Is Root Beer Vegan? Know The Answer Here

You may have wondered about consuming root beer at some point. But your vegan diet may have put some restrictions on your consumption. Therefore, it becomes essential to know whether root beer is vegan. 

Fortunately, most root beers are vegan, including the store-bought versions of these popular brands — A&W, Mug, Barqs, and Virgil’s. However, it also contains questionable ingredients like honey, processed sugar, and dairy ice cream. Before we dive into these, let us look at what exactly is root beer.

What Is Root Beer?

Root beer is a popular non-alcoholic soda in North America. It only contains about 2 percent alcohol, meaning that it will not get you drunk. In fact, 3 percent of total soft drink sales in America are obtained by Root Beer.

The Medicinal Taste

Due to its sweet, carbonated, and distinctive herbal flavor, it is popular among people. Many people often describe the taste as “medicinal,” making it an acquired taste. Most brands produce root beer as a non-caffeinated drink, except Barqs.

This non-alcoholic drink is produced from the roots of sassafras. Both of these plants grow only in North America. This is also the reason for it being so popular in the USA.

Root Beer Floats

Root beer floats are a variant of traditional root beer. The only difference is that the float variant comes with scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream. The carbonation in the root beer helps the ice cream foam up and create a bubble paradise of the beverage. 

A Troubled Past

During the 1960s, root beer had to face various problems, including the ban on the commercial use of Sassafras oil by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The primary reason behind it was that Sassafras oil was found carcinogenic. Since it was used in root beer’s production, the manufacturers had to change this ingredient. As a result, artificial Sassafras or safrole-free Sassafras is used in modern beers.

The Ingredient Breakdown

To ascertain whether a food item is vegan, we need to check the ingredients used to manufacture it. However, the components may vary in different brands. Make sure that you check their ingredient list before buying them. 

Carbonated Water

There’s no need to worry about this ingredient as it is vegan. It is just regular water infused with carbon dioxide under pressure.

Roots / Herbs

Herbs are employed to give this soft drink its unique flavors. As aforementioned, Sassafras oil was used in the old times. But due to its ban by FDA in 1960, manufacturers use Safrole-Free or Sassafras in their drinks. Fortunately, it is also a vegan ingredient.


As spices are plant-based ingredients, they are vegan. You can see Nutmeg, Ginger, and Allspice widely used in the root beer.

Sugar / Sweetener

It’s one of those questionable ingredients that may cause your favorite drinks to not be vegan. Manufacturers can possibly use honey or sugar (processed with bone char) to add sweetness to the beverage. 

The sweetener that you will find in Root Beer is either cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. They are vegan, but the sugary substance is what concerns strict vegans. Why? Because you can’t draw a distinction between sweeteners obtained naturally and the ones processed with bone char.

Therefore, pick those drinks that have used certified vegan sweeteners like beet sugar or high fructose corn syrup. 

Natural Flavors

When checking the ingredient list, you may notice natural flavors listed there. These flavors are often derived from plant sources or animal products. However, manufacturers do not inform you about where they are getting these flavors. The main thing you need to check with natural flavors is the inclusion of honey. Otherwise, it is mostly vegan.

Artificial Flavorings

As aforementioned, artificial flavors are employed instead of sassafras in root beer. As the name suggests, these are man-made and not animal-derived, making them vegan. However, some flavors undergo animal testing to meet safety standards. It is worth telling that they are not routinely tested on animals.

Critic Acid

This organic acid gets used to giving Soda its tang flavor. Since it is found in various fruits, citric acid is vegan. 

Sodium Benzoate

You can rest assured because sodium benzoate is a vegan ingredient. It is produced in industries by reacting benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide. Both of these compounds are not animal-based. Hence, it is absolutely safe for vegans. 

Caramel Coloring

Have you wondered from where the brown color of root beer comes? Caramel is the reason behind it. However, you may be familiar with the traditional dairy-based caramel. But here, the word caramel is just used as a reference to its color.

The brown or caramel color is produced by heating sugar or corn. Primarily, sugar could be from fructose, molasses, cane sugar, etc. Again if it is derived from cane sugar, the whole issue of bone char rises. 

Fortunately, most caramel color in the USA and Europe is obtained from corn, making it vegan. There is a very slim chance of using cane sugar, so it is safe to assume that this ingredient is vegan.

Soybean Protein or Yucca

Many manufacturers use these ingredients as a foaming agent in their carbonated drinks. Luckily, if you are vegan, you can consume it without worry.


We all know how heavily dependent we are on caffeine to start our days. Therefore, some manufacturers may even use this ingredient in their drinks to help us get refreshed and energetic. Caffeine is obtained from plants like coffee. Hence, it is vegan.

The Takeaway

Is Root beer vegan? The answer is yes until it matches your veganism standards. Many vegans are fine with the questionable ingredients and try to avoid those obvious animal-based products. However, these ambiguous ingredients, such as sweeteners and natural flavors, can be an issue for strict vegans. 

It is safe to say that most root beer brands are vegan. Some may use non-vegan methods during the production process. But, it will be fine if you are not following a strict vegan diet. Therefore, grab a can of vegan root beer and refresh your mind to its fullest.

Brett White
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