All posts by Joey Bruno

vegan licorice

Is Licorice Vegan? Plus 5 Vegan Licorice Brands to Check Out!

Is Licorice Vegan?

ANSWER: Most of the time, licorice is indeed vegan, but there are some exceptions. There are so many different types of licorice out there from the commonly known Twizzlers and Red Vines to more handcrafted candies meant to closely resemble the flavor of actual liquorice root. When checking for yourself, be on the look out for gelatin as some recipes use it as a base for the candy.

Luckily, we've saved you the hassle and hand picked a bunch of vegan licorice brands below which contain absolutely zero gelatin!

Vegan Licorice Brands

If you've got a hankering for some vegan licorice, we've selected a bunch of brands and products for you to try out.

We picked a variety of different styles of licorice because as we mentioned above, there are just so many different kinds.​

As always, the potential exists for companies to change their formulation so be sure to double check before buying!​

Ice Chips Licorice Candy

ICE CHIPS Licorice Xylitol Mints 6 Single Tins

Let's be clear about something, original licorice is flavored with the licorice root itself, but for a very long time, companies have been using very similar flavorings such as anise as a replacement/alternative. Nothing wrong with this, it's probably just a bit cheaper/easier to source.

Anyway, Ice Chips became a popular candy after they were on Shark Tank. They don't use any actual sugar, but rather xylitol as a sweetener. Xylitol in candies is known for not promoting tooth decay, but NEVER give it to your pets.

And don't worry, the trace amounts of "cream of tartar" ​isn't made from actual cream, it's typically a byproduct from wine making.

​This licorice candy is labeled vegan and only has 5 calories for every two pieces. 

Panda All Natural Soft Licorice

Panda All Natural Soft Licorice, 7 Oz.

As per their tagline, the Panda brand has made it their mission to capture "the real taste of licorice". It actually only has five ingredients according to their website - four since they double count the molasses: 

Table molasses, wheat flour, cooking molasses, licorice extract, aniseed oil.

They use both real licorice extract and aniseed oil as they have very similar flavor profiles. As you can see by the ingredient statement its free of animal products and even gluten.

The holes within the candy itself​ make for an interesting bite as it creates a bit more give than if it were completely solid.

Expect a soft bite with authentic flavor from this Finnish candy.

Simply Gum Fennel Licorice

Simply Gum, Fennel Licorice Natural Chewing Gum - Non GMO, Vegan, 6 Packs (90 Pieces)

OK, we realize that this isn't what you might consider traditional licorice candy, but we still felt it was worth including. Even though many licorice candies are vegan, they aren't something that you'd want to eat all the time.

With all their processed sugar, and artificial stuff, it's a far cry from a whole plant food.

However, if you have a licorice craving that you simply cannot quench , Simply Gum makes this gum which is great to have in a pinch with much less sugar and fewer calories. Plus, the flavor will last a lot longer than eating the actual candy!

The company intentionally uses 100% vegan ingredients including vegetable glycerin (which is usually plant-based anyway - but nice that they specified it). We always like to be extra supportive of brands and companies that do this and also talked about them on our vegan gum article.

Yum Earth Organic Licorice

YumEarth Organic Gluten Free Licorice, Strawberry, 5 Ounce (Pack of 12)

As we mentioned in our article on sugar, there exists the potential for non-organic cane sugar to be processed with bone char. While we don't think its worth worrying about too much when picking up a candy, its nice to see when brands use specifically labeled vegan sugar like Yum Earth.

This strawberry licorice from Yum Earth is probably going to be closer to the licorice candy you're used to than something like ice chips.​ It's a bit closer to Twizzlers or Red Vines, but obviously not exactly that either. More like smaller chews rather than twisted up strands.

If you've got allergies, Yum Earth makes their licorice in a peanut-free facility as well. Probably a safe bet to keep on hand if you've got kids as you never know what types of allergies their friends may have!​

Darrell Lea Original Black Liquorice

Darrell Lea Original Black Licorice - 7 oz

If you're looking for a candy that is actually flavored with real licorice extract, this is the one to go for. Darrell and Lea is actually an Austrialian brand, but a big favorite among hardcore licorice fans in the Western world. 

It's got no labeled animal products, but one weird ingredient on the label named "treacle". We didn't know what that was, but upon looking it up it turns out that its simply a British term for molasses. Strange that they would separate it out on the label like that from the other molasses.

This is truly a good pick up if you love black licorice. Expect a candy that's chewy, soft, and quite unique compared to some of the more conventional brands you've had in the past. Worth checking out for those who like experimenting with new flavors.

vegan pasta sauce brands

The 5 Best Vegan Pasta Sauce Brands (2017)

Even though my Italian grandmother probably wouldn't be too happy with me, I have to admit that jarred pasta sauces are a big convenience. Sure, they never taste quite as good as homemade, but some of them are actually quite alright. Beware though, some of them dairy and even meat, so its important to keep a keen eye when you're shopping for your next marinara. To make things easy, we've compiled a list of the 5 best vegan pasta sauce brands below:

Barilla Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

Barilla Pasta Sauce Variety Pack, 24 Ounce, 4 Jars

​Barilla is one of the most popular brands in the pasta aisle, it would only make sense that they made tomato sauce as well. Although not all of the sauces they make are vegan, their tomato and basil sauce only has a few ingredients. If you're looking for a simple, affordable, and middle of the line pasta sauce, its definitely worth checking out.

They do add extra sugar to it, which many others on this list opt not to do. ​

And yes, we know its not the most authentic sauce tomato sauce on the market​, but we'll get to that next.

Cucina Antica Spicy Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce

Cucina Antica Non-GMO Pasta Sauce, Spicy Arrabbiata, 6 Count

If you're looking for something a little more authentic, then Cucina Antica might be the brand for you. They make a bunch of different vegan red pasta sauces including garlic marinara, tomato basil, and this spicy arrabbiata version. The sauces are made with only a few simple ingredients, no added sugar and with imported San Marazano plum tomatoes.

It's Italian grandmother approved!

Papa Vince Artisan Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce

Papa Vince Pasta Tomato Sauce - Glass Canned, No Sugar Added, Low Acid | from Sicily, Italy, made with vine-ripened tomatoes handpicked at the peak of freshness for exceptional taste 11.6 oz (4-Pack)

Given that a well-done tomato sauce has only a few ingredients, one of the most important elements of getting it right is getting the right tomatoes. Papa Vince picks their tomatoes by hand when they are ideal for making sauce, and not a moment before or after (or so they try their best)! For that reason, there's no need for them to add any extra sugar, or flavoring like many of the grocery store brands. They stick with four ingredients: tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, an salt. The end result is a delicious sauce with a low acid profile.

Organico Bello Tomato Basil Sauce

Organico Bello Organic Pasta Sauce, Tomato Basil, 6 Count

Putting onions into a pasta sauce is an issue that's hotly debating in the Italian community. While some scoff at the idea of adding onions, others won't go near a sauce unless the sweet and savory flavor of one or multiple onions is infused within.

Rather than using garlic to flavor their tomato basil, Organico Bello uses onions.  Whether you run from this sauce or embrace it is up to you. It really just depends on personal preference. 

Either way its made from simple ingredients and no added sugar so you know they are using high quality tomatoes.​

Uncle Steve's Organic Marinara Sauce

Tomato Sauce by Uncle Steve's - (Marinara) for Spaghetti, Pasta or Pizza

Uncle Steve's organic marinara sauce is great if you prefer a sauce that's a bit chunky. Looking at the sauce, you can see that the ingredients aren't fully pureed, which can be a plus or a minus depending on your personal preference. They use all organic ingredients and flavor the sauce with onion, garlic, olive oil, pepper, sea salt and basil. They're also using imported Italian tomatoes so you know they have confidence enough in the quality of their ingredients to not have to enhance or mask anything with added sugar.

Have a favorite vegan pasta sauce that we left out? Let us know below in the comments!

vegan stuffing brands

The 3 Best Vegan Stuffing Brands and Mixes (2017)

Although the term "stuffing" may have originally implied a mix of ingredients will be put inside a turkey on Thanksgiving, this age-old dish has quickly become a stand-alone staple of the holidays.

After all, there's nothing quite like herb-seasoned bread crumbles that's got some form of fat to increase its flavor profile. While some brands of stuffing insist on adding animal fats, milk, and eggs into their packaged products, this isn't a universal case. To make things easy, we've gone ahead and compiled the best vegan stuffing brands below:

Our 3 Picks for Vegan Stuffing Brands Available Online

Although none of these brands have the cleanest of ingredient statements, the holidays probably aren't the best time to worry about it. Please note that all ingredient statements are always subject to change so be sure to double check before buying!

Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing

Arrowhead Mills Organic Stuffing, Savory Herb, 10 Ounce (Pack of 12)

This organic easy to make stuffing has a relatively simple list of ingredients which basically comes down to crumbled bread and seasoning. Even the directions on the back of the package have a vegan option which should make the exact measurements for making it super easy. We like Arrowhead Mills as a brand and they've made it onto a few of our other pages including our best vegan cereals.

Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing

Pepperidge Farm Herb-Seasoned Stuffing, 3 - 16 Ounce Bags

Although it contains a lot of processed ingredients, this herb stuffing mix can be prepared 100% vegan. Rather than following the exact directions on the back simply replace the butter with any sort of vegan alternative (even olive oil would work) as well using vegetable broth instead of the chicken variety that it calls for.

Quick, easy, and great if you're in a pinch.

Mrs. Cubbison's Corn Bread Stuffing

Mrs. Cubbison's Corn Bread Stuffing, 12 Ounce

Although it wouldn't have been our first thought to make stuffing from cornbread, it does sound like a pretty good idea. It's pretty cool that Mrs. Cubbison's has done this without adding any animal products to it. 

Again, the directions call for butter and broth, but simply use a vegan butter alternative or oil as well as a veggie broth and it's all good!​

In-Store Brands You May Be Able to Find

Last year we noticed that our local  Whole Foods literally just sold bags of dried and crumbled bread, probably from their baking department. It was cheap and a great base to make any sort of stuffing with. This is a great vegan stuffing recipe to loosely follow if you want to go down that road.

Its likely the case that your local grocery store will do the same around Thanksgiving. Don't be afraid to ask the bakery department, you never know what you'll find.​

Is Homeade Stuffing Typically Vegan?

Most traditional stuffing recipes, even if they are made from scratch, typically call for things like butter, animal-based broths, and even eggs - making them non-vegan. That being said, if you end up at a non-vegan Thanksgiving household, be sure to ask the host what went into it. There might be a ray of hope as our "traditional" family stuffing recipe has been accidentally vegan for generations, so you actually never know!

Be sure to let us know your favorite vegan stuffing brands and/or recipes below!​

are gushers vegan banner

Are Gushers Vegan? What You Need To Know!

Are Gushers Vegan? Being that there are no blatantly labeled animal products in gushers we would consider them vegan. They also don't contain gelatin which is one of the most common animal-based ingredients that people miss. However, being that there are so many ingredients in these popular fruit snacks we will assess each ingredient in greater detail below.

It is important to note that if you'd prefer to be on the safe side there are many alternative fruit snacks that are actually labeled as 100% vegan. Here are some of the top ones that we'd recommend.

*Click any of the links above to check out these gushers alternatives on Amazon.

The healthiest alternative would be to simply eat some whole fruits, but that's neither here nor there!

Gushers Ingredient Breakdown

Here are all of the ingredients in gushers with a bit more detail about the vegan status of each one. This is from the Strawberry Splash flavor of gushers taken directly from the General Mills website. Always check store ingredient lists as manufacturer websites can sometimes be out of date.

We've put an asterisks* next to the ingredients of particular importance.​ As you'll see below, the origins of some of these ingredients is quite dubious. 

However, we take the position that unless an ingredient is a specific driver to the animal agriculture industry, you're better off not stressing too hard about it as it doesn't do any good for stopping animal suffering.

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a sweetener made by using enzymes to break down the starch of corn into sugar molecules. No animals involved.

Sugar*

Sugar can be a tricky ingredient because some sugar is filtered using bone char. We did an entire article on the subject of sugar if you want more details.

Many vegan organizations agree that sugar used in a food product shouldn't be fretted over. Avoiding these products would do little to nothing to prevent animal suffering and most likely the manufacturers don't even know the vegan status of the sugar they used.

Pear Puree

Self-explanatory! Pureed pears.

Modified Corn Starch

Corn treated with certain enzymes for different functionalities mainly for the purpose of modifying the viscosity of the final product.

Fructose

Sugar found in fruits. Not particularly great for you when its not part of the whole fruit, but vegan nonetheless.

Maltodextrin

Food additive used as a thickener derived from plant starches.

Palm Oil*

A controversial ingredient due to the nature of how it is harvested, many might consider it not to be vegan, but the subject is a bit nuanced and subjective. 

If we didn't use so much land for animal agriculture, there would be a lot more room to produce these types of ingredients ethically rather than having to deal with shrinking land availability.

If you want to learn more, check out our articles on skittles and frosting where we go into greater detail about palm oil.​

Glycerin*

Most glycerin is derived from plants although the potential exists for it to be animal derived. We go into greater detail about this in our article on vegan gum.

Cottonseed Oil

An oil extracted from the seeds of cotton plants. 

Grape Juice Concentrate

This is basically grape fruit juice that has had most of its water removed making it a "concentrated" form.

Carrageenan*

A thickener derived from seaweed, no animals involved.

Citric Acid

Naturally found in citrus, citric acid is used as a preservative and as a flavoring agent. You can actually make your own at home!

Monoglycerides*

Used as an emulsifier, this is another one of those controversial ingredients where it becomes difficult to identify the origins. It could be animal or plant derived. Unfortunately, calling the company won't even be helpful most of the time as they are unlikely to know the origins.

Given that it is such a small ingredient that isn't a primary driver of animal agriculture, we recommend not to worry about it. PETA takes the same position.​

Sodium Citrate

Can be made from citric acid and sodium bicarbonate - not animal derived.

Malic Acid

Extracted from plants - nothing to worry about in regards to its vegan status.

​Ascorbic Acid

This is just vitamin C.

Natural Flavor*

A natural flavor can pretty much be anything that's approved for use in food that's used as a flavoring agent. Often times knowing its true origins is going to be impossible, even if you call the company. Much like our position on monoglycerides, we suggest you don't sweat it. The less people purchase blatantly labeled animal products in the first place, the less likely it will be to have these dubious ingredients derived from animals in the first place.

Potassium Citrate

Without getting too technical, its the potassium salt of citric acid. Don't worry about this one.

Agar-Agar

A gelatin alternative derived from algae. We love this ingredient and recommend it to make your own jello!

Red 40*

Commonly thought to be made from beetles, its actually made from coal. Wouldn't worry too much about this one.

Xanthan Gum​

A thickener typically obtained by the fermentation of bacteria. Don't worry about its vegan status.

Conclusion on Gushers

Although some of their ingredient status may be a bit dubious, we don't recommend you worry about it. Stick to removing all labeled animal products to your diet (meat, eggs, dairy, fish, gelatin, etc) as it is the most impactful thing you can do for the planet and the animals.

tofu pressing and draining experiment

How to Press & Drain Tofu | We Prepare it 3 Ways [Experiment]

Tofu is a strange ingredient; it can range from being totally bland and almost gross to a masterful, flavorful piece in a culinary work. It's all about how you prepare it. Aside from seasoning tofu, a crucial step to making tofu delicious is pressing it or draining it in some way.

To figure out the best way to press and drain tofu, we put three common methods to the test.

Different Tofu Pressing Methods & Steps

There are several methods out there to getting the water out of tofu:

  • The DIY Tofu Press
  • The Standard Tofu Press
  • The Tofu Freezing Method

More details on each method below:

Method 1:​ The DIY Tofu Press

A DIY tofu press can be made with a few easy items you have around the house.​

The most basic version can be made with two plates (or any flat surfaces) and then a few weighted items such as books, cans, or more even blocks of tofu.​

DIY tofu press vs. regular tofu press side by side

Our two pressing methods side by side

To make a DIY Tofu Press, place the block of tofu on one plate and place the other plate on top of the tofu. Then place the weighted items on the top plate and allow it to sit for 30-45 minutes.

Proceed to check  the tofu after that amount of time as elapsed and drain the water out from the bottom of the plate to prevent the tofu from re-hydrating itself. You can also use paper towels to capture some of the water, but this could get wasteful rather quickly.

You can proceed to add more weight every 10-15 minutes to get all of the stubborn water out.​

Method 2:​ The Tofu Press

If you're not one for DIY projects, Tofu presses can be purchased rather inexpensively and works to simplify the process.

Simply put, a tofu press actually has its own set of plates with four screws. You slide your block of tofu between the plates and tighten the screws to apply more pressure to the tofu.

The advantage is that you don't have to do a balancing act like with Method 1 and you can create a similar amount of pressure every time you press.

Method 3:​ Freezing Tofu

Freezing tofu might sound a bit strange, but it actually has a legitimate culinary application.

Upon freezing, the water will turn into ice crystals and create small holes upon thawing giving it a more chewy and spongy texture.

Many people swear by freezing it, so we wanted to see how it worked as a standalone method.

The Experiment Goals

With aspirations to narrow down the best technique, we decided to set up three experiments using each of the methods listed above.

To keep things simple, we marinaded the tofu in a vegan buffalo sauce after it was pressed or frozen. We then baked the tofu in a convection oven for 30 minutes. Our goals with this test were two fold:

  • We wanted to see the amount of sauce that the tofu absorbed.
  • We wanted to evaluate the different textures.

Experiment Results

Method 1:​ The DIY Tofu Press Results

Making the DIY tofu press was easy, but getting it to look and perform gracefully was hard. We assembled it with two plates, paper towels, and cans of beans.

The biggest issue that we had was getting even weight distribution on the tofu. At the end of the day, it didn't make a big deal in terms of getting the water out, but it did make the tofu a bit uneven. as you can see in the picture below.

using cans to drain the water from the tofu

Our set-up when using the cans to drain the tofu

The whole system ended up toppling over from this uneven weight distribution and the bang was quite alarming! We realized that cans probably weren't the best method here so we decided to get some weight dumbells.

Our can setup topped over!

All of our cans after they fell over.

The dumbells provided a much more stable press, but it looked a bit laughable. Also, given all of the room that it took up on the plate, adding more weight wasn't possible. This wasn't entirely needed to drain it, but it could have potentially been drained a bit quicker if we could have increased the tension.

using dumbells to press tofu

We had to switch to dumbbells after our cans toppled

Method 2:​ The Tofu Press Results

While the tofu press did inspire a bit of skepticism at first, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use. Needless to say, there were much fewer moving parts and it was a lot easier to set up than the DIY press.

the tofu press in action

The Tofu Press in Action!

The only complaint with the tofu press was that there's not really a great surface to do it on. If you do it on the counter then the counter will get wet, so balancing it on a plate seemed like a good idea. However, this was a bit of an inconvenience, and it meant that more things had to be cleaned.

Not the biggest deal, but perhaps next time it would be best done in an empty sink.​

the results of both pressing methods

You can see the DIY tofu press yielded a bit uneven results

Given the balanced nature of the press, it allowed us to get an even press on the tofu. You can tell in the picture above which one was done on the tofu press and which one was done with the DIY press.

results of marinated tofu after being pressed

Results after tofu was marinated and cooked.

Both of these methods produced near identical results in terms of texture and flavor absorption.

The buffalo tofu came out delicious of course, but none of the sauce seeped past the outside of the tofu slices.

We'd probably recommend using the tofu press just for the ease of use, but if you're in a pinch or don't want to fork over the cost for one (they're usually pretty cheap) then the DIY press will work.​

Method 3:​ Freezing Results

We froze the tofu overnight and then allowed it to thaw the next day

After it was completely thawed we allowed it to marinate for several hours in the same buffalo sauce as the pressed tofu.​

There was a stark difference in the texture of the tofu after it defrosted. It had a bunch of tiny little holes which allowed it to absorb more of the sauce than the tofu that was pressed.​ These holes were quite visible as well as the color of the inside of the tofu when we cut the slices in half.

frozen tofu after it was cooked

Spongy texture of the tofu after it was frozen, marinated and cooked

Looking at it from the top, the tofu you can see the holes illustrated even better.

view from the top of the frozen tofu

View from the top of the frozen and cooked tofu

The texture of this tofu was more spongy and chewy than when it was pressed. Comparing it to another type of food is difficult, but it was kind of like a soy nugget only a lot better.

Which Method Was the Best?

Simply for the factor of time invested and convenience compared to results, the freezing method was the one that came out on top. It changed the texture and flavor of the tofu in a very positive way without having to do much work at all.

However, it is not a "one size fits all" method for every type of flavor profile in our opinion. 

For example, a sweet and smoky flavor profile for tofu would probably be better if it was denser, making one of the tofu pressing methods ideal.

If you're going to slather it in buffalo sauce like we did, having it perform like a boneless tofu nugget best served the flavor profile.

Overall, we're definitely going to be freezing or pressing our tofu from now on.​ Neither are a huge inconvenience and they both took the experience to the next level.

DIY vegan dog food treats (1)

3 Vegan Dog Treats You Can DIY with Common Ingredients!

Author byline: Written by Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation's largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

DIY Vegan Dog Treats

There’s a lot of information out there regarding the best diet for your pup. It’s important to keep in mind that dogs have a different digestive system than we do. The perfect vegan diet regimen for you doesn’t meet the same nutritional needs as a vegan diet for dogs; however, it’s completely doable. You simply need to do your research.

AAFCO sets nutritional standards for pet food in the United States, and recommends a minimum of 18% protein in a dog’s diet. This is a minimum, and a vegan diet for dogs should include a large variety of alternate proteins especially for puppies and active dogs. Some types of alternative proteins include soy, rice, oats, peanut butter, quinoa, and wheat germ.

Rover.com has a few DIY dog treat recipes to share with your vegan pup. You’ll find peanut butter in many dog treat recipes as it’s an excellent source of healthy fats and vitamins for your dog. If your dog has allergies, many of these ingredients are flexible. You can easily use alternate flours instead of wheat flour.

Vegan Dog Biscuits with Protein Power

¼ cup Oats

1 cup Rice or Almond Flour

¼ cup Whole Wheat Flour

½ Tb. Baking powder

1 Tb. Oil

1 Tb. Applesauce

½ cup Soy Milk

½ cup Peanut Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all dry ingredients including flours, oats, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients including oil, applesauce, soy milk, and peanut butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix well. Knead the dough into a ball and roll out evenly until ⅓ inch thick. Choose your favorite dog biscuit cookie cutter to cut out the treats and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Pumpkin Vegan Dog Treats

2 - 2.5 cups Whole Wheat Flour

¼ cup Canned Pumpkin*

¼ cup Brown Rice (cooked)

¼ cup Peanut Butter

*Water (enough to hold dough together)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First, mix together the pumpkin and peanut butter. Next, add in cooked rice and flour. Whisk in water until the dough holds together but isn’t too wet. The dough will be a little crumbly. Roll the dough into bite size balls. Place on a greased baking sheet or use parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. *Pumpkin supports a dog’s GI tract and some digestive issues.

Apple Chip Treats

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Wash 2 apples and cut off each side avoiding the core. Thinly slice the apple and lay them flat on a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the sheets on the top rack of your oven. The dehydrating process will take roughly 5-6 hours.

There are many kinds of people food that are healthy for dogs too, but make no assumptions. It’s important to know what foods are most nutritious for your dog!

vegan jam headline graphic (1)

Vegan Jelly & Jam: Recipes, FAQ, and Our 3 Favorite Brands

Jelly and jam are both nostalgically delicious spreads. Perfect on their own or complimented with a nut butter, having the right jam or jelly can make or break your toast. Heck, they even go great in oatmeal!

However, given their unique jiggly textures, people often ask whether or not they vegan.

We've compiled everything you might want to know about vegan jam and jelly in an attempt to clear up any confusion!​

Vegan Jam & Jelly FAQ

We've answered some of the most common questions surrounding vegan jam, jelly, and preserves below. Should you have any more, be sure to let us know in the comment section.

Is Jelly Normally Vegan?

Most store bought jelly brands are indeed going to be vegan as they use pectin (a naturally occurring fruit-based thickener) rather than gelatin to give the product its firm and jiggly texture. Although it is indeed possible for some brands or recipes to call for gelatin, it doesn't seem to be a common practice.  

smooth jelly on peanut butter toast (1)

Jelly is smooth and doesn't contain any seeds or fruit chunks.

Even the most popular brands like Welch's do indeed use pectin and not gelatin. Although they use high-fructose corn syrup and have a bunch of added sugar, the final product doesn't contain anything from animals. Their ingredient statement is as follows:

CONCORD GRAPES, CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, FRUIT PECTIN, CITRIC ACID,
SODIUM CITRATE

We've included brands and recipes with more whole foods and less processed sugar below, but just wanted to use a mainstream brand as an example.

Is Jam Vegan?​

Jam is basically the same thing as jelly except it is formulated to be slightly looser and contain more pulp or fruit pieces/seeds. The majority of brands and recipes out there will use pectin and not gelatin - much like jelly which makes most jams 100% vegan.

As an example - the mainstream brand, Smuckers​ has the following ingredient statement for their strawberry jam:

Strawberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid.

Again, a bunch of less processed alternative brands/recipes are compiled below.

Are Preserves Vegan?

Preserves contain more whole fruit than both jam and jelly and typically use the same thickening agents. That being said, they should be vegan most of the time unless gelatin is used.

Although the definitions might be technically different, jams and preserves can sometimes be used interchangeably.

necatrine marmalade or jam

Marmalade and/or preserves contain chunks of fruit, seeds etc.

What About Marmalade?

Marmalade, jam, and preserves can sometimes mean the same thing depending on the region that you're in. However, it is important to note that marmalade typically refers to citrus based spreads made from lemons, oranges etc.

You'll usually find the peels from the fruit inside the spread as well.​

What Ingredients Should Vegans Be Aware Of?

The only ingredient that you should be aware of is gelatin which we've mentioned previously. Its certainly not a common practice, but it is possible that a manufacturer might put it in in certain niche brands.

Some specialty jams contain meats such as bacon, but those are obvious to spot.

Is It Hard to Make Vegan Jam At Home?

Absolutely not!

Pectin is readily available in the most grocery stores and ​jams, preserves, and jellies usually have few ingredients and easy to follow steps.

berries ready for jam

Making jam requires only a few ingredients and minimal steps.

Some recipes also don't require pectin at all as they make use of the gelling properties of chia seeds!

Check out our unique selection of jam, jelly, and preserves recipes in the next section!​

What About the Sugar?

While there is the potential for products with added sugar to come in contact with animal products via certain filtering mechanisms, we don't consider that a criteria as to whether or not something is vegan. We believe it is counter-productive to do so for two reasons:

  • The complexity of the supply chain makes it impossible to know for certain.
  • It can be a huge turn off and make eliminating all labeled animal products seem more difficult.
  • It doesn't do any good for the animals.

Many vegan activist organizations including PETA take a similar stance on dubious / impossible to determine ingredients. You can check out our full position on sugar for more details.

Our Favorite Vegan Jam & Jelly Recipes

Making jelly, jam, or preserves are home is a great way to save money and control exactly what goes into the final product. Also, by using fresh and in season ingredients, you'll have the ability to capture flavor profiles that you're unlikely to find in store bought brands. 

Chia Seed Raspberry Jam by The Wholesome Fork

chia seed raspberry jam

Many people are often so concerned about protein, carbohydrates, and fats that they don't think about fiber; which for the average westerner is far more important. This raspberry chia seed jam is packed with fiber, whole fruits, and minimal added sugar.

Easy Apricot Jam by Dish by Dish

easy apricot jam by dish by dish

This vegan apricot jam by Dish by Dish is an easy to follow recipe that delivers delectable results. Apricot jam can be a slightly milder replacement for traditional berry based jams.

Blueberry Chia Jam by Delicious Knowledge

blueberry chia jam

If you love blueberries and want something that's "jam packed" with nutrients then this blueberry chia jam recipe for you! It's only got four ingredients and very little added sugar in the form of maple syrup.

Simple Raspberry Jam No Chia Seeds by Holy Cow!

raspberry jam no chia seeds

If you're looking for a classic raspberry jam with three ingredients and no chia seeds check out this one from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes!

Strawberry "Bluebarb" Chia Seed Jam by Athletic Avocado

bluebarb chia seed jam

This unique jam with made with rhubarb is perfect if you're looking for a new and interesting flavor profile. If you haven't tried rhubarb before, this is a great way to test it out, its one of the few vegetables used primarily in sweet applications.

Smokey Tomato Jam by WellVegan

Smokey Tomato Jam by WellVegan

A savory spin on a normally sweet spread, this smokey tomato jam is something that you've got to try. You're not only limited to spreading it on toast - be sure to try it as a topper for tofu or tempeh as well!

Strawberry Chia Jam by VNutrition

strawberry chia jam

This strawberry chia jam recipe is a fantastic spin on traditional jam as it contains more whole foods and texture with the addition of the chia seeds. It's also super easy to make with no fancy steps required!

Strawberry Fig Jam by The Veg Space

strawberry fig jam

This strawberry fig jam is a more traditional recipe as it calls for pectin. The finished product is more of a smooth jam as it gets blended so its absolutely great for spreading!

Blood Orange Jelly Recipe by Delicious Everyday

blood orange vegan jelly

This blood orange vegan jelly recipe is a unique way to use a fruit you'd normally eat with your hands. It also comes with a vegan almond sorbet recipe - which is an excellent vessel to serve it on!

Quince Jelly by the Flexitarian

quince jelly

If you've never tried quince, you've got to check it out! Often used in tea, it almost tastes like a combination of an apple and a pear. This quince jelly by the Flexitarian is a great way to try it out!

Chunky Strawberry Chia Jam by Vegan Insanity

chunky strawberry chia seed jam

Strawberry chia seed jam can be made chunky as well! If you like a jam that's got big pieces of fruit check out this recipe from Vegan Insanity.

Raspberry Chia Jam by The Honour System

raspberry chia jam recipe

This raspberry chia jam recipe is another spin on using chia seeds rather than pectin to thicken up the spread. Raspberries make absolutely delicious fruit spreads because of their unique tart yet sweet flavor profile. Even though this recipe calls for a very small amount of honey - we recommend replacing it with maple syrup or agave to make it 100% vegan.

Our Favorite Vegan Brands for Jelly, Jams, and Preserves

We've hand selected some of the premium brands on the market for you to check out and possibly try!

Our Favorite Vegan Jelly Brand: Crofter's Fruit Spreads

Vegan Basil Pesto

If you're looking for a simply jelly that's very spreadable with little to no seeds - we highly recommend this Crofter's organic strawberry spread. It's sweetened with grape juice and strawberries so it isn't overly sweet and overpowering.

If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

Our Favorite Vegan Jam Brand: Stonewall Kitchen Blueberry

Vegan blueberry jam

This blueberry jam has the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness that you won't find in many bigger brands of jam. While most big commercial brands are overtly sweet and stray far away from the original flavor of the fruit, Stonewall kitchen preserves that flavor and brings it to life

If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

Our Favorite Vegan Preserves Brand: Tiptree Little Scarlet

Vegan blueberry jam

If you enjoy complex textures and fresh flavors, these strawberry preserves are definitely worth checking out. They are made from Little Scarlet strawberries which currently only grow in the UK. The strawberries are picked and made into preserves within a few mere hours for a delicious final product.

If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

Have a jam brand you'd like to see on the list or a recipe you'd like to see added to this page?

Let us know below in the comments section!​

benefits of broccoli and how to eat more

The Benefits of Broccoli | And How to Prepare it Properly

Broccoli is infamous for being the vegetable that everyone hates. Its crumbly head and sulfur-like smell has the tendency to make even grown adults whinge in disgust.

But given all of the things that broccoli does for us, is this hate warranted? Perhaps we just need to treat our broccoli a bit better so that we can form a mutually beneficial relationship.

However, a solid broccoli romance (bromance, if you will)  takes time and understanding. That's why we decided to compile all of available/applicable human studies on broccoli as well as give you some tips to help you look forward to eating it.

Basics of Broccoli

Even though its very easy to do a google search and find out the nutrients that broccoli contains, we'll just do a quick recap to illustrate just how nutrient dense this cruciferous veggie is.

Nutrient Density

Nutrient density is one of the most important properties of health promoting foods. A nutrient dense food will provide high amounts of vitamins and minerals with very minimal calories

For just 100 calories of cooked broccoli, you're getting the following:

  • 9.4g (25% RDA) of Fiber
  • 4421 IU (147% RDA) of Vitamin A
  • 185mg (206% RDA) of Vitamin C
  • 402 μg (446% RDA) of Vitamin K
  • 0.3g (21% RDA) of Omega-3 Fatty Acids with only 0.1 of Omega-6*
  • 114mg (11% RDA) of Calcium

And even though the average person in Western civilization shouldn't concern themselves with being protein deficient, you actually get 6.8g of protein as well!

*​Western diets tend to be much higher in Omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in Omega-3. Keeping these ratios in check has been shown to reduce the risk of many of our chronic diseases (11).

Studies Done on Broccoli

Because there are tons of scientific papers put out every year in nutrition, we scoured through and picked the ones about broccoli that are well-designed and most likely to be directly applicable to human health.

Real World Detoxification Effects

The word "detox" is sometimes used as a buzzword, but broccoli actually has been demonstrated to have real world detoxification effects. To clarify exactly what we mean by "detox" - we're referring to a marked reduction in inflammation or enhancing the bodies ability to rid itself of dangerous chemicals.

Please note: There's a lot to cover on this particular topic. Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org does a fabulous job breaking it down in the video below if you aren't that inclined to read too much text.

For people that live in cities or populated areas, air pollution is a serious issue. It's associated with an increased risk of several ailments including: cardiovascular disease, asthma, and more. This unfortunately remains the case even if the air is within or below the emissions standards (1)(2)(3).

Although it may seem like a stretch, consuming broccoli on a regular basis may have the potential to mitigate some of the negative effects of smoking which could potentially transfer over to protective effects from air pollution.

This does not mean that you should start smoking!

In one 10-day study, researchers took young male smokers and fed them 250g of broccoli each day. Researchers observed a 48% decrease in plasma CRP (C-Reactive Protein), a biomarker used to measure inflammation which is typically elevated in smokers (4)(5). Researchers quoted:

In conclusion, broccoli consumption may reduce CRP levels in smokers, consistent with epidemiologic observations that fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower circulating CRP concentrations.

Another study that examined over 1000 middle aged women found that these anti-inflammation effects were not just limited to smokers. The reduction in inflammatory markers from cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli) seems to apply to the rest of the population as well (6). Researchers quoted:

This study suggests that the previously observed health benefits of cruciferous vegetable consumption may be partly associated with the anti-inflammatory effects of these vegetables.

There are some even more exciting studies that were done on broccoli sprouts and broccoli sprout extract, rather than the actual broccoli itself. In one example, researchers in China (where there's extremely high pollution) found that test subjects consuming a broccoli sprouts beverage were able to rid their body of 61% more benzene than control subjects (10). Researchers quoted:

Thus, intervention with broccoli sprouts enhances the detoxication of some airborne pollutants and may provide a frugal means to attenuate their associated long-term health risks.

Although not exactly the broccoli one may be accustomed to, broccoli sprouts are readily available, cheap, and easy to make at home.

Studied Impact on Cancer

Cancer is a complex and nuanced subject and we like to steer clear about making bold claims about it. However, we would be doing you a disservice if we didn't report on some of the broccoli-related findings in the scientific literature.

The Women's Healthy Eating and Living study observed over 3000 breast cancer survivors and found a greater reduction in breast cancer recurrence for women with a high cruciferous vegetable intake (7).

These women were already taking Tamoxifen, so we're not suggesting that broccoli is going to be a panacea. However, high fruit and vegetable consumption combined with the best of Western medicine is a great combination! Researchers quoted:

This secondary analysis in over 3,000 breast cancer survivors suggests that baseline vegetable intake may be associated with a reduction in the risk of breast cancer recurrent or new events particularly for those using tamoxifen. Such associations should be explored further as the possibility that vegetable intake is simply a surrogate for other health-promoting behaviors cannot be ruled out.

Check out the video above for more details on these studies as Dr. Greger from NutritionFacts.org has a concise way about explaining the findings so that everyone can understand.

Can You Eat Too Much Broccoli?

As we discussed in our article on kale, cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid function if you consume them raw. Given that broccoli is quite unpalatable to consume raw, this shouldn't be an issue for people. The culprit enzymes responsible for this whole process are deactivated through cooking, so eat as much (cooked) broccoli as you like!

In the event that you do want to consume your broccoli raw, it is important to consume enough iodine which can be found in foods like sea vegetables. However,  we recommend just cooking your broccoli (9).

Tips of Preparing Broccoli

Simplicity is Key

If you want to add more broccoli to your diet, then you need to keep things simple. Sure, there are a bunch of delicious and creative ways to prepare it, but having a go-to method that you love will ensure that it becomes a staple.

roasted broccoli with garlic

Roasted Broccoli and Garlic is Absolutely Delicious!

Use some of the simple methods we laid out below to start adding broccoli or any other cruciferous veggie to your daily diet. Keep it handy in the fridge for when you want a quick savory snack. Consuming it regularly over the course of a few weeks will help you acquire a taste. It may eventually become one of your favorite foods!

Be sure to also check out our post on the best vegan cookbooks to learn more.​

A Little Oil Goes a Long Way

For the average person working an office job, too much cooking oil can add a lot of empty calories and the wrong oils such as coconut (yes, its true) can also contribute to cardiovascular disease (8).

That doesn't mean you should shy away from oil altogether though, especially if it means that its going to result in you eating a lot more broccoli!​

A great way to apply oil to broccoli is to use a silicone pastry/basting brush. It's far easier to clean than a normal brush and does a great job applying the oil evenly. You'll also use way less than if you were to just drizzle it all over your pan.

Here's some quick pointers to help you apply this method:​

  • Cut the broccoli into thin slices and place on an oven safe baking sheet. 
  • Combine 1 TBSP of olive oil with the juice of half of a lemon.
  • Brush each head of broccoli with the olive oil and lemon mixture.
  • Season with sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.
  • Cook at 350F for around 20-25 minutes or until the pieces are just slightly crispy.

Chilling After Cooking

If you prefer to steam your broccoli before serving, this is also an excellent option. Steaming it will mellow out the texture and the flavor of the broccoli, making it a perfect medium for a small amount of high-flavored oil (such as olive oil infused with garlic).

garlic and lemon

Garlic and fresh lemon makes chilled broccoli savory and refreshing.

Here's a great way to do cold broccoli:​

  • Steam 1-2 big heads broccoli to the texture you'd like.
  • After it has the crunch or softness you like best submerge it in ice cold water to stop the cooking immediately.
  • Take 1 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil and mix with half or a whole lemon.
  • Add sea salt, pepper, and smoke paprika.
  • You can also add pieces of roasted garlic, but garlic powder might be too strong if its not cooked.
  • Mix thoroughly and serve or store in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Wrap Up

Incorporating more broccoli into your diet is a great idea if you want to reduce your risk for many chronic diseases and protect yourself from environmental pollutants. There are virtually no downsides, as long as cook it!

Take some time to experiment and learn how to prepare broccoli in a way that you'll eat regularly. Good habits take some time to form, and only consistent mindful steps in the right direction can cause them to do so. Happy eating!

vegan dog food

Vegan Dog Food: The Science, Our Experience & Best Brands

If you've been vegan for any amount of time, you're probably already convinced that humans don't need to eat animal products to live and thrive, but what about our other four-legged family members - such as dogs?

Being that wolves are mainly carnivores in the wild and ​share a common ancestor with dogs, many people have the preconceived notion that dogs require an animal-based diet to be healthy, but is this the truth?

The Science Behind Dogs Being Vegan

Even though the science on humans going vegan is quite clear, there simply aren't a large amount of vegan/vegetarian dog studies out there. While we try to reference actual research and veterinary authorities regarding this topic wherever possible, please bear in mind the body of evidence here is not extremely large.

However, there is a more than enough information on the topic out there that warrants at least giving it a try on your dog for both health and ethical reasons.

Why a Vegan Diet Can Work for Dogs

There are a few important things to understand as to why its completely reasonable to feed your dog a vegan diet.

cocker spaniel dog

Dogs have come a long way since wolves - not only in their looks, but in their ability to digest starch.

  • Although dogs and wolves may look similar, they do have genetic differences. One of the major genetic differences is the dogs capability to digest starches. This is likely due to dogs living besides humans for so long and having to live off of human scraps.
  • They also have lower protein requirements than obligate carnivores such as cats.
  • Dogs have the ability to use Vitamin A and D from plant sources - just like humans.

​One thing to note is that a poorly planned or inferior diet for a dog or a human is likely to result in problems - whether it includes meat or not.

This is why there are guidelines to dog food supplementation whether the food has meat or not. Dogs have a specific set of balanced nutritional needs, which is why home-prepared diets aren't usually recommended.

Sprint Racing Dog Study on Siberian Huskies

One of the most popular studies referenced regarding dogs following meat free diets was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2009. Although the sample size was rather small (only 12 dogs), the study design itself was rather thorough.  The participating dogs were checked by a veterinarian three times throughout the study and blood samples at weeks 0, 3, 8 and 16.

The researchers were mainly studying sports related anemia, but the dogs were given regular check-ups as well, as mentioned above.  Dogs from both the meat-free and meat eating groups were assessed to be in great physical condition.

siberian huskey vegan dog

Even racing Siberian Huskies were able to thrive on a vegan diet.

It is important to note that these were very active racing dogs. These Huskies were training and racing throughout the most of the duration of the study, meaning their demands for calories and nutrients would far exceed a normal domesticated dog.

While the scientific data that we found is very encouraging​ and should be considered the best source of evidence on this topic, we also have had a good anecdotal experience which we documented below.

We're not taking an ethical stance on dog racing here, but rather just presenting the information in the study.

Appeal to Nature Fallacy: Nutrients vs. Ingredients

Dogs eating vegan can be a very emotionally driven topic. For some, not feeding a dog any meat goes against the natural order of things.

The problem with this line of thinking is that natural doesn't always imply good. In fact, the "natural" option is sometimes worse than the alternative!

Dogs need a specific combination and ratio of nutrients, not specific ingredients

Given what we're about to cover in the next section - it may actually be best for your dog to get these nutrients from plants, simply because we don't live in the picturesque natural world that is portrayed in many dog food commercials.

What's Actually in Your Dog's Food?

The pet food industry is mostly a byproduct of the human animal agriculture industry. When you think about what actually goes into standard dog food, it seems clear that plant alternatives might be the better option, or atleast worth a try.

Some of the stuff that goes into dog food can't even go into hot dogs. This list but is not likely limited to:​

  • Hides and Bones
  • Digestive system along with feces, udders, etc.
  • Brains
  • Non-farm animals including other pets
dog eating dog food

Conventional dog food comes with its own set of downsides.

All of this byproduct, among other things, typically gets transferred to a "rendering plant" which is essentially a huge grinder. Some rendering plants even receive things like plastics, styrofoam, expired meats, and even dead pets.

This rendered material is processed and extracted into "meat and bone meal", and it's hard to tell exactly what's in it as regulations vary from state to state.

We're not saying this is all ​pet food or all pet food companies, but this topic is something to think about and investigate when you're comparing conventional dog food vs. plant based alternatives.

If your dog can get its nutrient needs met from sources lower on the food chain, like plants, you're likely exposing them to less junk and waste products.​

Plenty of Vets Support a Vegan Diet for Dogs

This interview with Dr. May, who is a practicing veterinarian talks a bit about the meat and bone meal issue which we just discussed. 

There are plenty of other vegan vets who share these positions. V-dog features some of the most prominent ones on their website

Perhaps the most notable is Dr. Andrew Knight who runs VeganPets.Info. He has conducted his own academic research (over 65 studies) and stays thoroughly abreast on all of the latest research on this subject. His published research on this very issue can be found here.

Environmental Pollutants and Toxins

As some research indicates, food may be the primary route of exposure to contaminants from multiple chemical classes such as metals (mercury, lead, arsenic), persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (dioxin, DDT, dieldrin, chlordane), and pesticides (chlorpyrifos, permethrin, endosulfan).

A diet high in large fish and animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to persistent organic compounds and metals than does a plant-based diet because these compounds bioaccumulate up the food chain.

As an illustrative example: eating a sardine is likely to contain less environmental ​pollutants than eating a bigger fish like a salmon.

Pet food is no different - and likely much worse. Check out the video above and this link which touches on the high concentration of flame retardant chemicals in dog and cat food!

Anecdotal Evidence

In the majority of cases, anecdotal evidence isn't a great indicator of scientific truth. However, we figured it was useful here just because there aren't that too many studies to draw from on this issue.

One of, if not the, longest living dog on record was Bramble, a Collie that lived to 27! 

Apparently, Bramble's owner fed him rice, lentils, and organic vegetables.​

As we stated earlier, we can't recommend making making your dogs meals at home because there are certain standard and guidelines for nutrients in pet foods, but Bramble makes an interesting single-point case study.​

Our advice would be to stick with a reputable vegan dog food brand if you're going to give plant based dog food a try.​


​Our Experience with V-Dog: A Popular Vegan Dog Food

In early 2017, we started feeding our dog a vegan diet, specifically V-Dog Dog Kibble, as her primary food source. Since then, she's been doing quite well!

As a dog that's had digestive issues all her life, she's had one very minor digestive episode, and seems to have boundless energy and athleticism (its a sight to see for a toy poodle) even though she's approaching 7 years old.​

Introducing Our "Vegan" Dog

Here's a picture of our beloved toy poodle, Penny. Penny has been vegan for almost a year now and we're happy to report that she's been doing great and her digestive health has actually improved!

penny with v dog in the background

Penny with her Food in the Background

​Penny has always had a very sensitive stomach since she was young and has gone through a lot of different brands of dog food. There have been multiple occasions where she was having trouble digesting one food (would either throw it up or get diarrhea) and we would switch to another type only to encounter the same issue.

Before switching to V-Dog​, Penny was eating Simply Wellness Turkey and Sweet Potato kibble as well as a prescription low-fat wet food called Hills Diet Digestive Care.  She was doing well on that food - with a few upset stomachs here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary for her.

How She Eats It

The one thing about V-Dog is that they don't have any brand of wet food. When we feed Penny at night, we will gently heat some of the kibble with some water and sometimes some rice or sweet potato until everything is soft and mushy (like wet food). Then we simply feed it to her in a bowl.

She usually slurps it up quite quickly!

She also has a red soccer ball (pictured below)​ which she rolls around to eat dry kibble throughout the day. Try to give her dry kibble out of your hand and she won't eat it, but if she gets it from out of her ball, she'll eat it all day!

penny with her food ball 3

Penny with her Food Ball

Did She Like It?

Penny is pretty picky, so one of our main concerns was whether or not she would like V-dog.

To help her system adapt, we were mixing the food with her previous food when we first started switching her over. Immediately she starting picking out ​the V-Dog and eating it and leaving the rest of her food in her bowl or on the floor.

I think we can safely say that she likes it. She's yet to leave her dinner unfinished.​

Blood Test Results

Penny had one bout of diarrhea the entire time we were giving her V-dog which is quite low given her history and past instances of throwing up, diarrhea, or upset stomach.

To be safe when this happened, we took her to the vet and she was given a blood screening. We were pleased to learn that everything was in the healthy range, despite the fact that she had been experiencing some digestive issues over the past week.

We don't suspect that this episode was related to her food at all, but probably some other food that she got her paws on.

V-Dog even challenges their customers to get their dogs blood tested before and after starting a meat-free diet.

Would We Recommend Vegan Dog Food Based on Our Experience?

Based on our experience, we don't see any reason why you shouldn't give it a try. If your dog loves the food and stays healthy, what could you have to lose?


Vegan Dog Food Brands

Below are some of the top brands selling vegan dog food. For the sake of this article - we're just going to be comparing dry kibbles when it comes to protein because it's not a valid comparison to compare wet vs. dry food as the wet has a lot more moisture and thus a lower protein percentage.

V-Dog

As we discussed, V-Dog is what our toy poodle has been eating for nearly the past year. She likes the food, her energy is great, and her blood work turned out just fine. Our only complaint with V-Dog is that they don't sell the mini kibbles in bulk which makes them more expensive than the standard size. Both products have the same exact ingredients (at the time of writing), but the smaller version might be easier for some dogs to chew and digest given their size.

v dog in metal food bowl

V-Dog Looking Like Any Other Dog Kibble

They can be found online at V-Dog.com.​

Ingredient Statement for V-Dog

According to their website, V-Dog has the following ingredient statement:

Listed as the first ingredient, the majority of the kibble is made from pea and pea protein with brown rice, oatmeal, potato protein. It's supplemented with everything else it needs to meet or exceed AAFCO guidelines.

It has the highest minimum protein out of every brand on this list which might be relevant if you're worried about your dog not getting enough.

Dried Peas, Pea Protein, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Potato Protein, Sorghum, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols) , Natural Flavor, Suncured Alfalfa Meal, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dicalcium Phosphate, Flaxseeds, Millet, Calcium Carbonate, Lentils, Peanut Hearts, Quinoa, Sunflower Chips, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Carrots, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Dl-methionine, Dried Parsley, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D2 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hyrdochloride, Biotin, Folic Acid), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (A Source Of Vitamin C), Preserved with Citric Acid, Preserved with mixed Tocopherols, Dried Blueberries, Dried Cranberries, Dried Celery, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lettuce, L-carnitine, Dried Watercress, Dried Spinach, Rosemary Extrac

We'd highly recommend it given that it's worked so well for our dog!​

Guaranteed Analysis of V-Dog

  • Crude Protein Min: 24 %
  • Crude Fat Min: 9%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 5%
  • Moisture Max: 10%

Natural Balance 

Natural Balance is a bigger pet food brand, but also makes an entire line of vegetarian (vegan) dog food. They make kibble, dried food, and dental chews.

The vegetarian section of their website can be found here.​

Ingredient Statement for Natural Balance

Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Peas, Potato Protein, Canola Oil, Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Vegetable Flavoring, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Natural Mixed Tocopherols, Spinach, Parsley Flakes, Cranberries, L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin D-2 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis of Natural Balance

  • Crude Protein Min: 18%
  • Crude Fat Min: 8%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 4%
  • Moisture Max: 10%

Nature's Recipe

Although we did see a dry kibble available on other retail sites, we were only able to find one vegetarian wet food on their website. We found their vegetarian dry kibble on Petco.

Ingredient Statement for Natural Balance

Ground Rice, Soybean Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Canola Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Dehydrated Carrots, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Inositol, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Beta-Carotene, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Garlic Oil, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Onion Extract, Garlic Powder, Rosemary Extract.

Their recipe uses soybean meal as a big part of the formulation so this could be something to consider if your dog has an allergy.

Guaranteed Analysis of Nature's Recipe

  • Crude Protein Min: 22%
  • Crude Fat Min: 8%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 4.4%
  • Moisture Max: 10%

Purina Hypoallergenic Hydrolyzed

Although it doesn't seem to be marketed as a vegan/vegetarian dog food, Purina makes a soy based food in their hypoallergnic line found here. Be careful, though - in addition to the regular flavor which we've featured below, they also have a chicken flavor which contains chicken liver.

Ingredient Statement for Purina HA

Starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, vegetable oil, dicalcium phosphate, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with TBHQ, powdered cellulose, corn oil, potassium chloride, guar gum, choline chloride, DL-Methionine, salt, magnesium oxide, lecithin, taurine, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, garlic oil, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite. A-2626

Again, just like the Nature's Recipe - this formulation also uses soy which may not be good for dog allergies.

Guaranteed Analysis of Purina Hypoallergenic

  • Crude Protein Min: 18%
  • Crude Fat Min: 8%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 4%
  • Moisture Max: 10%

Ami Dog

Ingredient Statement for Ami Dog 

Ami is a global brand that operates in a wide variety of countries - over 25 according to their website. Part of their mission is to bring forth an ethical, eco-friendly, and successful global economy, so you know they are quite committed to the cause.

Corn, corn gluten, corn oil, rice protein, whole peas, beet pulp, linseed, bicalcium phosphate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, potato protein, brewer’s yeast, calcium, carbonate, sodium chloride, rapeseed oil. It also contains linoleic acid.

If you live outside the US - this might be the only vegan dog food you're able to locate, according to the map on their website, they even distribute in China, Korea, and other Asian countries!

Guaranteed Analysis of Ami Dog

  • Crude Protein Min: 27%
  • Crude Fat Min: 14%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 2.9%
  • Moisture Max: 8%

Halo Pets Vegan Dog Food

Although they do also make meat-based dog foods, HALO pets makes a vegan dog food that's a bit different than the rest of the products on this list. The ingredient statement doesn't have any rice, and the formulation focuses on low glycemic ingredients like green peas and chickpeas.

Ingredient Statement for Halo Pets

Green Peas, Chickpeas, Pearled Barley, Oat Groats, Pea Protein, Whole Flaxseed, Sunflower Oil, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Potato, Sweet Potato, Alfalfa Meal, Carrot, Celery, Beet, Parsley, Lettuce, Watercress, Spinach, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Dicalcium Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Dried Kelp, Natural Vegetable Flavors, Flaxseed Oil, Carrots, Dried Apple, Dried Blueberry, Dried Cranberry, Chicory Root, Taurine, Rosemary Extract, L-Carnitine, Potassium Chloride, DL Methionine, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D-2 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Cobalt Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Ethylene Diamine Dihydriodide, Sodium Selenite).

HALO claims that the higher glycemic index dog foods may contribute to obesity in dogs, but this claim warrants further investigation. Even if a food is formulated to be lower on the glycemic index, your individual dog's genetics as well as additional feeding such as treats may also play a role in them gaining weight, but it is something to consider if your dog has issues.

Guaranteed Analysis of Halo 

  • Crude Protein Min: 20%
  • Crude Fat Min: 10%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 8.5%
  • Moisture Max: N/A

Benevo (UK Brand)

Benevo is a UK-based vegan pet food company that has probably the widest selection of dog food available. They have wet food, dry food, treats, and different formulations for different stages of life.

If you live in the UK - be sure to check them out! Their website isn't that clear on where they distribute, but they also seem to be doing trade shows in India.

Ingredient Statement for Benevo Adult Dog Food

Soya, Corn, White Rice, Sunflower Oil, Peas, Brewers Yeast, Beet Pulp, Tomato Pomace, Yeast Based Palatant, Minerals, Vitamins, Yucca Schidigera Extract (0.1%), Fructo-Oligosaccharides (Prebiotic FOS) (0.01%).

Again, it is soy based, so consider this if your dog has allergies and keep in mind that they do have other versions available without it.

Guaranteed Analysis of Benevo Adult Dog Food

  • Crude Protein Min: 20%
  • Crude Fat Min: 10%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 8.5%
  • Moisture Max: N/A

Conclusion

Given all of the information we've presented, we think it's definitely worth giving  vegan dog food a try.

Ethics aside, there are several reasons that your dog may actually be better off; the primary one being the main ingredients in most standard dog foods are waste products of the animal agriculture industry.

The higher you get on the food chain, the more environmental pollutants and toxins you tend to consume which we discussed at length in the first section. 

Always speak with your vet and be sure to do your due diligence with blood work as the research on it isn't as vast as it is in human nutrition, but the available research, anecdotes, and clinical evidence seem to show that dogs do perfectly well on meat-free diets!

vegan chocolate brands

Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Vegan Chocolate Brands

Survey 100 random people on the street and you'd be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't love chocolate. There's something about the rich, deep and earthy flavor that makes people react to the stuff as if it were catnip for humans. Despite popular misconceptions, being vegan does not mean that you have to give up chocolate.

Unfortunately, many of the big chocolate brands that might find on the supermarket checkout line are going to contain things like milk or milk derivatives. In an effort to save money, bigger companies will dilute the delectable flavor of cacao with cheap ingredients, even on their dark chocolate products. If you're thinking about giving the vegan lifestyle a try this is something to get excited about. Avoiding milk chocolate and cheap chocolate is going to give you a reason to explore all that the cocoa (or cacao) bean has to offer by trying some high quality chocolate brands.

What is Chocolate Exactly?

Believe it or not, chocolate originates from a bean called a cocoa or cacao bean. It mainly grows in tropical locations. The bean itself grows pods and like other beans are the seeds of the tree. The beans are surrounded by a pulp type material and the seeds are scooped out during the harvest.

Once the beans are harvested, they are sent into several different streams of production, creating the products that we know and love today. Whether they are chopped up to make cacao nibs, made into a powder, or a liquid - it all still originates from that same bean!​ (1)

You may have noticed that nothing about the bean itself involves animal products. This means that chocolate in its purest form is vegan!

How Do I Know if My Chocolate is Vegan?

The most common non-vegan in ingredient added to chocolate is milk or milk products. The majority of the time, the ingredient statement will state "CONTAINS: MILK" at the bottom. This is not because the companies are trying to warn vegans about milk, but rather because milk is a major allergen (2). Therefore, companies will make it pretty clear that their product has milk in order to make sure people that are allergic don't have a bad reaction. Even if the product has a milk derived ingredient in it such as casein, the label will most likely still have an allergen warning.

However, we have seen some exceptions to this rule, so we do recommend just giving a quick read through the ingredient statement of the bar you're trying to buy and looking for: milk, milkfat, and casein.

The Best Vegan Chocolate Bars Brands

Green and Black's Chocolate

Known for being one of the highest quality chocolates available, it is no surprise that Green and Black offers traditional dark chocolate options with no milk. They do offer a wide range of milk containing chocolates as well, so just be careful and be sure to check all of the labels. From what we can find, the vegan offerings they have are the following:

  • 70% Dark Chocolate Bars
  • 85% Dark Chocolate Bars
  • 60% Dark Chocolate Bars with Currant and Hazlenut
  • 60% Dark Chocolate Bar with Ginger

Below we have linked the Classic 70% Dark Chocolate for your eating pleasure:

Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate

Pascha is unique because its claim to fame is that its made in an allergen free facility. This means there's no risk of traces of peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, and gluten. Food allergy sufferers rejoice! They keep their ingredient list super simple which allows the sacred cocoa bean to perform at its best. They manufacture a few flavors and cocoa percentages, but from what we can see, they are all allergen free. In addition, they've gone so far as to get Vegan Certified (7)!

They're even coming out with a "milk chocolate" made creamy with rice milk! This is truly a great brand to support as a vegan.

We've linked the 85% dark chocolate below so be sure to check it out. Some of the other vegan varieties they manufacture are:​

  • 55% Cacao
  • 55% Cacao with Nibs
  • 55% Cacao with Goldenberries
  • 60% Cacao with Maca
  • 70% Cacao
  • 70% Cacao with Arabica Coffee

Trader Joe's 72% Dark Chocolate

One of our absolute favorite chocolate bars - Trader Joe's 72% Dark Chocolate is one that you can't miss out on! It's got a simple ingredient list and a taste and texture that's to die for. They've pretty much perfected the dark chocolate bar! To make things even better, they sell a variety with almonds as well.

We've linked the original 72% Pound Plus bar below for you to check out online, but also keep in eye out for the 72% with almonds!

Lindt Dark Chocolate

Although not all the products that they make are vegan, Lindt does have a few vegan options which includes some of their super dark chocolate. From what we've seen, Lindt's plain dark chocolate bars that are labeled for a cocoa percentage - say 70% cocoa are above -  don't have any milk products in them. However, when you see a package that's not labeled with a percentage, even if it says dark, there's a good chance that it is not vegan. We recommend double checking for milk or milkfat just to be sure, though. Here are a list of the different vegan dark chocolate bars that they offer:

  • 70% Smooth Dark
  • 85% Cocoa Extra Dark (linked below)
  • 90% Supreme Dark
  • 99% Noir Absolu

The rule above does not apply to Lindt's truffles.​ Their 60% dark chocolate truffle still had milk in it, most likely from the filling in the middle. 

Taza Chocolate

When it comes to simplicity, Taza Chocolate takes the cake. Their Wicked Dark chocolate bar is 95% cocoa and is made using Mexican stone mills. This gives the chocolate a bit more grit making it closer to the the true authenticity of the cocoa bean itself (7).

When it comes to tradition and simplicity, this brand takes the cake (besides for just the regular cacao nibs of course). Their Wicked Dark bar is made of just two ingredients: Cocoa Beans and Cane Sugar.​ If you're used to eating Hershey bars, this is going to be a big leap, but high quality dark chocolate is a lot like wine in that there are a wide range of complex flavor notes to appreciate.

Diving a bit deeper into Taza's product line, we were very pleased to see that many if not all of their products were vegan including their peanut butter truffles! They manufacture a variety of bars, barks, discs, and other things that would make any chocolate lover drool.

We've linked their​ Wicked Dark chocolate bar below for you to check out!

Alter Eco

For vegans who like their chocolate bars with added flavor elements, Alter Eco has a lot of great options (8). Unfortunately, not all of their products are vegan, but there are a lot of unique flavors and great options that we haven't seen before. Some of the most delicious vegans options we saw from Alter Eco were:

  • Peppermint Dark Chocolate (linked below)
  • Orange Dark Chocolate
  • Salted Almond Dark Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate and Quinoa

Choc Zero Ultimate Dark Chocolate

Choc Zero is an interesting vegan dark chocolate option because they don't actually sweeten it with sugar. They use monk fruit extract as as sweetener and also add some fiber in an attempt to give it some more nutritional value. The lack of sugar gives it a low caloric profile, ideal if you're trying to trim off additional calories. Unfortunately, not all of their products are vegan, so be sure to check the ingredient statements. The one we linked below is, though so be sure to check it out!

Stivii Vegan Dark Chocolate

Unlike traditional dark chocolate which is sweetened with sugar, Stivii is a brand that has chosen to sweeten their coffee with Stevia to appeal to people that don't want to consume sugar. As a result, their original chocolate bar contains less than 1 gram of sugar. Their fruit flavored varieties are still quite low in sugar, but have up to 4 grams per serving from what we've seen. This may not be the best fit for you if you're sensitive to stevia (which some people seem to be), but many people love it and its a great option for diabetics! Their flavors include:

  • Original Dark Chocolate
  • Blueberry Almond Dark Chocolate
  • Pomegranate Dark Chocolate
  • Chili Dark Chocolate
  • White Peach Dark Chocolate

Trying one of their fruit flavored ones (linked below) may be the best option if you're not too keen on stevia. This is because real sugar and stevia when combine take on a whole different flavor profile than just stevia on its own.

Endangered Species Chocolate

Endangers species makes some really rich dark chocolate varieties and most of them are vegan certified. In addition, they claim to donate 10% of their net profits to protect wildlife (6). While we can't vouch for the effectiveness of their program, we can let you know which of their chocolate varieties are vegan:

  • 88% Dark Chocolate Bar
  • 72% Dark Chocolate Bar
  • Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds
  • Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

Check out the link below to check out one of their vegan offerings online!

The Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Brands

When it comes to vegan chocolate chips, things can be split up into two categories: classic chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Classic chocolate chips are probably what you're most familiar with. Cacao nibs are chopped up chunks of the unsweetened bean itself which actually have an entire different flavor and texture profile. Both definitely have their place in the kitchen!

Classic Chocolate Chips

Enjoy Life

A quick perusal through your grocery store's baking aisle and you'll quickly discover that most of the chocolate chips there aren't vegan - except one. One brand called Enjoy Life is taking the market by storm and can be found in most grocery stores in the US. Their chocolate chip products are not only vegan, but also nut free and soy free. They're manufactured in a bunch of different sizes including mini chips and large chunks. If you're interested in buying them online, please do check the link below. If you want to see if they're in a store near you - check out Enjoy Life's Store Locator.

Lily's Dark Chocolate Chips

If you're looking to have tighter control over your macronutrient intake, Lily's Dark Chocolate Chips are also a vegan option that's sweetened with stevia. This means it doesn't have any added sugar and thus packs a smaller caloric punch. Some people are sensitive to the taste of stevia, but these are definitely worth a try! If you put them into something that's already otherwise sweetened, such as cookies or vegan ice cream, you're unlikely to notice a difference. In addition, the company also supports cancer research which you can learn more about on their website.

To learn more about buying Lily's Chocolate Chips online, check out the link below!

Kirkland's Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Perhaps by accident, the Costco generic brand: Kirkland is also vegan! As with all Costco products, they come in a huge bag as well so you're sure to never run out. Putting them in the freezer or fridge will ensure that they stay good for a long time as well! From a taste perspective, they're very similar to the Enjoy Life chips from our experience!

Note: there have been rumors that this product has been discontinued, but as of July 2017 its still available on Amazon (linked below). Be sure to check the ingredient statement in case it has changed or been reformulated. 

Cacao Nibs

You'll probably notice that there are a bunch of cacao nib brands out there. From our experience, they are all pretty similar. We like to buy them at least by the pound that way we get the best bang for our buck. Health food stores and even grocery stores often overprice their cacao nibs, which is why we like to shop online for them. TruVibe (linked below) makes some great nibs, but again they are all pretty much the same. The only exception we've found is that there are some sweetened brands of nibs, however at that point we'd rather just go for the regular chips!

Other FAQs About Vegan Chocolate

Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?

Dark chocolate can be vegan, but it isn't all of the time.  For example, Hershey's Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate bar still has Milk Fat in it (3). However, most of the higher end brands dark chocolate will be vegan, especially if the packages read 70% cacao or above. We recommend checking the ingredient statement and looking for the "CONTAINS: MILK "warning. If you don't see it, odds are it is vegan friendly!

Is Milk Chocolate Vegan?

Most milk chocolate won't be vegan, but we did find a brand that uses rice milk!

Is Lindt Dark Chocolate Vegan?

Yes! Many of the Lindt dark chocolate bars we found were vegan. To see our list of the best Lindt vegan chocolate bars, check out the top section of this page.

Is Dove Dark Chocolate Vegan?

We were disappointed to find that all of the Dove Dark Chocolate Bars that we researched were not vegan. According to their website (5), all of their dark chocolate bars contain milk fat.  In addition, from what we could see most of them contained sugar as a first ingredient which means that they aren't that dark to begin with.

There are plenty of other vegan brands available, though! Check out our list above.

Is Vegan Chocolate Healthy?

Deciding whether or not something is healthy can be a bit nuanced. Chocolate in its purest form, much like any other whole plant based food, chocolate is high in antioxidants which are beneficial for combating inflammation which is very important for optimal function. When consuming chocolate bars, candies or chips which have added sugar and fat the positive impacts of the cacao bean become more dubious.

To learn more about healthy eating, we highly recommend checking out NutritionFacts.org. Their work on chocolate has been summarized on this page (4).

Should I Be Concerned About Shared Equipment as a Vegan?

From an ethical standpoint, there's no reason to be concerned about shared equipment. In fact, it may even be beneficial for veganism as the companies that make the chocolate see the demand for their non-dairy varieties increasing which will prompt them to come out with more! 

If you have a dairy allergy, this is obviously a different matter. We recommend consulting your doctor for that one as it depends on how sensitive you are and how severe your allergy is.​

Sources

1. https://www.candyusa.com/story-of-chocolate/what-is-chocolate/

2. https://www.foodallergy.org/allergens

3. http://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=product&id=6178A786-E108-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471

4. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/chocolate/

5. http://dovechocolate.com/nutrition/listing/36#Dove

6. http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

7. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/our-process

8. http://www.alterecofoods.com/

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