Veganism is a way of living that aims to minimize the use and consumption of animal products in everyday life, especially in terms of diet (1).

People who follow a vegan diet avoid eating animal products, including dairy, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and honey (2).

Sometimes following a vegan diet can be challenging due to the possibility of some foods containing animal-derived ingredients. One common ingredient that many new vegans wonder about is lactic acid.

This article reviews whether lactic acid is vegan, as well as its uses and food sources.

Many people assume that lactic acid comes from animal products because the first word in the term sounds similar to lactose, a sugar naturally found in cow’s milk and dairy products. Adding to the confusion, the prefix “lac-” is Latin for “milk.”

However, lactic acid is not milk, nor does it contain milk. It’s an organic acid that naturally forms when certain foods or bacteria go through the process of fermentation.

In addition to being created through fermentation, lactic acid can be man-made and is sometimes added as a preservative and flavoring to packaged foods (3).

Foods that contain lactic acid

A number of commonly consumed foods contain lactic acid, either as a result of fermentation or as an additive.

Lactic acid is found in pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, beer, wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soy foods like soy sauce and miso. It’s responsible for their tangy flavor (4).

In addition to fermented vegetables and grains, fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt contain lactic acid. Lactic acid is likewise found in salami, a fermented meat (4).

It may also be present in or added to a variety of popular packaged products, including salad dressings, spreads, breads, desserts, olives, and jams.

To determine whether a food contains lactic acid, look on the ingredient label to see if it’s listed.


Lactic acid naturally occurs in fermented foods but can also be man-made and added to packaged foods. Some common foods that contain lactic acid are sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, and salami.

Lactic acid is primarily found in or made using fermented vegetables, cereals, and legumes, which makes it a vegan substance (4).

However, this may not be the case in every country or with every food product, as the production of some man-made lactic acid may involve animal sources.

The best way to make sure the lactic acid in a food is vegan is to contact the manufacturer directly and ask.

Furthermore, although non-vegan fermented meats and dairy products contain lactic acid, this shouldn’t be a concern for vegans, as they exclude these foods from their diet anyway.


Most lactic acid is vegan, as it primarily occurs during the natural fermentation process of plants or is man-made using plants. Lactic acid is also found in fermented dairy and meats, but vegans avoid these foods anyway. Contact the manufacturer to be sure.

Lactic acid can either be man-made or naturally occur as a by-product of the fermentation process, which primarily involves plant-based foods.

Most lactic acid is compliant with a vegan diet, which avoids animal-derived products.

That said, lactic acid is also found in dairy products and fermented meat, but people following a vegan diet wouldn’t eat these foods anyway.

Lactic acid is also sometimes added as a preservative or flavoring to packaged foods. Though it’s usually made with plant-based sources, the best way to confirm is to contact the manufacturer and ask.