Vegan food products A-C

Bacon

BacOs: you know, those 'bacon bits' in a plastic jar you can scatter over salad and whatever - they're suitable for vegans! Full of hydrogenated fats, but still vegan.

Vegan bacon: this stuff isn't going to fool anyone into thinking it's 'real' bacon, but it generally tastes acceptably edible and is a nice addition to vegan fry-ups. Personally I don't like fake meat products to look too realistic, so not looking identical to meat is an advantage as far as I'm concerned. The only vegan brand I've found so far is by Redwood Foods (all their products are vegan), some supermarkets do their own vegetarian bacon but I have yet to find any that's vegan.

Burgers

Vegan burgers generally fall into two categories: 'fake meat' types that are supposed to mimic the taste and texture of meat, and those that aren't, such as spicy bean burgers, nut cutlets or vegetable burgers. Most tend to be the non-meat-imitating ones these days.

Bear in mind that many meat-free burgers are not suitable for vegans as they contain milk or eggs. Many supermarkets do a good range of vegetarian products but the majority of products are not suitable for vegans. Holland and Barrett and wholefoods shops tend to have a much better range of vegan burgers.

Some vegan brands (there are probably others but I don't eat burgers that often so I'm not familiar with them all):

Alicer's: tandoori, vegetable, Mexican and Thai flavour burgers (all products are vegan and gluten-free)
Cauldron: chilli burgers, savoury burgers and carrot and onion burgers (the other burgers in their range are not vegan)
Fry's burgers, cutlets and schnitzels (all their products are vegan)
Goodlife nut cutlets
Grassington's Multigrain vegetable bakes, Spicy bean burgers, meat-free chicken fillets and meat-free peppered steaks
Linda McCartney: Spicy three bean bake
Sainsbury's: Spicy bean quarter pounders, nut cutlets
Tesco: Mexican-style quarter pounder burgers, nut cutlets (these are now vegan again after being non-vegan for a while)

Not vegan: Quorn - all Quorn products contain egg.

Chewy sweets

Most chewy sweets contain gelatine (boiled up bones and tendons, lovely...) so are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians. However, get hold of some Goody Good Stuff for proper boiled-bones-free chewy sweets!

Chocolate

Unfortunately, British chocolate manufacturers have a habit of dumping milk into their products at every opportunity, including dark and plain chocolate, so it helps to know what you're looking for when it comes to finding vegan chocolate. However, be assured that it does exist, and a lot of it is rather tasty!

Wholefoods shops and Holland and Barrett often have a good range of specialist (i.e. more interesting) vegan chocolate, including luxury chocolates suitable for giving as a special Christmas or birthday present. If you're buying chocolate as a present for a vegan it's a good idea to go for one that's actually labelled suitable for vegans, as some vegans may wary of cross-contamination in products which are not labelled vegan (see below). Brands to look out for include:

My current favourites:

Moo Free Chocolates: lovely praline 'milky' chocolates and solid 'milky' chocolate hearts.

Celtic chocolates: particularly the caramel 'milk' chocolates. Often in the free from section at the supermarket or in Holland and Barrett.

Go Max Go: the chocolate bars everyone's talking about at the moment - Jokerz, Twilight, Buccaneer, and Mahalo bars, which are very similar to the sort of nougat/caramel-type chocolate bars that a lot of vegans probably miss, but I'll probably get sued if I compare them to any particular brand names. Vegan Store and Ethical Wares sell them in the UK.

Plamil - chocolate bars, all products vegan, nut-free and gluten-free
Organica - chocolate bars, some products vegan (vegan ones are labelled)
Booja Booja - luxury chocolates, all products vegan and wheat-free
Montezuma's - all sorts of handmade, fairly traded chocolates, not all vegan but products are clearly labelled on the website
Dairy Free 'milky' chocolate bars, look for them in the free from section in supermarkets and in wholefoods stores. The Sainsbury's own brand 'free-from' soya chocolate appears to be the same product in different packaging. The tangerine one is the closest vegan equivalent I've found to Chocolate Orange. The company that makes these also do 'milk' chocolate buttons and chocolate spread. A nice change from dark chocolate!
Divine 70% dark chocolate and mint 70% dark chocolate is labelled as suitable for vegans and is available in some supermarkets
Lyme Regis Foods chocolate-covered marzipan bars

There are also a number of online shops selling vegan chocolate, including:

Animal Aid Shop, Alternative Stores, Vegan Store, Viva! shop - all products on their websites are vegan.

A lot of chocolate's vegan chocolate page

Aside from the specialist vegan products listed above, there are a few other chocolate products which are made with only vegan ingredients and available in mainstream shops. These include Fry's chocolate creams, Ritter Sport Marzipan and Fine Extra Dark chocolate, some varieties of Thornton's dark chocolate bars and some of the Tesco own-brand dark chocolate. The reason that I do not wish to state here that these are definitively suitable for vegans is that some vegans may have issues about possible cross-contamination from milk.

Chocolate and cross-contamination from milk

Unless it is made in a completely dairy-free factory, most chocolate will carry the statement 'may contain traces of milk' even if no milk is present in the ingredients due to the chance of cross-contamination with other products made in the same factory (and therefore the chance of the company getting sued by severe milk allergy sufferers). This is particularly the case when milk chocolate and non-milk chocolate products are produced with the same equipment, which appears to be standard practice for companies whose range is not entirely vegan, as the lines are often 'washed' by running chocolate over them rather than use any other cleaning methods.

Some vegans may not feel happy about eating chocolate with the 'may contain traces of' warning, even when there is no milk in the ingredients or stated on the allergy advice as definitely present in the product (sometimes allergy advice states 'contains milk' or 'contains traces of milk' when milk is not listed in the ingredients). This issue came up in 2008 when Green and Black's decided to list milk powder in the ingredients of their previously 'vegan' chocolate, due to an audit discovering a higher level of milk traces in the product due to cross-contamination than is generally considered safe for allergy sufferers, even though there was no milk in the recipe of the chocolate (more details on their FAQ page).

Good news about Green and Blacks (Dec 09) - according to their customer services people they're about to open an entirely dairy-free factory and packing plant, so there will soon be vegan Green and Blacks in the shops.

As far as I can tell there is no one definitive answer to whether or not chocolate which 'may contain traces of milk' is vegan or not. My personal take on it is that it's up to individuals to decide what they are comfortable eating, particularly as with many manufactured products it's nigh on impossible to know if they are actually contaminated with non-vegan ingredients or if the manufacturers are choosing to err on the side of (over-)caution with 'may contain traces of' statements due to a fear of getting sued, so if you're buying chocolate for a vegan check with them first about what they're happy to eat.

Cream

Alpro soya cream is good for pouring, cooking and baking with. There is also CremoVita whipping cream. Find them both near the soya milk/UHT or in the allergy sufferers section. Asda stock a dairy-free, soya-free cream called Oat Supreme. Oatly also make an oat-based pouring cream.

Custard

Bird's custard powder is suitable for vegans, or Alpro make a ready-made custard which is sold in supermarkets (probably in the 'free from' section), Holland and Barrett and wholefoods shops.