Is Root Beer Vegan? Unlock The Hidden Root Cause

Is Root Beer Vegan? Don’t you think it is time we got to the root of it (see what we did there)? Seriously, though is Root Beer Vegan? In this article, I wanted to take the time to learn about good old-fashioned root beer. And yes, it is made from roots believe it or not – hence “Root Beer”. I’ll breakdown how popular Root Beer is, what is it made of (including a breakdown of its ingredients), a list of the most common Root Beer Brands (including whether they are vegan or not), a delicious home-made recipe you can use to make a Root Beer Float at home and most importantly I’ll look at whether Root Beer is vegan.

Is Root Beer Vegan?

As a general rule, most root beers are vegan including the store-bought versions of four of the most well-known and popular brands – A&W, Mug, Barqs, and Virgil’s. The main potentially non-vegan ingredients to watch out for are honey, sugar processed with bone char and dairy ice cream in root beer floats in restaurants. 

Is Root Beer Vegan – But First, What Is Root Beer?

Root Beer is a non-alcoholic soda mainly popular in North America (for reasons I will describe below). It accounts for 3 percent of All American Soft Drink Sales with the A&W being the number one selling brand of root beer in America (A&W even has the domain

What does Root Beer taste like?

Root Beer is sweet, carbonated, and has a distinctive herbal flavor. Its flavor has often been described as “medicinal” (I always think it is like a sweet Pepto-Bismol) which makes it an acquired taste for most people. Most brands of root beer are non-caffeinated (except Barqs root beer which does contain caffeine).

Traditionally Root Beer is made from different roots of sassafras or sarsaparilla – both sets of roots grow only in North America. Hence why this drink remains mostly popular only in the United States.

Is Root Beer Vegan – Top 10 Root Beer Brands

Is Root Beer Vegan

The current Top 10 most popular Root Beer brands according to Nutritionix are:

  1. A&W Root Beer
  2. Barq’s Root Beer
  3. Mug Root Beer
  4. Virgil’s Root Beer
  5. A&W Diet Root Beer
  6. Sudz Root Beer Soda
  7. WBC Root Beer
  8. Teddy’s Root Beer
  9. Killebrew Root Beer
  10. Zevia Ginger Root Beer

Root Beer Origins

In fact, the origin story for the drinks goes a little something like this: Charles Hires, a pharmacist on his honeymoon happened to come across a great-tasting tea. He liked it so much he developed it into a powder and mixed it with carbonated water to release the first-ever Root Tea in 1876. By 1893 the drink was so popular that it began to be bottled and sold as a soft drink. Wanting a name to appeal to the masses they changed the name from Root Tea to Root Beer. The rest is history as they say. Furthermore if made in the traditional process Root Beer will contain 2% alcohol, so always be on the lookout for any alcoholic content on Root Beer cans.

Not Just Into Root Beer?

Are you not just into Root Beer – do you like Soda or are you a fan of Cream Soda then check out my articles: Is Soda Vegan? Revealing What You Need To Know and Is Cream Soda Vegan? Unlock All You Need To Know.

Is Root Beer Vegan – Hold On What About Root Beer Floats?

If the only thought that comes to your mind right now is “Hold on – I’ve only ever had a Root Beer Float – What is that?” then fear not, we have you covered. A Root Beer Float is Root Beer with scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream. The carbonation in the root beer causes the ice cream to foam up, creating a frothing majesty of a beverage worthy of all.

If it interests you, National Root Beer Float Day is on 6th August.

Is Root Beer Vegan – A Troubled Past

Things have not always been smooth sailing for this once popular beverage. In 1960 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the commercial use of Sassafras oil in commercially mass-produced foods. This was due to Sarsaparilla and Sassafras, both compounds used to flavor Root Beer and where Sassafras Oil came from, were found to be carcinogenic. Modern Root Beer as a result today is flavored with artificial Sassafras or safrole-free Sassafras.

Root Beer – Some Random Things

This part really has nothing to do with whether Root Beer is vegan or not, but for completeness, there are also two unofficial records when it comes to Root Beer. The first is Most Pairs of Socks Folded in 40 Seconds While Drinking Root Beer. A Pavol D folded 18 pairs of socks in 40 seconds while drinking a glass of root beer. The second was by Elliott C for speed drinking, who drank three cups of Root Beer in 15.68 seconds. There you go.

Is Root Beer Vegan – Ingredient Breakdown

In this section, I will break down all the most common ingredients used in modern-day Root Beers. Ingredients vary from brand to brand, but the below are the main points to know when trying to decide if Root Beer Vegan.

Carbonated Water

Vegan. All good here – can’t mess this one up.

Roots / Herbs

This is where Root Beer gets its unique flavoring from. As mentioned above, this was traditionally from Sassafras oil flavoring. However, since this was banned by the FDA only Safrole-Free Sassafras can be used by manufacturers. Hansen’s currently uses Safrole-Free Sassafras in their Root Beer. Most other brands opt to use Artificially Flavored Sassafras.


A combination of Nutmeg, Ginger, and Allspice can be found in some Root Beers. Vegan.

Sugar / Sweetener

The main form of sweetener you will find in Root Beer will be cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, sweeteners are also the main ingredient that may cause your favorite Root Beer to not be vegan. This is due to the potential use of honey to sweeten or sugar (which has been processed with bone char). Although sugar is not derived from animals, it can be processed with Bone Char in the production process. Sugar is a notoriously difficult area for vegans to navigate. If you are concerned about what sugar is used in your Root Beer (or any drink for that matter) then try and pick Root Beer that has been sweetened with organic, raw, unrefined, or beet sugar, and/or high fructose corn syrup. Sadly, Bone Char processed sugars remain a potential issue for most drinks in the US.

Natural Flavors

“Natural Flavors” listed on the label can be either from animal products or from plant sources. Manufacturers don’t have to tell you where the Natural Flavors come from. However, if there are any Natural Flavors that come from dairy manufacturers are required to list “contains milk or dairy” on the packaging. The main thing to watch out for with “Natural Flavors” is the inclusion of honey.

Artificial Flavorings

As we mentioned above “Artificial Flavorings” are now used by most Root Beer manufacturers to replicate Sassafras flavors since it was banned. All artificial flavorings are manmade so are not derived from animals. However, some may undergo testing on animals when they are first created to ensure they meet certain safety standards). They don’t’ tend to be routinely tested in animals like artificial colors.

Critic Acid

This is added to Sodas to give them a sharper flavor. It is what gives Soda its tang flavor. They also act as a preservative. It’s vegan.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is the standard go-to preservative for most Sodas. This compound is considered vegan and is produced synthetically by reacting benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide. Neither of which are taken from animal sources. It is used in drinks to prevent spoilage from harmful bacteria, yeast, and molds, as well as help, maintain the chemical balance of food mixtures.

Caramel Coloring

This is what gives Root Beer its brown hue. Despite being called Caramel it doesn’t refer to the traditional dairy-based caramel we are all familiar with – just the color. Let’s face it “Caramel” sounds better than “Brown”.

Caramel color is made from heating corn or sugar. The sugar used could be fructose, sucrose, molasses, malt syrup or regular cane sugar. Obviously if caramel is made from cane sugar, then the whole question of bone char opens again which could be an issue for strict vegans.

However, most caramel color in Northern America and Europe is derived from corn and so is vegan. You can never know for sure but the chance of caramel color not being vegan. There is a very slim chance, but on the balance it’s safe to assume caramel color is vegan.

Soybean Protein or Yucca

Both are used by the drinks manufacturing industry as foaming agents for their carbonated beverages. It is called Root “Beer” after all. It is vegan.


Ah, sweet caffeine. That thing some of us rely on to get us going in the mornings and generally survive daily life. It is also what some drinks manufacturers add to their Root Beer to help give us all a boost. Root Beer brand Barqs add caffeine to their Root Beer. It is vegan.

Is Root Beer Vegan – Vegan and Non-Vegan Brands

Is Root Beer Vegan

To make this article as helpful and useful for your daily life as possible I decided to provide a summary of some of the most popular Root Beer Brands and whether they are vegan or not. I have included Amazon links to the vegan root beers.

Links to Buy on Amazon Below
A&W Root Beer (Amazon link) *Sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup
(please note this is just in relation to the store-bought A&W Root Beer)
Joe’s Root Beer *contains honey
Mug Root Beer (Amazon link) *Sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup Lost Rhino Root Beer *contains honey
Barqs Root Beer (Amazon link) *Sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup
Virgil’s Root Beer (Amazon link) *Statement on Website that all sodas are vegan
Boylan Root Beer (Amazon link) *Statement on Website that all sodas are vegan
Jones Root Beer (Amazon link) *Statement on Website that all sodas are vegan

On a separate note did you know that Barqs is owned by Coca-Cola, if you want to know if “coke” is vegan then you can read my post Is Soda Vegan? Revealing What You Need To Know.

Root Beer Floats – Are They Vegan?

Is Root Beer Vegan

Root beer floats are a popular menu item in restaurants and diners in North America. As mentioned above, a Root Beer float is simply made by adding ice cream to Root Beer. Unfortunately, they are not normally vegan as they will be made with dairy vanilla ice cream. If you have a particular hankering for a Root Beer Float while in a restaurant, be sure to ask if they have a vegan vanilla ice cream they can use instead (along with a non-honey-based Root Beer).

Failing that I put together my go-to Root Beer Float recipe for you to use at home whenever you want.

Is Root Beer Vegan – Vegan Root Beer Float Recipe


Steps to make it:

  1. Grab a tall straight beer glass (you know the ones with the handle) and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to freeze up nicely.
  2. Once nicely chilled remove your beer glass from the freezer and add two big scoops of vegan vanilla ice cream.
  3. Crack open your can of Vegan Root Beer.
  4. Pour the Root Beer slowly into the glass. Make sure to hold the glass at an angle. Allow the foam to rise and then recede before adding more Root Beer.
  5. Top with some vegan whipped cream. If you are using Reddi-whip Almond Milk Whipped Cream make sure to follow the instructions and run the can under warm water for 30 seconds to get the best results from the nozzle.
  6. Pop a cherry on top! If you are using maraschino cherries just make sure they don’t contain cochineal/carmine (a red coloring made from crushed bugs). It can be labeled differently across the world – E120, Natural Red 4, and Crimson Lake are some examples. Here in the US, it has to be labeled as cochineal or carmine. Probably best to just for with a dark sweet cherry (you can buy packs of frozen dark sweet cherries from Wholefoods – that is what I like to use.

Is Root Beer Vegan? – The Final Sip

There you have it. Is Root Beer Vegan? After much digging around I finally feel like we got to the “Root Of The Issue”. The “Root Of The Matter” is that most Root Beers are vegan. The “Root Cause” to look out for is anything with additional honey and the type of sugars used. Now that we have gotten to the “ROOT” of this I feel like we should all sit back, grab some vegan ice cream, a can of vegan Root Beer and go make me some frothing soda masterpiece. With a cherry on top of course.

Is Root Beer Vegan

…now you know.

Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.

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Editorial Team

The Vegan Bev HQ Editorial Team - helping you find the best vegan drink out there!

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