It’s been said before, and we’ll say it again—virtually every animal product has a quality vegan version. From Impossible Whoppers to non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pints, plant-based eaters have no shortage of cruelty-free options for their favorite foods. However, not everything needs a swap.
There are dozens of commonly purchased food staples that are inherently animal-free—the packaging just doesn’t advertise it. These are often referred to as “accidentally vegan” products. Here’s more on what that means, plus 18 plant-based products you should probably keep in your cupboard.
What does “accidentally vegan” mean?
When a product is referred to as “accidentally vegan” it simply means that it is completely free of animal products even if it is not vegan by design. Often, you have to scan the ingredients list of these products to find out, as they aren’t clearly labeled vegetarian, but some are quite obvious (think egg-free pasta, for example, rice and fresh bread). Others are not so clear. But don’t worry, to save you some time scanning labels, we’ve compiled this list of the most common vegan grocery store mistakes to help you out. Some of you might be surprised! (Yes, you might even be able to keep Pop-Tarts.)
Incidentally, the grocery store has vegetarian products
1 Baking mix
A well-stocked pantry should always include a box or two of dry baking mix. Especially convenient for families (or single adults with an instant cake craving), a boxed cake, cookie or brownie mix can easily be made for a quick, affordable vegan treat.
For brownies, choose the Betty Crocker Fudge or Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge varieties. Betty Crocker also offers several vegan cookie mixes, including chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter and double chocolate chunks. For quick cakes, Duncan Hines, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker offer several flavors of plant-based cake mixes, from Devil’s Food to Dolly Parton’s line of Southern-inspired cakes. Stay away from any boxes labeled “super moist” as they include milk-based pudding packets. To replace eggs in any of these mixtures, make a flax egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of warm water and let sit for five minutes.
Don’t forget to grab a tub of frosting as you head down the baking aisle. Most shelf-stable brands are free of animal products. In addition to cream cheese varieties, Pillsbury, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and Wilton all make vegan-friendly frostings from chocolate to funfetti.
As long as you pair it with plant-based milk, you probably won’t have to give up your favorite cereal. Although honey and yogurt-flavored varieties are out—so long, Honeynut Cheerios—most dry cereals that don’t contain vitamin D3 are vegetarian (vitamin D3 can be derived from sheep lanolin). Enjoy your Cap’n Crunch, Cough and Barbara’s Puffins cereal with your favorite non-dairy milk for breakfast, lunch or dinner (no one judging here).
4 Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Ah, the satisfying “pop!” Can roll into crescents. Serve straight from the oven with some jam and Miyoko’s vegan butter, fold in a tablespoon or two of vegan chocolate chips to make a quick pain au chocolat, or roll up field roast frankfurters and make a crowd-pleaser with a vegan pig-in-a-blanket each doughy. within the triangle.
5 Pancake mix
Most dry pancake mixes are vegan-friendly if you stay away from the buttermilk varieties. Safe brands include Original Bisquick, Blueberry Crustiaz, Hungry Jack Complete Chocolate Chip and Arrowhead Mills Organic Gluten-Free Mix. Just swap out the eggs needed for an egg replacer like Bob’s Red Mill.
6 Package Cookies
It’s common knowledge that Oreos are vegan, but many other brands of chocolate sandwich cookies are also animal-free. Newman’s, Market Pantry (Target private-label brand), Back to Nature, and most generic store brands make plant-based Oreo-style cookies. Nutter Butters and Nabisco Original Grahams are also vegan.
7 Unfrosted Pop-Tarts
While the frosted varieties of these toaster treats contain gelatin (weird, we know), the unfrosted strawberry and blueberry flavors are gelatin-, egg- and dairy-free. You won’t miss the glaze—they’re sweet enough on their own.
8 Smucker’s Uncrustables
These portable snack-sized PB&Js are the ultimate modern convenience food. When there’s no time to spare, throw one in your kid’s lunchbox or your gym bag and let it melt all day. All flavors are vegan except chocolate hazelnut and peanut butter and honey—Smuckers even makes whole wheat and pure peanut alternatives for jelly haters. Pro tip: Throw one in a toaster. The bread gets nice and toasty and the peanut butter melts into the perfect gooey consistency.
Yes, it’s literally Speculoos cookies slathered in smooth, creamy butter and it’s vegan. Trader Joe’s and Lotus are two common brands that carry this incredible spread.
Although vegans are required to “egg their eggs,” (eggs contain eggs), several frozen waffle brands do not contain animal products. Find Nature’s Path, Kashi and Van’s for your quick toaster waffle fix.
Pair these classic crackers with your favorite vegan cheese spread like Miyoko’s Smoked English Farmhouse or Le Grand Creamy Original for a stand-alone afternoon snack or part of a vegan charcuterie board.
By itself, Jell-O pudding mix is vegan-friendly. However, you can’t do a one-to-one swap of non-dairy milk with cow’s milk because it won’t thicken. The box recommends 2 cups of milk, but when using plant milk (soy works best), add only ½-¾ cup and make sure it’s chilled.
13 Hershey’s Syrup
This childhood favorite contains no dairy, so pour in a tall glass of plant milk for a generous dollop of non-dairy ice cream or homemade vegan chocolate milk.
14 the sauce
Being vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch—you can still find the main sauce on the supermarket shelves to stick to a 30-minute meal. Get Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce, Thai Kitchen Gluten-Free Peanut Satay Sauce, Annie’s Smoky Maple and Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce, and Newman’s Own Marinara Pasta Sauce.
15Bread and bagels
Vegans do not lack carbohydrates. Grab a baguette from your local bakery, then head to the bread aisle for Thomas’ bagels (in all flavors except honey wheat), Mission flour and corn tortillas, and your store’s brand of pita bread. Refrigerated pre-made pizza dough balls, such as those found at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, are also vegetarian-approved.
When you want pie more often than you have time to make it, a frozen fruit pie is the way to go. All of Mary Callender and Sarah Lee’s fruit pies are vegan—from Dutch apple to latte peach to raspberry.
17 Superpretzels are soft pretzels
Pretzels deserve their own category separate from bread. Grab a box of frozen Superpretzels to enjoy this ballpark snack at home. We recommend serving with mustard and a vegan beer on the side.
18 Pratibha Sharbat
Most of the sherbets are accidentally vegetarian, but Talent is a crowd favorite. Grab a pint of Alphonso Mango, Peanut Butter Fudge or Roman Raspberry for a luxuriously creamy (and never icy) treat.