Seven Hidden Animal-based Restaurant Ingredients

Eating at a restaurant can save time and energy while opening doors to new flavors and ingredients. However, this seemingly enjoyable experience becomes much more difficult when attempting to limit the consumption of animal products (just ask a vegan or vegetarian, or their partners). So whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just looking to cut down on consuming animal products, keep these following ingredients in mind:

  1. Animal stocks used as a base ingredient
    Many soups, rice, and sauces use some form of animal stock as a building block. Chicken stock, fish stock, and beef stock are often used to add flavor to seemingly vegetarian options such as French onion soup, Vietnamese Pho, and Mexican rice. The good news is that incredibly tasty vegetable stocks can be made just as easily as stocks containing animal products, so hopefully restaurants will continue the move toward making their “vegetarian” offerings truly vegetarian. Also be careful with your Thanksgiving stuffing as this usually calls for chicken broth.
  1. Animal fat/lard used as a base ingredient
    There’s a decent chance that the oh-so-tasty rice, beans, tamales and tortillas at your local Mexican restaurant were made using pork fat (lard), so ask the next time you stop by. Pork/bacon fat lends flavor to salad dressings (often vinaigrettes), beans (baked or pinto), and pie crusts. Other baked goods such as cupcakes, cornbread, or doughnuts often use animal fats, especially lard, as well. Also, if there’s bacon on restaurant’s menu, there’s a good chance that bacon grease is being used to season something else on the menu, whether its potatoes, beans, or another vegetable.
  1. Anchovies/fish oil for flavor
    The Italians love their anchovies! Authentic Caesar dressing, puttanesca sauce, and tapenades will all often contain anchovies so be sure to ask the next time you’re at an Italian restaurant. Other common restaurant ingredients containing anchovies that you wouldn’t expect include Worcestershire sauce and the fish sauce used in pad thai. Additionally, some orange juices are fortified with Omega-3’s, which often come from adding fish oil and gelatin, so ask which brand the restaurant serves the next time you’re having brunch mimosas.
  1. Isinglass in beer as a preservative
    Beer and wine producers often use isinglass, made from fish bladders, to filter and clarify their products. Mass-produced beers using isinglass include Newcastle and Red Stripe. Guinness had traditionally been made with isinglass but completely eliminated its use by the end of 2017. Head over to for an exhaustive database on vegan beer, wine, and liquor, and ask your local brewery, winery, distillery, or cidery if if isinglass is a part of their recipes.
  1. Duck and chicken feathers in bagels and bread as a preservative
    Bread has often been at the center of nutritional debates. Should we be eating a high carb diet or cut them out completely? What does whole-grain mean? Take a look at the ingredient list of many bread products and your head may start to spin. L. Cysteine, made using duck or chicken feathers, is an amino acid often used as a preservative in bread and bagels. According to the popular blog, Einstein Bros., Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s have all been found to use L. Cysteine from poultry in their bread products.
  1. French Fries and Potato Chips flavored and preserved with animal products
    French fries often contain additives for flavor, preservation, or both. McDonald’s (not that you’re eating there if you’re reading this) was famously sued back in the early 2000s for using beef fat to flavor their fries while claiming them as a vegan option. Additionally, many restaurants fry meat products in the same grease as fries, leading to cross-contamination if you’re strictly adhering to a vegan diet. Potato chips often contain whey, cheese, or milk so be careful here as well.
  1. Bread and buns containing dairy
    Bread and buns are often made with evaporated milk, butter, or a dairy derivative. The boxes in which the bread arrives will have these labeled on the outside so your server should know already or be able to check quickly for you. Additionally, croutons and bread crumbs will often be seasoned with butter. Sometimes restaurants will brush their bread/buns with butter prior to toasting so be sure to ask prior to ordering that toasted eggplant sandwich.Eating out is one of the more difficult aspects of being vegan/vegetarian. You may want to call/email ahead of time to ensure you’ll have the proper options prior to arriving at the restaurant. With an increasing demand for more vegan/vegetarian friendly menu options, chefs and front-of-the-house staff should be prepared for your questions and concerns!