What is Casein?

Ingredients list
Ingredients list photo by Perry Mastrovito / Getty Images

What is casein? Casein ((pronounced "kay-seen" ) is a milk protein commonly used in processed foods. As it is derived from milk, casein is not vegan but it is vegetarian and should be avoided by anyone with dairy-allergies or adhering to a strict vegan diet. 

You’ll find casein hidden in many places you wouldn't expect, even in food marketed towards vegetarians or those avoiding dairy. For example, casein is a very common ingredients in so-called non-dairy creamers and soy cheeses. Don't believe me? Read the ingredients list on the label of some of these products to see for yourself!

Although many vegans do not mind a small amount of casein in their soy cheese, anyone following a strict vegan diet will avoid these products.

When skimming ingredients lists, you might also come across "caseinates", such as calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate and sodium caseinate. These caseinates are derived from casein and as such, are also a milk protein and are not vegan. If you are allergic to dairy, you should avoid both casein and caseinates.