January 14

Is Italian Dressing Vegan? How to Know For Sure

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If you're vegan, you most likely eat salads. And if you eat salads, you probably prefer them with a drizzle of your favorite dressing. Something's gotta make give those veggies the right kick. While many salad dressings do contain animal products, there are a few vegan options we can rely on. One of the favorites being

Italian Dressing!

But is Italian dressing always vegan? 

Unfortunately not. Manufacturers always seem to find ways of stuffing animal products into even the most vegetarian-driven products.  

Why?

Because it's cost effective. Companies get a lot more bang for their buck when they use the whole animal. Sad, I know.

Thankfully, becoming aware of the non-vegan ingredients in Italian dressing is easy. The list of potential culprits is short. Learn it once, and you'll never forget it

Enjoy!

is-italian-dressing-vegan

Ingredients to Look Out For


  • Fish and Anchovies (hidden in Worcestershire Sauce) (1
  • Xanthan Gum - While xanthan gum is a thickener usually extracted from plants, It can be extracted from animal products like whey and eggs (2). (refer to the list below to find ways of finding where this ingredient comes from) 
  • Cheese - Parmesan cheese is added to many dressings to contribute texture and flavor.  
  • Milk - Milk can be added to some of the heavier Italian dressings to provide extra weight and fat.  
  • Egg Yolk - Egg yolk is a great emulsifier. This is useful in dressing to help slow down the separation of oils and water.  

Suggestions if You're Not Sure


  • Make Your Own: If you've been a vegan for any length of time, you understand the pain of searching through ingredient lists. It's BRUTAL! The only remedy for this is to buy exclusively "vegan" labeled food items or to make everything yourself. Making Italian dressing is surprisingly easy. I'm sure you could give the dressing companies a run for their money. (There's an awesome vegan recipe below to get your started).
  • Contact the Manufacturer: While it may seem like a major chore (which it is), you can always contact the company to make sure their products are absent of animal products. I will say, this can get extremely monotonous, so I only recommend doing it for your MUST HAVE items.  
  • Stick to Vegan Labeled Products: It's unfortunate we live in a time where the food industry has such little transparency. There are, however, some commendable companies that take the time for their products to go through the proper testing to become "vegan" certified. 
  • Make an Educated Guess: While veganism is one of the more "extreme" food movements, we aren't all hellbent on staying away from animal products at all costs. So if you're looking at the ingredient list and you see Xanthan Gum, don't freak out. The vast majority of products on the market extract this particular thickener from plants. There are times you may need to roll the dice, but to each their own. Decide how serious you are about being a vegan and make the right decision for you.  

Vegan Italian Dressing Recipes


If you've had it with reading labels, try making some vegan Italian dressing on your own. Here are a few videos I found to be simple, healthy and most importantly...vegan!


Simple, Short Ingredient List Italian Dressing


Herb-centric Vegan Italian Dressing


Other Vegan Salad Dressings to Try

Vegan Diet Defined


Not all of us are vegan experts. Even those who believe they are, there's still always more to learn. Here is a brief walkthrough to help you with the facts on veganism

What is a Vegan?

It's a little scary how much we use this word, and how little we actually know about it. While people have a tendency to make jokes about vegans, most of them don't really know what veganism entails. 

Here's the definition, cut and simple...

No animal products, period!

Simple, right?

Being Vegan is just a stricter version of being vegetarian. While vegetarians are more lax with foods like milk and eggs, vegans abstain from ANYTHING derived from animals. Vegans tend to take the non-animal eating very seriously. 

What Can Vegans Eat?

Here is a list of foods that abide by the vegan criteria. While some foods are obviously animal products, others aren't so easy to point out. 

what-can-vegans-eat
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Soy
  • Cooking Oils (Most of the time)
  • Non-Dairy Milks (Soy, almond, coconut milk, etc.)
  • Non-Dairy Yogurts (Soy, Almond, Coconut yogurt, etc.)
  • Vegan Cheeses 

What Can't Vegans Eat?

what-vegans-can't-eat
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Animal Derived Additives/Preservatives (This list is HUGE)

Don't be misled by the conciseness of this second list. The food industry has found ways to sneak animal products into just about every shelf-stable product out there. Merely avoiding the meat and poultry aisle no longer guarantees vegan products.


Other Frequently Asked Questions

Which Salad Dressing is Vegan?

While any salad can be made vegan, there's no guarantee any one type of dressing will be vegan. It depends on the manufacturer. The safest way to know is to always look for the "vegan" stamp on the bottle.

If the product is vegan, companies have every incentive to put the vegan stamp there. It would be ridiculous if they didn't, because it would hinder their consumer reach. So, if the bottle doesn't have the vegan stamp, there's a good chance it has animal products in it.

Here is a list of salad dressings that TEND to be vegan (always double check)

  • Italian Dressing
  • Balsamic (or most Vinagrettes)
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Dressing

Is there Dairy in Italian Dressing?

Italian dressing is USUALLY dairy-free. However, look out for these sneaky dairy ingredients:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt (unlikely, but occasionally)
  • Buttermilk
  • Lactose

This is not a comprehensive list, but some of the more common dairy ingredients found in salad dressings. 

In Conclusion


My hope, as always, is to simplify the world of food. I hope you take the time to read those ingredient labels. Your body will thank you in the long run. 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below. If I missed any ingredients, please let me know!

Cheers!

Michael

Founder of Robust Kitchen


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About the author

Michael spends his days eating, drinking and studying the fascinating world of food. He received his Bachelors Degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis and spent much of his time at the school brewery. While school proved to be an invaluable experience, his true passion lies in exposing the hidden crannies of food for the cooking laymen.

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