Warning: 8 Common Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian

When you’re a new vegetarian, it’s easy to make mistakes.  Chances are, you’ve already messed up by eating something you thought was safe, only to realize later that it contained, say, chicken broth.  Or in my case—yum—stomach enzymes and fish bladders.

If so, shake it off.  Consider it a lesson learned and give yourself a pat on the back for caring enough to even think twice about what you eat.  And know that by reading this list, you’ll have avoided a bunch more potential mistakes, every single one of which I’ve made during my first year as a vegetarian.


Many, many soups, especially in restaurants, are made with chicken stock, beef stock, or fish stock.  And you’ll find ham stock in most split pea soups.  Even Campbell’s Vegatable soup isn’t so mmm-mmm-chicken-friendly; look for their Vegetarian Vegetable instead.

French onion soup is one that seems so obvious now, but when we were fresh new vegetarians, my wife and I most definitely chowed down on some. Thankfully, 1000 Vegan Recipes (affiliate link) has a good animal-free version of this classic.

Salad Dressings

Lots of restaurant salad dressings (often the best tasting ones, sad to say) start with bacon fat, even when the menu doesn’t mention bacon.  Caesar dressing, of course, contains anchovies, if you’re being served the real thing (but here’s a vegan one from Post-Punk Kitchen).

There are going to be times when you eat out and salad is the only decent vegetarian choice for lunch or even dinner. Just make sure it actually is vegetarian.


Yep, now I’m going to be that jerk who tells you not all cheese is vegetarian.  I was traumatized to learn that Parmigiano-Reggiano, the nuttiest, most flavorful, most classic cheese in the world (in my opinion, anyway) is made with rennet.  And rennet, for the unenlightened, is a nice way of saying “enzymes from animals’ stomachs.”  And guess how they get those enzymes out?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is actually required by law to be made with rennet, and you’ll find rennet in many other authentic imported cheeses (Pecorino Romano is another one).  While some domestic cheeses list rennet as an ingredient, others simply say “enzymes,” leaving the buyer unsure whether or not any stomachs are being ripped open to get those goodies.

Your best bet, if you’re unsure, is to choose “vegan parmesan,” a combination of nutritional yeast and, sometimes, nuts that actually does a pretty good job of pretending.

Worcestershire Sauce

Standard Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies.  Annie’s Naturals makes a vegan Worcestershire sauce that tastes exactly the same, and in most vegetarian recipes you can probably substitute soy sauce and some spices.

And that’s about all there is to say about Worcestershire Sauce.


Remember that elementary school story that kids liked to pass around at lunch about the middle of Oreo cookies being pure lard?  Well, it’s not true; Oreos don’t contain lard anymore, if they ever did.

But guess what does?  If you said “tortillas,” I say si! Fortunately, many brands have removed the animal fat from their tortillas, but it’s still worth a check.  And if you’re eating out at a Mexican restaurant, it’s probably more likely that the tortillas are made with lard.

Now, if you’re talking really classy Mexican restaurants, rest assured that Taco Bell’s tortillas (and refried beans, another seemingly-vegetarian food to look out for) do NOT contain lard, according to Vegetarian-Restaurants.net.  Neither does anything at Baja Fresh, but I can’t tell for sure about Chipotle.  Proceed con cuidado.

[Update: Chipotle has tweeted to me that their tortillas are lard-free and pinto beans are now vegan-friendly!]

Gummy Bears

Image via Wikipedia

Sorry, vegetarian marathoners—those gummy bears the nice people hand out at mile 20 are not for you.  Most likely, they contain gelatin, which comes from animal bones, connective tissue, and organs.  Sweet.

According to Wikipedia, some gummy bears are made with pectin or starch instead of gelatin, so these are veggie-friendly.

Of course, a no-gelatin rule means you also need to look at the ingredient lists of any gummy sports chews that you eat.  Sharkies and Clif Shot Bloks are both gelatin-free.  I’m not sure about GU Chomps.

Marshmallows, Jelly, and Jello

Lots more gelatin here.  Since most No Meat Athlete readers probably don’t eat much of the sugary stuff, I’ve grouped these sweets together.  For marshmallows, jelly, and Jello-type desserts, your best bet is to check the ingredient list.  Most of them, unfortunately, do contain gelatin.

So at your next all-night rager, skip the Jello shots and drink a beer.  Err, wait a minute…


Yes, sadly, even some beer isn’t strictly vegetarian.  You can get much more info in this guest post on vegan beer by Billy from BillyBrew.com, but the least you need to be aware of is that many beers are clarified with isinglass—that’s fish bladders to you and me.  Most isinglass probably doesn’t end up in the finished product, however.  (Gelatin is also occasionally used.)

One of the world’s most popular beers, Guinness Draught, is off limits to strict vegetarians, since the beer is treated with isinglass.  But all is not lost, Guinness-lovers: Guinness Extra Stout is one product that’s thought to be vegan.

What’s missing?

Surely there are lots more common seem-vegetarian-but-aren’t foods.  Which ones have tripped you up in the past? (I hope I’m not still eating them!)  Let me and everyone else know with a comment.

This post is a part of a series of posts to help new vegetarians Subscribe to No Meat Athlete so you never miss a new post!



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  1. I had no clue that’s what rennet was. I knew that Kraft’s new cheese with bacon bits in it wasn’t vegetarian or right in any way, but never would have thought twice about parmagianno

    • dibischned says:

      Yes, rennet is an enzyme that traditionally comes from the lining of calf’s stomachs, but there is also vegetable rennet that many cheeses are made from too. FYI, most cheeses are made using rennet – it’s what makes the curds strong.

      Cream cheese, cottage cheese, paneer, & ricotta should all be rennet free. Otherwise, look for “vegetable rennet” in the ingredient list.

    • lisa locke says:

      Update from Sake One

      From: Emily Couture [mailto:emily-couture@sakeone.com]
      Sent: Monday, June 16, 2014 4:27 PM
      Subject: RE: vegan?
      Our Saké is vegan, with the exception of our organic junmai ginjo. So, you’re good! Diamond is 100% vegan and I have clarified this with our brew master!
      Emily Couture
      Tasting Room Manager, Saké One
      820 Elm Street
      Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
      503-357-7056 Ext. 221
      Fax 503-357-1014

  2. One that I never thought about, but is so true is the rice at Mexican Restaurants.

    Much of the restaurants down here in TX actually use chicken broth to simmer their rice in. Gave me a lot of “food for thought”…

    • Stef, thanks for adding this to the list. I totally forgot about rice, and rice cooked with chicken broth is probably as common as any food on my list.

    • The refried beans are %90 of the time made with lard.

    • teddybear says:

      Also, I noticed that tortillas that don’t contain lard contain something called l-cysteine, which is derived either from bird feathers or human hair!! So probably avoid tortillas and make your own. Apparently they pick hair up from hairdressers in places like China and India and I can’t imagine they just ask to borrow a few feathers off free range chickens…we know where that’s going…

      That’s even in ones that say they’re vegetarian…my advice is, read the dang label whatever it says and don’t buy if there’s anything you don’t recognize. There are websites devoted to decoding ingredients.

      Also, some fruit and veg in america is sprayed with lard, gelatin or paraffin to keep it “fresh”. If it has a weird plastic like coating on it or looks super shiny, avoid! Buy stuff with mud on it 🙂

      • dontbestupid says:

        l-cysteine can be found in: pork, poultry, eggs, dairy, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, granola, wheat germ, and sprouted lentils.

      • Yes! I’m one of those wierdos who stands in the aisle Googling ingredients occasionally. I so wish I had the time and money to make everything from scratch but I can’t. Yes, the things they do to food here in the U.S. is horrifying and sadly, most people don’t care as long as it’s cheap and “tastes good”. I think a lot of food tastes fake after eating a relatively healthy diet compared to the “SAD” Standard American Diet..

  3. Sadly (a lot of) wine is on the list as well, for the same reason as beer. In fact, while most beer is vegetarian most wine is not.

    Here’s a great comprehensive site that lists a huge variety of wine and beer and its status.


    Great post! “Hidden” ingredients are a tricky thing for us veg(etari)ans. And it becomes even trickier for a vegan – just realized pesto isn’t vegan (oops).

    • You can make your own, without the cheese. It’s easy and really tasty!

    • What are they putting in your pesto….basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts…what isn’t veggie about that?

      • Most pestos have parm in them… some commercial pestos use anchovy paste as an emulsifier to keep stuff from separating on the shelf. This happens a lot in cream sauces too, something has to keep all that stuff homogenized, and it’s usually chicken fat or something of the sort. Chicken fat is cheap, too. Plenty of other things could do the same thing, but when you pick up a 12 oz jar of sauce for less than $4… you can’t really expect premium ingredients.

        • keygirlus says:

          Thanks! I never even considered that as I have always made my pesto w/what I listed…you are all right, some of these are very stealthy. The old maxim is true, never eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce!

          • Pretty sure that’s a pretty recent maxim.

          • I believe it dates from WWI soldiers, many of whom had never encountered large quantities of processed and canned foods before, let alone the native foods of their duty stations. Old to me, guess it is a matter of perspective.

    • pesto bought in stores often is not as it contains cheese however pesto is very easy to make and can often still be very good even without the cheese, i prefer it without

    • Since when is any cheese vegetarian..cheese is not a vegetable
      Rennet or not

      • Only vegans can’t eat cheese.

        • Can we clear this up for once and for all? Please?

          Vegetarians can eat cheese ONLY if that cheese is NOT made with animal rennet. A lot of cheese is NOT suitable for vegetarians because it DOES contain animal rennet! To generalise, in the UK and the US a lot of mass-produced cheese is vegetarian but most small-producer “craft” cheese is not. In most of the rest of Europe, very little cheese is vegetarian (finding vegetarian cheese in France is close to impossible, for example).

          Vegans will not eat dairy cheese of any sort, of course, but that isn’t to say they can’t eat cheese at all: there are many specialist companies making cheese from soya or other plant “milks” which are entirely suitable for vegans.

          I’ve been vegetarian for more than thirty years. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.

        • Umm vegetarians eat lots of things other than vegetables. You know that right?

      • Exactly @ John! When I go to Subway and order an “All Veggie” Sub on Italian Bread, they always ask “What kind of Cheese?” I say “No Cheese, just Vegetables, Cheese is Meat” or “Vegetables only. Cheese is not a Vegetable!” Then they give me the “Open-Eyed Coma Patient” look!

        • I know that it’s a foreign concept to you, Swayne, but they ask that because it’s their job. The “open eyed coma patient” look is probably because they don’t understand why you have to be nasty about them doing their job. They’re REQUIRED by subway to ask if you want cheese on every last one of their subs.

          Also, how exactly are the enzymes in Subway’s Italian bread derived? Food for thought.

        • Could be worse… I live in Korea, and ham, spam, all manner of fish, etc, are not immune from being considered vegetables! Even when you say “No meat, only veggies.” Haha

    • Another thing is allot of energy drinks claim so be vegetarian because the animal products in them are under 0.5%. It’s wrong yes and I don’t see why they should get away with it. It’d the ingredient taurine which is acids from the bulls stomach I think.

      • Kelly Rickard says:

        taurine in energy drinks is synthetic because it’s a lot cheaper than actually using Bull sperm

    • Omg so true and sad. I am in the middle of my 2nd week of veganism. I found out that my fav wine Cupcake isn’t vegan. I was pissed!

  4. Alot of Asian restaurants use fish oils in their dipping sauce or dishes. I once ordered the Spring Rolls which were marked as vegetarian but later learned the sauce they came with was not.
    Also, canned beans sometimes contain bacon or other meats to flavor them, so you have to read carefully!

  5. Some of the best advice I ever got was to go to my local co-op an ask the nutritionist for a walk-through of the store. The store actually had a list of “common mistake” foods much like this one, as well as what product alternatives they had that were veg-friendly. SUPER-helpful!

    And, as someone who was knocked on her feet with a nasty stomach bug for two days this week, I heartily endorse Hain Superfruits as a veg “Jello.” 🙂

    • Gelatin is also found in medicines, too!

      • so are you ready,

        one option for thyroid medication can be desiccated pig thyroid. oh and “gel caps” contain gelatin and those bubbles your kids blow are made with glisserin. dont forget noodles have eggs. yogurt has gelatin. i also stay away from anything ‘tex mex’ as often they have bacon bits. oh and some places use lard in their deep fryers, like at carnivals (when it cools it hardens and is then easy to take on the road) and many asian/eastern european (lets face it everywhere in the old country or new) type restaurants use lard, so those spring rolls are extra friendly and that indian goat milk curry, not. the list can go on and on.

        also can i clarify a vegetarian vs vegan. now “”there is always an exception to the rule””. as there are many different types of vegetarians and even vegans.
        vegetarian = manly they still eat by-products of animals and maybe even eat eggs or fish as its not necessarily “meat” by some. but they most likely stay away from red meat. (aka lacto- ovo- vegetarian). some stay away from root veg or pungent veg like garlic.
        vegans = stay away from anything animal related including by-products in cosmetics, lotions, beeswax/honey, clothing (silk, lanolin etc) etc.
        then you have
        raw-vegans who manly eat their veg raw no cooking at all ever including cakes. basicly in its raw state/form and their is alot of cookbooks out about it.
        extreme vegan = im not sure of the name given it this type of eating but it goes like this. you only eat food that has been discarded by the plant, no picking apples you have to wait till it falls off.

        there can be man health risks by going extreme or even veggie if your not up on your knowledge of vitamins and minerals in plants.

        as i am a veggie/vegan i still eat gelatin free yogurt as i feel, personally, that it is needed for the bacterial health of my vagina (aka yeast infections). everyone has their own personal standards you can never guarantee say a veggie restaurant will meet YOUR STANDARDS.

        everyone is different so relax and enjoy
        i hope this helped 😉

  6. This is very interesting… I never imagined that Worcestershire Sauce was not vegetarian. I must say, the isinglass and rennet idea is repulsive. Not too crazy about the gelatin either. I’m usually quite good with reading labels, but I’ll have to step it up some!

  7. Another big one is wine/vermouth/sherry and other liquors. There are a few brands of vegan vermouths out there but most likely your manhattan is not veg 🙂

    • Eric, I’d heard the wine thing before, figuring it was along the same lines as beer (though other commenters say it’s even more frequent with wine). Yet somehow I had completely ignored the fact that sherry and vermouth are wines. I wonder if even the cooking versions you buy in grocery stores aren’t veg-friendly?

      • Check Barnivore website, lists beer, wine and liquor brands and whether they are vegan.
        We do u-brew wine which is from concentrate so doesn’t need to be filtered and is vegan

  8. Matt, Say it isn’t so! As an Italian veg, Parm cheese has been a flavorful part of my vegetarian diet. This might be the wake up call I needed to cut cheese all together. I am in shock…need to go walk it off. Ugggggg!!!

    Thanks for important info,

    • Kelly Rickard says:

      Parm cheese has to use animal rennet to be called parm cheese but veggie parm is just called Italian hard cheese

    • Red Lane says:

      My wife makes her own vegan parmesan cheese which is a great substitute. Just google it and choose one that is right for you.

  9. Matt –

    Many wines “fined” with animal products including egg whites, isinglass from sturgeon bladders, and historically, bull’s blood. I have a video with winemaker Tim Olson here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di6A5W–Fdg

    There are plenty of vegan wines available. First, any unfined wine should qualify, although there are enough nasty additives used that I would want to know my producer. We work with organic growers like Girasole and Barra from Mendocino and Pircas Negras from Argentina that label many of their wines vegan and use diatomaceous clay to fine their wines instead of animal products.



    • … I know this is late.. But diatomaceous earth is actually ground up old fossilized crustaceans.. also not vegan… but theyre thousands of years old.. and were already wayy dead.. but still – food for though! hehe

      • Stephanie says:

        Diatoms are actually a hard shelled algae. Algae is not an animal. It is even simpler than a plant. 80 million year old fossilized algae certainly is vegan.

  10. Mina Azarnoush says:

    Another really good thing to watch out for is vitamins and vitamin supplements. Any vitamins that come in those “gel” capsules most likely contain gelatin. I was buying flax seed oil (which is my alternative to taking fish oil supplements since that is obviously not vegetarian) and it turns out the vegetarian option still has animal product in it :(. I have always taken an omega-3 supplement, and since this is an unsaturated, plant based oil it is liquid at room temp, so the only way to take it other than a gel capsule is to buy a container of the pure oil and take it by spoon (it’s worth a try, it really doesn’t taste bad, and i’ve even started adding it to foods sometimes when I cook)This happened at trader joe’s, but i’m sure if one were to hit up Whole Foods they would be able to find a suitable gelatin-capsule alternative if taking oil straight from the bottle is not your thing.

    another one that got me a couple of years back is the cup’o noodles, I should have known better I supposed, but i got the veggie cup’o noodles and discovered halfway through eating it that there was chicken broth powder in it. I have heard that top ramen makes a noodle cup that actually is vegetarian, although I have not tried it since I’m trying to eat less processed foods.

    • Thanks Mina. I learned this when I took glucosamine supplements. I found out that many of them aren’t vegetarian because they contain shellfish somehow. And at the same time, I learned that most gel capsules are gelatin.

      • I thought glucosamine was actually shellfish and didn’t know if there’s an alternative, so went snooping… “Glucosamine is also the name given to the dietary supplement created through extracting amino sugars from the tissues of shellfish such as crab and lobster. There are also glucosamine sulfates, which are synthetically produced salts derived from naturally occurring glucosamine. These salts are sometimes combined with chondroitin sulfates to aid in the relief of arthritis and other painful conditions affecting the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Sulfates may not be as potent as extracted glucosamine.” http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-glucosamine.htm

      • jwoolman says:

        Glucosamine (an amino sugar) can come from the shells of certain shellfish but there are plant sources. The shellfish are not killed for the glucosamine in their shells… So the glucosamine is extracted from food wasteproduct (the leftover shells). However, anyone with an allergy to shellfish is advised to be careful about glucosamine supplements, since some people can be extremely sensitive and there might be residual protein from the poor beastie originally inhabiting the shell. I take Shaklee’s glucosamine supplement called “Joint Health Complex” which now is labeled “100% shellfish free” and “100% vegetarian” and “chondroitin free”. They’re reputable, so I believe the label. This is the newer formulation (as of 2012), the older one from a few years ago either said it was from the shells or that it could be. Enough people must have raised concerns about both the allergy and the vegetarian angles that they fixed on a completely non-animal source. My knees and I had decided I could manage my conscience for glucosamine from the shells since the poor critters were already dead for other reasons … but did not want chondroitin (often sold in supplements along with glucosamine) since that generally comes from cow cartilage. I don’t know if there are plant sources for condroitin.

        • The obvious ‘to avoid’ supplement is Cod Liver Oil…..when you think about it, but less obvious is that anything that comes in a capsule is suspect as the capsule is usually made of gelatine

    • nissan oriental flavor is veg. maruchan’s is not though.

      • I used to live on the nissan oriental flavor ramen, until about a year ago I didn’t eat it for a week and then ate it again. I started sweating profusely and got a very bad headache, blurry vision, dizzyness and heart palpitations! After reading the label and seeing it has a ton of MSG in it, I figured the MSG was causing these symptoms that I had been having, along with a bunch of others in a chronic condition, for many years! Now I don’t eat anything with MSG knowingly but sometimes if I accidentally get some, I will get all these symptoms about 8-12 hours after consumption. When eating it daily, the symptoms were constant so I didn’t relate them to anything I was eating. I know this isn’t a veg issue but since most of us eating veg are concerned for our own health as well as the other critters of the world, it is something to be aware of!

        • Hi Kendall, I’m sorry you had those symptoms! MSG is a nasty product and is snuck into many processed foods and restaurant food. Go to YouTube and search: excitotoxins the taste that kills by Blaylock. There is a short version. I ended up watching the hour long one and another on preserving your brain health. He will give a long list of other names for MSG. I wish I had known about this long ago before having kids. After watching those I’m not at all suprised about how and why we get so many degenerative diseases! ie. Alztiimer’s, Parkinson’s etc…

  11. Add “non-dairy” creamers! They contain calcium propionate (a preservative to prevent mold), which is typically ground up bones

  12. There’s just too much to watch out for; animal ingredients and by-products are snuck into many many foods. Learning about rennet in cheese is what made me take the plunge from being a life-long vegetarian into going vegan 5 yrs ago. It’s hard to be 100% sure that your foods outside the home are truly veg, so my basic rule is that if I’m not 100% sure, I don’t eat it.

    FYI – Masterfoods, the candy company that makes Mars, Snickers, Twix, etc. uses rennet in their chocolate-making process. Gross!

    Also watch out for things that just list “natural flavors” because these can be animal-derived and they don’t need to list this.

    The list goes on and on. Thanks for sharing this with veggies who might not know about these hidden ingredients.

    • Bess, thanks for the heads up on “natural flavors.” That’s the first time I’ve heard that they can be animal products, legally speaking.

      • McDonald’s puts beef bone marrow on their fries. For the longest time, they listed this under “natural flavors”. On that note, avoid fast food fries. You just never know!

        • WTF – bone marrow in fries, lard in re-fried beans, ground up bones, fish bladders,how on earth do they come up with these things! Thanks for opening my eyes.

        • Also, in addition to fries just being generally unhealthy, they are cooked in the same fryers as everything else in the place–like nuggets, Country fried steak, corn dogs, etc. Very rarely do restaurants have designated fryers for fries. I have worked in the restaurant business for 15 years and even as an insider and as a manager with access to specs and recipes, it’s difficult to navigate around all the animal products out there–like I said above, they are cheap. If I want to hold a sauce hot for 5 hours and I have to distribute this sauce to 100’s of locations around the country… what better to make them high temp friendly than by adding chicken fat as an emulsifier? Plus, in the thick of a busy dinner shift, if the cooks run out of bacon crumbles, the easiest way to recover is to throw 5 lbs in the fryer for a min and get back to it… that’s what your fries are cooked in now.

          • Not that anyone should eat McDonald’s anyway, but their fries are in a separate fryer, and some McD’s have separate fryers for chicken and fish. Of course, what the oil is made of is likely completely disgusting…

          • My babysitter used to work at McDonalds and she said that even though they have separate fryers, most workers do not care to separate. Many times if the meat fryers are full and they need more meat during peak times, they use the fryers for the french fries. Best to avoid McDonalds altogether.

        • Really?! On their site McDonalds says that their fries are one of the few things that are vegetarian, even vegan along with hash browns and i cant remember the others.) That is just potatoes and different vegetable oils…

      • Indeed! Some “natural vanilla flavoring” and “natural” berry flavors for example, are made out of castoreum which is derived from the secretions of beaver anal glands.

    • Eeeeewwww!!

      Eww eww eww eww ewwwwwwwww!!!

      What the hell!!!!

      (about the rennet in the chocolate-making process)

    • At one point Snickers and Mars weren’t vegetarian, as there was the use of gelatine. But they are now. They even have ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ on them. And, the ingredients don’t list anything that could be deemed un-vegetarian. By law, if any process has included any animal derived ingredients then they are not allowed to declare their completed products as ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’.

      Oh, and in case anyone was wondering. Don’t fret, not all Parmesan or hard cheese is unsuitable for vegetarians- Some contain ‘Vegetarian rennet’ which is the artificial alternative to normal rennet. Just check the ingredients. Having said that, a lot of the cheese you will find in the supermarket (In England anyway) are completely vegetarian.

      • Sorry, but there is simply no such thing as vegetarian parmesan. It has protected origin status, you can’t legally sell cheese as parmesan if it isn’t from the traditional area and made by the traditional process, which mandates calf rennet. There are some decent substitutes though – here in the UK Sainsbury’s sell “Italian Hard Cheese” in their “Basics” range, which is surprisingly good (and confirmed vegetarian!).

        • Maybe in the UK, but certainly not in the US. Check out CFR 133.165 – Parmesan and reggiano cheese (Code of Federal Regulations). Non-animal enzymes are allowed as long as the end product satisfies the description. 95% of the cheese made in the USA is made with microbial rennet (non-animal origin) according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org). Only 5% is still made with calf rennet. They’ve found that the microbial enzymes provide a more consistent product and also nowadays the source is more certain. You need to check with the company (or look at the VRG site, they keep up on such things) about specific products, especially since there are enzymes besides rennet that can be used that may be of animal origin. I don’t have a recent source, but a 2008 Vegetarian Journal from VRG said that Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese is not made with animal rennet (they use non-animal microbial rennet) although it might contain lipase (another enzyme) that may or may not be of animal origin. It is not uncommon for products such as lipase to be obtainable from either animal or non-animal sources, so unless you see something definite on the label – you really have to ask. The company might change its ingredients at any time, especially in response to consumer demand as well as costs, but they also might just have to say they don’t know because the source varies.

          • Don’t forget, “parmesan” is not the same as “parmiggiano reggiano”. Cheeses labeled parmeggiano reggiano can only have the appellation based on where the cheese is made, as well as the process– they get a special stamp. “Parmesan” is made in the style of parmiggiano, therefore, has a better chance of being made without animal rennet.

        • Only REGGIANO Parmesan is protected and must be produced a certain way.

    • jwoolman says:

      Go Max Go makes wonderful Mars chocolate bar vegan versions. I’m partial especially to Jokerz, which is like Snickers. You can find them wherever quality vegan junk food is sold…. I’ve bought them from veganessentials.com, they might be on amazon also.

  13. Matt dealt with this in the “Tortillas” section above, but most refried beans, especially those served in restaurants, contain lard (animal fat). Old El Paso makes a Vegetarian Refried Bean, but by and large it’s safe to assume that your bean burrito isn’t veg-friendly.

    • Andy, thanks for reminding me of this. It’s so easy to “purposefully forget” when I’m ordering a bean burrito that it might not be vegetarian. The more I hear it though, the more it’ll sink in. Although I usually get them at Baja Fresh, a no-lard restaurant.

  14. Great list, Matt. A lot of these things aren’t up my alley, but similarly, it never fails to surprise me how many should-be-vegan things aren’t, usually thanks to one tiny indredient or two. Ragu Old World Style marinara sauce, cheap and processed though it may be, was always my favorite jarred sauce (blame my mom for raising me with it), and a few years ago I discovered, and promptly lamented, the inclusion of a probably-microscopic amount of Romano cheese in it. Argh!

  15. Most of the yogurt in my grocery store is made with gelatin.

    • To Fran and everyone who said yogurt, thanks for teaching me something. I never knew that one. I wonder if the Greek yogurts do—I don’t eat yogurt but my wife does, and we always get Greek for the extra protein.

      • I started making my own yogurt for the taste, and it’s really easy! You can even strain it to make Greek yogurt. I buy a box of starter at Whole Foods in the cold yogurt section and follow the instructions that came with my Easiyo Yogurt Maker. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014GU46E

      • You probably already know this since the post is more than a year old but i’m reading this now eating a Chobani greek yogurt (the best g y out there;-0)and it is gelatin free.

      • Yogurt used to trip me up too. I’ve found that most of the organic brands are vegetarian. Look for pectin instead of gelatin as a thickener. I make my own too, you don’t even need a yogurt maker – a gas oven make the process really easy (the gas oven usually stays the right temperature for culturing yogurt from the heat of the pilot light). I just buy a carton of plain yogurt that I like for the culture.

        • Haha! I always make my own yogurt too, and I don’t use anything fancy like designated starters, or yogurt makers, or gas ovens! If you have a yogurt maker, that’s great too, because it might be a bit more convenient, but I”m posting this for anyone who likes the sound of making your own yogurt, but doesn’t feel like getting another appliance. I get an old spaghetti sauce jar (or any tempered glass jar, like a canning jar, will do), and pour milk into it so it’s almost full. Then I pour all of that milk into a pot, and bring it up to ALMOST boiling. Then I wait until it’s still hot, but I can leave my finger in for a few seconds. It usually takes about 20 minutes. I often watch a 22 minute sitcom as my “timer.” (If you want specific temperatures, there’d be info about that all over the web.) When it’s at that point, I add a couple of scoops of store-bought yogurt (or yogurt from my previous batch). Be sure it’s gelatin and whey-free, and that it contains the active bacteria. This is the starter. I pour it all back into that jar I used at the beginning, shake it up, wrap it in a towel to keep it warm, and leave it overnight. Some people put it in a cooler to keep the temperature stable, but a good towel should do the trick if your house isn’t too cold. Just make sure you don’t jostle it while the bacteria are trying to do their jobs. In the morning, you’ll have yogurt! It will be separated, and you can choose to pour the liquid whey off the top to make higher-protein greek-style yogurt, or you can stir it in for a more sour-tasting yogurt. Easy-peasy, low-tech, and kind of fun!

      • A little late to your posts…but watch out for carmine too – a food dye made from ground up bugs, found in various Dannon fruit on the bottom yogurts, including Greek.

  16. Thanks for the heads up! I had no idea that Parmigiano-Reggiano wasn’t vegetarian! I’m horrified now since I had a butt load of it on our Tuscan bike tour recently. hmmm.

  17. Wow – I had no idea about the Parm-Reg thing. Damn, that sucks. Like Courtney said above, maybe this is the last shake to get me to finally just drop cheese altogether.

    Another non-veggie item: Twinkies. I am sure none of is eat them as NMAs, but Twinkies contain beef fat. mmmmmmm.

    • All Hostess products contain “animal and/or vegetable shortening” and since animal fats are so cheap, it is most likely always lard!

  18. yogurt! i came upon the misfortune of discovering that Yoplait yogurt contains “kosher gelatin.” After thorough Google-ing I learned that their brand of yogurt (and many others I assume) are made with animal gelatin. So definitely seek out natural yogurts and double check the ingredients!

  19. As you mention, Guinness if iffy. And it breaks me heart! A great resource to find out of your brew, wine or spirit is vegan or not is http://www.barnivore.com/. They’ve contacted the companies to find out and posted the results. According to Barnivore, they’ve gotten so many conflicting responses from Guinness that they suggest for those that are concerned about its vegan status to avoid it. :::sob:::

    Thanks for the post, Matt!

    • wow its hard to believe that some of this is non-vegetarian iv been a vegetarian for a year now and its hard to keep strong i got to a big high school in anderson south carolina people are always picking on me and i had 3 class mates throw lettace at me last month i just wish there were more vegetarians here in anderson i mean theres like 2 other vegetarians in anderson if anyone has info on how to stay strong e-mail me or contact me at 864 940 9331

  20. Is it weird that I am more offended/grossed out by items that surrupticiously include animal parts than by straight out eating bacon? I am in no way a vegan or vegetarian for that matter, but I will take my gummy bears without a side of animal bones, thanks. Great list.

  21. Coffee Mate non-dairy creamer is not vegan (it contains milk derivatives). I haven’t checked other brands of non-dairy creamer.

  22. This is a wonderful list from the Vegetarian Resources Group on substances in food and whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or non-vegetarian. There are some shocking ones in there (human hair and duck feathers in your pizza dough?!) and it shows how some ingredients may have many origins (plant, fungal, animal, or synthetic) but companies are not required to put the source information on their labels:


  23. great great post. seriously. 10 out of 10 on this. very savvy.

  24. One thing that tripped me up initially was reading the labels of cheese packages — I didn’t know that “enzymes” likely meant “rennet.” (Personally, I think there needs to be a rule that says things should be transparently labeled – no nicer, more deceptive names for rennet.)

    I also didn’t know that nougat sometimes contains gelatin, but that’s okay because I was trying to kick my candy habit anyway. 😉

    Taurine is found in the intestines of animals, and while I have read the taurine used in most energy drinks is synthetically produced, I opted to use this as a reason to just nix energy drinks from my diet anyway.

    Sometimes, I feel like it’s better to just cut it out in case than assume you can have it because surely, it MUST be vegetarian. (Though it was a bit depressing when I caught a cold at work this winter and scoured the grocery store for Campbell’s vegetable soup . . . only to find it was made with chicken stock. I was an unhappy camper.)

    • Robyn, taurine is a great one. I didn’t know it came from animals. I don’t drink those kinds of energy drinks though. (I kinda wish someone would tell me coffee comes from animals.)

      • jwoolman says:

        There are non-animal sources for taurine. Seaweed is definitely one of them and is quite rich in taurine. I think that’s where they get the taurine for vegan cat foods, which have been around for many generations of cats so I assume the cats deal with the vegan formulas fine (unless they are actually significantly supplementing their diets with mice and birds while out of sight of their vegan pet humans). Cats are obligate carnivores without such human assistance, because at least two of their essential amino acids, including taurine, are not generally available to them except from animal sources. So watch labels and ask manufacturers, especially when dealing with supplements. The fact that taurine is an ingredient does not automatically mean it is from an animal source.

        • Just a note – cats are omnivores — case in point: how many times have you caught your cat eating your houseplants and grasses!? 😉

          • Get your info straight: cats eat grass or other plants to irritate their stomach, so they can puke the fur balls out, NOT to feed on. Calling a cat an omnivore is like calling a fish an air breather

          • Not true at all! Cats are obligate carnivores. While my bf and I try to eat as vegetarian as possible because of ethical reasons, I cannot or will not force my cats to eat such a species inappropriate diet and risk their health. That is not ethical at all. It is difficult to find ethically sourced ingredient pet food but not impossible.

  25. I am not surprised by this list, but now have a new issue.

    My (then) 6yo (1st grade) comes up to me one evening and announced she was a vegetarian. I was a little surprised, and after much discussion her reasoning was : Mama I love animals and I don’t want to die so I can eat.

    It seemed like a logical answer and down that road we went, which wasn’t a far stretch for our normal habits anyway.

    After reading this list though, I have a new issue for my (now) 8.5 year old. Do I continue to let her eat things (gummi bears), which in her mind fits her vegetarian needs and let her continue to live in ignorance? Or do I educate her (and respect her stance) and make her diet even more limiting? It’s interesting.

    In the end, I will probably treat her with the respect she deserves and educate her on the hidden ingredients that aren’t always obvious. Somehow though, I feel like I’m taking away some of the same childhood pleasures I enjoyed.

    • typos abound in my post. sorry about that!

    • JustJenKS, I don’t think ignorance is ever a good thing. Some people do though.

      That’s really neat that your daughter, at such a young age, is so aware that meat used to be conscious. I’d say tell her about gummy bears and let her decide for herself. It’s like telling her Santa isn’t real, but letting her choose to pretend if she wants!

      • I made the same decision when I was 4-5 years old. The Health Visitor told my Mum to disguise the meat to make me eat it. It affected how much I trusted my Mum for a long time after I found out she was doing that.
        Veggie alternatives in sweets can be found far more easily than re-building trust.

    • The way to go is to not think of a veg*n diet as “limiting.” I used to think that way when I was a big meat eater. Keep in mind there is an abundance of plant-based foods available, and with the human creativity and ingenuity there’s a limitless amount of combinations to put those foods together into something tasty and nutritious. When you think this way, the veg lifestyle then becomes a passion to explore and not a burden of sacrifices.

      If she has a sweet tooth (who doesn’t), you could probably help her replace the gummies with dates or some other whole-food fruit. There are even web recipes and youtube videos of banana ice cream made from solely frozen bananas. Refined sugar, especially an abundance of it, breaks down the immune system…thus should be avoided.

      • Thanks NMA and Warren.

        I don’t think of being vegetarian as limiting in any manner. I was vegetarian through most of my 20s, then the slippery slope began… added back in “just fish”, then “just chicken”, and then so on. So, when she came home and dropped the bomb, it was not a hard adjustment at all.

        I think it was the nostalgia of some of those childhood items that tugged at me a bit yesterday.

        But then I have to remember, that many of the ingredients that are common in food today, were not *cough* 25 years ago. (33 really snuck up on me!).

        Respect is a 2 way street in my house, and I see no alternative than to let her read this post, then talk about some of her other favorite food/snacks and let her decide for herself.

        I really appreciate the response and support.

      • “a passion to explore and not a burden of sacrifices.” <– I love that!

    • Mtoledo says:

      I have a son who is 9 and vegetarian. I always communicate with him and give him the option to know. If I discover a food he likes that has animal products in it, I ask him if he wants to know or not. Sometimes he does, sometimes he learns later on his own, but I had a hard time not being honest about it. It helps him to decide for himself if it is something he wants to continue eating or quit, but I like to let him have the choice.

      • I would just like recognize those of you parents that have commented about children being vegetarian. I’m so glad you are supporting them. I became vegetarian at seven and a half and I’m now fifteen. If your child wants to know tell them. But be careful it’s hard as a kid especially since so many yummy things aren’t vegetarian. Including, unfortunately red candy containing red pigments extracted from bugs. According to http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2011/05/09/12-seemingly-vegan-vegetarian-foods-that-really-arent/ it can be listed as cochineal, carminic acid, or carmine. It can also be found in other red things such as juice or colored pasta. if you copy and paste the website there are a lot of other good things you may not know. Including some cake mix that has beef fat! Good luck to you are your kids!

    • JustJenKS, I would buy her a packet of truly vegetarian gummies (from whole foods for e.g.) and explain to her that not all things are created equal and that some gummies actually contain gelatin, an animal byproduct. Then she will be able to make more informed decisions in the future.

    • you should definitely educate her! even though shes young she needs to know! if she finds out herself she will resent you! My mom tricked me into eating a lot of things that just make me want to kill myself. she really didn’t care enough about my feelings to let me know! its her decision, let her do what she will with that information! I was very young when I decided I wanted nothing to do with the slaughter of animals. I am now 19 and still very head strong. I would never try to change a non vegetarian unless they were open to all the facts. Its difficult at times, but also I feel like that’s just who you are and who you decide to be. I never had any influence. I just knew this is who I am…

    • You can get vegan gummy bears from Surf Sweet that are really good. I get them mainly from Thrive Market online, but they must be other places.

      Surf Sweet has other vegan junk food as well. Unreal is a brand that has all sorts of chocolate based junk food, including little peanut butter or almond butter cups for a Reese’s craving, but just mixing cocoa powder, powdered sugar (or any sweetener), peanut butter, and coconut oil will do it for me in an emergency. I used equal volumes of everything (including xylitol) when desperate and it was very good. I didn’t even bother powdering the xylitol, didn’t mind it being a bit grainy. And of course Go Max Go has vegan homages to all sorts of junky candy bars that are excellent.

      • Also quite a few gum drops use pectin or some sort of starch instead of gelatin. This includes spicy ones. Likewise have found licorice without gelatin, including black jelly beans. You can see my priorities.

  26. falnfenix says:

    regarding anchovies…many pasta sauces at good restaurants will contain anchovies for an extra kick of flavor. usually it’ll specify, but it’s something to look out for.

  27. Good post, Matt!! There are so many hidden animal products in foods these days…just another reason to read labels carefully!

  28. Here are my two cents:

    – be very careful with soy cheese. Many contain casein which is a milk-derived product. Look for soy cheese that is labelled as “vegetarian” or “vegan”.

    – some restaraunts specifically mark vegetarian products on their menu. Do not assume that vegetarian-sounding items that are not marked as being such are safe. I once ordered an artichoke and asiago dip which turned out to be made with chicken broth. I was not happy but only had myself to blame.

  29. Look for a kosher symbol on cheeses. Since cheese is dairy, which you can’t have with meat if following kosher laws, kosher cheese won’t contain (or be processed with) animal products.

    • Hi, I looked yesterday on a jewish website and I learned it was not true… Better call the company to make sure the enzymes are vegetarian.

  30. Gummy bears are the awesome and cheap alternative to shot blocks etc…unless you are vegetarian, which has always been what I’ve told folks. I haven’t tried the gu offering yet, one of my buddies that is sponsored by them is supposed to send a sampler out one of these days.

    I should really start brewing again…I’ve used isinglass in the past but most of my favorite recipes that I came up with didn’t need it.

    • Blaine, I’ve tried the GU chomps and found that of the all the gummies, they’re the ones that taste most like energy gels (in the bad way). But I didn’t even consider whether they were vegetarian at the time…

      Interesting that you’ve brewed with isinglass. I figured that was something that only commercial breweries used and wouldn’t be readily available for homebrewers. It just seems like such a weird ingredient. As someone once commented here, “Who came up with the idea to use a fish bladder product to clarify beer?”

      • I’ve got an awesome home-brew store near where I live (which just happens to be next to the fish market I go to) and he’s always had lots of good advice about things to try.

  31. In the opposite direction, I’ve always found it amusing that Bacos are vegan. Yes, there’s no real nutritional value to those salty bits and they are full of chemicals, but I found it funny that this over-processed salad topping was actually vegan.

  32. I was devestated when I realized about marshmallows having gelatin…I am a Peep fanatic and it just seemed like such a yucky ingredient in an innocent little Peep..I think Marshmallow creme (although obviously filled with sugar) doesn’t have gelatin, does it?

    • You can spend the money and get Dandies vegan marshmallows. I have to carefully ration them, but they are very good. I’ve found them online in many places. They taste like regular marshmallows to me, minus the stuff that I know where it’s been….

  33. I have been a vegetarian (not vegan) for 13 years, since the age of 28. I have not wavered once in that time from my core commitment. The way that I maintain my commitment to vegetarianism? By saying that I can’t control everything and just letting some things be, usually things that I consider to fall into the “vegan” camp. It’s not totally rational, but it’s how I make it work. I don’t eat Ceasar dressing, worcestershire sauce, Jell-o (COW BONES), or any meat-based broth. These are things I find pretty easy to control. What’s not easy to control? Rennet. If I cut cheese out of my diet, it would be so difficult to eat out in a restaurant EVER. Since it comes in microbial and animal forms, and most waiters aren’t going to be able to tell me what the dish is made with, I let that one slide. It’s my violation, and I’m okay with it. I also eat honey and the occasional Junior Mint (gelatin). It’s what works for me. I know some may judge my choices but I truly believe that every little bit counts when it comes to animal rights and vegetarianism, and my little bit is acutally a lot, especially over the course of my lifetime.

    That said, thanks for the post! I didn’t know about isinglass until a couple years ago – shattering for this Guinness lover, but that’s one that’s fairly easy to avoid and replace.

  34. Great post, I just learned that about Worcestershire sauce last week when I veganized a recipe containing it and thankfully read the label carefully before using.

  35. what about plain parmesan cheese (not the reggiano)?

    • Nancy, it depends on which “parmesan” you’re talking about. That name can now be applied to a lot of things (I believe there was a legal battle over this, the region that makes Parmigiano wanted to protect the name). Anyway, most blocks of cheese labeled “parmesan” list enzymes as an ingredient. I’ve actually seen cheese that lists rennet and enzymes as separate ingredients, so it’s technically possible that the non-rennet enzymes are vegetarian-friendly. I honestly don’t know any more than that; probably the best thing to do is contact the producer to find out.

  36. I am confused as to why some are surprised that parma-reggiano cheese or yogurt are not vegetarian… are they not dairy? Are they some forms of dairy that are vegetarian?

    • Laura, by most people’s definition of “vegetarian,” including mine, dairy is allowed. But dairy is certainly not vegan. (And I’ve heard a few sources define “vegetarian” in the same way most people define “vegan”; sounds like that’s the definition you know.

      Since obtaining rennet requires that an animal die (or be harmed, at the very least), I don’t consider it vegetarian. The fact that the animals used for dairy products are the same ones that end up being slaughtered for food is another issue, but definitely a compelling argument for veganism.

      • Sorry…have to add on:

        Regarding animals used for dairy products, there is also the dairy-veal connection. Calves born to female dairy cows are….I’ll leave the info to those who wish to further research for themselves. It’s all the reason to make pizza with herb-ed tofu ricotta cheese with blended creamy cashews and Daiya cheese =)

        By the way…This is a Super informative post Matt!

        • Warren, you got my mouth watering. I’ve made pizza and lasagna recipes with tofu- and cashew-based cheeses, as well as Daiya cheese, and they all taste better than dairy cheese any day. Even my non-vegan friends and family agree! 🙂

          • Exactly, that’s how I managed to become vegan. [I used to be the guy that made fun of vegetarians.] When I realized there is an infinite amount of amazing alternatives, I questioned why it was necessary continue to make sentient beings suffer? Being vegan is such a win-win-win situation: great tasting alternatives, better health (with good planning), and most importantly I don’t have to support factory farming.

          • Nutritional yeast with ground nuts/seeds works well as a cheesy topping for pizza or in sandwiches or on veggies or pasta. I like the commercial Parma! but it’s pricey. They even have a vegan bacon-flavored version (which alas is even pricier, will have to stick with the accidentally vegan Bacos and the like).

      • labels are a pain. officially, vegetarians don’t eat anything that comes from animals (dairy and eggs included). lacto-vegetarians eat dairy. ovo-vegetarians eat eggs. lacto/ovo-vegeterians eat dairy and eggs. then there are vegans who take it a bit further and don’t use anything that contains animal products, or that animals were used to produce, including: leather, honey, shampoos and moisturizers with cetyl alcohol (non-synthetic), etc. but that’s a lot for most people to remember, so we’re now accustomed to vegetarian and vegan labels.

      • If you go local or to the smaller organic farms with animal happiness first and foremost, as far as dairy obtained from sheep or goats, u can get lovely products that have been created from animal product that was obtained without any harm to the animal.

        • the main point here was these animals live out there lives on these farms and are let die naturally

          • Uh….no. It doesn’t matter how big the farm is, once their production rate drops, for hens at 1yr 6m and for cows 4-7 years (compared to 9 and 25 ‘naturally’, or 6 and 20 nowadays from their severe inbreeding) , it’s off to the slaughterhouse. That’s not to mention the calves torn from their screaming mothers and the male chicks ground up alive because they’re no good for eggs or milk. Or ‘debeaking’ where half the chick’s beak is snapped or burned off, tail docking in calves to make it easier to reach the udder, tail docking and ‘mulesing’ in lambs where huge chunks of skin and flesh are sliced from the rear to lessen flies when it eventually heals (even though the wound is usually infected long before), ALL without anesthesia or painkillers. The red jungle fowl that the domestic chicken is descended from lays 20 small eggs per year. Basically, 20 six-month old babies each year. Inbreeding has increased that to 360 large eggs, which means one fully formed baby worthy of the Guinness Book of Records EVERY DAY. “Like squeezing a wartermelon through a garden hose”, is used to describe the average human baby. Yeah, right. Try a microwave! The dairy cow produces up to TEN THOUSAND litres of milk each year, but should only produce enough to feed her calf, which would be only one thousand litres for the year. A whopping 50% of cows suffer from mastitis, a highly painful infection of their udder. Sheep naturally only grow as much wool as they need to keep themselves warm, the current amount is literally like growing up in Siberia and then moving to outback Australia, the hottest continent on earth, which, coincidentally, is where half of the world’s wool comes from, which turns ‘grown up in Siberia’ to ‘being a polar bear’, and many die of heatstroke. DONT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON ‘SILK’ AND ‘FEATHERS’ AND ‘LEATHER’.

  37. I’m always skeptical when I read a label and it says “enzymes” or “natural flavoring.” Natural flavoring can come from animals too 😕

  38. Mina Azarnoush says:

    oh also, a lot of soy yogurts are actually not vegan since they are often made from milk derived products. I have been strict vegetarian for awhile, and gave vegan a try, and i was eating soy yogurt thinking it was vegan, until one day i got smart and read the label, and the particular brand I was eating which was “Stoneyfield Farm’s O’Soy vanilla” said that it used milk derived cultures 🙁

    btw, this was a really great and useful post Matt, I never had even known or thought about there being lard in tortillas or beans!

  39. Kristin says:

    What about chewing gum? People tell me gum is made with sheep’s stomach…??

    • Kristin, I’ve never heard of chewing gum being made with sheep’s stomach, although I suppose it’s possible. There’s surely more than one way to make gum. I do know that when gum was first produced, it was made from the sap of gum trees; however, today it’s made primarily from latex and a host of chemicals. Go to YouTube and check out the episode of “How It’s Made” on how gum is produced. I know latex comes from trees, and natural gum comes from the gum tree, but after watching that show I can’t help but associate chewing gum with latex paint. I only chew “natural” gums now – if I chew at all.

    • Chewing gum can be, and usually is, made with both gelatine and/or glycerine (which may be animal derived, or possibly vegetable derived – look for a label that says “vegetable glycerine”, to be safe.)

  40. I really liked this post! I remember first starting out trying not to eat meat (all the way to vegan) and eating the Gardenburgers in the dorms — hellloooo not vegan!

    Nowadays, I eat limited dairy and find it appalling how it sneaks into pretty much every food I can put my hands on. Definitely makes me feel like I’m some kind of crazed picky eater, but I’m just taking control of what I put inside my body!

    And yes, it’s really hard to get pre-packaged goods or eat out in “normal” restaurants. I’ve had to learn these lessons one at a time — be wary of soups, dressings, etc. All that strain has caused me to be a bit more lax about that stuff than I used to be. If only the rest of the population would catch on…

  41. Even though I knew alot of this before, and some of those things don’t apply in my country (Norway) I think this is such an important post! There are so many things that suprised me when I turned vegetarian – like the cheese thing. One of the things that suprised me the most was when I was watching recipe podcasts, and they would insist on “vegan sugar”, and I was like heck – isn’t sugar vegan by default? My friends told me that in some countries white sugar is being bleached with bones. Yuk. Luckily this isn’t in Norway – phiew!

  42. though most vegetarians would probably eat it, any candies with “confectioner’s glaze” or “confectionary coating” are not vegan. shellac is made from secretions of the lac beetle. yum.

  43. Excellent post Matt. I’m also loving reading through the replies. Lots of great discussion here.

  44. FYI, GU Chomps (and all GU products) are vegetarian. I just confirmed with GU because GU Chomps are one of my two go-to energy sources on long runs. ~whew~

    • Amy, great to know! Thanks for finding out. I’m not a huge fan of any of these manufactured sugar products for running, but I do prefer the gummies to the gels, by far. So with GU, I guess that means all the big ones are vegetarian!

  45. I just gave up chicken/pork/beef and kind-of seafood 1.5 months ago so I’m a brand-new veggie! I try not to buy things with gelatin in them but I’m having a lot of trouble finding YOGURT without gelatin. So annoying!!

  46. Trader Joe’s used to have a flyer/card that listed out which cheeses in their store used what kind of rennet/enzyme (Plant/Microbial/Animal). Most European labeled cheeses specifically state ‘Animal Rennet’ – if they read ‘Enzymes’ those are generally microbial (Vegetarian ok)

  47. Not all cheese is made with animal rennet. Quite a few are made with vegetarian rennet. Traditionally, in Spain and especially in Portugal cheese was and still is being made with artichoke, cardoon or thistle rennet. Any employee at a reputable cheese shop or cheese counter should be able to tell you which of their cheeses are truly vegetarian and which are not.

  48. Here’s one for the total vegetarian/vegans – Guacamole can contain milk and/or mayonnaise!

    Things that contain gelatin: Planters Roasted Peanuts – glass jar only (!), Peeps, Candy Corn, Junior Mints, Starburst, Sweethearts.

    How about some orange juices contain fish oil (!)

    Wow – I love this post!
    Through 12+ years of trial-and-error,I’m still learning new, sneaky ways that animal products seep into SO many things. It was a big surprise to find out that marshmallows aren’t even lacto-ovo friendly. It was a shock to find milk products in Veggie Slices, Veggie Shreds, and veggie burgers too.

    I recently made an assumption error at an Indian restaurant – where I later found that my vegetarian veggie balls were actually made with Indian cottage cheese. I’ve learned to do menu research beforehand if possible, and never be afraid to ask and send back if necessary… then again – most waitress/cook spit probably isn’t vegan friendly…

  49. And then there’s the animal-based hair care/cosmetic ingredients: keratin, carmine and cochineal (from beetles!), collagen, elastin… I’m a label-reading maniac!

  50. Luckily, for me most of this foods are not a trouble. I hardly ever (if ever) eat out: the only food I consume often outside home is coffee. I don’t eat gums because I know they have gelatine. I don’t like beer and Worcestershire sauce it’s almost impossible to find here (actually, I’ve never tried it). The same I can say about tortillas. And I don’t eat cheese at all because I’m vegan.

    About more products that seem vegetarian friendly but are not….many, many Spanish pastries, especially the traditional Christmas like “polvorones”. They’re pure lard. The store bought puff pastry usually have it too. I haven’t found a vegan friendly brand yet 🙁

    • if those are the same polvorones we eat in puerto rico, its easy to make them using hydrogenated vegetable fat. not super healthy but veg friendly.

  51. Baked beans aren’t. especially “traditional” varieties. The sauce is made with pork. Not meat in it, as an ingredient somewhere else, but it was listed as part of the sauce. I was upset to read that AFTER I had a good helping or two…

  52. Wine is also made/filtered/clarified with Issinglass. Unless it states vegetarian on the wine.

  53. Kaitlin says:

    I was so excited to see you wrote aboout how Parmesan-Reggiano is made with stomach lining to hold the cheese together! I just got back from a study abroad trip to Italy, and we took a tour of a certified Parmesan-Reggiano factory where I too learned of this disapointing fact. I only eat cheese once in a while, but when I do I usually stick with parmesan or feta. Now I’m nixed the parmesan and am slowly moving away from cheese completely, cause let’s face it.. who wants to eat stomach lining?! Not I. 🙂

  54. Oreos most definitely used to have lard in them. They switched the recipe (and got kosher certification) when I was in high school, and it was HUGE at my Jewish school.

  55. Ugh. This list makes me sick to my stomach. Not that I have anything against meat eaters; but I just can’t tolerate the actual thought of eating some of this stuff…

  56. I just had this discussion on Happy Herbivore’s FB page last week…


    The topic was “Grossest non-vegan find.. something you picked up expecting it to be vegan and it had something nasty in it instead.” some of the answers were really shocking.

  57. Hey Matt—-

    As a newbie vegetarian runner, this post sucks. Why? Because you are making me realize how many animal products I ignored or had no idea about. Thanks for the heads up about soup. Never really thought of it.

    I am a lenient (not lazy) vegetarian. For example, if I had a Caesar (as you note) salad and it ended up having anchovies, I am not going to jump off a bridge. I think trying to make a conscious effort is the biggest thing at least for me.

    David Damron

  58. I hear ya about the the French Onion Soup. I made that very same mistake when I went meat-less for Lent. I also forgot that gravy is not vegetarian (what a stupid mistake!) I wish you’d written this post six months ago! 🙂

  59. lifelong says:

    Hi! I just found your blog and as lifelong vegetarian and now vegan, I’m curious about how you have made the switch. I wanted to mention that “organic valley” parmesan cheese is suitable for vegetarians, as are most of thier other cheeses.

  60. I was shocked when I found out my soy cheese had casein (milk protein) in it!

  61. GUM. Can you believe it? My mom brought over the new Trident Layers. My vegetarian daughter has me reading labels and I was shocked. Seems gum is one you must read the labels before chewing.

  62. Just found your blog. Love it!

    Another thing that seems like it should be vegetarian, but isn’t is hamburger/hot dog buns. Most of them – at least in the store we frequent – have dairy in them.

    • Hey Kendall, thanks! I had no idea about hamburger and hot dog buns. Is it butter, or weirder dairy products?

      • some breads apparently have pig hair in them… no kidding! check out this talk: http://www.tedxamsterdam.com/2009/video-christien-meindertsma-on-pig05049/

        pretty interesting… there is pig products in car paint!

        • Christie Stewart says:

          Thank you so much for sharing the video with us. I had no idea pig was used in most of the items this lady talked about in the video. Amazing, yet so very, very sad.
          Knowing bread has pig hair as an ingredient, I am quite distraught. Hmmmmm, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t eat bread every day, but it is a decent part of my diet.
          I have to think about this. I may have to start making my bread. That’s the safest thing to do.
          A proud Ovo-lacto vegetarian! = : )

      • No, just milk.

        • I feel as though the term you were looking to use in your original comment, Kendall, was ‘vegan’. I suppose vegans are classified as vegetarians at times, but I am certainly not a vegan. Milk products (excluding things that have harmful outcomes for the animal) are okay in my diet. I’m curious to see how other people use the terms, though. This was just my understanding.
          I’ve been a vegetarian since fifth grade (I’m now in tenth) and I’ve been caught off guard many times. I have to make everything myself now. I don’t mind it. I like the feeling of knowing
          exactly what is going in my food, and into my body.
          I’ve been doing some research, and it appears that cane sugar is not vegetarian, due to the filtration process including charcoal made form animal bones. I’m not completely certain, so does anyone know for sure? I know organic beet sugar is definitely vegetarian, if not completely vegan.

  63. Many restaurants (and people) prepare rice in chicken broth, rather than just boiling in water.

    Cochineal or carmine is a bright red food/beverage coloring made from the dried bodies of a beetles (Dactylopius coccus).

    Capsulated medications also typically contain gelatin. Don’t skip your meds, but see if there is a liquid or tablet form instead.

  64. I was at a winery/field a few years ago and these huge boxes of grapes, like 4X4X4, were ready to be shipped to get smashed, there were centipedes and ladybugs all over the grapes. Another fine mess….

  65. Hostess Cupcakes. Yup–animal lard.
    Jiffy Muffin Mix–also animal lard

    • Try Dr.Oeteker’s cornbread mix it is vegan and delicious! I use energy egg replacer in it.

      • Why use a mix? If you start with cornmeal or masa, you can control the rest of the ingredients. Maybe it’s because I’m southern, but I always start with local coarse-ground meal or, at the least, White Lily cornmeal.

  66. Well if we’re not talking about vegan here, then what about Yogurt? there are natural yogurts that don’t use gelatin, but many have gelatin in them.

  67. Thank you for clarifying the hidden ingredients. I also learned to watch out for mono and di-glycerides which are fancy words for lard. Most breads and tortillas contain it as well as JIF peanut butter, ice creams, sauces, margarine, and tons of other food items. I find it in places you wouldn’t dream of. I think the best thing is always read labels or stick to things labeled vegan to just plain avoid anything from animals.

    • No, if they have lard then it shows up as animal fat or lard on the label. People also have religious objections to certain food sources such as pigs (not kosher or halal), so often they specify what kind of lard or animal fat is used.

      The mono and diglycerides can technically come from animal fats or plant sources, but in the US it is very rare for them to be from an animal source. You should contact the manufacturer and ask them directly if needed.

  68. Kassondra Sheppard says:

    Baked bbq lays have chicken fat, though the original bbq ones don’t list chicken fat as an ingredient

    • Wow, gross. When you say the originals don’t list chicken fat as an ingredient, are you implying that they contain it but don’t list it? Or just making the point that it’s strange that they don’t, when the baked ones do?

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Although, the bbq lays (and most flavored potato chips) have milk in them – therefore they are not vegan. =( I’m pretty sure the Buffalo Wing flavored Pringles are okay, but after reading this post, I think I’ll re-check!!

    • I almost died reading this!!! These are some of my favorite chips, and though I rarely eat them, I did just eat some the other day. I am so dejected now. 🙁

  69. Thanks so much all…I forget about how they sneak animal products into so many things…Another I have found, maybe it has been mentioned is mashed potatoes, which are often made with bits of bacon, and spinich salad, which is often served with bacon dressing…:(

  70. someone may have mentioned this, but many curry pastes are not vegetarian as they have shrimp paste or fish sauce in them

  71. Whoa. I’m a relatively new vegetarian, and I’m glad I read this tonight, before my work potluck. This is semi-off-topic, but how do you navigate potlucks? Some things are obvious, but I don’t want to go up to each and every person and ask if their food has broth in it.

    • Chrissie, that’s a tough one. It’s hard not to offend people and make it seem like you’re too good for their food. I hate that feeling. This Thanksgiving, the hostess told the guests were vegetarian, so if people were using broths in their dishes, it’d be nice if they could use veggie broth for us. Otherwise, I would probably just not eat anything except my own thing. Kind of an awkward situation, but I really don’t know what else I’d do there.

      • Thanks! I ended up only having my dish and a few others that I had explicitly asked the people who brought them about. I would definitely be more upfront with my family, etc., but since it was work, I decided to err on the side of politeness.

    • Chrissie, I find that I can usually de-awkward-ize the situation by 1)asking what’s in it and explaining that I have certain dietary restrictions, 2)telling the cook that it looks/smells delicious, and I’m bummed that I can’t give it a try, and 3)asking if they’d mind sharing the recipe, since my husband and the rest of my family isn’t vegetarian/vegan, and I’d like to try making it some day for them. I find that if that doesn’t help them understand that I’m not snubbing them, then more often than not their problem isn’t with my not eating their dish, it’s with something else.

  72. I recently discovered that generic versions of Airborn contain fish! It’s in tiny print on the back of the package. Sure it’s in bold, but considering some people have allergies, it should be more obvious. I usually read labels before buying a product but slipped up in this case. Interestingly, the real Airborn does not say anything about fish on its label.

  73. Thanks for this post, Matt. I knew about the gummy bears (sadly one of my very favorite sweet treats!) but had no idea about the parmesean!!! WOW! Vegetarianism is CERTAINLY a wonderful learning experience.

  74. I thought all or most cheeses were made with rennet. I am not strict enough to eat only vegetarian cheeses, but I do buy them when possible, and I know that most Whole Foods brand cheeses are labeled vegetarian, including their parmesan.

  75. A coworker of mine told me that her husband delivers the food to fast food restaurants around here and that Taco Bell’s refried beans do contain lard. I wonder if things have changed.

  76. Hi Matt
    I really like your blog! I wanted to comment on the tortilla having lard. I am Mexican and have lived in Mexico for most of my life, tortillas rarely have lard, traditionally were eaten by our native American ancestors before the spaniards came and they are made from nixtamal a form of processed maiz or corn. Even today most mainstream Mexican tortillerias do not even add oil or lard to the dough. Having said that unfortunately i have not found any acceptable tortillas in the US. Be wary of retried beans those are routinely cooked with lard!

    • I’m a vegan and found that most tortillas contain l-cysteine. A customer service rep clued me in to the fact that L-cysteine is most often derived from human hair or duck feathers, and to a lesser extent from pigs’ bristles and hooves. She was not even a vegetarian but said that she wouldn’t eat the tortillas for this reason.
      Also, McDonald’s stopped using beef fat in their french fries but replaced it with synthetic beef flavoring that contains milk.

      • Christie says:

        Hi Monica, I found this at McDonald’s web site….
        this was listed for their fries…natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*
        I have no idea what the * stands for. I can’t tell if it is animal free or not.
        if you find an answer, please let us know. I very much enjoy hot, lightly salted fries. Yum! = : )

        • The full entry for McDonald’s french fries is:
          French Fries:
          Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid
          pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

          Not sure what that means about what else they add to the “natural” beef flavoring.
          If you’re an ovo-lacto vegetarian, they’re probably okay for you; they’re not okay for a vegan. Until I hear differently, my research and questions have led me to believe that I can get my french fry fix at Jack in the Box; no animal ingredients in the nutrition facts and not cooked in the same oil as their chicken and fish items.

          • Sorry, just noticed that my bad use of emphasis caused the applicable line to become invisible.
            Here it is:
            *(Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients)

  77. Wow I’m shocked that people had no idea these things weren’t vegan! Do people not read ingredients? I assumed everyone knew what gelatin was. People, if you’re going veg, for the love of God, do some research. It’s not hard to google animal ingredients.

  78. Sugar is often processed with bones or gelatin, but USDA certified organic is veg-safe.

    • That’s good to know! I don’t know that I’ll ever get to the point of avoiding sugar for this reason, but if I have the chance to choose organic, I’ll do it.

  79. This is a good reference for ingredients…where they come from, where they are used, and if they are vegan, vegetarian, or non-vegetarian.

  80. Not that they are worth eating, but many chips have chicken or beef fat. The most common ones are BBQ flavored, but I noticed once that one of the Sun Chips flavors had beef fat.
    I think the main point is that if you care what you eat- vegetarian or not, read the ingredient list of everything you eat. If the list is so long that you don’t feel like reading it all, then you probably shouldn’t eat it.

    • Thanks for the tip on Sun Chips! Didn’t know that. Now that I’m vegan, I’d check the label anyway, but I’d have never thought to look when I was vegetarian.

  81. Cheese isn’t vegetarian, period. It’s an animal product that’s for infant cows, not for human consumption. Cow’s milk and related products (cheese, ice cream, yogurt) contains casein, which promotes tumor growth and is linked to many auto-immune disorders. It also contains IGF-1 which promotes tumor growth. Avoid this dangerous food!

    • Yes it is, if it is not made with animal rennet. The UK Vegetarian Society is the oldest in the world, they even invented the term ‘vegetarian’ so they get to determine what their waord means, and they are very clear that dairy and eggs are perfectly acceptable vegetarian foods.


  82. Altoids have gelatin 🙁 I also look for capsules that are gelatin free when I buy vitamins or herbal supplements.

    • Torelai says:

      Altoids have gelatin?

    • Hi Anjali, even thought it is written Vegetarian Capsules, it does not mean the inside does not contain animal product. I work in the industy and a lot of products that are labeled vegetarian Capsules contain gelatin as a flow agen, or animal product like krill oil or glucosamin. Also vitamin B12 comes from the sheep wool, wich is not vegan, but not sure if it is vegetarian (I don’t think the kill the animal). it also can come from other animal sources or synthetic. I would call the company before buying any B12 exept if it is written vegan friendly.

  83. Torelai says:

    wow i cant beleve ive been eating all these foods

  84. The common theme here is that everything seemingly vegetarian (or vegan) but not is processed by someone else. After 3 years of eating vegan the only thing left in my cupboard that is “processed” is the occasional can of tomato sauce, oils and spices. Nothing with an ingredients list that you can’t read and understand in 2 seconds.

    As for eating out – the world won’t end if you accidentally get something made with animal products. If you’re eating 100% vegan at home and get the occasional meal out with a tortilla made with lard, your health won’t suffer.

  85. It’s not food, but most homeopathic remedies are carried in or derived from animal products. I work in a store that sells homeopathic remedies and has a large vegetarian/ vegan client base, and I am always surprised at the number of people who don’t know this.

    • Aaaaaaah!!!$$ Just dairy or other things too??? Are there any homeopathic companies that produce veg remedies?

    • jwoolman says:

      Many homeopathic remedies are obviously from plant sources. And the carriers I’ve seen don’t seem automatically vegetarian-unfriendly to me. The common liquid carriers are water or alcohol; alcohol may or may not be veggie-friendly because of processing, depending on personal preferences. (For instance, I’m not worried about it for alcohol used for such purposes.) The common solid carrier is lactose, a disaccharide also called “milk sugar” because it appears in milk and is generally obtained from milk in the food and pharmaceutical industries. This would be a problem for strict vegans but not for vegetarians. Lactose is a sugar, not a dairy protein, and so is not involved in dairy allergies, although many people have trouble digesting the lactose because they lack the enzyme lactase. The amount in a tiny homeopathic pill, though, may not be a problem for most people who are lactose-intolerant.

  86. Michelinas instant dinners such as their ‘penne primavera’ is most often made with chicken fat/broth. Watch out!

  87. Hello!

    First off, let me say how AWESOME your site is, and how much I appreciate people like you putting the world out on tasty, meat-free living.

    I wanted to contribute to your list of potential veggie ‘no-nos’. You probably already know this one, but two flavor enhancers found in MANY prepared foods are disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. These are most often derived from animal sources, such as fish.

    Apologies if this has ruined Doritos for anyone. Please keep up the good work!

    • I was craving barbecue chips and sauce thinking that it just went ON the meat not that the meat was INSIDE them. I’ve only found one safe bbq chip out there and that’s the Safeway Snack Artist one.

  88. Molly F. says:

    I have a friend who makes his own cheese (like mozzarella) in order to avoid the rennet problem. He has found vegetarian “rennet” at some specialty health food stores and online as well. Whatever it is made out of accomplishes the same thing as rennet, which causes the milk to “gel” into cheese.

  89. Just recently found out that my favorite spinach “vegetarian” enchilidas are not so much….they cook the spinach in chicken broth! Yuck! Also, spinach artichoke dip….same story!

  90. I had to thank you for this article! I read I feel like the dumbest vegetarian on the planet…going on 12 years and I had no idea what rennet was, and that it was in my feta cheese that I topped my salads with. It completely mortified me.

  91. If you are a vegetarian, you are still eating animal products, so what’s the difference between eating something with rennet (from a cow’s stomach) than eating a unborn chicken (egg) or milk that a cow makes that is meant for baby cows? No judgement here, just curious. As a vegan, it seems a little strange to make that distinction. I have no problem with people eating it, or meat, or whatever, just struck me as a little strange.

    • The main distinction is that an animal doesn’t have to die for a person to eat an egg or milk. An unfertilized egg isn’t a life and is never going to be a life. So eggs and milk are not actually animals or animal parts.But eating rennet or isinglass means the animal has to die to get that ingredient and they are animals/animal parts.

      • I’m sure those dairy cows that are kept in tiny stalls and the chickens that are kept in those tiny cages to have their eggs harvested would rather be dead! If you are veg. because you love animals, this is a very weak justification for continuing to eat dairy and eggs. I’m veg. for health reasons (not that I don’t care about animals-just not my main reason), but I would still eat a dead cow before I supported the horrific practices of the dairy farming industry!

        • Actually, cows are left to roam a field. They are not kept in ‘tiny stalls’. I come from a family of farmers, I don’t know what it’s like in your country, but in my country they live in a field. They just happen to be milked- also, if you don’t milk a cow they become uncomfortable, and it causes great distress to them, and may even cause potential disease, so why not drink something you have to milk from them anyway?

          Also- I eat only FREE RANGE eggs, which means that they’re also left to roam around a field. And it is not a ‘weak justification’, just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t make someone’s opinion weak. I do NOT eat eggs from CAGED HENS, but FREE RANGE only. In my country, they label which they come from.

          Again, I don’t know what it’s like in your country, or if you’ve even visited many farms. But I have visited a few farms, and I know the milk I drink to come from cows that roam a field, and the eggs I eat to come from chickens that are free to range. Even the RSPCA has to declare that they’re keeping up to the practice of what is considered a fair, and uncruel treatment.

          Of course, if you wanted to get right to how cruel and unfair everything is, I would just have to eat nothing, because everything at some point is technically alive. But, I’ve been down that anorexic path before, I’m not going down that route again.

          • Just to clarify, I am a different Rose to the person who commented about rather eating a dead cow than drinking milk or whatever. I’m the Rose that commented about Snickers actually now being vegetarian earlier on in the article.

          • Jessica says:

            Rose with the farms,

            What country do you live in?

          • Most milk in the US, as far as I know, comes from dairy cows that have to constantly give birth to continue producing milk. The calves are immediately slaughtered for veal or just thrown out as garbage. They are not given the chance to drink the milk that was meant for them in the first place.

            The point is, baby cows have to die for milk.

            I’m not sure about this, but I saw somewhere that in the egg business when they need new egg laying hens, obviously they need to hatch from eggs. 50% of the hatched chicks are female and 50% male. The females are raised to be egg producers, and the males are collected in a trash bag and thrown out. I could use verification on this.

            “Free range” can mean – and often does – that the barn has 3 walls and a fence around the outside. It’s not a large field where a chicken can actually live.

          • i’m know this is late, but you do not actually NEED to milk cows. if their calves are not taken away from them to be slaughtered, the calves drink the milk. cows only NEED to be milked when humans eat their babies. plain and simple. 🙂

  92. The most surprising non-vegetarian foods I’ve found are Frosted Mini Wheats (they contain gelatin) and most yogurts or foods with yogurt coatings. Avoid trail mix with yogurt covered raisins, many granola or protein bars also contain this gelatin filled yogurt coating. I’ve even found a yoplait smoothie mix that contained gelatin. It is sooo frustrating to me how companies try to hide the fact that their products contain gelatin. Why can’t things be clearly labeled.

  93. Single packaged cheeses also contain gelatin! I don’t eat them anyway because it’s not vegan but the gelatin makes it non vegetarian as well. Also some sunflower seeds have gelatin to coat the outside and some cranberry sauces.

  94. Doritos Nacho Cheese : (
    In fact, many chips that have a cheesy flavor aren’t vegetarian.

  95. Don’t cook with your oil-based supplements, this often changes their composition and can negate the very benefits you were taking them for!!

  96. I’ve been a veg with increasing levels of discipline since the age of 3 (starting with ” Mummy, why’s that meat cow shaped?” hanging in the butcher shop window). I’m now 28 and confess I’m guilty of being lax on gelatin and rennet, though shudder to think :/. However this is the first I’ve heard of the beer/ wine issue. The worst is the feeling of being duped by hidden ingredients. I’m always suspicious of “unidentifiable food” i.e. Soups , sauces etc and was recently horrified to find my boss had fed me veg stir fry with fish sauce, blech! Tempting to get really serious and go vegan properly but imagine I’d really seem a control freak then.

  97. Sorry if this is a duplicate post, I didn’t read the whole comments section.

    “Carmine,” usually listed in ingredients as “Red #4,” is an insect that produces red coloring. They grind up thousands of the little guys to make a bit of dye. It’s in a lot of candies, red juices and yogurts, basically anything that is dyed red.

    It’s a super sneaky non-vegetarian ingredient and makes even red grapefruit juice non-veggie friendly!

    Research any generic ingredients if you don’t know how it was made- that’s usually a sign of animal ingredients. Or just stay away from anything processed and with more than 5 ingredients that aren’t all real foods.

    • I gotta say, that’s just disgusting.
      Thank you for this post. I was completely unaware that some of the candies I was eating contained ground up insects. I really wish it was illegal to list ingredients as anything but what they really are.. If you’re going to color your candies with handfuls of bugs, you should be required to say so on the label.

  98. Thank you so much for this remarkable article. As of last Thursday, I’ve been veg for 20 years now and did not know about a few of these. Beer and wine? That’s shocking! I also wanted to add, for anyone that is interested, that Angostura makes a good worchestershire sauce.

  99. JustCallMeEst says:

    Hi, I’m veggie for about two months already and I almost started from the beginning today by eating some YOGHURT. I was lucky, I saw the ingredients list a few seconds before opening the package. I’m not sure if that was mentioned already, since I didn’t read through all te comments, but there’s some gelatine in it as well…

  100. I used to work in a restaurant in Seattle that was Mexican themed. I once had a customer ask if there was lard in the refried beans. I had no idea, so I asked. The man was a vegetarian, and unfortunately the beans did contain lard. I felt bad for him, and I wondered why they would even use lard. I guess it’s more authentic and traditional. Seriously though, this restaurant was neither authentic nor traditional. It was really just cultural appropriation at its finest.

  101. Rennet is used in most cheeses, but it can be derived from plant sources like nettles and thistles. You might want to check with the manufacturer.

  102. I’ve been debating whether to give up cheese and after googling rennet this convinced me:

    Natural calf rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber (the abomasum) of slaughtered young, unweaned calves. These stomachs are a by-product of veal production. If rennet is extracted from older calves (grass-fed or grain-fed) the rennet contains less or no chymosin but a high level of pepsin and can only be used for special types of milk and cheeses.

  103. Yeah, not all beer/wine/liquor is vegan. To find out what kinds are, here is a very useful site: http://www.barnivore.com/

  104. Thanks for the link to Barnivore. I’m thrilled to see that my usual brands – Corona, Tecate – are vegan friendly. Unfortunately, my favorite, Indio, was not on their list, but it shouldn’t be hard to find out.

  105. What an eye opening post! Thanks for shedding light on these stealth ingredients. Will pay extra care from now on! And perhaps stick to home cooking – saves cash, too!

  106. Great article and comments. I just learned today that skittles are now gelatin-free. I’ve been avoiding them for years. http://www.vrg.org/blog/2010/12/30/new-formulation-skittles-are-gelatin-free-starbursts-gummibursts-contain-non-kosher-gelatins/ In addition to some yogurts, some sour cream brands (and sour cream-based dips) also contain gelatin. Mac and cheese in restaurants and delis often contains chicken fat or chicken broth. I’m sure I’ll think of others to add.

  107. Couple other things: Cochineal and carmine (red dyes in food) are made from ground up beetles.

    Also, many processed miso soups contain bonito flavoring, which is fish. Miso soup is easy to make and so much better (tasting and healthy) when homemade fresh, anyway. (As a sidenote, miso soup–with wakame sea vegetable–is great to eat after getting an xray or ct scan because it pulls radiation out of the body. Get at a Japanese restaurant or google for ingredients.)

    Thai food (which I love) often has fish sauce in it. I found a vegetarian mushroom-based ‘fish’ sauce at my local Asian grocery (called vegetarian fish sauce). It is really savory and delicious–adds that extra something to my Thai cooking.

    Lastly, after I read the comments above, I read http://www.petakids.com/candy.asp. I found some really terrible and gross ingredients that I didn’t know about: Cetyl palmitate (in some margarine and is a waxy oil from the heads of whales or dolphins), Urea (which I knew was from urine and in some cosmetics, but didn’t know it’s in some pretzels!), Stearic acid(another word for lard), and pepsin (from a pig’s stomach lining).

    I’m certainly going to be cooking more from whole foods to control what we eat. Here is a detailed/complete list/dictionary of animal ingredients: http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/animal-ingredient-guide.aspx

    • jwoolman says:

      Stearic acid is not another name for lard. It is a long-chain fatty acid that is a component of lard but also of plant oils (a major component in some). Urea is a very simple molecule that was first discovered in urine but also is available from various plant sources. Our bodies synthesize it routinely. Cetyl palmitate is a wax which is a major component of the wax found in sperm whales and dolphins and also in certain corals. But it was actually first discovered in palm oil and often is obtained from palm oil today. It is a derivative of palmitic acid, which is found in both animals and plants. Pepsin, on the other hand, is an enzyme (a type of protein that can speed up specific chemical reactions in the body) that does indeed come from animal sources. At least I’m not aware of any routine process synthesizing it from plant sources today.

      So you can see how complicated it can get – stearic acid and cetyl palmitate, for example, aren’t automatically from murdered animals. Some products will specify vegetable source. But as far as I’ve ever seen, the food industry uses gelatin from various animals’ skin and bones. I wish they would indicate the specific source on labels, but I suppose that would gross everybody out. The kosher label just tells you that it wasn’t from a pig. But the gelling property from which gelatin gets its name can be provided by plant products such as carrageenan, pectin, agar, and guar gum. Yes, you can get gelled desserts made without gelatin – check the labels, even for those little snack cups.

      Basically, if you want to be absolutely sure of the source of many things on “this isn’t vegetarian” lists, you really have to ask the manufacturer of the product because the source can be either animal or plant. Such lists often have other misinformation in them as well. The Vegetarian Resource Group is pretty good about asking companies directly and publishing results and they have a long rep for being careful. I wouldn’t trust PETA’s information as much, this area isn’t really their major mission.

  108. Good grief! That sent me scurrying to the cupboards… After checking everything I can report no untoward gelatine inserts or chicken stock backdrops. Really useful information on all the stealthy ways meat can wander into a vegetarian diet though and I’ll be more vigilant in future.

    It’s maybe a bit easier here in the UK. There is some pretty sound legislation on labelling vegetarian and vegan food (http://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=767 and http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/vegitermsgn.pdf). ‘Safe’ foods usually come with a big green statement of suitability for vegetarians or vegans as well.

  109. I don’t eat meat or fish (seafood of every type is beyond disgusting) but other than that…I could care less. I eat S’mores with my kiddos in the summer, cook with vegetable broth, but don’t sweat it if my mex. rice/wine/beer/parm. cheese is not 100%veg*an.

  110. I did not read thru every comment, but I while looking up the gluten free status (my son has celiac’s) of certain french fries, I learned that mc donalds uses some form of beef in their fries

  111. I was surprised to find that not all hummus fits the definition for vegetarian.

  112. Mentos. but who the hell eats Mentos anyway?

  113. Don’t forget that some yogurts contain “Kosher Gelatin” and a lot of things in the store that are marked “Vegetable” instead of “Vegetarian” contain meat. I was going vegetarian for a year and have been eating gummy bears, yogurt, jelly and some soups for 6 months now. Postponing my end date…again!

  114. Zoe Phillips says:

    Fanta has fish in it, FISH IN A DRINK, its just not right

    • jwoolman says:

      I saw fish as an ingredient in popcorn once. Popcorn! What were they thinking? It was just one flavor of Orville Redenbachers, can’t remember which one. I suppose it was just a flavoring of some sort. But still …

  115. Mackenzie Nelsen says:

    I just learned that movie popcorn is fried in lard!! 🙁
    It seems people have no consideration.

  116. tillamook medium cheddar uses PLANT based rennet, thus making it vegetarian (but not vegan, obviously). i believe it’s certified kosher, too.

  117. A lot of other alcoholic drinks aren’t vegetarian either. Mainly wines, ciders, etc. I don’t think Martini is suitable for vegetarians.

    Many vitamin tablets and health supplements contain gelatine, especially ones where there is a shell containing powder. I personally do not extend my vegetarianism to cover prescription medicines. If you do find yourself in this situation, you might potentially be able to get around it by buying some starch or pectin based capsule shells and emptying the powder out into these.

    Many foods that claim to have added Omega oils derive these from fish. This includes supplements and things such as Omega-enhanced spreads that a health-conscious vegetarian might unwittingly opt for!

    Parmesan cheese is another that legally must be made using animal rennet. I buy my supermarket’s generic ‘Italian hard cheese’: it tastes the same, is vegetarian and costs half the price as well!

    • jwoolman says:

      Not in the US- most Parmesan cheese here is made with veg enzymes rather than animal rennet for cost reasons. Definitely not illegal, I looked at the federal codes. Italy and elsewhere in the European Union may be different because it’s a specific local product. Manufacturers will tell you here which source is used, or they will tell you it varies depending on costs. Vegetarian Resource Group has good information.

  118. Christie says:

    Matt, I love your web site! So informative! = : )
    Thank you!

  119. check out carmine (E120)

  120. juliogirl says:

    I’ve been vegetarian 4 a while, and I never knew what was in gelatine. I occasionally eat gummy bears/worms, yogurt, marshmallows, jelly, and rice crispy treats.

    2 thing u should know: some smuckers jam does NOT have gelatine in it. Sad thing, MOST Sees candies chocolates have gelatine in it. Boo hoo!

  121. I recently just became a vegetarian (I joined PETA thinking it was just about animal rights, and they’ve finally shoved me over the edge into being too revolted to eat meat), and I have to say this post would have put me over if PETA hadn’t.
    I can’t believe how many things somehow contain animals. I was going to continue drinking milk and eating dairy products, but now I’m not so sure.
    If I thought being a vegetarian was difficult before, this was a real eye-opener.

  122. Julie Rizzuto says:

    i’ve been a vegetarian for 26 years.
    egg drop soup can sometimes be vegetarian friendly, but more likely contains chicken broth, so ask.
    (most soup bases contain beef or chicken stock)

    mcdonalds hashbrowns. contain beef!!!

    always check cookie ingredients for lard as well.
    almond cookies, etc…

  123. Sabina :) says:

    I always new gelatine was made from animal bones , but i never associated with the gummy bears !! Its crazy !!! But if you have a sweet teeth their is vegetarian gummy bears in natural shops ! I actually saw it yesterday !!!!!

  124. Just wanted to mention that even if you find a rennet-less cheese, the baby cows and moms are still torn apart shortly after the babies are born. The males become “veal” calves. The mothers are typically killed at around 4 years of age when they are worn out from over-production of milk and being kept pregnant. Fortunately there are some great dairy-free cheeses out there including Daiya and Follow Your Heart brands. Follow your heart to a vegan diet… 🙂

  125. I have been a vegetarian my whole life and was sad to learn that
    Altoids mints, junior mints, many lifesavers and Starbursts are ALL NOT VEGETARIAN! I’m really sad, every candy up there was a favorite for me!

    • I know it’s been a while, but Newman’s Own makes some AMAZING veg-friendly mints. I miss the ginger Altoids, but Newman’s Own has no gelatin and it tastes the same!

  126. Frosting on pop-tarts and cereals such as frosted mini wheats… They have gelatin that helps bind the frosting to the pastry. Many yogurts use it as a cheap thickening agent. Ive noticed, however, this has been changing and there are more non gelatin yogurts out there.
    Altoid mints have gelatin… I was floored with this one!

  127. Rhianna A.L. says:

    Cheese originally was made with calves’ stomaches. I don’t remember where I learnt that, but think it’s interesting. A person carried milk in a calf’s stomach across a desert, and discovered it had turned into curds and whey.

  128. Just thought I would throw in here if it hasn’t been mentioned yet, but there are quite a few cereals (and granola bars) that have gelatin in them as well, as well as a lot of store bought dairy yogurts (I’m vegan but my husband and daughter are vegetarians so I am always on the watch with their grocery items as well). With my daughter too liking things that most children do, I have found a recipe for vegan marshmallows, but you can also always order them on line or get them from a local kosher grocery shop too.

  129. The parmesan cheese that comes in a container already grated has cellulose in it. I was really surprised when I heard that. It’s used to prevent clumping, so I’m pretty sure it’s only in the kind that is already grated.

  130. Re cheese – given that a cow had to have a calf in order to produce the milk for the cheese, isn’t it a little disingenuous to worry about using the rennet from the calf which in 50% of cases will be a beef animal and 25% of cases a male dairy animal which is either good only for veal or shot at birth?

  131. If you use pancake mix definitely read the ingredients! I’ve seen beef in pancake mix… WHY,?!? I assumed that pancakes were safe… Nope. I’ve asked when eating out and found some pancakes at “restaurants” were not vegetarian. I was also horrified to find out Jiffy corn bread mix is tainted!

  132. Also very important to note that MANY MANY chickens are fed fish-oils to increase the omega-3 content of their eggs, so TECHNICALLY eggs with “extra omega-3” are not exactly vegetarian….

  133. Thanks for this great list!

    I recently learned (and you mention that Chipotle pointed it out to you) is that “frijoles fritos” or fried beans Mexican-style (I should check if it’s true about the canned stuff as well) is made with pork fat to start and usually has chorizo (or other cured meat) bits that go unnoticed.

    Also, my favorite Italian dish, risotto is usually made with beef/chicken stock at restaurants. I now only have it at home where I know I use veggie stock.

    I was really surprised by Parmigiano Regiano! How dissapointing to have been consuming this unknowingly!

  134. I just learned about the anchovies in Caesar salad dressing. And I had been eating it on my salads everyday for a month and a half! I knew all the other things, but I guess you can never be too careful about checking the ingredients.

  135. I didn’t know candy corn had gelatin until just recently and thanks for the heads up on the jelly, I’ll have to check all my fruit butters.
    Whole Foods grated parmesan is vegetarian- they use a vegetable rennet (their crumbled cheeses are, as well).
    I’ve never understood why companies/restaurants make a vegetable soup with chicken or beef broth, it’s VEGETABLE soup. My guess is it’s cheaper or they have the stock on hand from cooking meat.

  136. Andrea Washburn says:

    Don’t forget about bread and ice creams. A lot of bread has mono and di-glycerides. These are often animal in origin. Ice cream has this and gelatin a lot of the time.
    There is also info that states l-cysteine is from humans. It is sourced from barbers in Asia and put in dough.

    • Mono and diglycerides are not often of animal origin in the US. You have to ask the manufacturer to be sure, but only a few percent comes from animal sources here.

      Likewise, animal rennet is rarely used in mainstream cheeses here. Microbial enzymes are so much cheaper and more consistent. Enzymes on a US label (rather than rennet) generally means microbial. But you can always ask the manufacturer directly.

  137. Angelfire13 says:

    Not sure if someone else mentioned this already (I didn’t read every single post, just most) but most refined cane sugar is not vegetarian. Part of the refining process includes using activated carbon, which is often animal bone char. This does not apply to beet sugar. That means that if you buy any product made with refined cane sugar in the ingredient list, it is almost guaranteed to not be truly vegetarian.

    When purchasing refined cane sugar at the store, be sure to purchase one labeled “vegan”.

  138. I used to work in a restaurant (a steakhouse, no less), and the only thing I could actually get away with eating was the bread that they served dipped in marinara sauce.

    I later found out the marinara was made with chicken base.

  139. Belsnickles says:

    So, there I was eating my toast with light, “healthy” butter spread and idly looking at the ingredients when the words “fish oil” catch my eye. Fish oil? In butter?? Ok, so it was technically “butter”, but still… Going to be a lot more careful with labels from here on out. (Incidentally, Whole Foods sells a rennet-less vegetarian parmesan that is a good alternative if you’re not vegan.)

    • jwoolman says:

      Combinations of ground nuts and nutritional yeast make great vegan parmesan substitutes. Parma! is the best commercial one I’ve tasted, at least the old formula (which was walnuts, nutritional yeast, and salt). Haven’t tried the newer version, which adds sunflower seeds and hempseeds, I think, don’t know how great that is. If it isn’t up to my new standards set with the old formula, I’m going to just experiment with making it on my own with the original ingredients. Even I should be able to steal some nutritional yeast from the cats’ stash and grind it up in a personal blender with some walnuts and salt …. The old Parma! formula tasted better than Parmesan to me, and could be used just like Parmesan on anything – pasta, veggies, I’ve even sprinkled it on sandwiches. I’m sure there are loads of recipes floating around the web, just look for vegan parmesan.

  140. Beans, either from a can or a restaurant ALWAYS ask. While many places use vegetarian beans, a lot still use lard.
    Cookies and cakes at bakeries. If it’s a traditional bakery it might have lard.
    Tamales often have lard, make sure to ask.
    Yogurt and pudding. Oh god, I love yogurt but just about every brand has gelatin in it.
    Rice seasoning and instant foods. Bonito is dried fish.
    Some apples are shined with a chemical derived from beetle shells.
    ANYTHING from McDonalds, even their fries. They put out a statement a while back saying they use lard. (On the plus side Burger King fries are certified vegan, as are Inn-and-Out)
    Many of the healthy nut bars use gelatin to keep them together. Some brands use tree sap, which is awesome.
    Mashed potatoes at a lot of restaurants have chicken stock in them.

  141. Just about every food besides fresh veggies and fruits will have some form of animal product, even your “vegan safe” things if they have some preservative, dye, so on. I dont see the point of being vegitarian, are your eyes on the sides of your head like a cow or facing forward like a wolf? I mean come on. one of the primary resons we have the mental compacity we do is because long ago are ape homo genius ansestors started hunting. beyond that know how many living orginisms you kill every time you shower or wash your hands. yes oreos do its jeletain not lard

  142. shouldent eat eggs eather technacily they are a single cell and living.

    • jwoolman says:

      Unfertilized eggs are not non-vegetarian. Those chickens, like human females, keep ovulating even when the rooster isn’t getting busy with them ….. 🙂 They need the rooster’s contribution to qualify as a potential chick. Don’t know if egg cartons will tell you (I’m allergic to eggs), but if you buy local then you could probably find out.

  143. I ate bone char sugar by accident. Then once I corrected one, I ate Kraft Mac and cheese with animal enzymes. Then I corrected that and now I don’t (think) I have any other things with problems. I actually knew gummy bears and marshmallows weren’t vegan for two years but it wasn’t until I went vegetarian I found out exactly what it was

  144. Ashwini K says:

    Hi, First of all great eye-opening post! Thanks a ton! You have received many valuable inputs and comments from your readers who have pointed out many other (non-veg) products which can be easily mistaken for vegetarian. Could you please consolidate and add those to your main post? That will save many readers like me from reading all the comments to know about such products. Thanks again. Pls keep up your work!

  145. I couldn’t read through all the comments, so this may have been mentioned, but Jiffy products have animal shortening in them. That was an unpleasant surprise when I first started out a vegetarian. I just had to find alternative cornbread mixes. (Their muffin mixes contain it too)

    I am actively trying veganism as of yesterday. Having been a vegetarian for 6 years, I figured it was time to take my commitment up a notch. That’s actually how I stumbled upon this post. I know I will need to prepare for all the sneaky ways that food companies stick animal products into seemingly violence free foods. Thank you to everyone who helped expand my knowledge with this post and comments!

  146. I know Smarties by Nestle aren’t vegetarian, as the red ones contain real cochineal, but what about MnMs? Also I don’t see the point in using real cochineal, I would have thought it more expensive and time consuming to produce.

  147. Altoids – they contain gelatin too!

  148. Check your cream. Even the cream you have to whip yourself often has gelatine added. I always look out for pure cream but that one really shocked me when I first heard it.

  149. Audrey says:

    Just emailed Wrigley and heard back, all of their gum, except for Extra Polar Ice and the Orbit Mist flavors, are completely animal free. So there’s a lot of options for vegan gum, basically.

  150. I guarantee no matter how vigilant one is, even the strictest vegans regularly, if not daily, consumes non-vegan foodstuffs. Don’t become distraught or frustrate, but rather, accept it and keep tryin’ your lil best.

    Vegetarians and vegans eat foliage- the same foliage upon which animals live, sleep, have sex, lay eggs, and eat. It’s silly to think you aren’t consuming these animals, insects, maggots and/or their lava and eggs when stuff like eating spinach, peaches, mushrooms, etc. See below for link to the FDA guideline for the acceptable level of animal fragments, excrement, mold, decay, rancidness, etc. that are allowed to be in your food without being required on the ingredients list. (By the way, since excrement is an animal secretion it’s in the same category as milk & honey: acceptable for vegetarians but unacceptable for vegans.)


    Non-veg things to look out for:

    SUGAR derived from pure sugar cane goes through a purification process using bone char. Bone char is manufactured by using bones from cows that have died of natural causes. These bones are mostly from the countries of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. After being bleached by laying in the hot sun, they are then sold to exporters who in return sell them to the gelatin and sugar companies. How many times a day do you consume a gram of sugar? Do you always stop to ask if that cookie, breath mint, or lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand was made with the right kind of sugar?

    PEANUT BUTTER- The FDA allows bugs and rodent hair in peanut butter. – The FDA allows an average of 30 or more insect fragments and one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams of peanut butter.

    GRAPEFRUIT JUICE that comes with a pink color contain bugs. You won’t find it listed in the contents, but they’re definitely there. The insects are in ordinary food coloring named cochineal extract, carmine, or carmines acid. The reddish color is derived from the insect known as Dactylopius Coccus Costa, whose diet is of red cactus berries. The bugs are dried up and then ground into a fine powder that is used in a lot of processed foods with a pink, red or purple tint.

    SLEEPING is not vegan because of the numerous spiders and bugs eaten while sleeping. A dedicated vegan would tape their shut before sleeping. And when talking about their supposed vegan adherence because talking requires opening the mouth and thousands of dust mites and small creatures will enter the mouth when it’s open.

    In the end, there are thousands of technical and patented names for ingredient variations that disguise and confound their animal origin. Even if you know what the ingredient is, many ingredients known by one name can be of animal, vegetable, or synthetic origin.

    But honestly, I think people should reassess their fascination with food and diet.

    Everyone either EATS TO LIVE or LIVES TO EAT. If you spend multiple hours a week thinking about the food you eat, you probably fall into the category of “living to eat”. And I’m not just talking about the fatties who love stuffing their fat faces with everything in sight. Skinny vegans and vegetarians who exert vast amounts of energy agonizing, researching, obsessing and splitting hairs over food origins are “living to eat” and often forgetting the primary purpose of human food: to sustain the body so that together we can accomplish feats greater than simple survival and perpetuation of the species.

    Living to eat is perpetually unsatisfying as the hunger will return in a few hours anyway.

    Go outside and live. Good luck.

    • Indeed its not easy to be vegetarian or vegan! Other than your silly/wild comment about eating numerous bugs and spiders while sleeping, there’s so much that (especially) vegans have to watch for. By the way, you may want to find out to what extent some people would go to avoid cruelty to animals (ingesting them, mostly) and still live long, healthy and happy lives check out Jains or Jainism – a religious sect / religion from India.

  151. I’m veggie, not vegan, and recently splurged on a twinkie only to discover it’s made of beef fat!! Also, most spinach-artichoke dips have chicken stock, as does much restaurant rice…

    • Look for Tastykake versions…. they don’t seem to use animal fats. But the only ones I’ve seen from Hostess are a couple of their mini donuts.

      Krispy Kreme likewise does not seem to use animal fats.

  152. Kathryn Dunlop says:

    I found this article extremely helpful – I have been an on off vegetarian for a number of years & decided to go completely meat free at the beginning of the year and haven’t looked back. However it is good to know that I’m not the only one who has messed up before in regards to what foods I eat. I just found out that Battenbergs are in fact not as vegetarian as I was once thought..they contain a colouring called Cochineal, which apparently is squished up bugs (lovely!). Also a burger sauce from Heinz which I used to LOVE on veggie burgers, in fact has anchovies in it, which seems to be pretty common in sauces. After reading this article I have now realised that I didn’t know much about non-veggie products! I will be much more careful with alcohol now too!

  153. Linda McDonald says:

    At least the “Jello” brand jello is kosher. It my have stuff in it, but it’s not from a pig.

    • In the context of vegetarian foods, who cares if it’s kosher? Gelatin isn’t vegetarian whatever sort of animal it’s made from.

      • A Jewish friend who is also a chemist said decades ago that most gelatin in the US is no longer from animal sources. I don’t know if that was wishful thinking or not. But I know Jello does use beef gelatin.

        There are foods that use pectin or carrageenan (from seaweed) or agar agar or starches instead of gelatin. Some people are sensitive to carrageenan (since they are putting it in so many things now, so exposure is higher than previously) but I am not. (And no, it has not been proven to cause cancer, that myth is spread based on very dubious animal studies. I am a chemist and translate clinical testing materials.)

  154. Sometimes artificial raspberry, strawberry, or vanilla flavors are made from castoreum, which is taken from beavers and listed as “natural flavor.” http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/castoreum.asp

  155. TeenVegetarian says:

    It is so hard to go to restaurants nowadays. Especially Mexican food ones. I once asked for what they had for vegetarians and they answered tofu. I am so sick of the “stereotypical vegetarian” that eats tofu and salad.

  156. You are killing me with the Gummy Bears, LOL! I eat a whole food plant based diet and my mind thinks along those lines, so I would have never thought gummy bears would be thought of as a vegetarian food. I guess because I don’t consider them food.

  157. jwoolman says:

    A good place to check for vegan foods (including beloved junk food) is VeganEssentials.com. Everything they sell is vegan, so even just browsing through what they have can be helpful to show you what’s out there. They generally provide lists of ingredients and specify when the sugar is not refined with bone char (they assume strict vegans as their customer base). They even sell vegan cat food (the cheezburger flavor of Evolution is helpful for my geriatric cat who is picky, I can put it on top of other food and he gets started better, so it’s in the treat category for him …. he even ate nothing but for a whole week before his normal pickiness kicked back in). iHerb.com is not restricted to vegan foods, but they provide clear lists of ingredients and will mark as vegan if it is. There are many other sources of vegan food today, so google a bit. Don’t forget the Vegetarian Resource Group, which keeps up on the status of fast food etc. as well as general ingredients and foods. Most cheese in the US is actually not made with animal rennet anymore (plant-based enzymes also work), but you have to find out specifically and they have some guidelines for distinguishing. Even gelatin is not necessarily from dead animals – synthetic gelatin does exist and is used, but good luck finding out who is using it. However, there are non-animal replacements like carageenan that are used even in some supermarket foods (including a gelled snack cup, I think Hunts makes it, if you hang loose on sugar sources). Just because something sounds “animal” doesn’t mean that it is. Amino acids such as taurine, despite the bullish name, can also be obtained by synthesis from simple chemicals that don’t seem intrinsically non-vegan to me (I’m a chemist) and synthetic taurine is widely used in many products. You have to read reliable sources (Wikipedia can be a good starting point, if you can’t find info from the Vegetarian Resource Group at http://www.vrg.org) and then ask directly.

    • The unfortunate thing about synthetic counterparts of nonhuman animal by products is that they are usually more expensive for manufacturers to buy. Industries are anxious to dispose of inedible nonhuman animal body parts (by products) so they offer them at a lower price than synthetic and pass the savings on to their customers in order to prove that nonhuman animal flesh and secretions are affordable.

  158. Cristina says:

    Chipotle’s pinto beans are vegan now! 🙂

  159. Charlotte says:

    Sooo glad you posted this, I feel so bad about the parmesan because I’ve eaten that quite a lot since becoming vegetarian 2 years ago :/. A surprising thing which actually doesn’t have meat in it is Bisto gravy! My family normally make gravy with animal juices, but I always have my own special pot of Bisto with my food :P. It says on the packet that it’s suitable for vegetarians, but you really should check because I think they’ve started doing another type of Bisto which does have meat in.

  160. Very useful and very informative posts! As a life-long vegetarian who comes from a country that considers animals as sacred – especially cows – and where sneaking in animal-based products or ingredients is not an accepted practice, all I have to say is: its great if you can make the switch to being vegetarian or vegan but…don’t sweat the small/minute stuff right away. Take care of the crucial first step – move away from eating meat & meat products. Then work you way through the rest of the intricacies. Go Veg!!

  161. This post was a great help!! I knew a few of the things on the list were not vegetarian like gummie bears, soups, and marshmallows, but I did not know Worcestershire sauce was made of anchovies. I do not use it often at all, the only time I use it is when I make something for my boyfriend. And beer! Beer!!?? What?? and Guinness, that is my favorite beer. I love stouts but they do make a beer that is vegetarian friendly so that is great news! This post was great. Thank you!

  162. Healthy eater says:

    I wonder what these people, who avoid gelatin, are going to look like in their 40s. Gelatin is very good for joints, bones, skin (helps tighten loose skin) and other….the cause of arthritis, early aging are all linked to the gelatin free diets! People don’t eat much gelatin as they used to back in the day. That’s why you see a 40 year old looking like 60…just saying

    • I am 51 and look a lot younger what everyone tells me … just ran a half marathon 3rd price in my age cat; a 3rd in a 10K overall last week …. and I don’t eat gelatin, not in the last 35 years. I have never, ever heard that gelatin is good for bones etc and I have read a lot about food 🙂 I think you ca easily do without.

  163. Miso Soup. I just wrote a post about it on my blog! http://vegangrammie.com/2014/07/warning-miso-soup-may-not-be-vegan/

  164. The pinto beans at Chipotle are now veg*n friendly!

  165. AN UNUSUAL ONE -CAMERA FILM NON VEGGI FRIENDLY. For those of you that still use old fashioned camera film, most are not vegetarian friendly because of the gelatin base to most films.

  166. White sugar is NOT vegan! Yup. It’s in everything, in your ketchup, in your mustard, in your bread. To make the sugar white they use animal bones. Organic ‘white’ sugar is therefor grey…. no bones.

    • The charcoal used as a filter for sugar (they are removing impurities which give it some color) can be made from anything, including plant ash. It’s just carbon, which is what is left over when plant or animal matter is burned to ash. So you need to ask the manufacturer about what is done with their sugar.

  167. Tortillas? Really….. 🙁 I will have to make my own, some how…. Have you got any recipes?

  168. Thank God I’m no vegan because I just love Guinness.

  169. Annoyed Veggie says:

    Chocolate Mousse 🙁 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  170. You probably know this but some Vodka tomato sauces used Pork to flavor them. They make a vegetarian fish oil vitamin that can be purchased online. Kosher gelatin is made from fish.

  171. I’ve never seen a jar of jelly that contained gelatin, to be honest… they have fruit pectin, which is safe. My favorite is Smucker’s blackberry seedless. 😀

    Also, there are some brands that make vegan marshmallows. I’ve also been able to find gummy bears/treats without gelatin in my local stores, but they’re hard to find sometimes.

  172. Francesca Payne says:


    Not sure if this has been mentioned in previous comments or not but I recently discovered that bread sticks (particularly the ones given free at Italian restaurants) contain gelatin. I thought they would be vegetarian (because why would gelatin be in there?) but they weren’t and after eating one of them and then proceeding to glance at the ingredients I noticed the animal product and felt sick.
    This might not apply to all bread sticks but its certainly made me look at ingredients on products which I was certain were vegetarian a lot more thoroughly!
    Hope this helps 🙂

  173. Chelsea says:

    You should notate that as of either late 2014 or 2015, Chipotle’s pinto beans are now veggie friendly!

  174. Not sure if anyone mentioned it before (started reading the comments but there’s so many! :)):
    Only the (less common) cloudy version of apple juice is veg, the clear one is filtered with animal slaughter-by products, just like beer and wine.

    Another product which is often made with animal parts (I think it’s the bones) is traditional soap. Ok, we’re talking about food, I know, but still…
    Luckily I live close to a Lush store and can buy vegan soap anytime.

    Watch out also for some types of dark chocolate: since dark chocolate typically contains no milk, you would think it is vegan but some have concentrated butter fat added to them. This should be specified on the ingredient list though.

    And let me say that, having grown up as a mocked (yet fierce!) vegetarian child in the 80’s (now vegan) at the time when many people didn’t even know what a vegetarian was, it warms my heart to see how many people are opening their eyes and taking a stand against the horrific violence and abuses that we daily, massively perpetrate to fellow animals.
    Treating animals with the same respect we treat (or should treat) people is one of the last hurdles for humanity to call itself truly civilised. An ideal that already the greatest genius of all times -Leonardo da Vinci- tried to spread centuries ago. Thank you so much for being part of this!!!

  175. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you really want to be sure what’s in your food, make it from scratch… until I discovered that not all bread flour is created equal, for example, and that some fruits and vegetables (esp. in supermarkets in the UK), are coated with shellac to give them a shiny appearance. With this in mind, I wrote the following blog post a little while back – I hope it’s OK to add the link here, Matt. I hope also, that it proves of use to some of my fellow NMA readers. Be warned however, you may never want to eat raspberry ripple ice cream again!


  176. An update regarding GU products: On Earth Day in 2015 they announced that GU Energy Gel is now vegan. In that post, they acknowledged they have work to do and several products are NOT vegan, including GU Chomps. https://guenergy.com/happy-earth-day-gu-energy-gel-vegan/

  177. Update on Chipotle – their pinto beans are now vegetarian (as of fall 2013).

    Thank you for putting together this list!!

  178. You left out Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies and most stuff from that company.

  179. Jeff Vegan says:

    It may have already been said, but Yoplait yogurt. It’s got gelatin. So does trident layers gum. It’s too bad, because both are tasty. In fact, watch out for many common brands of yogurt. Always check for gelatin

  180. Chloe timores says:

    I only just learnt about rennet and it made me sick, I am curious though if cheese says non-animal rennet is that OK to eat?

  181. Hi Matt, I’m just beginning to transition into being a full vegetarian, and I find your blog so helpful! It hasn’t been that hard for me to deal with not eating meat, since I’ve only ever liked turkey and chicken, but it’s interesting to find out that all of these items are not vegetarian-friendly. I’ll guess I have to read food labels more carefully, but thanks this really helped me a lot!

  182. The comments are so plentiful that I don’t know if this has already been mentioned, but red food colouring can be non-vegetarian. If a food or drink product contains ‘carmine’, ‘cohineal’, or ‘red 120’, it is made from a beetle (really quite gross if you bother to read how they get the colouring). This can mean that lollies/sweets or soft drinks/sodas or ice creams (any food really) that has red or orange colour may have this. Sometimes ‘all natural’ products use this because dead beetle boilings is natural compared to artificial colours. Mmm. Luckily some are using natural non-gross things like beets and such.
    It’s one to look out for though.

  183. maybe someone should call current affair or another news agency. so the can expose this problem to the world. it will let vegetarians know to watch out and maybe the government will change its laws so food producers can’t hide the animal products in our foods. because I was surprised about most of the items on the list

  184. Here is the key. Make it yourself or purchase only from sources you trust. I have a food co-op in my community. They have both vegan cheeses and dairy cheeses but no meat section. No meat section at all. Not saying that they review every product on their shelves, since many people choose vegetarianism (ovo-lacto or otherwise) and some choose vegan. You can buy products online from your trusted companies. And more and more vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere. If you have a question about something at a restaurant, eat only the vegetable entree. Pasta is usually made with eggs. Bread has the things listed above. Cheese is cheese. I personally follow an 80-20% or maybe a 90-10%. That way I don’t get manic about my choices. My daughter is very much against any meat product, and is positively livid about dairy (pus from udders in the milk). We have moved to a mostly vegan diet, and I eat a few other things she chooses not to consume. I would again say, “moderation in all things” which really translates to “don’t beat yourself up if you slip up.” Arm yourself with information, make solid choices, and if you err, forgive yourself and move on.

  185. robert j says:

    I have noticed what seems like a lot of restaurants taking the chicken and other animal greases and adding them in mashed potatoes,lo-mein, and even pizza places that tasted like they had poured chicken grease on it.

  186. Lorenzo Betto says:

    Just a quick update. Guinness is now vegetarian 🙂

  187. I havent read all posts but want to mention that i have noticed gelatin in fruit/flavored yogurts and some plain yogurts

  188. Oops!!!!!!!!!!! I’m vegetarian, and eat marsh mellows almost everyday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Try Dandies vegan marshmallows. The price should help you cut back on your addiction, though…

    • What? Natural vanilla is a plant… The flavoring agent comes in seed pods from various orchids. They grind it up to use in food. People even put the pods in containers of sugar to give it a vanilla flavor.

      Anybody using natural vanilla (from a plant) is going to announce it proudly on the label since it’s more expensive and provides a more complex flavor than vanillin, which is synthetic but chemically identical to one of the many components in natural vanilla (which like most foods is a mix of various substances, even plant oils are complex mixtures of many different molecules).

      Watch out for castoreum from beaver castor sacs mainly in perfume. Natural vanilla (from the plant) is far more widely used as a food additive than castoreum, although as usual beware the vague “natural flavorings” because castoreum can indeed be used as a vanilla substitute (that does not qualify as “natural vanilla”, although it’s a natural product). But that’s rare here. They can more easily use vanillin. And if they are using true natural vanilla (from the plant), they certainly wouldn’t hide it under “natural flavorings”. They would hide castoreum in case some potential customers know where it comes from…

      Just ask the manufacturer for the sources of their “natural flavorings”. You might try to give the impression that you have some potentially fatal allergies…. Actually, I do have food allergies, so mention that in such contacts. You can honestly just say “food restrictions”. Otherwise, I myself always avoid foods with “natural flavorings” unless the food clearly states vegetarian or vegan.

  189. I’m a vegetarian and I literally ate a marshmallow last night. Damnit…

  190. Uncle Troy says:

    I’ve been tricked by Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats, and Mom’s Best Blueberry Wheat-fuls. Both contain gelatin. Kashi makes some awesome organic or transitional wheat flavors.

    I’ve heard that wheat and corn harvesting kills oodles of field mice, though. They don’t make it into our food supply, but…

    I’ve run into similar ethical dilemmas before. I rescue greyhounds. Most greys don’t do well on vegetarian dog food. The rescue of any mostly-carnivorous creature carries this dilemma.

    I’ve had to “rank” activities for the greater good of…

    1. People first. They’re not endangered, statistically, but they tend to act in self-destructive ways. And I remain quite fond of them.
    2. My fellow mammals. Consuming them is incredibly dangerous. Just go read the Wikipedia page on gelatin and scroll down to the part about Mad Cow… Only an idiot would eat a cousin.
    3. Fish & fowl.
    4. Insects.

    I’ve had to do this because I’ve realized there’s no way to save them all. So I try to learn continuously and adapt. I didn’t know about cheese until today. One more good reason to lean towards veganism, eh?

    But I’m not sure how I’d do without whole grains. Or how I’d do it. That’s half my caloric intake right there, and I so love pasta and seitan and oatmeal…

    Help!!! 😉

  191. Maria Catty says:

    I used to frequently purchase vegetarian sushi or a salad sandwich with mashed avocado for my work lunches. Little did I realise that the sushi’s dipping sauce contained fish sauce and my mashed avocado had cream (I am vegan). Furthermore, I have witnessed MANY cafeterias have an awful smell of bacon during their very early morning opening (around 5-7am). These cafeterias maintained a steady supply of bacon fat on top of shelves that lie above their toasters.

    I believe it is better to make your own work lunches unless you visit a vegetarian or vegan establishment. Many cafeterias or take-away joints employ junior staff who do not know what foods are vegan (eg because of secret ingredients known only to chef, staff are not properly trained to deal with food preferences/allergies, or staff are not vegan and don’t care). I also think many cafeteria/take-away places just want to take my money and will say whatever will make me spend because the meals look vegan (eg. chips seasoned with chicken salt but cooked in vegetable oil, etc.).

    • Maria Catty says:

      It is cheaper for cafeterias/take-away outlets to keep their unused bacon rind in plastic containers for later use in greasing their sandwich presses (keep a look out for these, I have seen far too much of this happening- practically everywhere!).

  192. Maria Catty says:

    I am not sure if the ingredient “natural vanilla” is still being made from the anal secretions of a beaver.

  193. Yep label reading can be very surprising. My local grocery chain sells tomato based pasta sauce in both a jar and a can under an identical looking “No Name” label.
    A quick look at the ingredient list shows that the product in the jar contains cheese. This is probably to thicken it up a bit so it looks more appetizing sitting on the shelf.

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