Surprisingly Non-Vegetarian Foods

I’ve been vegetarian for about 5 or so years now, and as I already had some friends who were vegetarian and vegan I had an advantage in knowing what to look out for on packaging to make sure I wasn’t accidentally eating non-veg friendly foods. There are so many types of packaging and it’s not always easy to find necessary description on it. I even decided to visit Roberts Technology Group website and did some research. Today I thought I would share some of the surprisingly non-vegetarian foods I have come across, which will hopefully be helpful for anyone thinking of cutting meat out of their diets, or even if you’re cooking for vegetarian friends!

I’d love this to be an ever-growing list, and I’m sure I haven’t captured everything, so please add your contributions to the comments!

Surprisingly non-vegetarian foods

Worcestershire Sauce, Curry Pastes & Stir Fry Sauces

Worcestershire sauce is almost always made using anchovies, so unless otherwise labelled it’s best to avoid it. The vast majority of pre-made curry and stir-fry pastes and sauces (including things like laksa pastes) will have fish sauce and/or shrimp paste as part of their ingredients list, so unfortunately aren’t much good either! There are a few brands that don’t use any animal products in their pastes so it’s worth checking the label, although it’s also pretty easy to whip up your own sauce (and it will then be preservative free too!) so I tend to go that approach instead!

Bonito

Bonito is a type of fish and it’s unfortunately rather commonly found in Japanese cooking. Most miso pastes include bonito, although the Hikari brand of pastes is bonito free (and widely available). Bonito is often used as flakes which get sprinkled on top of dishes like silken tofu at Japanese restaurants, so look out for it on the menu, and check with your waiter, they’re usually more than happy to just leave it off the dish.

Rennet

Rennet is an enzyme found in the stomach of animals such as cows and sheep and it is used in the production of most cheeses, particularly hard cheeses. Imported parmesan is the worst culprit as for it to be officially labelled as parmesan in Europe it must use rennet, so unfortunately it’s a no-go. It is possible to make plant-based rennet, and it is usually labelled as vegetarian-rennet or microbial-rennet, so check the labelling on your favourite cheeses to be sure. Soft cheeses like cottage cheese, mozzarella and paneer are usually made without any kind of rennet, so they’re a much safer bet (but still, check the labels!).

Gelatin

Gelatin is another animal by-product to be aware of, and unfortunately it pops up almost everywhere. Most people are aware that it is present in foods like marshmellows, jelly and gummy lollies, but it is also often used in things like margarine, as a thickener in low-fat dairy products (full-fat is a better option anyway!), jams and even as a clarifier in some juices. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a definitive way to know whether it will be in all of these products or not (other than things like marshmellows!) so again, you’re going to have to do some label reading! Gelatin is one of the most favorite food of people, but it comes at a price. The price is that it affects the dental hygiene of a person. Click on the following to find the best and most trusted cosmetic dentistry in Arizona.

Isinglass

Isinglass comes from the bladder of fish, and is used in the wine and beer industry as part of the clarification process (sometimes along with gelatin). Thankfully there are alternatives to using isinglass, and many Australian companies have moved to that approach, particularly when it comes to beer. Unfortunately it’s generally impossible to tell from the labels but there are a few apps and websites that have done the hard work for you, so you can look up your favourite brands to be sure. The Vegan is Easy app is a good one, so is the Barnivore website. Sometimes a product will be shown as not-vegan friendly because it includes dairy or honey (such as the Beez Neez beer) so if you’re vegetarian rather than vegan then you can make your own call on those ones.

Red Food Colouring

If you see anything that has been coloured red then it’s definitely worth checking the label to see if cochineal, carmine or E120 are listed. These are all the same thing, and are produced from the cochineal beetle. Yep, they boil the beetle and make the dye from its scales. As it is a ‘natural’ ingredient you will still find it in products labelled with ‘no-artificial colours’ (and they are correct in saying that), but despite being natural it’s not so vegetarian-friendly! Beetroot is a much better option for turning things red in my view!

Lard

Lard is made from pig fat and in the past was used as a spread or as a cooking fat. Nowadays it is less popular, although it is still at times used for baking and other uses. Unfortunately it often also turns up in a range of other products such as canned beans (refried beans are the worst offenders), pre-made pastry, canned soups and packet-mix cakes. It will often be labelled as shortening, and unless it says vegetable-shortening then it’s a safe bet that it not vegetarian friendly!

There we have it! I hope this list has been helpful, did you find any of these particularly surprising? As I said, please pop any additions in the comments! Hopefully I haven’t missed anything major, but you never know!

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16 Comments on Surprisingly Non-Vegetarian Foods

  1. merilyn
    October 22, 2014 at 7:21 am (5 years ago)

    hi liz, I found you via Sonia styling when you commented on the building ideas … I thought she knows what she’s talking about! so I visited your website and you’ve got the letters to prove it! … great! … I’m on your wavelength in many areas! already talking to the converted is easier!
    not a vego but do have meat free days … love everything raw and natural to eat and drink and live sustainably!
    thankyou m:)X

    Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 22, 2014 at 8:29 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment Merilyn, it’s so great to have you here! Sounds like you’ve got a pretty healthy & sustainable lifestyle working for you! If there’s anything you’d like me to cover please just let me know! xx

      Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 22, 2014 at 8:29 am (5 years ago)

      It’s crazy isn’t it! So much out there that involves animal products, and this list doesn’t even include all the places dairy & eggs show up either!

      Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 23, 2014 at 7:03 am (5 years ago)

      My pleasure! Thankfully the industry here seems to be moving away from using it so much, but still worth checking your fav drinks!

      Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 23, 2014 at 7:03 am (5 years ago)

      We’re clearly on the same wavelength lady! I wish labelling was done better in Australia, I can’t imagine how frustrating that all must have been for you!

      Reply
  2. Krissy @ Pretty Wee Things
    October 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm (5 years ago)

    Wow, I didn’t know that “lard” was in all those things! I very rarely buy processed foods, but wow…it is so so scary that half the time we don’t know what we are eating…vegetarian or not! Thanks for posting xx
    Krissy @ Pretty Wee Things recently posted…Throwback Thursday: My Blue baby shower

    Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 24, 2014 at 6:53 am (5 years ago)

      Scary hey! Lard won’t always be in all those foods (it depends on the brand really) but it’s definitely worth looking out for! And I agree, it’s so much better to make it yourself rather than buy processed when you can, for so many reasons!

      Reply
  3. Rebecca
    October 24, 2014 at 11:12 pm (5 years ago)

    :O I HATE bonito If i ever order a silken tofu and forget to get it off it grosses me out! Some other things I didn’t know in there like that red food coloring – bleh.
    Rebecca recently posted…Delicious Power Balls (and free chocolate!)

    Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm (5 years ago)

      It’s so frustrating isn’t it?! Especially when you order from the vegetarian section and it still has bonito! Glad I could help with some of the other things too!

      Reply
  4. Nicole- Seeking Victory
    October 25, 2014 at 5:01 pm (5 years ago)

    Great article. You are generally pretty safe with isinglass in most wines these days as it is not terribly good for the wine either. It can strip colour and flavour and you have to be really careful using it because too much and the wine tastes fishy. No one wants fishy wine. Egg whites and skim milk are really the only animal-based that the majority of wine producers use and even then the whole point of fining is that there should not be any of these left in the final product. I do however completely understand how this is an issue for vegans though.
    Nicole- Seeking Victory recently posted…Miinot Gelato {Review}

    Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 25, 2014 at 5:29 pm (5 years ago)

      Ooh thanks for that insight – good to have a winemaker around! Even better to hear it’s not used much anymore!

      Reply
    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      October 29, 2014 at 10:29 am (5 years ago)

      I reckon knowing what is in our food is important – vego or otherwise! Glad to hear you found it interesting!

      Reply

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