Junk Food For the Vegan Soul

Before you get started with New Year’s resolutions about being good, here’s a post about being bad. Really, really bad.

Oh, come on! I’m talking about food. This is a G-rated blog, y’know.

When people think about vegans, the first thing they imagine is a bunch of do-gooders who read every ingredient label twice and then once more, interrogate waiters as if they were accessories to murder, and in general subject themselves to absolute deprivation because we don’t want to murder animals for food.

Worse, the world worries, we will force our food habits on them (I swear a new acquaintance rolled her eyes last week when I mentioned we choose a vegetarian-friendly restaurant for a lunch outing).

But we vegans like to play dangerous too. And yes, our decadence can often be, ahem, rather healthy, but  there are lots of foods out there we love that qualify as total junk, even in the non-vegan world. And that, just before those resolutions kick in, is exactly what this fun post is all about: it’s my rather counterintuitive list of five of my most favorite– and widely available — junk food splurges that are also inadvertently vegan. Meaning the manufacturers never intended them to be vegan and they are not labeled as such, but they just ended up being so.

This is a short list because it’s just mine, but for more inspiration check out PETA’s long list of foods you can buy off supermarket shelves that are also “accidentally” vegan. If you are a non-vegan who glances at this list and wonders if all this stuff isn’t obviously vegan, trust me when I say that readymade foods that may seem very obviously animal-free are very often not. Do you know, for instance, that even after being sued for its beef-fat-fried French Fries way back when, McDonald’s continues to use in its fries a flavoring derived from beef and from milk products, making this potato product entirely non-vegetarian?

I also want to clarify that I am not endorsing the products I have listed here, or encouraging people to eat unhealthy. I like eating good-for-me stuff too, most of the time. But I do believe, with all my heart, that the occasional french fry (although not a McDonald’s one) does more good than harm to a human soul.

So here goes, not in any particular order:

1. Oreos: I love these delicious little black-and-white nuggets and although I don’t eat them as often as I’d love to, I would probably put them on my list of foods I’d want to eat on my death bed. A word of caution, though: I learned this when I posted my Oreo Cake that although these delicious sandwich cookies are vegan in the United States, they could contain whey in other countries in Europe and Asia where they are also manufactured and sold.

2. Ghirardelli White Mocha Hot Chocolate: I love nothing more than to snuggle into bed with a cup of hot chocolate, and what’s better than white hot chocolate? This is by far the most delicious drink I have ever had in my life– mix it with some soymilk and you are ready to go to heaven.

3. Lay’s Potato Chips: I love potatoes. There, I’ve said it. I don’t care if they sit on my hips for the rest of my life, because what would good would life be without the occasional plunge into a crackling bag of crispy, salty, absolutely incredible potato chips?

4. Cinnamon Life cereal: This may qualify as breakfast food, but let’s not kid ourselves: with a ton of sugar and almost no protein and fiber, this is not a healthy splurge. But it’s SO good.

5. Fritos: Deep-fried corn? Bring it on!

So what are your guilty pleasures that were never meant to be vegan but are? Chime in!

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  1. says

    I love most things on your list too!
    Not that I go to McD’s, but now I will avoid it completely.
    Vaishali, I had a small question- not related to this post, I like Thai food, but I have trouble ordering. Can you recommend a few dishes I can order without a tremor?

    • says

      Hi Manasi, Most Thai restaurants usually have a separate vegetarian menu and they usually don’t use “sneaky” non-vegetarian ingredients in those dishes, like fish sauce or animal stock. That said, you can never be 100 percent sure because people often have an incorrect idea about vegetarianism (I’m sure you’ve got the question, as I have, that since you’re a vegetarian, you must eat fish– or chicken!) I just ask the waiter (or the person who picks the phone when I order in) if their vegetarian food contains any animal stock or fish sauce. You may not always get an informed answer, but it’s an additional precaution to take.
      My favorite Thai dishes are Pad Thai and that spicy eggplant dish with basil.

  2. says

    although I am not vegan or vegetarian, i love the option of vegetarian dishes and try to be flexitarian for the most part. Oreos are on top of my list followed by the mocha. Since I dont eat beef and pork, it is sometimes very difficult to get straight answer from servers at Asian restaurants esp with their stocks.

  3. says

    Peanut butter!
    I was interested in Manasi’s question, although I am off to Thailand soon with my son and Thai daughter in law, who is also a veggie, so she will guide me. I’ll let you know what we ate 😀

  4. says

    I LOVE Fritos. I can’t say no. My coworkers are kind enough to make me this evil snack of Fritos with a layer of peanut butter and corn syrup followed by a layer of (vegan) chocolate. It’s sinful, totally unhealthy and completely delicious!

  5. says

    Red Hot & Blues spicy blue corn chips

    Chifles Cassava (Yuca) Chips

    Mariquitas Garlic flavored Plantain Chips

    Dirty Chips


    Jolly Ranchers

    Smarties (pronounced virtuously vegan on the company’s own website)


  6. Hasita says

    Potato chips! French fries, loads and loads of fattening pinacoladas and one thing I would surely die without- Gobi Manchurian. Never mind that it takes long to make. I could eat about a kilo of that thing at once!

  7. says

    Chile Verde Doritos are my weakness… They are the only flavor of Doritos that I know of that is vegan. My friends know this and never fail to bring them to parties (which is sweet in theory!), in which I usually need to hide the bag after a few handfuls in order to avoid eating the entire package.

    Happy Snacking! 😉

  8. says

    I’m a sucker for fried salty foods, I don’t eat them often so I never feel guilty when I do indulge. I absolutely adore all kinds of packaged Indian snacks too, every time I stock up on spices I can’t resist buying some. I do consider myself lucky that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

  9. Kerri says

    I will second the Oreos (Bless their blacky-browny little hearts!) If you want something sweet that is BEYOND addictive, try the Biscoff spread (it will be by the Nutella). Don’t read the ingredients; it’s revoltingly processed but oh. so. delicious. But don’t hate me for being the one to turn you on to it.

    And I am so excited to see there is a dairy-free Dorito. If I want a chip, I usually go Fritos or Bugles or Original Sun Chips, but I would love a Dorito I could eat. (I’m not vegan–just dairy free.)

    P.S. Thanks for the answer to my questions in a comment a while back, Vaishali. Very helpful!

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