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12 Surprising Foods That Are Not Vegetarian

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Jessica has been a vegetarian for seven years and has been working as a cook for six.

Gummy candies contain gelatin, which is typically derived from either beef or pork.

Gummy candies contain gelatin, which is typically derived from either beef or pork.

Foods With Gelatin or Other Non-Vegetarian Ingredients

Becoming a vegetarian is a learning process. It seems easy enough to just not eat meat, but there are a lot of sneaky foods that actually contain meat or animal skin, hooves, and bones. There are some foods on this list that I would have never guessed contain animal products! Here is a list of 12 foods that are surprisingly not vegetarian.

1. Jello

Any type of Jello dessert or gummy candy contains gelatin. Gelatin is either derived from beef or pork and contains skin, tendons, ligaments, and hooves. Jello pudding does not have gelatin in it, but any dessert with that bouncy gelatinous texture most likely contains gelatin.

2. Worcestershire Sauce

This one may be surprising because it is called for in so many recipes, but Worcestershire sauce actually contains anchovies. Luckily it is easy to make a homemade version, and there are also many vegan options.

3. Caesar Salad

This one is not vegetarian because Caesar dressing contains anchovies. Unfortunately, this one is pretty commonly one of the only options that look vegetarian on a menu. If you love Caesar salad, there are still some dressing options that don't contain anchovies you can buy. Follow Your Heart and Annie's brands both sell vegetarian versions of Caesar dressing.


4. Marshmallows

Once you learn about gelatin, this one isn't super surprising, but it is still a bummer. Marshmallows are not vegetarian because they contain gelatin. Surprisingly, Jet Puff Marshmallow fluff does not contain gelatin and is vegetarian. It is not vegan, however, because it contains egg whites.

This article from Delish lists several types of vegetarian marshmallows if you aren't ready to say goodbye to s'mores just yet.

5. Refried Beans

This one is a little surprising. It seems like refried beans would be vegetarian, but most of them contain lard. Lard is made from 100% pork fat, so it is definitely not vegetarian. You can buy refried beans without lard at most grocery stores—just make sure you're choosing one that says "vegetarian" on the can.

Taco Bell's refried beans do not contain lard and are vegetarian. If you are ever in doubt at a restaurant, it doesn't hurt to ask! A lot of places carry black beans without lard as an alternative.

6. Corn Bread Mix

Some cornbread and biscuit mixes contain lard. Jiffy cornbread mix contains lard, although they do have a vegetarian version. When buying box mixes at the store, it is always a good idea to read over all of the ingredients.


7. Soups at Grocery Stores and Restaurants

A surprising number of soups are made with beef, ham, or chicken base. French onion soup is usually made with beef base, split pea is usually made with ham, and soups like tomato or broccoli cheddar are often made with chicken base. Not every restaurant does this, but a surprising number of places do. If you are at the grocery store, it is pretty easy to check the ingredients label, but if you are at a restaurant, it can be harder to tell. The kitchen should be able to tell you whether a soup is vegetarian or not.

If you are at home and want to make a soup recipe vegetarian, it is super easy to use vegetable broth instead of an animal-based broth!

8. Sauces

We already found out that Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, and there are a lot of sauces that call for Worcestershire. Tartar sauce and cocktail sauce often contain Worcestershire. It should be pretty easy to tell from the ingredients list whether they contain animal products or not.

Another type of sauce that contains animal products are packaged powder mixes that you make at home. Although it seems like white gravy would be vegetarian, most white gravy mixes contain bacon fat.

9. Frosted Mini-Wheats Cereal

Frosted Mini-Wheats contain gelatin. This one was particularly upsetting to me because Frosted Mini-Wheats has been my biggest pregnancy craving, but it's true. Kellogg's has confirmed that Frosted Mini-Wheats contained beef-based gelatin.

10. Red Candies

Some red candies or anything dyed with natural red 4, cochineal extract, or E140 are made from carmine, which is crushed up beetles. These beetles are dried, mashed up, and then mixed into an acidic alcohol solution to be made into dye.


11. Premade Pie Crusts

Some refrigerated premade pie crusts contain lard. Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts do contain lard, so it is worth checking the ingredients of other store brands.

If you don't want to try making pie crust from scratch, Betty Crocker pie crust mix does not contain lard.

12. French Fries

To be clear, most fries are vegetarian. Most restaurants use vegetable oil to make their fries, but some use beef fat. McDonald's is the most famous place to use beef flavoring for their fries. McDonald's website states, "When our suppliers partially fry our cut potatoes, they use an oil blend that contains beef flavoring. This ensures the great-tasting and recognizable flavor we all love from our World Famous Fries®."

This is rare and most restaurants just use vegetable oil!

Works Cited

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jess H