Is Gelatin Vegan?
Though we strongly believe that veganism doesn’t have to be complicated, there are some foods that vegans have to be careful about. We’ve discussed in the past the sneaky ingredients that end up in popular snacks, and one of the most common sneaky ingredients is gelatin.
Gelatin is used in foods as a thickener, and it often appears in sweets like marshmallows and gummy candy. But gelatin also appears in things you may not expect, like cakes and pies, vitamins, and even non-edible things like skincare products and cosmetics.
What exactly makes gelatin not vegan? Is there such a thing as vegan gelatin? Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about gelatin.
What’s Gelatin Anyway?
Gelatin is a thickener, and a great one at that since it is one of the most commonly used thickening agents. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly vegan friendly.
Traditionally, gelatin is made from ground up the bones, tendons, ligaments, and the skin of animals. For those who aren’t familiar with gelatin, this may come as a shock. Pigs and cows are usually used to create gelatin; kosher gelatin is made from fish.
This part may be a bit graphic, so feel free to skip ahead if you are a little squeamish. Producers of gelatin first cut up these animal parts into smaller pieces, then hot water is used to remove the fat before it’s ground and cooked up. The substance is put into an acid or alkali bath for days so that the collagen is released, all of it is boiled again, and once the extra liquid has evaporated, the solid bits are ground down to create gelatin powder.
Needless to say, if you see gelatin, be sure to avoid it.
What Can I Use Instead of Gelatin?
Luckily for vegans, there are a number of vegan-friendly gelatin substitutions. From sea plant-derived solutions, to other plant-based alternatives, here are some of our favourite vegan-friendly gelatin alternatives.
Agar agar is a gelatin-like substance that’s derived from seaweed. It gels up beautifully like gelatin, but it’s completely vegan friendly. Agar agar usually comes in flake or powder form, and both can be used to substitute gelatin in recipes. It’s flavourless, though a bit firmer than gelatin. Similar to gelatin, you’ll simply have to dissolve the agar agar in liquid before using it.
Festively also known as Irish moss, carrageenan is also made of dried seaweed. It’s often used in puddings, mousses, ice creams, and soft jellies, and like agar agar, carrageenan is flavourless. With that said, keep in mind that it will set more softly than gelatin.
Natural Desserts offers a product called Vegan Jel, an unflavoured vegan-friendly gelatin alternative that’s made of vegetable gum, adipic acid, tapioca dextrin, calcium phosphate, and potassium citrate. This product is very versatile and can be used in any recipe in which gelatin is used.
The Bottom Line
Gelatin is present in a number of food products, which is why it’s so important to ensure that you check ingredient labels, especially since it may appear in food or health and beauty products you may not expect. It is used for its thickening abilities, but there are a number of other products that are vegan-friendly that can achieve the same final result.
Similar to many other ingredients that do not fit in a vegan’s diet, gelatin is not the end-all, be-all of thickeners. So, rejoice in knowing that there are puddings, ice cream, and gummy candies that are vegan friendly that do not feature gelatin.
Have you used any vegan-friendly gelatin alternatives? If so, which ones have you tried, and which ones do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below!