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15 Surprising Non-Vegan Items

A list of common items you may not have realized aren't necessarily vegan.

It can be very surprising to learn just how many items on the market today contain animal by-products. Especially when now-adays, there are so many vegan alternatives or alternative ways of making the product that don't involve the use of animals. It can be a bit overwhelming when you start to do research and find out that many of the products you use, are not vegan friendly. Luckily, along with list, I have also provided solutions to help you navigate through it.

Apple Juice

Reason: Many popular grocery store brands use fish bladders to clarify the apple juice in the manufacturing process.

Solution: Make homemade apple juice, look for a vegan label on the bottle, or purchase a brand off this approved list.

Tattoo Ink

Reason: Gelatin is often used as a binding agent and is the most popular ingredient found in most tattoo inks. Some inks will also use shellac, glycerin (from animal fat), or bone char.

Solution: Ask your tattoo artist if they use vegan-friendly inks.


Reason: Marshmallows are made with gelatin (a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water).

Solution: Buy vegan friendly marshmallows such as ‘Dandies’ which can be found in some local grocery stores or purchased online.


Reason: Not all alcohols are vegan, this is typically due to the filtering process or ingredients in mixed drinks. Some wineries will use gelatin, casein, isinglass, or carmine for the fining process. Besides carmine, wineries are not required to list these ingredients on their labels.

Solution: Research your favorites drinks to make sure that the ingredients used to make them are vegan. Odds are, if they aren't, you can most likely ask your bartender to make some type of substitute. Many companies will now use a vegan label on their product, which helps narrow down the options greatly! Look out for one the next time you are shopping. Alternatively, do some digging on some of your favorite alcoholic beverages to ensure they are safe. You can often contact the company directly to get a better idea of their manufacturing process and to find out if it is vegan.


Reason: There are many different animal-derived ingredients in makeup from beeswax to allantoin (cow urine). Not only do many brands use non-vegan ingredients, but they will also often test on animals.

Solution: The easiest and sure-fire way to find out if the product is vegan, is to look for a certified vegan logo. Another option is to read fully through their ingredient list and research which ones you aren’t familiar with. You can also usually google the brand to see if it is indeed vegan.

Paint & Makeup Brushes

Reason: Brushes are often made from horse, sables, pigs, or squirrel hair.

Solution: Find a brand that offers vegan brushes. Checkout this article for 10 popular vegan paint brushes.

Vitamins & Supplements

Reason: Not all vitamins are vegan, there are various amounts of animal by-products used in many different supplements and vitamins.

Pro Tip- Be on the lookout for any sort of capsule pill. They are usually coated with gelatin.

Solution: Find alternative brands of your regular vitamins and supplements that are vegan friendly.


Reason: Most gum on the market is made with gelatin.

Solution: Check for a vegan label on the gum package and double check the ingredient list to make sure gelatin or any other other animal derived ingredient is not listed.

Nail Polish

Reason: Similar to makeup, there are a number of animal-derived ingredients that can be used in nail polish. One of the most common ones is Shellac, a resin that female lac bugs secrete.

Solution: Shop for nail polish brands that are already vegan, check for a vegan label, or google the brand to see if they are vegan. You can often check through their website as well.


Reason: While not all toothpastes contain animal ingredients, there are many popular brands that do. Most common ingredients are glycerin, calcium phosphate (extracted from bone char), and propolis (bee-derived product).

Solution: Check for a certified vegan label on your toothpaste, and double check the ingredient list. Often most natural stores or zero waste stores will carry a selection of vegan toothpaste. My favorite at the moment is green beaver.

Dark Chocolate

Reason: Many people consider dark chocolate to be vegan straight away. However, lots of brands still use milk ingredients in their dark chocolate.

Solution: Make sure to read the labels to ensure there is no milk. Keep in mind that higher the percentage of cocoa, the more likely it is that it is safe to eat. Luckily, many popular chocolate brands are now coming out with vegan alternatives.


Reason: Most sprinkles on the market contain something called ‘confectioner’s glaze’ also known as shellac.

Solution: Check for a certified vegan label on your sprinkles. We also sell vegan + gluten-free sprinkles in the bakery!


Reason: Bread is another thing that most people automatically assume is vegan. Egg, milk, and cheese are ingredients often found in bread that help with its fluffy texture and flavor.

Solution: Read the ingredient list thoroughly before buying, or shop from a brand you trust is vegan.

Refried Beans

Reason: Lard is a common ingredient in found in canned refried beans.

Solution: Try your hand at making your own! Or shop around for some safe brands that are vegan.

Coffee Syrups

Reason: Milk and milk powder are often found in thicker coffee syrups or powders/toppings at many different cafes.

Solution: Try checking the cafes website for an ingredient or allergen list. You can often find a full outline that will help narrow down what you can have. You can also check with the baristas to see if they know, and ask to see the bottles they are using so you can read the ingredient list.

Final Thoughts

While this list may be a tad overwhelming, it's important to look on the bright side. ALL of these items have a vegan option! Not only are there options, they are mostly easy and simple switches to make that won't greatly impact your current day to day. There are more and more vegan brands and offerings popping up every day. Trying to live a vegan lifestyle has never been easier!

Did any items on this list surprise you? Have you made any changes to your regular routine to a more vegan friendly option? Let me know in the comments!

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