Vegan vs. Dairy-Free: What’s the Difference?

Vegan vs. Dairy-Free: What’s the Difference?

The terms “vegan” and “dairy-free” are often confused, but some differences. Here’s how they’re different, what the similarities are, and why it matters to know which is when you see them on products.

A quick summary of the two terms:

Vegan means products containing no animal ingredients at all (no meats, dairy, eggs… nothing). Dairy-free means products with no dairy – milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. – but could have other animal ingredients. Confused? Read on for more details!


Vegan products do not contain any animal ingredients or byproducts whatsoever. This usually includes things like meat, eggs, dairy, and honey. However, this term does not always mean that a product has been produced in a cruelty-free manner – for example, some sugar is processed using bone char from cows’ charred bones.


Dairy-free products do not contain any dairy products such as milk or butterfat. They may not be 100% vegan because they could have been produced using animal-derived fining agents such as casein (from milk) and gelatin (typically derived from beef or pork).

In short, vegan products have been made using only animal-friendly ingredients and processes. Dairy-free products also do not contain dairy, but they could include other animal products or be processed in a way that’s considered less than humane for animals.

Why It Matters:

Knowing the difference between vegan and dairy-free is crucial because it helps you make informed choices about your purchases’ impact on animals and the environment.

For example, if you’re looking for a product that’s both vegan and dairy-free – such as a chocolate bar – it may seem like there are limited options… But there are lots of tasty treats out there to choose from.* As another example, if you need something non-dairy to put on your morning cereal, you might reach for the soy milk – but there are also lots of dairy-free options out there that don’t include added sugars or other processed ingredients, so you could save yourself some calories and still be kind to animals!

Vegan dairy products:

Alpro Soya Drink Original – Alpro Almond Milk – Whole Foods Market Unsweetened Rice Drink – EdenSoy Organic Soymilk – Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Almond Milk (refrigerated) – Pacific Hazelnut Original Creamer *NEW*

Potato cheese:

One of the most popular foods on the vegan block, there are quite a few products out on the market that can go great with your favorite brand of vegan mac ‘n’ cheese. Any vegan cheese you can find in your local grocery store will melt just as standard dairy cheeses. Most restaurants now carry vegan cheese (like Daiya) on their menu. There are many brands, flavors, and textures available for purchase.

Foods like Tofutti Cream Cheese, Daiya Mozzarella Shreds, or Follow Your Heart American Cheese Slices will all easily melt on your favorite vegan burger or taco! Also, some soy yogurts can be used as a sour cream replacement in recipes. Check the labels on the back of each brand to see what specific items they recommend using it for.

Vegan egg replacers:

For some egg-based dishes, especially baked ones, replacing eggs is more about how they interact than about taste. It’s possible to find “egg” substitutes at most health food stores that substitute the eggs as far as texture is concerned.

One of the most popular egg replacers out today, especially in vegan baking, is flax seeds! Combining one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water is almost identical to that of one real egg. You can also use Ener-G Egg Replacer if you are allergic to flax seeds or are sensitive to them.

If you are looking for something truly unique when it comes to making all your baked goods come out just right, try using Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Egg Replacer. It will knock your socks off how incredibly close it can come to replicating not only eggs but things like mayonnaise and other fats in recipes.

Vegan Cheese:

If you are looking for a cheese replacement to make your favorite vegan pizzas, lasagnas, grilled cheeses, etc., there are lots of options out there for you! As mentioned above, just about all dairy-free cheese brands melt as good as traditional cheese spreads. Since being introduced into the market, Daiya Cheese Shreds have become very popular over the last few years. Follow Your Heart also offers a fantastic lineup of vegan cheeses.

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