Is Glycerin Vegan Friendly? (We Have the Answer!)

Is Glycerin Vegan

Glycerin is a common ingredient in a variety of foods and drinks. It’s also used in the manufacturing of medications, cosmetics, skincare products, and more. Glycerin is one of the ‘questionable’ ingredients that may or may not be vegan depending on how it’s made. If you’re a vegan who also wants to avoid animal-derived ingredients in your cosmetics and other products, it can be tedious to ensure everything is vegan-friendly.

Glycerin can be derived from two sources – animal fat or vegetables. Vegetable-based glycerin is vegan, but glycerin made from animal fat isn’t vegan. Most glycerin today is vegetable-based, but you should always review the ingredients label. The best vegan alternatives to glycerin are Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Belle Chemical Medical Grade Propylene Glycol, and Karo Light Corn Syrup.

You might not know much about glycerin, but chances are it’s in several items in your household. Read on to learn more about this versatile ingredient!

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a colorless, odorless polyol. Polyols are a type of carbohydrate called sugar alcohol. Glycerin is used as an additive in foods and drinks, and can also be used topically in the form of burn treatments, soaps, and more.

Glycerin is added to foods to help retain moisture and prevent the crystallization of sugars in processed foods and drinks. It can also help add bulk, smoothness, softness, sweetness, and improve texture. Glycerin is also used to add sweetness to foods and drinks.

How is glycerin made?

Glycerin is typically made from plants, petroleum, or animal products.

Vegetable glycerin is made by heating vegetable fats such as palm oil, soybean oil, or coconut oil under pressure, or by combining the oil with lye, which acts as an alkali and helps split glycerin from the fatty acids in the oil. The result is an odorless, sweet-tasting liquid with a syrupy consistency. Glycerin is about 75% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) and has slightly more calories per gram than sugar.

Glycerin used to be made from animal fats. However, modern glycerin is no longer made from animal products so it’s usually safe to assume it’s vegan.

Is glycerin safe to eat?

Glycerin is considered safe per the Food and Drug Administration. Foods that are approved for use in consumable products are on the FDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) list.

What happens if I eat too much glycerin?

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol. The body can’t digest sugar alcohols very well, so eating large amounts of glycerin might cause diarrhea. In fact, glycerin is an active ingredient in some laxatives.

Other potential side effects of eating too much glycerin include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and increased thirst in some people. If you eat too much glycerin it can act as a laxative, which means you might become dehydrated.

What are some potential benefits of glycerin?

In addition to being added to processed foods and drinks, glycerin is used in many products that are applied to your skin and hair. It’s also used to help combat issues like diarrhea.

1. Overall skin health

Studies show that glycerin can aid in wound healing. Glycerin also acts as an antimicrobial, which is especially important for wound healing to keep wounds free of infection. It also improves skin health in people with skin disorders such as dermatitis and very dry skin (xerosis).

2. Moisturizing skin

Studies show that glycerin can boost skin’s suppleness and smoothness in as little as ten days, which is why it’s used in many skincare products. Another study found glycerin cream to be more effective at hydrating skin than creams using popular ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

Studies show that glycerin can help improve skin health in people with skin disorders such as dermatitis and very dry skin. It can also help protect your skin from harsh elements like wind and cold.

3. Constipation aid

Glycerin is popular as a suppository and/or enema. As a drug, glycerin is classified as a “hyperosmotic laxative”. This means that glycerin pulls water into the intestines, helping to relieve constipation.

4. Athletic performance

Athletes can easily become dehydrated due to fluids lost through sweating. Drinking water can help replace fluids lost, but also increases the amount of urine produced and therefore more fluids lost.

A study found that oral glycerin helped improve fluid retention status and therefore hydration. This means that it helps boost hydration while preserving fluids instead of losing more fluid through urination.

What types of products is glycerin in?

Glycerin is used in a variety of processed foods and drinks, as well as several non-food products. Some foods and drinks that might contain glycerin include:

  • Condensed milk, whey products, low-fat ice cream, pudding, and dairy-based drinks.
  • Processed fruits and vegetables (dried or canned vegetables or fruits, precooked vegetables)
  • Energy/nutrition bars
  • Candies
  • Precooked pasta, rolled oats, breakfast cereals, rice or tapioca pudding, breading or batters, precooked rice products, and baked goods
  • Vegan gelatin alternative

What about non-food products?

Glycerin is an ingredient in many household products, such as:

  • Moisturizer
  • Shampoo
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Toilet cleaning gel
  • Toothpaste
  • Laundry detergent
  • Shaving cream
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Septic tank additives
  • Printer ink cartridges
  • Air freshener
  • Candles
  • Insect killer
  • Hair color
  • Makeup
  • Antifreeze

Glycerin Nutritional Information

Many types of glycerin sold to consumers are marketed towards cosmetic and topical use. If you want to use glycerin to make foods and drinks, be sure to choose food-grade glycerin.

LorAnn Food Grade Vegetable Glycerin

This glycerin can be used in food/drink production as well as topically.


  • Vegetable Glycerin

Nutrition facts: not available

SMPLY. Vegetable Glycerin


  • Vegetable Glycerin

Nutrition facts: not available

Equate Pure Vegetable Based Glycerin USP

This glycerin is easily found at Wal-Mart and can be used as a suppository or for skincare. It isn’t specified as food-grade, so you’re probably best to choose specific food-grade glycerin if you want to use it for consumables.


  • Pure Vegetable Based Glycerin

Nutrition facts: not available

Other Vegan Alternatives to Glycerin

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, 14 ounces Coconut oil can be used to add moisture to foods similar to glycerin. It’s also an excellent skin moisturizer and has antimicrobial effects, meaning it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria.


  • Organic, Unrefined, Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil

Nutrition facts (per 1 tbsp. serving):

  • Calories: 130
  • Total Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 13 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Belle Chemical Medical Grade Propylene Glycol

Medical Grade Propylene Glycol Propylene glycol is used as a glycerin substitute in many products. Propylene glycol is less expensive than glycerin. It’s made from petroleum and other non-animal products, so it’s vegan. While it might not sound like an edible ingredient, it’s on the Food and Drug Administration’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list so is safe for consumption.


  • Propylene glycol

Nutrition facts: not available

Karo Light Corn Syrup

Karo Light Corn Syrup 32 Fl Oz. .95l If you’re using glycerin as a sweetener (remember, it’s 75% as sweet as table sugar) then you can substitute light corn syrup in place of glycerin. Corn syrup often includes vanilla flavor to enhance the flavor of baked goods.


  • Corn Syrup
  • Salt
  • Vanilla Extract (Vanilla Beans, Water, Ethyl Alcohol)

Nutrition facts (per 2 tbsp.)

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 30 g
  • Total Sugars: 10 g
  • Added Sugar: 10 g
  • Protein: 0 g


Glycerin, also called glycerol, is a sugar alcohol primarily sourced from vegetables. Glycerin used to be made from animal fat, but most glycerin today is not sourced from animals.

Glycerin is used in processed foods to increase moisture, smoothness, and improve texture. It’s also found in a handful of household products, and as a drug is used as a laxative.

If you’re vegan, it’s safe to assume that most products contain vegan glycerin. The only way to be sure is to choose vegan certified products or to ask the manufacturer to be certain.

Related Questions

Is glycerin the same as glycerol?

Yes, glycerin and glycerol are the same things. Glycerol is the chemical name (all sugar alcohols end in -ol), but its common name is glycerin in the United States or glycerine in British English.

Is glycerin the same as corn syrup?

While glycerin and corn syrup have similar textures, they are not the same thing. Glycerin is made by heating oil such as palm or soybean oil under pressure. Corn syrup is made by extracting the sugar from cornstarch.

Is glycerin alcohol?

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol, which is not the same as alcohol. Sugar alcohols are safe for consumption but may cause digestive upset in people because sugar alcohols aren’t digested well.

Is glycerin good for your skin?

Glycerin is very beneficial for the skin. It helps to moisturize and improve the skin’s smoothness. It’s also used in burn treatment products because it has antimicrobial properties, meaning it can help fight infection of wounds and exposed skin.

Related Guides

Diana Gariglio-Clelland

Diana Gariglio-Clelland is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She obtained her Bachelor's in Nutrition from the University of Idaho in 2012 and has worked in clinical, community, and primary care nutrition settings. She currently works as a freelancer on various health- and nutrition-related projects.

Recent Posts