Top 75 Vegetarian Foods That Surprisingly Aren’t

By Susan Dorling | 2021 Guide

Contemporary veganism first appeared in the 19th-century in England and the USA. These days, veganism is on the rise!

People are increasingly adopting this practice and awareness is on the rise. In fact, big-scale fast food companies are spending large sums for the development of vegetarian-friendly meats. Yes, you heard that right! Various fast food brands have introduced “impossible burgers.” They use “beef” sourced from plant-based ingredients that tastes just like the real thing.


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But despite the widespread awareness, abstaining from items using animal products isn’t easy. From chicken stock in your so-called “vegetable” soup to animal fats in “potato chips,” you never know which food items are truly vegetarian.

While vegetarian is a person who avoids eating meat but does eat dairy products sometimes. A vegan adheres to their beliefs more strictly and avoids products and even processed foods that use animal-based ingredients. There are also pescatarians, who do eat seafood but avoid all other animal products.

Therefore, we have prepared a list of products that are surprisingly not vegan. Moreover, People practice veganism in different ways. Accordingly, our list categorizes foods as unsuitable for each type of vegan.

Vegetarians adopt their practices due to multiple reasons. In some religions such as Hinduism, animals are sacred. Hence, they abstain from eating meat. This has been practiced since the dawn of Hinduism. On the other hand, people abstain from animal meat and products due to ethical reasons too. Due to inhumane conditions in poultry farms and the mistreatment of animals, some people choose to become vegetarian. This type of veganism is relatively new.

There’s no saying which food items may contain traces of animal products. It’s necessary that you thoroughly read the ingredient chart before purchasing these items. Now, let’s get on with the list.

1. Worcestershire sauce:

Worcestershire sauce is a complex blend of sweet, sour, and salty flavors that significantly enhance your recipes. At first glance, you may think it’s suitable for vegans, as it contains no poultry or dairy products and is gluten-free.

But don’t pick just any bottle from the isle at the supermart!

Conventional Worcestershire sauce consists of fish (anchovies), which makes it unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians. Therefore, when buying this sauce, make sure you read through the ingredients. Fortunately, most companies explicitly mention anchovies in the ingredients so you can simply choose one that suitable for vegetarians. Alternatively, there are dozens of vegetarian homemade recipes for Worcestershire sauce. If I was to advise you, I would suggest going for a safe, home-made recipe that you know is truly vegetarian.

2. Olive tapenade

This salty tapenade serves as an excellent spread/topping for various snacks. You can enjoy its unique flavor with nachos, crusty bread, or even crudites. Although the olive tapenade is generally considered vegetarian-friendly, some recipes are not. Similar to Worcestershire sauce, some olive tapenade recipes consist of anchovies too. While it’s not the case with all the recipes, some contain anchovies and capers. These fish are added to make the flavor saltier, without overpowering the blend with fish flavor. While pescatarians may be fine with consuming it, it is unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians. Now that you know about this fact, you can easily avoid Olive tapenade by going for a brand that does not use fish. Of course, just like other food items, you must read the ingredient list to make sure it’s free of fish.

3. Caesar salad

While the name suggests its a salad, that does not mean you can rest assured its 100% vegan. In fact, Ceasar salad uses a few ingredients for added flavor that sadly aren’t for vegetarians. These ingredients again include fish. Its added to make the dish salty while still maintaining the right balance of all the flavors. Therefore, while pescatarians may enjoy it to their heart’s desire, vegetarians and vegans will not be able to do so. Fortunately, due to increased awareness and trend towards veganism, there are various recipes out there for Ceasar salad that are in fact vegan-friendly. If you’re making your own caesar salad, parmesan cheese is an excellent alternative to anchovies. It will taste just as good, Moreover, your conscience will be satisfied for practicing ethical consumption.

4. French onion soup

French onion soup is yet again a dish that’s not vegan-friendly. You may not have thought about it but the primary constituents of this soup are meat stock and onions. After all, meat stock does provide a rich flavor. Traditionally, a french onion soup recipe consists of beef broth. Which means its unsuitable for vegans, vegetarians, as well as pescatarians. Due to the richness beef stock provides, most restaurants add it to the recipe. Unfortunately, this soup is not easily available in a vegan-friendly variety. If you really want one though, then you’re gonna have to make one at home.

5. Jell-O

While conscious vegetarians know this, most people don’t even think about the fact that Jell-O contains animal products. That’s right, Jell-O gets its texture from Gelatin. Gelatin is sourced from various animal body parts. Therefore, it is unsuitable for all types of vegetarians.

Now that you think about it, its kind of obvious that Jell-O isn’t vegan-friendly!

But there are brands that make vegan-friendly versions. Vegan Jell-O contains agar-agar instead of gelatin. Agar-agar is a substance found in red algae and seaweed. It works roughly the same way gelatin does.

6. Altoids:

While Altoids help out with the fresh breath, they don’t usually cater to vegans. This is because they use Gelatin as a stabilizing agent.

Weird, right?

You may not have thought about it, but because gelatin is sourced from animals, it is unsuitable for all who practice veganism. Fortunately for vegans who use Altoids, there are options. Altoid mints labeled “sugar-free smalls” omit gelatin. They are therefore suitable for vegans. Similar to Altoids, there are countless other foods that are surprisingly unsuitable for vegans. Therefore, always check the labels for ingredients that may be sourced from animals.

7. Yogurt

Yogurts, when made from dairy-free sources are vegan-friendly. There are various vegan-friendly options, such as:

  • Soy
  • Coconut
  • Almond
  • Hemp
  • Flax
  • Cashew milk

But, some varieties of yogurt, such as low-fat yogurt, may still use animal-based ingredients to maintain its texture. It gives the yogurt a Jell-O like texture that we all love. Gelatin is the most common ingredient to achieve consistency. Unfortunately, consuming gelatin goes against the ethical practices of all vegetarians. If you’re a vegan looking for low-fat yogurt, make sure to read the labels. Look for “gelatin” in the ingredient list.

8. Crispy snacks

Snacks such as Lucky Charms, Smorz, Fruity Marshmallow Krispies, and Rich Krispies Treats Squares, ass contain Gelatin. While these crispy snacks may cater to your sweet tooths, they are against the ethical beliefs of all vegetarians. Unfortunately, there aren’t many crispy snacks that are truly vegetarians. People have tried making vegetarian homemade recipes. But, you probably won’t find one in the supermarket.

9. Marshmallows

Traditionally, marshmallows have never been vegetarian at all. Who would’ve thought?

That is because they also contain gelatin, sourced from collagen. Just like a plethora of other food items, the addition of gelatin makes marshmallows unsuitable for all vegetarians. Fortunately though, if you are a marshmallow lover there is good news. Manufacturers have begun to realize the importance of ethical consumption. Therefore, they have started using vegan alternates to gelatin. That is agar-agar, sourced from seaweed.

10. Red-colored candies

Most of us never think where do red candies get their color from. But actually, its the most repulsive thing. What’s worse, it’s not clearly written on the label. Watch out for the following items:

  • Natural Red #4.
  • Cochineal
  • Carminic acid
  • Carmine
  • Crimson Lake
  • C.I. 75470
  • E120

These are all sourced from the female Dactylopius coccus Costa insect. Moreover, wines, vinegar, and colored pasta may contain these ingredients too. These foods are unsuitable for vegetarians. There are alternative dyes that are plant-based though. Lycopene, sourced from tomatoes, and Anthocyanin, sourced from flowers and fruits, are natural vegan-friendly options.

11. BBQ Potato Chips

While this isn’t true with all BBQ flavored potato chips, some are not vegan-friendly. That’s because they often use chicken fat. Chicken fat is not always explicitly written on the label though. Chicken fat may be labeled as Schmaltz. The addition of chicken fat makes certain BBQ flavored chips unsuitable for all vegetarians. But don’t fret! you can still find crispy vegan-friendly BBQ chips. Various brands and flavors, such as Lay’s “Country Flavor” BarBQ chips, and Fritos and Boulder BBQ varieties are all safe for vegans.

12. Refried Beans

Beans and other legumes are excellent sources of nutrients. In fact, they are considered great meat alternatives. Moreover, they are full of dietary fiber, folate, and potassium. needless to say, they are great vegan foods. But beware if you order refried beans at restaurants. While this isn’t true for all restaurants, many Mexican restaurants use lard to enhance the flavor. Since lard is made from pork fat, refried beans that use it are unsuitable for vegetarians. Even if the label says vegetarian, meaning no meat is used, there may be ingredients such as milk and lard. The best alternative would be trying a homemade refried beans recipe.

13. Salted Peanuts

Just like many other food items on this list, salted peanuts suffer from the same evil; Gelatin. It is used to aid salt and other additives stick to the peanuts’ surface. Needless to say, this makes salted peanuts unsuitable for all who believe consuming animals and animal products is unethical. Since there has been an increase in awareness about veganism, there are alternatives. Some brands use plant-based agar-agar instead of gelatin. This is an excellent plant-based alternative and produces the same results.

We would advise you to purchase shelled peanuts. That’s because:

  • They are truly vegan
  • Studies suggest they save you 22% of calories.

14. Cake Mix

It is common for powdered packaged foods to contain lard. This non-veg ingredient has made its way into many cake mix recipes. Therefore, just because a cake mix is dairy-free, does not mean its truly okay for vegans. Now that you know these facts, be sure to read the labels on your next purchase. Look for vegetarian recipes and brands that promote veganism. Alternatively, you can find tons of homemade cake mix recipes online. We believe homemade vegan recipes are the best. That is because they are healthier and have no traces of animal byproducts.

15. Twinkies

Yes, the classic cream-filled cake that we all know is, in fact, unsuitable for vegetarians. That’s because it contains beef fat. Twinkies have a long shelf life and a spongey texture. Due to various preservatives, and excessive sugar and fat, they are quite unhealthy, and provide very little nutritional value. In our opinion, you’re much better off with a homemade alternative. Not only will it be okay for vegans, but will be much safer due to no preservatives.

16. Some Cheeses

certain cheesemakers use rennet to coagulate milk into curds and whey. Rennet is an ingredient sourced from the stomachs of young lambs and calves. But don’t get too overworked! Sue Sturman, from the Academie Opus Caseus cheese academy, claims that 95% of American-made cheese now uses Fermentation Produced Chymosin (FPC), a vegetarian, kosher, and halal ingredient. But, you should still read the labels to be sure. Look for terms like:

  • rennet
  • chymosin
  • rennin
  • enzymes

The only way to be sure is to look for vegetarian certification on cheese. Some authentic recipes, such as the parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) always use animal rennet.

17. Pesto Sauce

Uninformed vegans may not even think of reading whether pesto sauce is vegan or not. Its primary ingredients include pine nuts, basil, and olive oil, but it also contains parmesan cheese. Most traditional recipes use parm that’s made from animal rennet. As discussed before, animal rennets are not at all vegan!

While traditional recipes are not vegan-friendly, there are plenty of alternatives. apart from a plethora of homemade recipes, you can easily find pesto sauce in the market that’s vegan-friendly.

18. Vitamins and medications

Gel capped vitamins and minerals tablets, the squishy ones, use ingredients such as carrageenan, agar, of gelatin. Carrageenan and agar are plant-based, but gelatin is not. Moreover, some vitamins contain Omega acids derived from fish oils.

Brands that use gelatin contain items like gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen protein in their product list. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. Some brands that use gelatin don’t mention it properly, which means you should either avoid them or confirm from the manufacturer. Gelcaps from plant-based alternatives are not available as readily. Therefore, people who can’t get a vegan-friendly version of these gel caps just buy empty caps from a vegetarian store and transfer the contents of the original capsules.

18. Pad Thai

Even if you order pad thai without chicken, it still may not be okay for vegans. That is because pad thai often uses eggs and fish sauce. Fortunately, making this dish vegan is possible. Most dishes in Thai and Asian cuisine use rice or noodles as the primary ingredients. Therefore, you can just order yours without chicken, eggs, and fish sauce. It may not taste the same, but it will be in line with your beliefs.

19. Candy Corn

Candy corns are a staple Halloween candy. These dried corn kernels are made of marshmallows and come in a variety of colors. While it is okay for vegetarians, vegans should be wary when buying this candy. This is because it may use a few ingredients sourced from animals, such as:

  • gelatin
  • beeswax

Therefore, even if candy corn doesn’t contain dairy, it still may be unsuitable for vegans. But the good news is that there are various companies that make vegan-friendly candies. Some are vegan even though they don’t mention it. Therefore, be sure to check the labels on the packet when its Halloween season in your town.

20. Tortillas

Tortillas are made from either flour or corn. Regardless, they contain ingredients that most people assume would be vegan. Sadly, that is not the case. Some brands use lard, fat from pigs, as a fat source in their recipes. Additionally, they may contain whey, and other enzymes derived from animals such as:

  • Glycerin
  • Monoglycerides
  • Diglycerides

While they are OK for vegetarians, vegans may not feel the same way. So, if you’re looking for vegan-friendly tortillas, avoid brands with questionable vegan ingredients. Fortunately, there are just a few non-vegan tortilla brands. Most brands use plant-based sources of fat, i.e. vegetable oil, in their recipes.

21. Processed Sugar

It doesn’t matter if you prefer white, brown, or powdered sugar. All processed sugars use unsuitable for vegan refining processes. The refining process uses bone char: the burnt remains of cow bones. Although it’s not part of the finished product, it is used in the manufacturing of sugar. Therefore, some strict vegans may want to avoid this product. Fortunately, processed sugar is available from vegan-friendly brands. But we would still recommend you choose a much safer option: organic sugar, beet sugar or raw cane sugar. These sugars are truly vegetarian and conform to vegan ethics.

22. Certain Beers and Wines

Animal products seem to have made their way into almost every consumable food item. Even some beers and wines contain animal products. They use isinglass, collagen extracted from certain freshwater fish bladders. Since it becomes a part of the final product, beverages that use this are not for vegetarians. Some prominent brands that use isinglass are Guinness, Samuel Smith Stout, Fuller’s London brew and Black Sheep beer. Fortunately, the majority of American and German brands don’t use isinglass. We recommend you perform thorough research and read the labels when purchasing your next bottle of wine.

23. Bagels

Bagels are probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of non-veg foods. And while most bagel recipes are vegan, some fast-food chains use dough conditioner sourced from animals. One such enzyme is called L. Cysteine. L. Cysteine is made from human hair and duck feathers. As repulsive as it sounds, many famous chains have confirmed using it. This ingredient is not easy to identify, and you never know which restaurants might use it. Other examples of foods that use this enzyme are garlic bread at Pizza Hut, in Tombstone Pizza, and in Mickey D’s honey wheat rolls, cinnamon rolls, and apple pies.

24. Natural Vanilla Ice Cream

Some Natural vanilla ice creams use Castoreum to enhance the vanilla flavor without using artificial flavors. Castoreum is a brown liquid that beavers use to mark territory. Therefore, some natural vanilla ice creams are not okay for vegetarians. Moreover, since it’s natural and safe to consume manufacturers aren’t obliged by law to mention it in the product list. Therefore, you cant be sure about this product even if you do read the labels. Therefore, we recommend you stick to vegetarian and vegan-approved brands. You can usually find the sticker on the packaging.

25. Hard Candies

Ever wondered what gives those hard-coated candies their shiny look? Its called shellac. It is also referred to as confectioner’s glaze. This ingredient is extracted from female lac bug, and thus renders the hard-coated candies unsuitable for vegetarians. This doesn’t mean vegetarians should stop eating M&Ms though. In fact, some renown brands, including M&Ms, avoid using shellac and are thus vegan-friendly. We recommend reading the labels of looking for vegan-approved brands.

26. Heart-Healthy Orange Juice

Logic dictates that orange juice must be vegan, but some packaged juices use added nutrients that arent vegan. One such example is orange juice for heart health: it contains added Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are commonly extracted from fish oils, which makes them unsuitable for vegetarians. Moreover, some may contain vitamin D sourced from sheep. There are alternatives, and many brands steer clear of adding ingredients sourced from animals. In fact, renowned brands like PepsiCo and Tropicana are safe for vegans.

27. Pre-Made Pie Crusts

Manufacturers have much to gain from producing cost-effective products that have a much longer shelf life. Therefore, some pre-made pie crusts use animal lard instead of butter. In fact, most pre-made pie crusts use lard. They also mention it in their labels as lard or tallow. Your best option here is a homemade version of pie crusts. But if that’s not feasible for you, try the frozen food section of your local supermart. Usually, frozen foods are better preserved, and thus contain vegetable or butter shortening instead of lard.

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