Hidden Pork: Red Flag Ingredients That Mean Food Could Contain Pork

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When you see a plate of eggs and bacon, a sizzling rack of ribs or a pork chop dinner, it’s easy to identify the pork product being used. Many foods, including certain candies, baked goods, and even chewing gum, contains hidden pork products. If you’re trying to avoid eating pork, keep an eye on the ingredients list of whatever you’re buying. We rounded up some of the biggest red flag ingredients that indicate hidden pork is in the mix.


Gelatin is a colorless, flavorless, and odorless ingredient that thickens liquids. It’s commonly made from the connective tissues, skin, and bones of pigs and cows. Jell-O, certain ice creams, puddings, gummy candies, and marshmallows are just a few of the common foods on the market that contain gelatin. Peanuts are often coated with gelatin to help the salt or other seasonings stick. You might also find it in the ingredients list of some vitamins, seasickness medicines, toaster pastries, and some beers and wines. Look for vegan options or items thickened with pectin or agar-agar instead for pork-free alternatives.

Stearic Acid

Stearic acid is made from the fat of pigs, sheep, or cows. It’s a fatty acid that’s solid at room temperature. It has a melting point around 158 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s often used for making cosmetics, candles, and soaps. The Los Angeles Times points out that it can also be found in certain chewing gums. It helps soften the gum for an easier chew. 


Commercial bread, bagels, tortillas, pie shells, pizza dough, and pastry commonly contain L-cysteine. This amino acid is used as a dough conditioner. It reduces mixing time by breaking down the proteins in the dough. It’s frequently derived from hog hair. It may also come from bird feathers or human hair. To avoid the potential for ingesting an ingredient derived from pork, read the ingredients list thoroughly to find baked goods free of L-cysteine or options made with vegan L-cysteine.


Lard is a hidden secret for many bakers who love using it to make their pie crusts extra flaky and crisp. It’s also often found in other baked goods and refried beans. You might find that some chefs like to cook using lard in place of butter or oil. What is it? Lard is rendered pig fat. It can come from any part of the pig, according to The Salt Cured Pig. High-grade lard comes from visceral fat found inside the loin and around the kidneys. It may also come from the fatback. Lard rarely adds a pork flavor. For example, in baked goods, it typically adds a buttery taste.


Some hard, aged cheeses like gorgonzola, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, and Grana Padano use rennet in the ingredients list. Rennet is an enzyme that separates liquid milk from solid curds to create these cheeses. Vegetarians are often surprised to find that cheese containing rennet isn’t vegetarian at all. This enzyme is commonly derived from the stomach lining of goats or baby cows. It can also come from pigs. One aged cheese that specifically uses pig rennet is Pecorino de Farindola cheese in Italy, according to Science Direct.