25 Foods That Seem Vegetarian But Aren’t

25 Foods That Seem Vegetarian, But Aren't. Gummy bears? Cornbread? French fries?! You'll be surprised which seemingly meatless foods actually aren't.

I started this post over two years ago (yep, two years!), and cursed myself for not yet finishing and publishing it when the lovely Domestic Fits shared Ten Weird Things That Are Not Vegetarian a few months back. Curse me and my laziness! But yesterday, when I picked up a tin of Altoids in the check-out line to read the ingredients and was shocked to see gelatin on the list, I was reminded of this post draft. And I decided it was time to finish it up and hit the “publish” button.

In my very first post on Kitchen Treaty, I shared my very first “gotcha” food after I became a vegetarian: French Onion Soup. I had no earthly clue its primary ingredient, aside from onions, was beef broth. Whoops.

Since then, I’ve been lulled into a false sense of meatlessness when a food that seems vegetarian turns out not to be. Meat and animal products are hidden everywhere! So I thought I’d share several “gotcha” foods that I’ve discovered are not vegetarian over the years.

25 Foods That Seem Vegetarian, But Aren't. Gummy bears? Cornbread? French fries?! You'll be surprised which seemingly meatless foods actually aren't.

Note that it can be easy to blur the lines between vegetarian and vegan when it comes to this conversation. For this list I define a non-vegetarian food as one containing meat or fish products (like bacon or anchovies) or one that has an ingredient directly derived from animal parts (gelatin=animal bones and lard=animal fat).

  1. Worcestershire sauce – it’s got anchovies in it. Thankfully, Annie’s Naturals makes a great vegan version.
  2. Olive tapenade – it was a sad day when I realized delicious tapenade often has anchovies in it.
  3. Caesar salad – more dastardly salty little fish! Caesar salad traditionally features anchovies in its dressing. I like this version with a veggie-friendly kalamata olive dressing.
  4. Pasta puttanesca – delicious capers, olives, tomatoes … and anchovies! Nooo! This roasted vegetarian pasta puttanesca sauce, on the other hand, is a keeper.
  5. French onion soup – yep, my very first pitfall as a vegetarian. I thought it was, you know, onion soup – I mean, sounds vegetarian, right? Of course, french onion soup is traditionally made with beef broth, and unless you make your own, you’re probably not going to find a vegetarian version easily.
  6. Vegetable soups – most seasoned vegetarians learn the hard way that the delicious-sounding cream of broccoli soup on that restaurant menu sounds vegetarian (it’s a broccoli soup!), but oftentimes it’s been made with chicken broth.
  7. Stuffing. I can’t decide if this is an obvious one or not, but I’ll throw it in. Many Thanksgiving dressing recipes have broth in them – usually chicken broth. And then, of course, there’s the more obvious and popular meaty addition – sausage. Here’s a veggie version I love.
  8. Jell-O – it’s got gelatin in it. Gelatin is made of various animal products (skin, hooves, bones, yeah). And it lurks in a lot of things. Jell-O is an obvious one, sure, but what about …
  9. Yep, Altoids. I admit – I’ve been eating Altoids all along. But they have gelatin! Whoops.
  10. Non-fat yogurt – many have gelatin to help retain a yogurty texture.
  11. Gummy candies – think bears and worms – many have gelatin.
  12. Candy corn – some contain gelatin. Check the package.
  13. Marshmallows – More gelatin. Wah. I adore Dandies Vegan Vanilla Marshmallows, though – they’re a seriously tasty alternative.
  14. Rice Crispies Treats. Store-bought or homemade, they’ve got marshmallows in them.
  15. Frosted Mini Wheats. Gelatin. Seriously.
  16. Tortillas – check the package carefully or ask at your favorite Mexican restaurant, as some contain lard.
  17. Refried beans – many versions (think fast food or non-vegetarian canned refried beans) are made with lard.
  18. Baked beans – most baked bean recipes start with bacon or a ham hock. This one, however, does not!
  19. Split pea soup – just like baked beans, most start with a ham hock. Here’s a version with a veggie option.
  20. Jiffy cornbread mix – cornbread, you say? Yup. Some have lard in them.
  21. Hostess cupcakes – more lard, that sneaky jerk.
  22. Pie crust – many are made with lard.
  23. French fries. They’re just potatoes, right?! Not so fast – check to make sure they haven’t been fried in animal fat.
  24. Parmesan cheese (and many other cheeses) – if you’re a vegetarian even partially for ethical reasons, Google “what is rennet” and you might feel ill. I know I did. (Disclaimer: I use many cheeses – including parmesan – in my recipes here on Kitchen Treaty, but I am very careful to choose cheese made with vegetable-based rennet. I am so pleased to see, for instance, that most Tillamook cheeses use vegetable rennet.) Update: I have since learned I am lactose intolerant, so I don’t eat cheese anymore! If you’re on the fence or avoiding cheese, this post might help.
  25. Pad Thai – hey, I ordered it without the chicken so it must be vegetarian, right? Not so fast. There’s something fishy in traditional Pad Thai recipes – fish sauce, to be exact.

Read more

10 Weird Things That Are Not Vegetarian – Domestic Fits

9 Surprising Things That May Not Be Vegetarian – Buzzfeed

Foods That Sound Vegan, But Really Aren’t & 8 Sneaky Foods Vegetarians Should Avoid – Food Network

Are you a vegetarian who has been taken by surprise by a “gotcha” food? What was it?

Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.