Vegan Wonder

Vegan Beware: 7 Sneaky Restaurant Ingredients to Avoid

As a vegan, you’re probably used to scanning labels at the grocery store for hidden animal ingredients. But what about when you’re out at a restaurant? Many seemingly vegan-friendly dishes contain surprisingly non-vegan ingredients. Read on for seven common restaurant ingredients that vegans need to watch out for.

1. Dairy Derivatives

Many vegans are used to avoiding dairy, but it can be harder to spot when eating out. Here are two dairy-based ingredients to look out for:

  • Butter. This popular fat is used for sautéing, baking, and as a topping. It can be found in many seemingly vegan-friendly dishes, like pasta or vegetables, so be sure to ask if butter was used in preparation.
  • Cheese. This dairy product is a common addition to salads, sandwiches, and entrees. It can sneak into dishes where you might not expect it, like in pizza sauce or bread bowls, so be sure to ask if cheese was used as an ingredient.

2. Eggs

Eggs are another common animal ingredient that can be harder to spot when eating out. Here are two forms of eggs to watch for:

  • Egg wash. This ingredient is used to give baked goods a shiny, golden appearance. You might find it on breads, pastries, and fried items like donuts, so ask if egg wash was used in preparation.
  • Mayonnaise. This popular condiment is often made with eggs, so if you’re ordering sandwiches, salads, or dips, be sure to ask if mayonnaise contains eggs.

3. Gelatin

Gelatin is a thickening agent that is used in sauces, soups, and desserts. It is derived from animal bones and connective tissues, so be on the lookout for this ingredient in:

  • Gummy candies. Gelatin is a common ingredient in gummy-based sweets, so if you’re ordering a dessert that looks like it might contain gummy elements, be sure to ask if gelatin was used.

4. Honey

While some vegans choose to consume honey, many do not. Here are two forms of honey to watch out for:

  • As a sweetener. Honey is often used in marinades, dressings, and baked goods, so be sure to ask if honey was used in any of these capacities.
  • Mead. This fermented honey-based alcoholic beverage is often overlooked as a non-vegan option, so be sure to ask if mead is on the menu.

5. Fish-Derived Ingredients

While less common than dairy or eggs, there are a few fish-derived ingredients that vegans should be aware of:

  • Fish sauce. This condiment is often used to add umami flavor to Asian dishes, so be sure to ask if fish sauce was used in any sauces or marinades.
  • Worcestershire sauce. This popular condiment is made with anchovies, a type of small fish, so be sure to ask if Worcestershire sauce was used in any of your dishes.

6. Lard and Tallow

These animal fats are used for frying and sautéing, so be sure to ask if lard or tallow was used in the preparation of any of your dishes, especially if you’re ordering:

  • Baked goods. These fats can be hard to detect in baked goods, so you may need to ask specifically if lard or tallow were used in the recipe.

7. Bone Char

This ingredient is used to refine and whiten sugar, so if you’re ordering desserts, be sure to ask if:

  • The sugar was processed with bone char. This means that the sugar was filtered through bones, which is a common method of sugar refinement. While many vegans do not consider bone char sugar to be off-limits, it is important to know that it is being used.

With these seven ingredients in mind, you should feel more confident ordering out as a vegan. Remember to ask your server specific questions about how each dish was prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask if there are any non-vegan ingredients that are commonly used in the restaurant.



While it can be frustrating to have to ask so many questions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And who knows? You might even learn a thing or two about the ingredients in your favorite restaurant’s dishes.

Happy dining, vegans!