12 Foods You Always Thought Were Vegan—But Aren’t
Don't let these sneaky animal products find their way into dinner.
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“Vegan friendly” isn’t just a label wine companies use to appeal to animal lovers—most vino is actually hiding some animal products. Wine tends to look murky unless it’s had a lot of time for the sediment to settle, so winemakers speed up the process by adding ingredients called “fining agents” to make reds and whites as clear as the crystal they’re poured in. Companies usually use egg whites, milk proteins, gelatin or substances called isinglass, derived from fish swim bladders according to Wine Enthusiast. Vegan winemakers either skip the fining agents altogether or substitute bentonite clay for the animal products.
More of a beer person? Most beers are vegan-friendly, but not all make the cut. Like wines, beers need fining agents to make the product shelf-ready. Most breweries have good enough filters that they can skip animal ingredients, but some still use the traditional route, using gelatin and isinglass. Search for your favorite beer on barnivore.com to make sure yours doesn’t contain animal products. Classic Guinness gets the green light, for instance, while Guinness Porter isn’t confirmed vegan (yet).
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Refried beans aren’t necessarily a vegan-friendly protein for your Mexican dinner. Some brands, like Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans, contain hydrogenated lard. It can be tricky on the label, but lard is another word pig fat. Keep an eye out for any foods containing lard.
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It may be veggie-heavy, but not all vegetable soup is vegan-friendly. Check the label closely before adding a can of soup in your cart. Campbell’s Old Fashioned Vegetable and Healthy Request Vegetable are both made in beef broth (which you can find on the label), and Progresso Vegetable soup contains egg whites in its noodles. Both brands have vegetarian versions, too, so just make sure you’re grabbing the right one.
The butter alternative was introduced as a way of saving money and later gained traction as a potentially healthier spread, but it was never marketed as dairy-free. Some products, like Land O’Lakes margarine sticks and Becel Original, contain buttermilk and/or the milk protein whey, so scan the ingredients list before you buy.
For a good creamy vegan butter, try this surprisingly simple cashew butter recipe.
Meat-free patties are a staple in many vegetarian households, so you might be surprised to learn they aren’t always suitable for a vegan table. MorningStar Farms Original Sausage Patties, for instance, are 100 percent vegetarian, but since vegetarians (as opposed to vegans) sometimes enjoy foods containing animal byproducts, always check the label. A quick scan of the ingredients shows they also contain egg whites and whey. The brand’s Veggie Lovers Vegan Burger is vegan, as are plenty of other meat alternatives.
OJ made of nothing but oranges is, of course, vegan, but fortified juices aren’t guaranteed to be animal-free, because those health boosts might have come from animal products. When your orange juice label boasts omega-3s, be aware that they often come from oily fish (the nutrition label should tell you if it contains fish), and vitamin D is sometimes derived from a substance in sheep’s wool called lanolin, according to Eat This, Not That.
If you thought marshmallows were mostly sugar, you’re not totally off, but they do need something to give them that spongy texture. The ingredient in question: gelatin, which is made from animal bones, cartilage,and skin. If you’re a strict vegan, hunt down an animal-free option like Dandies.
Take a hard look at a Starburst ingredients list. Like many other chewy candies, they include gelatin to help create that texture. But there is hope for vegans who want some “unexplainably juicy” candy. The company says it’s working on a new formula that will remove animal products without sacrificing quality. Given the facts that Wrigley’s successfully removed gelatin from Skittles in 2009 and that U.K. Starbursts don’t contain the ingredient in question, we might one day see vegan-friendly Starbursts in our candy jars.
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Love it or leave it, candy corn isn’t vegan. For one thing, it contains gelatin, but its crunchy coating is also a no-go for strict vegans. Candy corn contains confectioner’s glaze, also known as shellac, which is also known as beetlejuice. The glaze is made of resin secreted by Kerria lacca bugs. If you love candy corn, we hope this didn’t put you off your favorite Halloween treat.
Some barbecue sauces get the green light, but be sure to double-check the ingredients list before topping your bean burger with it. For instance, some specialty Heinz sauces such as Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ Sauce use anchovies for flavor.
The curiously strong mints are curiously non-vegan. Altoids contain gelatin in their shortlist of ingredients, so you might want to consider switching brands if you’re strict about animal products. Next, find out which essential nutrients you could miss if you eat a vegan diet.