjoy frozen French fries! Just make sure to double check the food label.

8.    Ramen Noodles

Of course, the meat flavored ramen noodles would most likely not be suitable for vegans, but did you know that even some other flavors contain animal products?

Even their oriental, chili, and soy sauce flavors are sometimes vegan and other times not.

This sometimes changes for reasons that I don’t know. So, you will want to check the food label routinely to make sure that the noodles you are buying are still free of animal products.

This also might change depending on where you live.

9.    Baked Beans

There are many brands of bake beans that aren’t considered to be suitable for vegans.

You would be surprised how many brands contain some form of animal product. Such as bacon, meat flavorings, meat broths, or honey.

The good thing is that there are still plenty of options that don’t contain those ingredients, you will just need to keep an eye out for them.

vegan friendly

10. Roasted Peanuts

Roasted peanuts might be the most surprising item on this list!

And that is because many kinds of dry roasted peanuts actually contain gelatin! This is because it helps the seasonings such as salt, to stick to the dry peanuts.

You will have to check the food labels to make sure not to buy roasted peanuts that have gelatin added to them.

There are several brands that carry roasted peanuts without gelatin, however. Such as these tasty dry roasted peanuts!

11. Sauces

There are many kinds of sauces and condiments that are not suitable for those following a vegan diet for beginners.

Worcestershire sauce often contains anchovies. Many other sauces like soy sauce and teriyaki sauce can all contain fish products. Many don’t but you will need to double check the label.

Barbecue sauce can also not be free of animal products as some brands and flavors contain honey.

With any kinds of sauces or condiments you will have to keep a vigilant eye out for animal products.

12. Margarine

Margarine is another seemingly dairy free food item that you might be buying unsuspectingly.

And though there are many margarine brands that are accidently vegan some are not.

Some margarines contain casein or lactose, both coming from milk. Many margarines that are suitable for vegans will include a V logo or the word vegan.

13. Alcohol

Alcohol is another surprising item that you might have never considered to not be vegan friendly.

But many alcohols are indeed not considered to be vegan. This is because many types of alcohol are filtered through an assortment of animal products.

Such as gelatin, casein, crustacean shells, and fish bladders. Strange right?

There are vegan friendly alcohol brands, but you will need to look them up to be certain.

14. Dark chocolate

Though it is true that most types of dark chocolate are dairy free not all of them are. In fact, you might be surprised by how many still contain milk.

This will greatly vary by brand so you will want to check the food labels carefully for any milk derived ingredients. Also, the higher the percentage of cocoa the less likely the chocolate will contain milk.

15. Canned Vegetable Soups

You would be surprised at just how many soups that look vegan are actually filled with animal products.

Even soups that look like they are entirely made up of veggies can contain an assortment of animal products.

Such as meat broth, meat, and meat flavorings. You will need to carefully read the ingredient list for most canned soups.

Ingredients That Aren’t Vegan Friendly

I have mentioned in a previous article that how strict you are as a vegan is completely up to you. There are so many food additives and ingredients that come from animals that can be downright impossible to avoid.

So, please don’t feel bad if you are unable to avoid all of the ingredients in this list. The most important thing is to try to just do the best that you can do! And that will be more than enough.

Here are a few ingredients and food additives that are not vegan friendly:

  • Cochineal or carmine
  • Gelatin
  • Isinglass 
  • Certain food flavorings like castoreum
  • Shellac
  • Whey, casein, and lactose
  • Bee pollen, royal jelly, and honey

Here is a list of some foods that might appear vegan but sometimes contain the ingredients above and more. These are the kinds of foods to always double check the labels on:

  • Bread
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Canned beans or soups
  • Fresh and dried pasta
  • Candy
  • Condiments and sauces
  • Alcoholic beverages

What Does Vegan Friendly Mean?

If you aren’t completely certain what vegan friendly even means it is quite simple.

It simply means that, that specific food is suitable for vegans to eat because it includes no animal products.

Foods labeled in this way can be eaten by those on a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet without having to worry over the ingredients.

These kinds of products can be identified by their name or because they include vegan somewhere on the packaging.

Some brands also have a green V logo on the back. Helping you to quickly identify what products are entirely vegan and which ones aren’t.


This is the conclusion to this list of 15 surprising foods that contain sneaky animal products. And I hoper that you found it helpful in knowing what foods are vegan and what foods aren’t.

Did any of these surprise you? Do you have any to add to the list?

Even now, after years of eating a vegan diet I am still discovering foods that look vegan but actually aren’t. It is a learning curve that you will always be experiencing. So, I hope that this list will make it easier for you to adjust if you are new to eating a vegan diet.

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