For food to qualify as vegan, it must not contain animal products or byproducts and it must not be tested or tried on animals. While the foods that vegans should avoid are quite obvious, here are 11 sneaky ingredients that are not vegan that every vegan should look out for.

Such ingredients can be hard to spot, especially since most are used as fillers and additives and go by names not likely to suggest animals.

So how can you tell apart a vegan product from a non-vegan one?

This article lists 11 sneaky ingredients to look out for in presumed vegan foods. See Gluten-Free Vegan Shopping List and How To Transition To A Plant-Based Diet.

11 Sneaky Ingredients That Are Not Vegan To Look Out For

1.  Whey

Whey is the liquid portion of milk obtained during cheese making after milk has been curdled and strained.

It’s a common ingredient in protein shakes, nutritional supplements, cakes, bread, crackers, margarine, and cheese-flavored processed foods.

It’s also used as a thickener and to improve the texture in different foods, including yogurt.

Whey is also a common ingredient in pre-packed foods, waffles, caramel, chocolate candies, pancakes, and puddings.

2.  Vitamin D3

Many vegan foods are fortified with vitamin D; however, it’s good to understand that not all types of vitamin D are vegan.

Vitamin D3 is derived from lanolin found in sheep’s wool or fish liver oils.

It’s commonly used to fortify ingredients in foods and soft drinks, including orange juice.

Vitamin D3 is also common in supplements.

Although there is a vegan version of vitamin D3, always ensure it’s clearly indicated on the package. Alternatively, vegans can consume vitamin D2; however, studies show that D2 doesn’t raise your vitamin D level as much as vitamin D3.

3.  Lactic acid

Lactic acid is a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, and it can be both vegan and non-vegan.

It  is used as a flavoring agent, a preservative, and a curing agent.

It’s a common ingredient in processed foods, including cheese, pickles, yogurt, candy, sauerkraut, olives, fruit preserves, and frozen desserts.

It’s always hard to tell whether the lactic acid in a given product is vegan or not, so read the ingredients carefully and always choose products with a vegan seal or logo. Get your own Vegan Lactic Acid.

4.  Beeswax

Beeswax is a common ingredient found in almost everything.

It’s also the sneakiest and can go unnoticed. It’s responsible for the coating on apples to make them appear fresh for longer.

It’s also used as a coating in sweets, candies, and in cheese production to seal out air, preventing mold formation and spoilage. Substitute With Carnauba Wax.

5.  Isinglass

Isinglass is a type of gelatin obtained from dried swim bladders of fish; therefore, it’s not suitable for vegans.

It’s commonly used in the brewing industry as a fining and clarifying agent for wine and some types of beer.

Clarifiers and fining agents are additives that accelerate the removal of compounds used in beer production, such as yeast. This is will help them to adjust their flavor or improve clarity.

The clarification process can occur naturally if the beer is left undisturbed however isinglass quickens the process.

It’s not easy to tell whether your wine or beer has been filtered through isinglass, but if the product has a vegan logo or seal, then it’s probably isinglass-free.

Isinglass is also a common ingredient in some jellied desserts, traditionally prepared Jamaican Sea Moss. Substitute with Agar Agar, Flax Gel, or Chia Seeds. Here is my Vegan Sea Moss Recipe.

6.  Gelatin

Gelatin is an animal protein obtained by boiling animal parts (usually cows or pigs), including tendons, skin, bones, and ligaments.

Sold under the brand name Jell-O, gelatin is often used as a thickener and a gelling agent in products like jelly candies, marshmallows, fruit snacks, yogurt, cakes, frosted cereals, and gelatin containing deserts.

It’s also used to coat capsules and vitamins.

There are vegan gelatin alternatives like carrageenan from seaweed. However, studies have shown that carrageenan can cause health problems like inflammation and gastrointestinal damage.

Agar Agar is another vegan gelatin obtained by cooking and pressing algae.

7.  Castoreum

Castorium is an anal secretion from mature beavers.

Due to its vanilla scent, castoreum is used as a food additive

It also has a raspberry-like smell, which makes it a suitable enhancer for raspberry flavoring. Substitute with Pure Vanilla Flavoring and

8.  L. Cysteine

L. Cysteine is an amino acid obtained from cow horns, chicken, and duck feathers, but the common type used in food comes from human hair.

It’s used to prolong the shelf-life of products such as baked goods and commercial bread.

It’s a common dough conditioner in foods like bread and donuts. Alternative Gluten-Free Vegan Bread and Donuts.

9.  Confectioner’s Glaze

Commonly listed as shellac, pure food glaze, natural glaze, or resinous glaze.

It’s a hardened resin secreted by the female lac insect after consuming tree sap.

When harvested, the confectioner’s glaze can be applied on candies for preservation purposes and a smooth and shiny finish on products. Substitute with these Vegan Hard Candies.

It can also be used to prepare wax for the coating of fresh produce.

10.Carmine (carminic acid or carmine cochineal)

Carmine is a bright red coloring obtained from crushing cochineal beetles. It’s a common food coloring in products such as colored pasta, bottled juice, frozen pops, and some candies.

It’s also commonly added to ice cream, yogurt, cupcakes, doughnuts, and fruit pies. Try these Natural Food Colorings.

11. Lecithin

Lecithin is a substance naturally found in animal tissues, egg yolks, and soybeans.

It’s used as an emulsifier, a lubricant, and a preservative in processed foods and can be found in different products, including chocolates, sweets, sauces, marinades, margarine, baked goods, vegetable oil spray, breakfast cereal, and candy. Sunflower Lecithin is a great substitute.


Differentiating vegan ingredients from non-vegan ones can be quite a challenge if you have no idea of what you should be looking for.

Although there are usual and obvious animal products that should be avoided on a vegan diet, the ingredients listed in this article can sometimes be listed as ingredients in plant-based foods that are supposedly suitable for vegans. So make sure you go through the ingredients list carefully. Also, look for vegan trademarks like a vegan seal or logo as that signifies an authentic vegan product.

Other Related Articles

  1. 9 Proven Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
  2. What Is The Best Vegan Milk
  3. 10 Best Vegan Protein Sources 
  4. 10 Foods That Boost The Immune System
  5. Should Vegans Take Supplements
  6. 6 Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet
  7. 8 Best Natural Probiotics For Vegan

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Once the time is up, remove the vegetables from the air fryer basket and serve.