How to Find Out if Sugar Is Vegan

What Makes Sugar Vegan?

One of the ingredients that is the most difficult to track at the start of going vegan is sugar. Many people don’t realize that there is such a thing as vegan sugar and I’m often asked, “Isn’t all sugar vegan?” What many do not realize is that many types of sugar are processed with animal ingredients. It is a process that is unnecessary and it is also easy to avoid the brands that take part in this unnecessary animal cruelty.

So how is it possible that sugar is not vegan? It’s a plant based item. Similar to alcohol, it’s often a surprise that there can be vegan and non-vegan versions of a product that doesn’t typically contain animal ingredients. To learn  more about vegan alcohol options, please read What Makes Alcohol Vegan. My guess is that, when you think of sugar, you think of the pure white sugar that we so often see (and that appears above). What you likely don’t think about is the fact that cane sugar naturally is not white and has to be processed in order to be visually pleasing.

A lot of sugars are processed with animal bones in order to bleach them to the white sugar that we are used to seeing on the market. Where do these bones come from? They are a by product of the meat industry.

This doesn’t just hold true with white cane sugar either. Brown cane sugar is frequently processed in this way too, then has molasses added later to turn the sugar a brown color.

The good news is that it’s really simple and easy to find vegan sugar that is not processed this way! You can find it in nearly every store, and it’s about the same price as sugar processed with animal bones. In fact, in my area, it’s actually cheaper!

Here are some places where you can find vegan sugar -

Some easy alternatives to look for are beet sugar, sugar made from cane juice, raw sugar, organic sugars, coconut palm sugar, and brown rice syrup. These are nearly always vegan options because they are not processed sugars. Just as with everything else, I suggest double checking first to be on the safe side and to ensure that you are an informed consumer.

Do you use only vegan sugar? If so, what are some of your favorite brands? If not, I’d love to hear your thoughts on vegan sugar and if it’s a change that you would make in your life!

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14 comments for “How to Find Out if Sugar Is Vegan

  1. Jenny
    Tuesday - September 24, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Thank you for the article, but I’d just like to add that you might reconsider coconut palm sugar. It’s not eco friendly or sustainable…

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

  2. Icequeen81
    Monday - April 1, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I didn’t know that, we actually use brown sugar, reading the article I was aaiii good we don’t use white so no harm, but now I read brown sugar is also on it.

  3. Emm
    Thursday - February 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Someone told me about this a couple years ago and I didn’t believe him, since he didn’t explain it well.

    Now that I understand that bone meal (I’m guessing that’s the form) is added as a bleaching agent…it makes more sense…

    But I still don’t understand why a company would bother, since the molasses in the sugar is what makes it dark. I need to research the refining process of sugar since I’m still not totally convinced.

    I buy Florida Crystals, demerara sugar because I live in America and I think it’s best for me to buy a product made here and Florida Crystals uses wind energy for their plant. I also like that I can buy a big shaker of it. Sometimes I buy Sugar in The Raw, since it’s from Hawaii but I’ll have to find out how they process their sugar. I’m not vegan but I still think using animal bone for processing is odd, so I’d prefer to skip those brands.

    • Emm
      Thursday - February 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      I called 2 sugar companies and the ingredient used is called bone char. From what I can understand if the sugar is parve, bone char is not used, since it could be pig bone char and that would make it not parve.
      I hope this helps some.

      • Saturday - February 16, 2013 at 7:29 pm

        Hi Emm! Thank you so much for this added information. It’s really helpful. :) I think it’s awesome that you are interested in being so aware of what you consume. Vegan or not, we should all be aware of what we are putting into our bodies and the processes behind it.

  4. Monday - January 7, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Thanks for this Tashina- yet another confusing thing to add to the list of what to be weary of. I personally do not eat alot of sugar so it isnt one of my main concerns at this stage but DEFINATELY something to keep an eye out for! I wish I knew brands of vegan sugar in Australia- anyone?

    • Elisha
      Friday - June 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Sarah, all sugar manufactured in Australia is vegan (CSR and Bundaberg have confirmed that they ceased using bone char refinement many years ago). Be wary of brands that appear to be Australian but say ‘imported ingredients’ or ‘imported and local ingredients’ on the packaging, because that means they have been processed elsewhere under unknown conditions.

      My understanding is that organic sugars are unprocessed, and therefore are inherently vegan… but lately I’ve been a bit conflicted about the organics industry in general because it relies on manure, often from animals that are purchased specifically for the purpose (and eventually, presumably, slaughtered). Nothing is straightforward, is it?

  5. Rose
    Sunday - January 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    It may be easy to find vegan sugar as a separate product, but when it’s only an ingredient, things get a lot worse. Thousands of products have to be ignored due to the word “sugar” being on the package. I always stay away from them but I’m not happy with how when a product is vegan in every other way, you see sugar on the list of ingredients. It disappoints.

    • Sunday - January 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      I know what you mean, Rose. It can be really frustrating and hard to tell who you can trust. I’ve heard that since it’s more expensive to use processed sugar in items, companies often go with cane juice or raw sugar. However I’m not sure how accurate this is. I always look for beet sugar or cane juice on things. If it says “sugar”, I decide based on the brand. For example, I know that packaged items from Trader Joe’s contain their store brand vegan sugar. When it comes to larger and more commercial brands, it’s hard to tell and is a call everyone must make for themselves.

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