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Top 10 Surprising Ingredients That are Not Vegan Friendly

Are you looking into foods that’s not vegan friendly or non-vegan foods? Or are you interested in what does vegan friendly mean?

Today we are going over a list of the top 10 non-vegan food ingredients that can be very sneaky. Especially if you are a vegan beginner and haven’t heard about these ingredients yet.

There are all kinds of sketchy food ingredients that are derived from animals in some ways. Many are downright gross and should have been replaced a long time ago. Even if you aren’t vegan you still might want to avoid these ingredients. Just because they have no place being in our food.

So, if you are interested in finding out about some sneaky ingredients that come from animals, keep reading.

What Does Vegan Friendly Mean?

If you are wondering what does vegan friendly mean then you are in the right place!

Vegan friendly is often used as a term to label certain foods or products as suitable for vegans to use or consume. It can also be used for those following a plant-based diet or even a vegetarian diet!

A vegan diet restricts all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc. As well as the less well know animal ingredients that often ,are their way into our day to day food items.

So, vegan friendly means that, that specific food or product doesn’t contain any animal products. It usually means also, that the food has not been made in a facility with animal products, so you should be safe from cross contamination.

It should also mean that none of the ingredients have been in any way derived from animals. Such as ingredients like dyes made from beetles, gelatin made from animal bones, or flavoring agents made from certain animals.

If something is labeled as vegan friendly it is almost always suitable for vegans!

Related: 10 Types of Vegan Diet That You Need to Know About

Top Ingredients That are Not Vegan Friendly

These 10 ingredients that we are going to be talking about are some of the most common and most sneaky ingredients in our food.

If you’re eating something right now you might want to check the label!

Anything that contains these types of ingredients is considered to be a food that’s not vegan friendly.

The difficult part is that these ingredients are scattered all throughout different types of food. Some have them while others don’t. which will leave you having to check all of the food labels.

This is why it is best to find a truly vegan friendly brand of food and stick to it.

Related: Vegan Diet Tips for Beginners: What You Need to Know

1.    Gelatin

Gelatin is one of those ingredients in non-vegan foods that we have often talked about.

Even though it is a commonly known ingredient that’s not vegan, it is still easy to overlook in certain food products. This is mainly because it is so common and can appear in food that you would have never guessed.

Gelatin is not vegan because it is made from animal skin, bones, ligament, and tendons. 

It can be found almost always in chewy candy and Jell-O but can also be found in ice cream, cakes, yogurt, and pill capsules.

It is also the reason why marshmallows are not vegan. The good thing is that the Dandies brand of marshmallows is vegan friendly!

2.    Casein

Casein is one of the sneakiest ingredients out there that is not actually vegan!

This ingredient is easy to miss because it can even be in foods marked as dairy-free. This is because it is not necessarily milk, but it is a milk protein.

Because it is not lactose it can often be found in dairy-free products. Which is an important reminder that not all dairy-free foods are vegan as they usually just remove the lactose, leaving remaining remnants of dairy behind.

You will often find casein in ice creams, creamy soups, non-dairy cheeses, and margarines.

3.    Cochineal or Carmine

This ingredient can be found under both the name cochineal and carmine. It is made essentially from crushed up beetles which creates a red food dye.

This can be found in any food that is unnaturally red such as candies. But it can be in several other things as well, I have even seen this ingredient in dried fruit and dried peppers in order to preserve their red color!

The good thing is that red dye number 40 is a vegan red dye and is more commonly used in food products.

4.    Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a trick ingredient that’s not vegan all of the time but sometimes it is.

This is because there are plant-based sources of lactic acid as well as kinds that are derived from animal blood and muscle tissue.

It is usually used as a flavoring agent, preservative, and a curing agent. 

You will most often find it in pickles, fruit preserves, olives, sauerkraut, and some frozen desserts.

The only real way to know whether or not lactic acid is vegan is to contact the company or check their website.

not vegan

5.    Whey

Whey is another sneaky milk related ingredient that makes an appearance in many unsuspecting foods.

It is a byproduct of cheese as whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained.

It is a common ingredient in cheese flavored crackers, margarine, and other cheese flavored foods since it is often used as a flavoring agent in the place of actual cheese.

6.    Isinglass

Isinglass is one of those strange ingredients that you would never think to find in your food.

It is the term used for fish bladders and is used as a filter for beers and wines. Don’t ask me why, I honestly could even begin to tell you the logic behind this!

In order to avoid this ingredient that’s not vegan you will need to google beer and wine brands to see which use this ingredient in their process. Some might even have a vegan label on them but I have yet to see that.

7.    Oleic Acid or Oleinic Acid

This ingredient that’s not vegan can be found under the name oleic acid or oleinic acid.

It is often made from rendered animal fat and it can be found in margarine, oils, vegetable fat, and certain condiments and beverages.

You can completely avoid this ingredient by buying vegan friendly butter or using vegetable shortening.

8.    Lard

Like oleic acid or oleinic acid, lard is an ingredient that comes from animal fat.

Lard is specifically the fat from a pig’s abdomen.

It is often found in refried beans, canned soups, and certain baked goods.

9.    Shellac or Confectioners Glaze

Shellac or confectioners glaze is an ingredient that is made from the secretions of the lac bug.

It is used as a protective, glossy coating over many types of candy. It can even be used to coat fruit and vegetables under the name, lac resin.

You will often be able to tel which candies are covered with shellac as they will have a glazed and gauzy appearance with a outer layer that can be chipped away.

10. L. Cysteine 

l. Cysteine is an ingredient in non-vegan foods that is often found as a dough conditioner in certain store-bought breads.

It is an ingredient made from human hair, feathers, or pig bristles. L. Cysteine can also be made from plant-based sources so you would need to contact the brand to find out.

It can be found in brown and white breads, rolls, baked goods, and pizza crusts.

What are These Ingredients Often found in?

Even though these ingredients that aren’t vegan friendly can show up in all kinds of foods. There are a few foods that commonly have these in their ingredients list.

Just keep in mind that it is a good habit to always check the ingredient label just in case. Even if a food is usually vegan friendly the ingredients could have been changed at some point.

Here are a few foods that commonly include these ingredients:

  • Canned soups
  • Non-dairy products
  • Breads and crackers
  • Beer and wine
  • Fake butters

The best way to completely avoid these ingredients is to limit your consumption of processed foods.

As you can see, most foods that contain these ingredients are heavily processed goods. Premade and packaged foods.

These are the types of food that will often have non-vegan ingredients lurking in them. So, the more food you can make homemade the better!

Animal Derived Ingredients Vs Animal Products

If you are new to veganism you might be wondering what exactly animal derived even means. And why it is not vegan.

Vegans usually try to completely eliminate both from their diet. The animal products as well as the ingredients derived from animals.

Ingredients that are derived from animals usually are a resulting by product. Such as gelatin coming from tendons and bones that are a byproduct of the meat industry.

Or L. Cysteine is derived from animal hair.

These ingredients don’t result in the killing of animals, but they are a byproduct of it which is often why vegans try to avoid these ingredients.

My Stance on Animal Derived Ingredients

I am going to be very honest right now. As a vegan I am much more concerned over eating animal products than I am eating animal derived ingredients.

I try my best to avoid them but at the end of the day they just aren’t as much as a priority for me.

Maybe that makes me a bad vegan, I don’t know. And to be honest I don’t really care because I know where my intentions lie.

If you just can’t manage to avoid these ingredients, don’t beat yourself up over it. The most important thing is that you are trying your best to avoid actual animal products.

The kinds of animal products that do genuine harm to the animals that they are taken from. Because at the end of the day, those are the most important ingredients and foods to stay away from.

How to Best Avoid These Ingredients

The best way to avoid ingredients that are not vegan is to avoid processed foods in general.

This isn’t always realistic but when you can the best option is to make the food yourself. Homemade food is much easier to veganize and you don’t have to worry about any suspicious ingredients.

Even foods that are completely vegan friendly can be filled with all kinds of strange additives, fillers, and preservatives. Things that we probably wouldn’t want going into our body if we understood what they were exactly.

Who knows what exactly we are putting into our body on a daily basis through processed foods.

That is why it is best to make food at home whenever possible. And if you can’t manage that, try to find purer and more organic options. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the shorter the ingredients list the better.


I hope that this article on foods that’s not vegan has been useful to you. And that maybe you have walked away knowing a few things that you didn’t know before.

These ingredients can be very sneaky, especially if you’re a new vegan and don’t know about all of these ingredients yet.

Animal derived ingredients can be found in many strange places and can be in foods that you would have never guesses! Not to mention the fact that many are disguised by hard to understand names.

This list is a good example when you are trying to find out what does vegan friendly mean. Because it is not just about excluding meat, eggs, and dairy products. There are many other different types of non-vegan foods that can be hidden in your food.

All kinds of strange animal products that most of us probably wouldn’t want to be eating, vegan or not!

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