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Is Vegan Dairy Free?

As plant-based diets gain popularity, terms like vegan and dairy-free are sometimes used interchangeably. However, understanding the difference between these terms is necessary for making informed dietary choices. Below, we’ll explain the distinctions between vegan and dairy-free, exploring the definitions, what each encompasses, and whether vegan necessarily means dairy-free.

Vegan vs. Dairy-Free

Is vegan non-dairy? Is dairy-free vegan? Let’s take a closer look at these diets and answer these important questions.


Veganism is a lifestyle and dietary choice that abstains from the use of animal products and by-products. This includes not only food but also products derived from animals, such as leather, wool, and cosmetics tested on animals. Vegans follow a plant-based diet, avoiding meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived ingredients.


Being dairy-free, on the other hand, specifically means abstaining from dairy products. This includes milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and any other items made from the milk of animals such as cows, goats, or sheep. People may adopt a dairy-free diet for various reasons, including lactose intolerance, allergies, or ethical considerations.

Definition of Veganism and Dairy-Free


Veganism, as defined by the Vegan Society, is “a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.” In the context of diet, this means abstaining from all animal products.


Dairy-free, by definition, simply refers to the absence of dairy products in a diet. This could be due to health reasons, ethical choices, or dietary preferences that do not necessarily extend to avoiding other animal products.

What Does Vegan Food Include?

Veganism embraces a diverse and vibrant array of plant-based foods. From the crisp sweetness of fruits to the hearty richness of legumes, read below for some key components that make up a plant-based diet.

Fruits and Vegetables

A foundation of a vegan diet is fruits and vegetables, providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Whole Grains

Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats are staples, offering fiber, protein, and essential nutrients.


Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of protein and essential amino acids in a vegan diet.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats, protein, and a variety of essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids.

Plant-Based Protein

Plant-based protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan are common in vegan diets, offering versatile alternatives to animal products.

What Does Dairy-Free Food Include?

While vegan foods are always dairy-free, let’s review some of the common ways that you can eat a dairy-free diet without completely giving up this category of foods.

Plant-Based Milks

Dairy-free milk alternatives, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and coconut milk, are popular choices for those avoiding traditional dairy.

Non-Dairy Yogurts

Yogurt alternatives made from plant-based sources, like almond, coconut, or soy yogurt, are common in dairy-free diets.

Vegan Cheeses

Plant-based cheeses, crafted from nuts, soy, or tapioca starch, are dairy-free alternatives that mimic the flavors and textures of traditional cheeses.

Dairy-Free Ice Cream

Vegan ice creams, often made from coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk, offer a delightful treat without the use of dairy.

Can Vegan Food Contain Dairy?

By definition, vegan food excludes all animal products, including dairy. However, errors or misunderstandings can occur, leading to accidental consumption of dairy. It’s important for vegans to read food labels carefully and inquire about ingredients when dining out to ensure strict adherence to a plant-based diet.

Can Dairy-Free Food Contain Animal-Derived Ingredients?

While dairy-free food primarily avoids dairy products, it doesn’t inherently mean it is entirely free from animal-derived ingredients. Some dairy-free products may contain other animal-derived components, such as gelatin, honey, or certain colorings and additives. Individuals with specific dietary preferences or ethical considerations should thoroughly inspect ingredient lists to ensure alignment with their values.

Does Vegan Mean Dairy-Free?

Yes, veganism inherently implies being dairy-free. A vegan diet excludes all forms of animal exploitation, and dairy is a prominent example. Vegans refrain from consuming milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products, as well as avoiding ingredients derived from animals in other aspects of their lifestyle.

Does Plant-Based Mean Dairy-Free?

Yes, a plant-based diet is inherently dairy-free. Plant-based diets emphasize whole, plant-derived foods and exclude animal products, including dairy. Individuals following a plant-based lifestyle opt for fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts while steering clear of dairy and other animal-derived products.

What about Plant-Based and Animal-Based Products?

Plant-based products originate from plants, offering a wealth of nutrients, fiber, and a spectrum of flavors. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds form the foundation of plant-based diets, promoting health and sustainability.

On the other hand, animal-based products derive from animals, encompassing meat, dairy, and eggs. While rich in certain nutrients, they often come with associated ethical and environmental concerns. The production of animal-based products can contribute to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and animal welfare issues.

The choice between plant-based and animal-based products reflects broader considerations. Many adopt plant-based lifestyles for health benefits, environmental sustainability, and ethical reasons, seeking alternatives that align with these values. Conversely, some prioritize animal-based products, such as eating meat, for specific dietary needs or cultural preferences.

As awareness grows about the impact of dietary choices on personal well-being and the planet, individuals are increasingly exploring the diverse world of plant-based products as alternatives to traditional animal-based fare. This shift not only introduces a spectrum of flavors and textures but also supports a more conscious and compassionate approach to nourishment.

Order Vegan Food in Los Angeles from The Vegan Joint

When exploring a vegan diet, it’s essential to recognize the distinctions between vegan and dairy-free. Veganism encompasses a holistic lifestyle that avoids all forms of animal exploitation, while dairy-free specifically refers to abstaining from dairy products. A vegan diet is, by definition, dairy-free, as it excludes all animal-derived ingredients.

Whether you’re adopting a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, health considerations, or both, or if you’re simply opting for a dairy-free diet due to lactose intolerance or other concerns, understanding these terms empowers you to make choices aligned with your values and preferences.

You can always find delicious vegan dishes at The Vegan Joints three Los Angeles locations: DTLA, Woodland Hills, and Culver City.

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