Sustainability made simple

Is Sugar Vegan? What You Should Look out For

is sugar vegan
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / 955169

You might be surprised to find out that some sugar is actually not vegan. The good news is there are lots of vegan sugars out there, as well as alternative sweeteners!

You may think sugar is vegan, because it does not come from an animal. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The US largely produces cane sugar and beet sugar. Sugar production is fairly similar regardless of which plant it comes from:

  1. Juice is extracted from the plant, and then boiled down.
  2. The resulting crystallized sugar is then spun to remove molasses, and the remaining crystals are dried out.

Cane sugar production often goes through another final step, in which it is refined through a filter and whitened. This filter is often made from bone char. And this bone char comes from the bones of cattle. According to PETA, the animals are often slaughtered in foreign countries and sold to traders in other foreign countries, who then sell the bones back to the U.S. sugar industry.

The US sugarcane industry is therefore not very sustainable. However, there are some stand-out companies which are going against the grain and producing only vegan sugar, as well as alternative sweetener options. This makes it easy to find sustainable sugar at your local supermarket – we’ll show you what to look for.

Non-vegan Sugars

Powdered sugar is not necessarily vegan.
Powdered sugar is not necessarily vegan.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pezibear)

Brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar production often use bone char in their processing as well. This is because both of these products start out as cane sugar. Brown sugar is created by mixing cane sugar with molasses, and confectioner’s sugar is simply extra refined sugar which has added cornstarch. Essentially, if the company does not advertise their sugar production as vegan, you better assume that you are not dealing with vegan products. 

Vegan Sugars: Certified Organic, Beet and Coconut

Coconut sugar is always vegan.
Coconut sugar is always vegan.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / miguelcruz30)

While white sugar is usually made from sugarcane, it can also be made from sugar beets and coconuts. Beet and coconut sugar are never processed using bone char, so you can count on these being sustainable!

Any sugar that is certified organic is also vegan. Otherwise, sugar that is labeled as “unrefined” but nonorganic is vegan as well. These two labels make it easy to find a sugar you can count on being vegan and sustainable. We always recommend organic sugar as it’s produced without pesticides, making it the most sustainable option.

There’s also a long list of companies that do not use bone char in their sugar production. Brands include

  • In the Raw,
  • Bob’s Red Mill,
  • Trader Joe’s, and
  • Florida Crystals.

Even Target’s Simply Balanced and Kroger’s Simple Truth sugars are vegan! If you are unsure about a certain sugar, a quick internet search should reveal whether you can rely on a company’s product to be vegan or not.

Alternative Sweeteners

Maple syrup is vegan and goes deliciously with much more than just pancakes.
Maple syrup is vegan and goes deliciously with much more than just pancakes.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / piviso)

If you would rather avoid sugar in your cooking altogether, there are many sugar substitutes and natural sweeteners as well. Popular options include agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup and molasses. You can even make your own sweeteners such as dandelion honey or elderflower syrup

These products are perfect for anything from coffee, smoothies, toast, and baked goods. All you have to do is look up the measurement conversion for any product you decide to use to replace sugar. 

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