7 Items to Avoid During Your Next Vegan Starbucks Trip


It can be difficult at times to maintain a plant smart, vegan diet when going to restaurants. Starbucks, the international coffee chain, is one of the more unassuming places that you would expect to have trouble maintaining your vegan diet. I think the reason for this stems from the simple fact that coffee in its purest form is a plant-based food source. It is not the simple black coffee that we struggle with, but the larger reality that many of us do not just enjoy a black cup of joe. Rather, once we begin exploring lattes, Frappuccino’s, and other mixed drinks found on the rather large menu, we begin to notice how little ingredients used here and there go against our vegan lifestyles. While it isn’t too difficult to have a vegan Starbucks outing with a little bit of educating beforehand, as identified in our article, The Best Vegan Starbucks Options to Keep You Plant Smart, we have also put together a little list of definite no-no’s for when you visit Starbucks next here for your convenience. 

1). Pumpkin Spice

A common favorite during the autumn months, pumpkin spice is a very unassuming vegan risk and should be avoided at Starbucks. The reason for this is because the flavoring utilizes condensed milk. Unfortunately, this is something base to the taste of this drink, and isn’t the milk additive that can be substituted for soy milk like with most other drinks on their menu. Bummer! 

2). White Mocha

The “white mocha” syrup includes milk. This is not to be confused with the regular mocha syrup which in fact (and perhaps surprisingly) does not include milk and therefore is a great alternative if you desire something with this type of flavoring!

3). Caramel Brûlée

Milk is used in the sauce of the caramel brûlée and should be avoided. Caramel is a tricky menu item at Starbucks because some drinks are made with caramel syrup, which is vegan friendly, whereas others are made with drizzle/sauce which has milk and butter.

4). Whipped Cream

I would think this is a no brainer, but whipped cream is a topping included on many of Starbuck’s drinks. Sometimes, you may not even realize it is included, especially if you run into a barista who doesn’t ask (I'm sure this happens from time to time). The milk content is what does this one in. If only Starbucks could use a whipped cream alternative?

5). Java Chips

Unfortunately, these contain milk and are not vegan friendly. This certainly stinks as many have reported them to be rather tasty and aesthetically pleasing (you know, if you like your food and drinks to look good).

6). Protein Powder

It is unique that Starbucks offers drinks with protein powder. Unfortunately, this protein powder is whey based which is a dairy product. Perhaps one day they will offer plant based protein alternatives? They are becoming increasingly popular on the supplement market, so I’d expect that one day soon we will start seeing something like this. Only time will tell, though. 

7). Caramel Drizzle

The caramel drizzle contains milk and butter. Like the caramel brûlée, this is a menu item to avoid in your drinks.

Hopefully you find this writing to be filled with some valuable information that will enable you to know a little more about some additives commonly used in drinks at Starbucks. Unlike most restaurants around, one does not go to Starbucks with the immediate, pressing notion that they have to be concerned about upholding their vegan dietary restrictions. After all, coffee is at its core a plant product, right?

While one can appreciate how many offerings Starbucks has, I look forward to the day when more and more vegan friendly options become available. I’m not the biggest fan of caffeinated coffee these days, and tend to stick with drinking coffee alternatives I can make at home, but I am happy to provide this list in hopes to help you become more educated if you’re visiting Starbucks from time to time!

Are there other ingredients we are overlooking in our piece here that are not vegan friendly that feature in some of Starbucks drinks? Let me know in the comments below!