Are there any foods you didn’t know were vegan? Vegans are usually a label-reading bunch. There are many relatively well-concealed animal ingredients in seemingly unlikely foods, so most vegans become vigilant perusers of nutrition facts. Less commonly discussed is the reverse of that situation: foods which are actually vegan but which most people think aren’t. Read on to see how many of these foods you didn’t know were vegan.
It’s one of the top questions to Google about which foods are vegan, and for good reason. There’s a widespread misconception that bread always contains eggs and milk, which is true of most pre-sliced sandwich breads, and certain fluffy breads like challah, but not true of the vast majority of bakery breads. If the bread isn’t in a plastic bag with a twist tie, isn’t fluffy, and isn’t obviously covered in Asiago cheese, it’s almost always vegan. This rule of thumb goes double for breads featured in non-European cuisines. It also applies to bread-like flatbreads—most matzah, pita bread, tortillas, and water crackers are also vegan.
Lots of people are surprised to see vegans eating chocolate, whether it’s a square of chocolate or just something chocolate-flavored. While milk chocolate is evidently not vegan, there’s nothing animal in origin about cocoa itself—it is a bean after all—so it’s easy to add cocoa powder to warmed soy milk for a vegan hot chocolate or snack on dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage without any dairy involved at all. Even chocolate syrup is sometimes vegan, although it never hurts to ask. The only odd exception? Hershey’s and Ghiradelli both have “dark” chocolate bars that actually still contain milk for a sweet and creamy flavor. Now you can see why vegans are so fixed on labels!
Yep, there’s no bacon in Bac-Os, making them an early and unintentional herald of the many fake meat products that came after them. They’re designed for cheap and easy flavor, so it’s not completely surprising they aren’t actually crumbled-up bacon, but they may be one of the oddest foods you didn’t know were vegan. You can have a salad with Bac-Os poured all over it and it’s still an all-vegetarian meal.
The buttery softness of graham crackers isn’t from butter, but rather a blend of oils. It’s not terribly easy to find vegan marshmallows, and you might have to track them down at a natural foods store, but if you do, you could make an all-vegan s’more with dark chocolate, graham crackers, and vegan marshmallows! (For another option to replace traditional marshmallows, keep reading!)
Oreos are almost famous for being vegan, and if you are a vegan, you’ve probably been asked many times, “hey, did you know Oreos are vegan?” It’s one of those fun facts that sticks around in everyone’s mind, possibly because it’s a bit unnerving to vegans and non-vegans alike. What is that stuff in the middle anyway? (It’s somewhat like frosting in a can, which is a hit-or-miss vegan food.)
Now here’s a food you almost certainly didn’t know was vegan. Pudding seems about as creamy and eggy as foods come, but many of the instant mixes are actually made without any milk or eggs. Some instant mixes may give instructions to add milk, but when replaced with soy, almond, or whichever non-dairy alternative is chosen, there’s no reason a vegan can’t enjoy some Jello instant pudding.
Most marshmallows are made with gelatin, which is usually derived from slaughterhouse by-products such as animal hooves. However, gelatin’s main purpose in marshmallows is to give them their characteristic structure, so in fluff form, the gelatin is neither needed nor actually present. It isn’t health food, but marshmallow fluff is also cholesterol-free.
There was a public outcry years ago when it was revealed that McDonald’s fries were cooked in beef fat. That’s no longer the case, at least in the United States, but fries still frequently fall under suspicion. What’s that greasy goodness if it isn’t lard or beef tallow? Usually vegetable or canola oil. As for the fries, they’re just potatoes. You’re more likely to encounter bits of dairy in premade hash browns, which sometimes contain whey.
Maybe this was a food you knew about, or maybe it’s another food you didn’t know was vegan. Peanut butter sparks confusion partially because there are different types of peanut butter, with some as simple as ground peanuts in a jar and others including salt, sugar, and stabilizing oils. None, however, contain animal products. Many candies and cookies made with peanut butter have milk in them (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups aren’t vegan, for example), but peanut butter itself is all plants.
OK, there’s not a hard-and-fast guarantee with this one. Some packaged bagels do have whey or casein in them, common milk protein derivatives. However, there’s no particular reason bagels need these ingredients, and most bagels from delis or bakeries don’t have them. If you don’t get an egg bagel, a cheddar bagel, or one with a super-shiny egg wash on it, it’s probably vegan! Bagels are traditionally made of a simple dough that is boiled to give a characteristic texture and sheen.