So you think you’re a vegan? Here are some common things that trip people up and how to overcome them.

1. Beer.

Vegan alcohol is often overlooked because, lets face it- who expects to find animals in their after work drinks? However, lots of the time it gets in there not as an ingredient but as a byproduct. Isinglass, which is a membrane that comes from tropical fish bladders is used as a method for brewing the beer, essentially making the beer look clearer and more delicious. British beers use isinglass, gelatin, glycerin or casein to do this, and (much like sugar), it isn’t always clear what the devil is being listed in the ingredients- I think we’ve all been guilty of looking at a list of random words on an ingredients list and then shrugging instead.

However German and Belgian beers almost always use traditional methods of brewing, which are vegan. There are so many amazing vegan beers out there now, and a great way to do a quick check is to use the website Barnivore. It’s super helpful for a quick browse when you’re stood at the bar, and we’ve done a previous post on the topic here. Stay aware.

2. Wine.

Another alcohol one. Wine is filtered through agents which can include animal blood and marrow, milk protein, fibres from crustacean shells and gelatine. The agents aren’t always obvious in their listed names, and all are used to reduce haziness. Again, there are some great vegan wines out there.

3. Worcestershire sauce.

Delicious! Amazing in tomato juice, pasta or just straight onto the tongue! But what gives your Bloody Mary its delicious and unique taste is fermented anchovies. However it’s super easy to make your own; lots of people simply mix together tamarind soy as a replacement, and there are great recipes online (here and here). You also have good shop bought options: Biona organic, sold at Whole Foods has great reviews.

4. Margarine.

Many people think that margarine is a good butter substitute, and whilst it doesn’t contain anywhere near the amount of dairy as your average pack of Lurpak it still contains whey, gelatine and milk powders. There are so many great tasting vegan butters out there now you don’t have to have these ingredients in your food at all, and of course if you’re looking for something divine to go on your morning toast the nut butter market is absolutely booming (and there is always avocado, love you).

5. Bagels.

Whilst you aren’t going to have an issue with most breads (which are made from just yeast, salt, water and flour), bagels could be your achilles heel. Most freshly made bagels from bagel shops are going to be okay, and big chains are cottoning on to the fact that the vegan market is flirty, thirty and thriving. However some bagels have an egg wash or contain milk. This will always be stated on the packaging so shouldn’t slip under the radar, but look out for anything that contains L Cysteine – a gross human, duck or hog hair derived enzyme.

If buying at home, ya boys at The New York Bakery company plain bagels are the ones to go for, if not Vagels vegan bagels in London are the ones!

6. Orange Juice.

Another drinks based one I’m afraid. Quick FYI to add at this stage; anything you’re eating or drinking fresh is always much more likely to be vegan, which is why “plant based” eating is often synonymous, or being vegan is seen with eating “clean”. Shop bought orange juice might have obtained its vitamin D3 from lanolin, which is the waxy substance from sheep’s wool. If the juice is promising a “healthy heart”, it’s likely to contain omega 3 fish oils, usually obtained from anchovies or sardines.

7. Figs.

Similar concept to honey in the sense that no animal was hurt by a human for the sake of food, but simply fulfilling their ecological role. Female wasps often lay eggs inside figs to pollinate them, then are unable to escape so die inside- the ultimate sticky end! The fig produces an enzyme which breaks the wasp down into protein, so you’re unlikely to find a wasp inside, but some vegans do see this as an animal by product, so it is a personal standpoint from person to person. 

8. Red sweets (and lipstick!).

That gorgeous ruby red colour in your sweets is not just simple colourings but created by crushed bugs- usually cochineal insects. The same cochineal insects are also used in lipstick, eyeshadow, foundations, blushers… and anything else you can think of that isn’t naturally red, like your frappaccino Vegan make up ranges are wide reaching, and usually unless it openly claims to be cruelty free and vegan (read our post here) it’s easier to assume it isn’t (there’s more than enough amazing ethical ones to choose from).

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9. White Sugar. 

Refined Sugar (that’s the kind you find in cakes, cookies or add to coffee) is made either from sugar cane or sugar beets. Near identical in every way, EXCEPT the refining process. To get your table sugar from sugar cane, the stalks are crushed and then the pulp and juice separated. We want the juice, which first has to be heated and crystallised, and which of course isn’t stark white. So we dye it… using bone char. Read more here.

However, the bones do not get “into” the sugar, it refines it and comes into contact with it, but no particles can get into it (which is why it is kosher certified). Again, veganism can become a bit of a sliding scale so people stand differently on this.

ps. Silver spoon icing sugar contains dried egg whites. 

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