Eating Vegan

6 Foods That Aren’t Vegan or Vegetarian But You Probs Think Are

Francesca Krempa

Photo: Getty Images/d3sign
Meat, cheese, eggs, milk: these are four, very-obvious foods that aren't vegan or vegetarian. But there are plenty of foods that look like they should be plant-based that, in actuality, are not. Take Jell-O, for example. The fruity dessert doesn't contain meat, cheese, or any dairy product. Look closer at the nutrition label, though, and you'll find gelatin, an animal byproduct made of bones and ligaments that's used to give Jell-O its pliable appearance. Yikes...

The truth is, there are many animal-derived ingredients that show up in foods you may consider A-okay for non-carnivores. The list is quite long, FWIW, but if you're looking for the top items to cross off your list...

Start with these 6 foods that aren't vegan or vegetarian friendly

1. Kimchi

Yes, the basic ingredients of kimchi—cabbage, scallions, and radish—are all plant-based. But many kimchis are fermented with seafood-based products, like fish sauce, squid, or sardines, to give it that briny flavoring. Some brands, like Lucky Foods, though, offer tasty, vegan kimchi options. Or, embrace your inner chef and whip-up your own kimchi at home. Try this recipe by The Minimalist Baker that features a plant-based fish sauce made of a tangy tamari, coconut sugar, and sweet pineapple juice. Yum.

2. Marshmallows

We know S'mores roasting season is slowly approaching, but if you're vegan or vegetarian, hold off on indulging at your next summer campfire. Surprisingly, most mainstream brands of marshmallows are not vegan or vegetarian. Similar to Jell-O, they contain gelatin to give them their fluffy, soft shape and texture.

Luckily, vegan marshmallows are very much a thing. The next time you hit up Trader Joe's, look for a bag of their jumbo vegan marshmallows, which are gluten and Kosher as well. Or, stock-up on a few bags of Dandies Vanilla Marshmallows on Amazon.

3. Parmesan Cheese

Vegetarians who eat dairy, this one might surprise you—many Parmesan cheeses are not vegetarian-friendly. Turns out, churning liquid milk into delicious, pizza-ready Parmesan isn't easy. That's why some cheesemakers and brands use rennet, which is, brace yourselves, curdled milk found in the lining of goat and calf stomachs.... The solution? Look for Parmesan cheese that's vegan and vegetarian-friendly. Brands like Go Veggie and Parma both make a tasty, plant-based topping.

4. Processed Sugar

Thinking about jumping on the alt-sugar train? Now might be the time. Many processed sugars, including brown and confectionary sugars, are not vegan or vegetarian due to the fact that they're processed with bone char. According to PETA, "bone char—often referred to as natural carbon—is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve a white color." Brown sugar is made by simply adding molasses to white sugar, That means if the same sugar company makes refined white sugar using bone char, that brown sugar isn't vegan, either.

Your best bet is to look for sugar labelled "organic", which cannot be filtered through bone char if certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to PETA. Otherwise, explore other sweeteners, like coconut sugar (which is practically the next agave) or beet sugar.

5. Orange Juice

OJ... really? Yes, really. Some brands add animal byproducts, like omega-3s and vitamin D3, to make this breakfast staple healthier. Omega-3s are healthy, but when they're derived from fish oil (a popular ingredient in some tangy OJs), they're not vegan or vegetarian-friendly. Same goes for vitamin D3, which is often sourced from lanolin, aka sheep's wool.

If you want to grab a glass of refreshing, vegan-friendly OJ, you might want to consider investing in a citrus juicer to squeeze your own. Otherwise, triple check the labels: if fish oil or vitamin D3 is on the ingredient list, keep on shopping.

6. Pesto Sauce

Hate to be a buzzkill, but this scrumptious, garlicky spread is last on our list of surprising foods that aren't vegan or vegetarian, due to Parmasan cheese, a common ingredient in most pre-packaged pesto sauces. Yeah...

The good news is, there's a plethora of easy-to-make vegan pesto sauces you can make at home. This two-minute spinach pest recipe can be whipped up in a flash and is perfect on pasta, salads, or on its own. Or, check out this classic vegan pesto recipe by Love And Lemons for a zesty topping or healthy side dish.

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