Going vegan: foods that might surprise you with their vegan status

Posted by Steph Elswood on

If you’re new to plant-based eating and feeling pretty proud of your progress there’s nothing quite as disheartening as a slip up! There are a few foods that are surprisingly vegan and some you may be shocked to find contain animal products. Here’s a list of a few that might help you avoid being caught out!

Surprisingly vegan: Biscuits

You might assume biscuits contain eggs and dairy, but quite a few are vegan! Our favourites are: Oreos, Lotus Original Caramel Biscuits, Fox's Ginger Crinkle Crunch Biscuits, Fox's Dark Chocolate Chunkie Cookies, Fox's Party Rings, Bourbon Biscuits, Nairn's Biscuits – Dark Chocolate Chip Oat, Stem Ginger Oat, Mixed Berries Oat, Fruit & Spice Wheat Free and Crawford's Pink Wafers.

Watch out for: Miso soup

Miso seems harmless as a watery side to your stir fry or dumplings - but many restaurants use a fish-based broth (dashi) to make miso - so double check with your waiter or check your labels!

Check your labels: Pasta

There’s nothing better than a big bowl of pasta (and combined with peas it’s a complete protein!). That said, while dry, packaged pasta like spaghetti is usually vegan, fresh pasta (in the refrigerator section of the supermarket) may contain eggs.

Watch out for: Red foods

Red foods often get their vibrant colour from an ingredient called carmine (or cochineal or carmic acid). This ingredient comes from an insect - cochineal scale. Watch out for it in juice, soft drinks, yogurts and sweets.

Check your labels: Garlic bread

You might be surprised to find that a lot of packaged garlic bread is made with margarine, and is therefore vegan! Always check your labels as it will vary from brand to brand.

Surprisingly vegan: Crisps

You’ll find many crisps have milk powder in them - however you might be surprised that many cheese and meat flavoured crisps are vegan! For example: Pringles Paprika and Smokey Bacon flavour, Twiglets, Bacon Hoola Hoops, McCoy’s Thai Sweet Chicken, Sainsbury’s bacon crispies, Sainsbury’s meaty variety crisps, M&S fish ‘n’ chip crisps, Walkers Prawn Cocktail and Worcester Sauce crisps.

Watch out for: Alcohol

Cider and wine sometimes use gelatine (cow and pig bone and connective tissue), albumin (derived from egg whites) and casein (milk based protein) in the filtration process. Isinglass, a gelatin-based substance derived from fish, is used as a clarifying agent in some beer and wine. These ingredients aren’t listed on labels so it’s worth looking for labels that promote their vegan status, or asking waitstaff, employees or the brand for more info!

Check your labels: Roast and mashed potatoes & veg 

If you’re eating out, it’s worth asking how your vegetables are being cooked. Sometimes roast veggies can be cooked in goose or duck fat, and mashed potatoes may contain butter, milk or cream to give them that creamy texture.

Watch out for: sweets

A lot of sweets like gummies, sour candies or marshmallows get their texture from gelatin, which is derived from animal collagen (bones). The vegan equivalent is agar-agar which is made from seaweed.

Surprisingly vegan: Instant noodles

Similar to crisps, you might be surprised to find that many meaty flavoured cup noodles and instant noodles are completely vegan!

Check your labels: Bread

Real bread is made from just flour, water, yeast and salt. Some breads like brioche or croissants actually include butter - so be careful and check your labels.

Watch out for: Pesto

You might not be able to taste it, but many pesto brands contain Parmesan cheese. Not only that, Parmesan may use rennet, which is taken from the stomach lining of mammals, most commonly young calves. Look for a brand labelled vegan instead.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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