15 Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian But Are Not!

Changing to a full vegetarian diet can be easier said than done, especially since many products and foods you would think were vegetarian, in many cases are far from it.

Below are 15 foods you thought were 100% vegetarian but in many cases are not …

1) French Fries


Fries are often cooked in the same fryers as the chicken nuggets and everything else, and on top of that the oil they’re fried in is often lard – in Belgium, the land of fries (or frites as they’re called there) there are guides and maps to which places serve “vegetarian fries” that are fried in vegetable oil.

On top of that, fast-food chains like McDonald’s puts beef bone marrow on their fries, listing this under “natural flavors”.

2) Tortillas

While many brands have removed the animal fat from their tortillas (like Taco Bell), some still use lard in their tortillas, so it’s still worth double-checking just to make sure.

3) Refried Beans

Continuing on the Mexican theme, another food that you would think was vegetarian but often isn’t, are refried beans. These too, especially canned ones, often include lard.

4) Beer


Ironically, even seemingly simplistic foods like beer, aren’t always safe for vegetarians – many beers, such as the world famous and widely popular Guinness Draught, are clarified with isinglass – or in simpler terms, fish bladders. It doesn’t end up in the finished product, so in the end it’s up to you to follow your own moral compass.

5) Cheese

We hate to break it to you, but even when it comes to cheese, not all of it is vegetarian. The much loved nutty and flavorful Parmesan cheese is made with rennet, which to be more specific are “enzymes from animals’ stomachs” – this type of cheese is actually required by law to be made with rennet, and it’s far from the only cheese that isn’t vegetarian.

6) Gummy Bears

Gummy bears and most of the similar gummy candy contain gelatin, derived from animal bones, connective tissue and organs – not so sweet after all…

Fortunately some gummy bears and gummy candy are made with pectin or starch instead, so if you have a deep desire for this chewy treat there are alternatives that taste just as good, like Sharkies and Clif Shot Bloks.

7) Marshmallows & Jelly


Sorry you had to hear it, but marshmallows, jelly and jello also contain that darn gelatin – however, there are vegan alternatives to all three of those, and you can even make them yourself if you want! Click here to watch a video showing you how to make vegetarian marshmallows at home.

8) French Onion Soup

French Onion soup and many other seemingly vegetarian soups are often cooked in chicken or beef broth – this is especially common in canned soups, so make sure to read the ingredient list even if the soup name sounds vegetarian!

9) Worcestershire Sauce

Even the classic worcestershire sauce isn’t truly vegetarian, as it’s made with anchovies. Fortunately, brands like Annie’s Naturals makes a vegan sauce that tastes identical.

10) Rice (When Eating Out)


While rice seems like the most obvious vegetarian food that you wouldn’t have to worry about when eating out, the truth is that many restaurants actually cook their rice in chicken broth – this is especially true about Mexican restaurants, so it’s best to ask the waitress beforehand.

11) Pad Thai & Other Thai Dishes

Talking about eating out, a problem many vegetarians face when traveling in Asia are”hidden ingredients” like fish sauce, an ingredient which in Thailand is used in everything from dipping sauces to noodle dishes, whether the dish is called “vegetarian” or not.

So when ordering a Pad Thai (a popular Vegetarian dish) make sure to ask them to skip the fish sauce!

12) Wine

When it comes to wine, things get even more tricky and complicated – it’s not like it says on the label if it’s vegan or vegetarian.

The reason why many wines are not vegetarian is because just like beer, they use fining agents (when clarifying the wine) like isinglass.

Other vegetarian-friendly ingredients like egg whites are also used, but it can be difficult if not impossible to know what has been used – one way to make sure to avoid it all together is to check out a vegan wines list and buy the wines listed on Barnivore.

Click here to view the list – the site also lists vegan beers and liquors.

13) Yogurt


Yep, many yogurts, especially the not-so-naturally-flavored ones, use gelatin as thickeners and their “natural coloring” often come from Carmine (crushed insects) – the famous brands Yoplait and Dannon are usually NOT vegetarian.

Many yogurt brands choose vegetarian-friendly pectin as thickeners instead, so look for those!

14) Vitamins / Supplements

Vitamins in “gel” capsules most likely contain gelatin, so you’re better off buying your Omega-3’s in bottled containers instead!

15) Non-dairy creamers

Hilarious, I know – but still, if you’re vegetarian you’re better off going for good ol’ fashioned milk, because ironically the non-dairy creamers are not even vegetarian – they contain calcium propionate, which typically is ground up bones …

As you can see, it’s always important to double check on the package or ask the staff in the diner how they prepare their food before buying.

If you know any other foods that should be on this list, share them in the comments below! :)

(photo credit: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

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