Is Your Sugar Vegan?

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Is Your Sugar Vegan?

Sugar is a staple in many of our lives. Vegans strive to live a lifestyle free of animal products, but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s vegan and what’s not. Unfortunately, sugar is one of those products that isn’t always vegan. Many types of sugar are processed using animal-derived bone char, which comes from cow or calf bones. This means that the sugar we use every day may not be vegan-friendly.

The process of refining sugar cane into white sugar involves a few steps. The raw sugar is mixed with animal bones and heated to create a charcoal filter which removes impurities and gives the sugar its white color. It's important to note that even though it is used this way, no actual bone char particles make their way into the store bought sugar. This bone char, which is made from the bones of cows, is known as “natural carbon” and is used in the refining process of some sugars.


So, how can you tell if your cane sugar is vegan?

Some companies have begun to use other methods, such as activated carbon or ion-exchange resins, to refine their sugar instead of using animal products. This is the only way to guarantee that the sugar you buy is vegan.

Luckily, I've found that most companies are very open with their manufacturing process. There are a few ways to tell if the sugar you are using is vegan or not.

  1. You can send an email to the companies customer service team and ask them to address your concerns and ask if they use animal derived ingredients in their refining process.

  2. Many grocery stores now offer vegan brands of sugar, so be sure to look for those when shopping. You can identify them by a 'certified vegan' label somewhere on the packaging.

  3. One way is to look for the label “unrefined” or “unbleached,” as these sugars are often not processed with animal-derived products and are typically considered vegan. You can also look for organic sugar, which is usually vegan.

What about other types of sugar?

Coconut Sugar

  • Yes. No bone char is used in the refining process of coconut sugar.

Beet Sugar

  • Yes. No bone char is used in the refining process of beet sugar.

Brown Sugar

  • Not always. Brown sugar can be made a few different ways. If the sugar is made the first way, it is vegan. However, if the sugar is made the second way, it is not. Be sure to check the labels on the packaging and look for "unrefined" or "organic".

  1. Molasses is added to boiling sugar crystals

  2. White processed sugar is coated with molasses

Powdered (Icing) Sugar

  • Not always. Like brown sugar, it depends on how the sugar was made. Powdered, or icing, sugar is made by pulverizing white granulated sugar into a powder. If the original sugar that was used was vegan friendly, then it is safe to eat. However, if the original sugar was granulated white sugar, it is not safe.


Sugar is not vegan because it is often processed with bone char from animals. If you want to make sure that the sugar you’re buying is vegan, look for brands that use alternative refining methods. It’s important to be aware of what’s in the products we buy and consume. By taking the time to check labels, we can make sure we’re buying and consuming products that align with a vegan lifestyle.

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