Common Non-Vegan Ingredients

Alongside the more obvious animal ingredients, some ingredients may be a little trickier to identify as animal products. Here are the main offenders:

  • Carmine/E120: Red pigment derived from crushed insects, commonly used in candy.
  • Casein: Derived from cow’s milk, commonly found in ‘non-dairy’ cheeses/creamers.
  • Gelatin: Obtained by boiling tendons, ligaments, bones or skin in water.
  • Isinglass: A form of gelatin derived from fish bladders. Watch out for this in beer and wine.
  • Lactose: Derived from dairy, sometimes labeled laneth or lanogene.
  • Lard: A fat usually derived from pigs.
  • Methionine: Derived from eggs or casein, sometimes used in potato chips.
  • Rennet/Rennin: An enzyme derived from the stomach of calves.
  • Tallow: Rendered fat from a cow.
  • Whey: Commonly in snack foods, derived from milk.
  • L-cysteine: Found in some bread items, derived from animal hair.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a tricky one, as it can be either vegan or animal-derived, depending on the product. D2 is always vegan, while D3 is always animal-derived. Unspecified vitamin D can be either one; you’ll usually be able to find out which one it is online. Many cereals contain unspecified D3, some companies have never answered whether their source is vegan. In these cases, it is best to exercise caution and assume that it is not vegan.

Vegan Swaps

When you’re going about swapping out non-vegan ingredients, you should try to get out of the mentality that a meal must contain something that tastes or looks like meat. Rather, try to make sure every meal contains a good protein source, as well as veggies and grains/other carbs. Vegan swaps should provide the same function as meat does on a plate. That said, if you miss meat, there are so many good faux meat options that you should be spoiled for choice.

  • Eggs – You can replace scrambled eggs with tofu scramble, there are plenty of good recipes for it out there. You can also buy pre-made egg substitutes in stores, they come in powdered form and are surprisingly good. For eggs in baking, you can just use oil or apple sauce, but I find it best to make a flax egg – you can find a basic recipe for it here.
  • Cheese – I have never found a vegan cheese that tastes like dairy cheese, but I have found several that are good, especially cream cheese. They don’t taste much like cheese, they just perform the same function in a meal. Note that most vegan cheese doesn’t melt all that well. To get a ‘cheesy’ taste in sauces, nutritional yeast is great, and you can use it to make vegan parmesan. Otherwise, making your own is tricky so you may need to try a few options until you find one you like.
  • Chicken – You can buy pre-made chicken substitutes, but tofu is an excellent substitute because it is similarly quite plain, it soaks up the sauces around it, and has a similar protein content.
  • Beef – Seitan is a great beef substitute, and portobello mushrooms can be made surprisingly ‘steaky’ with the right spices. Beef is also probably the most common faux meat out there, Beyond Burgers are incredibly close to the real thing but are pricey, look into Supermarket’s own brands for a cheaper option. For ground beef or mince, you can find many vegan options in stores, but canned lentils will be a cheaper (and healthier) choice.
  • Pork – Vegan sausages are very easy to come by, and cheap enough that buying them in-store is similar in cost to good quality pork sausages. Vegan bacon is generally not great, so you may need to try a few options. For pulled pork burgers, jackfruit is great with the right spices, and there are a lot of jackfruit burger recipes or pre-made ones in store.
  • Fish – The fishy taste is surprisingly easy to replicate using seaweed, but the texture is more of a problem. Vegan fish does exist pre-made, but you can make very good imitations with chickpeas, surprisingly. Chickpea tuna recipes are very popular.