Is Sorbet Vegan? What You Should Know

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: June 21, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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There's nothing better than a delicious frozen dessert on a hot summer day. Or in the winter.

Ice cream may be the most obvious choice, but my personal favorite is sorbet. I wanted to find out if it's vegan, so I checked its ingredients and also talked with our dietician to get an expert's opinion.

Let's break down the ingredients.

Quick Summary

  • Sorbet is typically vegan, being made from fruit puree, fruit juice, and sugar, but certain brands may include non-vegan ingredients like honey, eggs, and dairy.
  • The key to ensuring sorbet is vegan involves checking labels for problematic ingredients such as animal-derived colors, additives, and sugar processed with bone char.
  • Historically, sorbet dates back to ancient Rome and Persia, around 3,000 BC, highlighting its long-standing popularity as a frozen dessert.
  • Personally, I find making homemade vegan sorbet not only ensures it's vegan-friendly but also allows for creative flavor combinations and healthier ingredient choices.

What is Sorbet?

Three scoop of mango sorbet in a bowl

Sorbet is a frozen dessert typically made from sugar, fruit juice, or fruit puree.

Sorbe’s popularity may be picking up now, but the dessert dates back to ancient Rome and Persia. It can be traced as far as 3,000 BC [1].

Food historians believe Italians refined sorbet in the 1600s, with its name deriving from the Italian word sorbetto, which came from the Arab word for syrup — sharab.

Because of its storing difficulty, the sorbet was a dessert for the wealthy until the modern refrigerator was invented.

Sorbet vs. Sherbet vs. Ice Cream

Sorbet, Sherbet, and Ice cream

Before diving deeper, let me share my experience in distinguishing between sorbet, sherbet, and ice cream. I was often confused about these three. Here's what I've learned to help you differentiate them easily.

1. Sorbet

Sorbet is typically made from a water, fruit, and sugar base into a frozen dessert. Sorbets are naturally vegan, don’t contain gluten or dairy. Sorbets are naturally vegan, don’t contain gluten or dairy.

2. Sherbet

Sherbet is almost identical to sorbet. However, it also contains dairy that gives it a richer texture, so it’s usually not vegan or free from dairy.

3. Ice Cream

Ice cream (and gelato) is made from a milk or cream base with added sugar, fruit, and other flavorings. It typically doesn’t contain dairy.

Ingredients List

Hand holding a strawberry flavored sorbet in a bowl

From my own kitchen experiments, I've found that sorbet might be the simplest, natural treat to ever exist. The basic ingredients are just water, fruit or fruit juice, and sugar.

The most common flavors are lemon, mango, and strawberry.

Of course, there are also some more extravagant sorbets, like the chocolate sorbet. Is chocolate sorbet vegan?

Yes, it is. Although many would argue that a chocolate sorbet is just decadent ice cream.

6 Problematic Ingredients

Top view of raspberry flavored sorbet

In my journey to find the perfect vegan sorbet, I've learned that certain ingredients can make or break its plant-based status.

Here are a few ingredients that I've discovered can render this dessert unsuitable for vegans.

1. Colors and Additives

There are plant-based colors and additives. But, unless the manufacturer labels the food as suitable for vegans, you can’t be sure whether the colors and additives are animal- or plant-based. Be sure to check the label.

2. Sugar

The ingredient is natural and made from sugar cane or beet. But its processing is problematic.

Many producers use animal bone char, also known as natural carbon, for sugar processing, which, according to Peat, automatically makes it non-vegan [2].

Check the label — unless the food you love and want to buy is labeled as vegan, you might want to stay away from it if its ingredients include sugar.

3. Cross-Contamination

There's always the risk of cross-contamination with mass-produced foods. Many facilities that produce vegan products might also make milk-based foods or handle other non-vegan ingredients.

4. Eggs and Egg Derivatives

Many dessert recipes and mass-produced sorbets contain eggs and egg derivatives.

They’re typically present in some old, traditional recipes, as they give the treat a nice texture and create a smooth and creamy consistency. They’re easy to spot when you check the label.

5. Honey

Nowadays, honey is a very popular addition to foods and desserts. Sure, honey might be a healthier alternative to sugars, but it's not vegan since most beekeeping practices hurt, injure, and kill bees.

6. Dairy

As I said, sorbet is a treat that can contain milk, cream, or other milk derivatives, which makes it undoubtedly non-vegan. Luckily, it's always easy to spot in the ingredients list, just like honey and eggs.

Health Benefits and Nutritional Profile of Vegan Sorbet

As someone who loves indulging in desserts but also wants to stay healthy, I've found that vegan sorbet is not just a delightful treat for those following a plant-based diet; it's a nutritious alternative to traditional ice creams and desserts.

These are the health benefits and nutritional aspects of vegan sorbet.

Nutrient-Rich Fruit Base

The primary ingredient in vegan sorbet is fruit, which is naturally rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:

  • Citrus-based sorbets: According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, these are packed with Vitamin C, vital for immune system support and skin health [3].
  • Berry sorbets: Provide a wealth of antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
  • Mango and pineapple: Are a great source of Vitamin A and digestive enzymes.

Low in Fat and Dairy-Free

One of the most significant advantages of vegan sorbet is its low-fat content. Unlike traditional ice cream, which is often high in saturated fat due to its dairy content, vegan sorbet is typically made without any dairy products.

This makes it a much lighter and heart-healthier option, especially for those monitoring their cholesterol levels or following a weight management plan.

Fiber Content

Depending on the fruit used and the preparation method, vegan sorbet can also be a source of dietary fiber. Fiber is crucial for digestive health and can aid in maintaining a healthy weight.

Sorbets made with whole fruit purees retain more fiber than those made with just fruit juices.

Hydration and Refreshment

Sorbets have a high water content, making them an excellent option for hydration during hot weather.

The refreshing qualities of a chilled sorbet can help maintain hydration levels, especially when made with hydrating fruits like watermelon or cucumber.

How to Ensure It's Vegan

Two scoop of a strawberry flavored sorbet in a bowl

Unless you're making it yourself, you can never be 100% sure that sorbet is vegan.

No matter if you're eating in a restaurant or at your friend's, ask them if the sorbet they're serving is vegan. This is the only way to be entirely sure.

The Spoon Tip

You should also politely ask the person serving the sorbets to replace the scoop, so there's no cross-contamination in the case they've served ice cream with the same spoon beforehand.

Is Sorbet Vegan?

Yes, sorbet is naturally vegan. But are all sorbet vegan? The answer isn't that simple. Like with other foods, ingredients play the leading role in whether the food is suitable for vegans or not.

Related Posts:

Is all Sorbet Dairy-Free?

Unfortunately, no. Sometimes a sorbet contains dairy. Some varieties have added milk, cream, buttermilk, or other milk derivatives — which is why it is essential to check the ingredients first according to Jen Cardenas, founder of Hassle Free Vegan.

Quick Vegan Homemade Recipe

Three different flavors of Sorbet inside a glass bowl

The easiest way to skip the hassle around checking the ingredients and wondering is sorbet vegan is to make it yourself.

Don't worry; this frozen dessert is one of the easiest recipes; you'll need a couple of ingredients and some patience.

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups fruit chunks (any fruit is good, but I recommend mango or strawberry)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tbsp cold water
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Blend the fruit in a processor until smooth, add it to a large saucepan, and combine with sugar and salt.
  2. Cook it over medium heat until hot, but don't let it boil. Next, you'll want to combine cornstarch and water and stir the mixture into the hot fruit puree.
  3. Finally, stir in the lemon juice, transfer the puree to a pan, and leave it in a freezer. It should take about two hours to freeze completely.
  4. Let it soften a couple of minutes before serving. You can decorate it with some chocolate or leave it natural. Enjoy your fresh, frozen sweet and share it with your friends!

References:

  1. https://www.frostgelato.com/about/history-of-gelato
  2. https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/are-animal-ingredients-included-in-white-sugar/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060895/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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