The Vegan Blacklist Explained

Is your salad dressing vegan? Are you sure? If you're serving a vegan at your party, don't plan your menu until you see this list.

Vegans abstain from more than just meat products. They won't consume any food (or use a product) that was produced in any way that may have exploited animals. That means there could be hidden ingredients lurking in your pantry that may be non-vegan! When cooking for a vegan, beware of these seemingly innocent foods.


Some sugar


White sugar gets its color from a refining process that often involves the use of bone char, meaning even though it's not directly an animal product, it's not vegan. But don't opt for brown sugar, confectioners' sugar or even "raw" sugar. All of them are made from refined white sugar. Some sugar manufacturers are certified vegan, so check the company's website or PETA to find out. Or just opt, instead, for maple syrup or agave nectar as a sweetener.


Jell-O, marshmallows and gummy bears, etc.


These sweet treats are typically made with gelatin, which is made from collagen that comes from animal by-products. You should avoid any product made with gelatin. That being said, a quick internet search will reveal vegan versions of these and many other gelatin-containing foods. If you're making something from scratch, try substituting an equal amount of agar-agar.


Other candies


While we're on the subject of sweets, be careful of candies in general. That shiny coating comes from a resin excreted by a bug (the lac bug). Of course, "lac bug juice" would gross out even non-vegans, so they usually just call it "confectioner's glaze."


Red foods

Red candy

How 'bout them fake red apple candies? There's nothing wrong with the red things Mother Nature makes, but most red candies and a lot of red foods in general get their color from red pigments from a female cochineal insect. On the label, it will say "cochineal," "carminic acid" or "carmine."


Soy cheese

Soy cheese

That can't be true, right? Actually, it can. We can't explain the decision of some manufacturers to add casein (milk protein) to a product most likely to be purchased by vegans, but it happens. Check the label before you buy.


Sauces and dressings

Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce, in addition to many others, contains anchovy. The same is true of many salad dressings, like Caesar. And it goes without saying that cream-based dressings should be avoided unless they're specifically vegan. These are just the obvious ones, though. There are so many flavors out there, you should always check the label and know what every single ingredient is.




Unless you crack the nuts yourself, skip the peanuts. Some brands may use gelatin as an additive.




Many chips, especially barbecue flavor, contain chicken fat.


Cake mix

Cake mix

You may think cake mixes are vegan because they just contain the dry ingredients and you add the fat and eggs, which you can substitute for vegan options, but this may not be so. They may contain sugar (see above), milk products and even lard!


Refried beans

Refried beans

You can buy vegan refried beans, and many restaurants use them as well, but traditional refried beans are made with lard.




Though many margarines are made with vegetable oil rather than dairy products, they may also contain gelatin, casein (milk protein), whey or gelatin.


Orange juice

Orange juice

That's right! Even things that seem like they should come from Mother Earth could actually be hiding a dark secret. Some OJs are fortified with additional omega-3s that are derived from fish.


Beer and wine

Beer and wine

Many breweries and wineries use a membrane that comes from the bladders of tropical fish to filter their beverages. So before you make a purchase, check the internet to ensure that brand is vegan.

What's a girl to do?

Checking the labels is a great start, but many non-vegan additions may have surprisingly misleading names. If there's an ingredient you don't recognize, look it up to find out how it's made. It should be free of animal products but also free of anything that a vegan might consider an exploitive product, like milk or honey.

If worse comes to worst, send the recipe you plan to use to your vegan friend. They have a lot more experience!

More on vegan living

Born vegan: Is a meatless diet safe for babies?
Can your dog or cat become a vegetarian?
The vegan wedding

Tags: dietary restriction

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Comments on "13 Things you didn't know vegans can't eat"

Bailey March 06, 2014 | 9:49 AM

I'm a vegan and this has surprised me.I do not think this is non-sense and I believe every word. There are millions of other foods to eat, so I'm not worried. I just need to be cautious of what I ingest.

Tim January 10, 2014 | 6:54 PM

Why are vegans allowed to eat other foods where animals and insects are killed on the normal production of the food but where the animal/insect doesn't end up in the final product? The end result is the same (the death of animals/insects). Of course I'm talking about any crop (soy, corn, wheat, fruits, vegetables, etc.) where pesticides are used to kill billions of insects. This happens even with 'organic' production.

Heather November 19, 2013 | 4:53 AM

I'm in Scotland and there may be some variations in food ingredients but many crisps or chips as you call them also have milk in them. I've found that many of the meat flavoured crisps are suitable for vegans and many of the non-meat are not suitable. I can eat some thai chicken crisps, prawn cocktail and beef crisps but not salt n vinegar! I've also found that some fresh whole oranges are coated in shellac to make them shinier! The mind boggles.

Heather November 16, 2013 | 9:00 PM

Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts contain gelatin according to the label and the nutrition information section of the website. As for sugar, that's an individual thing among vegans. Many people I know do avoid it. But it's best to educate people who are cooking for vegans for the first time about what foods their vegan friends might want to avoid so they can ask and make educated decisions.

Kate November 15, 2013 | 7:45 AM

I shared this on Facebook and it's almost going viral. It's been re-shared by too many people to count, and by lots of different groups, too! Awesome article!

Andrea November 11, 2013 | 9:08 AM

Mostly good advice, but there are LOTS of vegans who don't get wrapped up in the sugar debate. Unless your friend is pretty militant, they won't refuse to eat your sugar. And the peanut issue is nonsense. I've never heard of gelatin being added to peanuts and if it was it would have to be on the label. One easy way to see if there are most animal products present is look for the OU kosher certification on the front, and if it says P next to the O with the U inside it, it's parve which means neither meat nor milk (but it could have eggs, so it doesn't help for things like bread).

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