As a vegan diet excludes all animal products, there are many foods that cannot be eaten. Here is a quick overview of the main food groups that vegans avoid:
Meat and Poultry
Vegans do not eat any type of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, goat, veal, venison, buffalo, etc. All types of poultry are also avoided, such as chicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc. This eliminates all types of animal flesh from the vegan diet.
Fish, shellfish, crustaceans, eels, shrimp, squid, octopus and other sea animals are not vegan. So salmon, tuna, lobster, crab, scallops, oysters, mussels, clams, calamari, eel, and all other seafood is avoided on a vegan diet.
Eggs and Dairy
Eggs and dairy products come from animals, so they are not vegan. This means avoiding milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ghee, cream, kefir, and ice cream. All eggs including chicken, duck, quail, etc are also not consumed on a vegan diet.
Honey comes from bees, so it is an animal product and not vegan. Maple syrup, agave nectar, or other plant-based sweeteners are often used as vegan substitutes for honey.
Gelatin is made from animal bones and tissues, so it is not vegan. Agar agar is a vegan alternative to gelatin that is made from seaweed.
Carmine, also called cochineal extract, comes from crushed insects and is used as a red food coloring. Vegans avoid products containing carmine, cochineal extract, or natural Red 4.
Rennet used to coagulate cheese comes from the stomach lining of calves. Microbial rennet produced in labs can be used as a vegan replacement for traditional animal rennet.
L-cysteine is a dough conditioner sometimes made from animal hair, feathers, or bristles. The vegan version of L-cysteine is made from plant sources or synthetic materials.
Some omega-3 supplements like fish oil are made from fish, so vegans need to choose algae-based vegan omega-3 supplements instead.
Vitamin D3 Supplements
The vitamin D3 in some supplements comes from lanolin (wool grease) so it is not vegan. The vegan form of vitamin D3 comes from lichen instead.
Beer and Wine
Some beers and wines are clarified using isinglass (fish bladder protein) or egg whites, so they are not vegan. Vegan beers and wines can be found that are unfiltered or use clay or silica gel instead.
Sugar Refined with Bone Char
Some types of sugar are refined using bone char from cattle bones, making them non-vegan. Cane sugar and beet sugar are typically vegan, while bone char is sometimes used to refine white sugar.
Traditional marshmallows contain gelatin. There are vegan marshmallows available that substitute agar agar or other vegan gelling agents.
Jellies and Jams
Some jellies, jams and preserves contain gelatin or cochineal extract coloring. Vegan jellies and jams can be found that use pectin instead of gelatin and natural plant-based colors.
Frosting and Icing
Some frostings and icings contain ingredients like gelatin, carmine food coloring, and animal-derived emulsifiers. Vegan icings can be made using vegan margarine or shortening, powdered sugar, plant milk, and natural colors.
Broths and Stocks
Broths and stocks are traditionally made by simmering animal bones, meat, and vegetables, so they are not vegan. Vegan vegetable broths and stocks use seaweed or mushrooms in place of animal products.
Traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. Vegan Worcestershire sauces leave out the anchovies and fish sauce.
Some commercial salad dressings contain anchovies, eggs, dairy, or animal-derived emulsifiers. Vegan salad dressings avoid all animal ingredients.
A few brands of BBQ sauce use worcestershire sauce. Vegan BBQ sauces can be found that omit worcestershire and other animal ingredients.
Traditional mayonnaise is made with eggs. Vegan mayonnaise substitutes include products made from soy milk, cashew cream, aquafaba, or other vegan emulsifiers.
Traditional pesto is made with cheese and sometimes contains anchovies. Vegan pesto uses plant-based alternatives for cheese and leaves out the anchovies.
Fish sauce, used in many Asian dishes, contains fish extract so it is not vegan. Alternatives include soy sauce, tamari, coconut aminos, or mushroom-based seasoning.
Oyster sauce contains oyster extracts, so vegan versions use mushrooms or soy sauce for the flavor instead.
Shortenings like lard are made from animal fats, so vegan shortenings use plant-based oils like coconut, palm, or sunflower instead.
Using animal fat or drippings to cook is not vegan. Plant-based fats and oils are used instead, like vegetable oil, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
Ghee, or clarified butter, is made from cows milk so it is avoided by vegans. Alternatives include vegan butters, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
Dairy cream contains milk fat, so vegan recipes use canned full-fat coconut milk, cashew cream, soaked raw cashews or macadamia nuts, or blended silken tofu in place of cream.
Traditional buttermilk is made from cows milk. Vegan buttermilk can be made by mixing soy milk with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and letting it curdle.
Whey is the liquid byproduct of cheese making, so it is not vegan. Vegan recipes can substitute things like soy milk, lemon juice, yeast extracts, or soy protein isolates for whey.
Casein is a protein found in milk, so vegan alternatives include soy protein, pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein, potato protein, or blends of plant-based proteins.
|Meat||Seitan, Tofu, Tempeh|
|Eggs||Tofu, Flax eggs, Commercial egg replacers|
|Dairy Milk||Soy milk, Almond milk, Oat milk, etc|
|Cheese||Vegan cheese, Nutritional yeast|
|Yogurt||Coconut yogurt, Soy yogurt, Almond yogurt|
|Gelatin||Agar agar, Pectin|
|Honey||Maple syrup, Agave, Molasses|
|Fish sauce||Soy sauce, Coconut aminos|
|Worcestershire sauce||Vegan Worcestershire sauce|
Hidden Animal Ingredients
There are some animal-derived ingredients that vegans need to watch out for on food labels, even in products that seem like they are vegan.
Vitamin D3 can come from lanolin (wool grease), so vegan vitamin D3 is sourced from lichen instead.
“Natural flavors” on an ingredient list may contain animal products, so contacting the manufacturer to ask is recommended.
Some types of white sugar are filtered using bone char, but beet sugar and cane sugar are typically vegan-friendly.
Cochineal extract comes from bugs and may be listed as carmine, natural Red 4, E120, or other vague terms like “added color.”
Similar to natural flavors, natural colors can come from animal sources like carmine, so checking with the company is suggested.
L-cysteine may come from duck feathers or human hair, but can also come from plant sources to be vegan-friendly.
Mono and Diglycerides
These emulsifiers can be derived from animal fats or plant oils, so contacting the manufacturer is recommended.
Shortenings like Crisco contain palm oil instead of animal fat to make them vegan now, but checking labels is still a good idea.
Rennet for cheese making traditionally comes from calves stomach lining, but microbial rennet and vegetable rennet are vegan-safe alternatives.
Whey is a dairy byproduct, but whey protein concentrate or isolate may be sourced from plants instead.
Albumin protein can come from eggs or milk, but vegetable-derived albumins from peas, rice, or potatoes can also be used.
Pepsin is an enzyme derived from pigs stomachs, but vegan pepsin alternatives can come from fungus, yeast, or microbiological sources.
Following a vegan diet means excluding all animal flesh, eggs, dairy, honey, and other products that come from animals. Reading labels carefully and contacting companies about suspicious ingredients is key to avoid accidentally consuming animal derivatives.
With all the available substitutions for meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal foods, it is easier than ever to follow a vegan diet while still enjoying many delicious foods and dishes. Vegans may need to pay extra attention to getting certain nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins D and B12 from plant-based sources.
Eating a balanced vegan diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, healthy fats, and fortified foods will provide adequate nutrition. With proper planning, those following a vegan lifestyle can easily avoid animal products while meeting all of their nutritional needs.