Is Sugar Vegan?

In this article you will find out all about the process of how sugar is made and what is in sugar to make it either vegan or not. As well as plenty of alternatives to sugar, vegan and otherwise. Finding out whether sugar is vegan or not can be complicated but once you know why and what to look for you will be able to make your own decisions and source out a vegan friendly sugar. So continue reading to find out… is sugar vegan? 

Can Vegans eat sugar?

So can vegan’s eat sugar? The short answer is yes, there are many sugars that vegans can eat. However there are some sugars that Vegans would consider not to be vegan due to a process that is used to refine the sugar, known as bone char. 

Different types of sugar:

When we talk about sugar we are talking about refined sugar, this is your everyday sugar. Whether this is white, brown or powdered, this is your everyday sugar, and it  normally comes from one of two places: either beets or sugarcane. Now any sugar that comes from beets is 100% vegan (good news for us vegans) however if it has come from sugarcane it may not be depending on whether they have refined the sugar or how they have refined it. Sugar is sucrose and it is extracted from plants. There are beginning to be some other alternative plants that you can get Vegan friendly sugar from, coconut and dates! 

How can sugar not be vegan?

So firstly for it not to be Vegan it would have come from sugarcane not beets. For it not to be Vegan it would have gone through the refining process, which is a process that is referred to as bone char and it is where the sugar cane is made white. As white sugar has been created using a product from an animal it is considered to be a non vegan product. When you are at the grocery store look for sugar that is labelled organic, natural, raw, unrefined or sugars that have come from other plants e.g coconut or date. 

How is beet sugar produced vs cane sugar? 

Harvesting – Sugar beets are grown in the ground, they are a root vegetable and are harvested in Autumn/winter. Sugar cane is also a plant and is harvested but the plant is chopped and the roots are left in the ground. 

Extracting the sugar – The beets are cut and then put into hot water which creates a sugary juice whereas the sugar cane is crushed and again creates a sugary juice. 

Cleaning and boiling – So, so far the process all seems very natural and vegan friendly. They then both continue along a similar process needing to be cleaned and then boiled to create a sugar crystal. The difference is that beet sugar is then ready to be consumed however sugar cane at this point is a light brown colour not its standard ‘white’ that we are all use to.In order for it to be white it needs to be decolorized which is called natural carbon, but in the sugar industry they refer to it as bone char. 

What is bone char? 

So bone char is a process used to refine sugar cane from its natural colour light brown to bright white. It is done by heating up animal bones at a very high temperature until they are reduced to carbon. This creates the pure white sugar we are use to. There are no bone fragments or particles found in the sugar, they are used to purify the sugar taking any impurities out. 

Is beet sugar vegan? 

Yes beet sugar is vegan as it comes from plants and no animal products have been used to produce the final product. 

Is cane sugar vegan? 

No, cane sugar is not vegan due to the filtration process known as bone char. 

Is coconut sugar vegan? 

Coconut sugar is definitely vegan it has not been processed and no filtration process needs to take place. 

Is date sugar vegan? 

Yes, date sugar is vegan again it is natural and therefore it is fine and does not need any processing, so it is 100% vegan. 

Is granulated sugar vegan?

Yes, generally granulated sugar is considered to be vegan.

Is organic sugar vegan? 

Yes, organic sugar is vegan!

Does brown sugar have bone char?

If the original white sugar that is used to be mixed with the brown was not vegan to begin with then that would make the brown sugar not vegan. 

Is powdered sugar vegan?

Like brown sugar, it depends whether the original white sugar that is used to create the powdered version was vegan in the first place. 

Best Vegan Sugar Brands 

There are also vegan sweeteners available as an alternative to sugar. 

Vegan sugar alternatives 

There are a fair amount of vegan sugar alternatives out there. Just bare in mind that these alternatives maybe more processed so not necessarily better for you, just not sugar, so it depends which health benefit you maybe looking for. Like most things a little in moderation is absolutely fine. 


What sugar is not vegan?

White sugar as well as light brown, powdered and dark are all considered to not be vegan. Light brown and dark brown are normally a mix of molasses and white sugar which is not vegan. 

Is bone char in sugar? 

Bone char isn’t in sugar but a process. It is a process that is used to refine sugar. Bone char comes from the bones of cattle which are heated up. 

What brands of white sugar are vegan?

There are a few brands of white sugar available: 

  • Florida Crystals
  • Now Foods Beet Sugar
  • Rapunzel Organic Whole Cane Sugar
  • Sugar in the Raw
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Wholesome

Is refined sugar vegan?

No refined sugar is not vegan. 

How do I know if my sugar is vegan?

To find out if your sugar is vegan or not you need to check that it says unrefined, organic, raw or that it has come from a type of beet or coconut.

Summary… So is sugar vegan?

On the whole yes most sugar is vegan as it does not contain animal products. As we have mentioned above. For you to be sure that you are consuming something that is 100% vegan friendly look for the words, natural, organic, unrefined and if you are considering buying white sugar be prepared that it may well have used the bone char process to get it’s white ness, this is predominantly only something that is done in the U.S.A. 

If you have found this article informative then you may also enjoy some of our other information articles:

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