Being vegetarian should be a relatively simple thing. However, there are foods out there that you might expect to be veggie-friendly, which contain sneaky animal products. Occasionally, to get the right texture or look, animal products are used where you least expect them. You might not even bother checking the labels of these foods if they’re masquerading as something typically vegetarian-friendly. But never fear, normally there are vegetarian alternatives for every crafty non-veggie product.
Don’t panic just yet! This isn’t always the case but certain cheeses contain rennet (taken from calves’ stomachs) to aid in coagulation. However there are plenty of veggie cheeses without this unwelcome addition. Check the labels in health food shops and supermarkets to be sure. Common offenders include Parmesan, Gorgonzola and Grana Padano, which if made using the traditional method must contain rennet.
In the mood for a veggie feast? Try our whole baked ricotta cheese with lentils and cherry tomatoes for an indulgent supper.
Or, for something spicier, try this paneer with broccoli and sesame.
Even creamy, chocolate mousse isn’t safe from secret meat products. Most supermarket mousses contain gelatine to help the setting process. However, it’s seriously easy to avoid this unexpected add-on, if the mousse is whipped thoroughly and chilled adequately in the fridge. Ingredients such as double cream and egg whites can create that moussey texture.
Bear Grylls’ chocolate mousse has just a handful of ingredients and is veggie to boot.
And for a refreshing make-ahead pud, check out this reduced-sugar mint-choc mousse.
Beer and wine
It’s safe to say even the most avid meat eaters would question why animal products would need to be used in the booze making process. Unless specified as veggie, it’s likely that animal products such as gelatin or fish bladders have been used to clarify wine and remove secondary yeast from beer. Don’t despair! As with everything, there are readily available veggie beers and wines.
Wondering whether a glass of wine has any hidden health benefits? Take a look at our guide on wine and nutrition.
Put your skills to the test and learn how to match wine with food.
Omega-3 enriched products
Products which aren’t naturally high in omega-3 but advertise themselves as being ‘enriched with omega-3’ are often not vegetarian, containing products derived from fish. Another buzz word is ‘heart-healthy’, which may also indicate the addition of fish-derived minerals.
Get your vegetarian sources of omega-3 from flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts. Our lemon roast vegetables with yogurt tahini and pomegranate are naturally full of omega-3.
Surprisingly, certain soft drinks can contain trace elements of gelatin, used as a stabaliser. Red soft drinks might also contain cochineal (derived from insects) as a colouring. It’s not that prevalent but always worth checking.
If you want to skip the addivitives and make your own soft drinks, our recipes are all you need. This carrot lemonade is a simple veggie drink you can make in 10 minutes.
And our blackcurrant cordial recipe is full of flavour with no hidden ingredients.
If it doesn’t specify it’s veggie, it’s likely to contain our old meaty friend, Parmesan. Most traditional pesto recipes and shop-bought jars won’t be suitable for vegetarians. It’s worth double-checking pizzas and pastas which contain a drizzle of pesto, just to be sure. It’s often safer and simpler to whizz up your own sauce using a vegetarian Parmesan alternative.
There are a variety of greens you can substitute if you’re bored of basil too, read our guide to 11 alternative pesto recipes.
You might expect crisps to be relatively safe, but it really is an ingredient jungle out there. Until recently, even the most meaty flavoured crisps were safe for veggies to eat. However, these days vegetarians have to contend with animal fat or meat extracts as part of the flavouring.
If you’re craving crisps, you can make your own veggie version in a flash. Why not try our sweet potato crisps?
It’s not just sweet potato that gets the crispy treatment, there’s a whole variety of veg you can pig out on – check out our guide to 5 ways with vegetable crisps.
A lot of marshmallows contain gelatine to set them and give them that characteristic ‘wobble’. It’s always best to check packets when purchasing marshmallows as more often than not, they’ll be non-vegetarian.
Got a craving for soft and fluffy marshmallow sweetness? Try making our chocolate marshmallow wheels and watch them disappear.
Or go traditional with our malt hot chocolate s’mores with veggie mallows and chunks of chocolate.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below…