Verdict: Some lecithin is vegan, and some is not.
Let me explain why briefly…
Lecithin describes a type of fatty substance, and it can come from both plant and animal sources. It’s used for baking (in powdered form) and as a health supplement.
The most two most common lecithin that vegans come across are soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin.
But just because the product mainly comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s vegan.
Is Soy Lecithin Vegan?
Soy lecithin comes from soybeans as expected, which is a good start.
Most of the powdered form of soy lecithin have no added ingredients and are vegan.
However, lecithin is also taken to improve the absorption of other fats, or to try and treat high cholesterol.
This type of soy lecithin is sold usually in gel capsules that are not vegan. For example, here is the ingredients label from one of the top sellers on Amazon:
It contains gelatin, which is never vegan, and glycerine, which is sometimes vegan.
Another Issue: A Lot of Soy Comes From Demolished Rainforests
Not all vegans I’ve talked with feel the same way about this.
A lot of soy comes from the United States and the EU, but other countries produce it by clearing rainforests to grow it.
Rainforests are vital for the Earth’s ecosystem, and play a big role in the lives all organisms living on the planet. Also, many animals are cruelly killed while clearing forests.
So some soy lecithin will come from soybeans grown from these situations.
If you want to avoid those ones, look for soy lecithin that’s clearly labelled as sourced from the EU or US.
- Pure soy lecithin powder from the United States or EU is vegan.
- Pure soy lecithin powder from elsewhere may be vegan depending on your exact definition.
- Other forms of soy lecithin are rarely vegan.
Is Sunflower Lecithin Vegan?
Some sunflower lecithin is vegan, and some is not.
For some reason, many sunflower lecithin products contain animal products like:
- Bovine cellulose
- Glycerine (which is sometimes vegan)
I’d recommend finding one that specifically says it’s vegan or vegetarian, and then double-checking the ingredients for any animal products like the ones above.
Lecithin is a fat that can be extracted from other sources as well.
Summary: Which Lecithins Are Vegan?
The only forms of lecithin that you can be confident are vegan on sight are soy lecithin powder and pure sunflower lecithin.
For all other lecithin products, check the ingredients label to make sure there’s nothing else included, as there are often non-vegan ingredients.
The best case scenario is to find lecithin that is clearly labelled as vegan.