Is Lactic Acid Vegan? (Hint: the Answer is YES!)

Is Lactic Acid Vegan

If you follow a vegan lifestyle you’re likely used to researching ingredients and products to see if they’re vegan-friendly. Starting a vegan diet involves a lot of research in the beginning as you navigate your new lifestyle, especially when it comes to what you eat and drink. Some ingredients aren’t clear as to whether they are from animal sources or plant-based sources.

Lactic acid is vegan, as it is typically sourced from fermented plant sugars. Specifically, lactic acid is naturally present in fermented foods as the byproduct of the fermentation of sugars. It can also be added in processed foods to help improve shelf-life and alter pH and flavor. Some alternatives to lactic acid are phosphoric acid and citric acid.

Did you know that lactic acid might provide some health benefits? If you’re curious about how lactic acid might benefit you, along with some natural sources of lactic acid, then you’ve come to the right place.

What is lactic acid?

You’ve probably heard the term lactic acid before. Lactic acid is present in your body as a byproduct of metabolism. However, the lactic acid in foods is different from the kind in your body.

Lactic acid is an organic acid produced when bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms ferment the sugars in different foods. Lactic acid is what gives fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut their tangy and sour flavor.

What foods naturally contain lactic acid?

Fermented foods contain lactic acid. Some examples include:

  • Beer, wine, and kombucha
  • Bread
  • Fermented soy products like tofu
  • Cheese & yogurt
  • Pickled vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut
  • Fermented meats like salami, pepperoni, and types of sausage
  • Legumes such as beans and peas

What is lactic acid used for?

Lactic acid can be used as a food additive. Lactic acid acts as a preservative and can help keep food fresh longer by stopping bacteria growth. It can also keep processed foods from becoming discolored, and it can aid in forming gels.

It also controls the pH of foods to help keep them from spoiling. By influencing the pH, lactic acid also improves the taste of foods to which it’s added.

Lactic acid can also be applied to your skin. It exfoliates dead skin cells to make skin appear brighter and more even. There are several types of lactic acid skin care treatments available.

What are the benefits of lactic acid?

There are several potential health benefits from eating foods rich in lactic acid.

1. Improves digestion of lactose

When dairy products are fermented by bacteria, lactose (milk sugar) is converted to lactic acid. Because of this, people with lactose intolerance usually tolerate fermented dairy products better than non-fermented dairy products like milk and ice cream.

2. Might improve cholesterol and lipid levels

According to test tube and animal studies, lactic acid helps lower cholesterol levels.

3. Colon cancer prevention

According to studies, lactic acid might play a role in colon cancer prevention. However, the exact mechanism isn’t clear.

4. Improved gut health

Fermented foods containing lactic acid have a similar effect as probiotics in your digestive system. Probiotics help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut which are important for digestion, immune health, and metabolism.

Stress, illness, and the use of antibiotics can all wreak havoc on your digestive system over time. Signs and risk factors of an altered gut microbiome (a colony of healthy bacteria) include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Eating a high-sugar diet
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Sleep disturbances/chronic tiredness
  • Skin irritation
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, lupus, etc.
  • Food intolerances

Is lactic acid vegan?

Lactic acid is present in fermented foods. If the fermented foods are plant-based, then the lactic acid is vegan. Lactic acid from fermented animal-based products isn’t vegan.

When used as a food additive, most lactic acid is made from beet sugar or corn starch fermentation so is vegan. If a food label lists lactic acid as an ingredient and it doesn’t specify if it’s plant-based, you can always contact the manufacturer to be certain. It’s usually quite safe to assume lactic acid as a preservative is vegan.

How do I tell if products are vegan?

Some products go through certification through the Vegan Action/Vegan Awareness Foundation. Foods that are certified through this organization must pass rigorous standards such as:

  • Must not contain meat, fish, fowl, animal by-products, eggs or egg products, milk or milk products, honey or honey bee products, insects or products from insects such as silk or dyes, or sugar filtered with bone char or be processed with any animal products or by-products.
  • Sweeteners may not be filtered or processed with bone char.
  • Liquids such as beer, wine, maple syrup, and fruit juices may not be filtered, defoamed, or clarified with animal products.
  • Products must not be tested on animals.

Lactic Acid Nutrition Information

You can buy lactic acid to make fermented foods or add a natural sour flavor to foods.

Modernist Pantry Lactic Acid

If you want to make your own vegan cheese or other vegan fermented products, then this is a great choice. This lactic acid is sourced from the fermentation of plant sugars. You can also use it for brewing your alcoholic drinks like beer or add it to sourdough bread.


  • Lactic Acid
  • Calcium Lactate
  • Silicates

Nutrition facts (per 100 g):

  • Calories: 330
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 91 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Calcium: 700% DV

Druids Grove Lactic Acid


  • Lactic Acid
  • Calcium Lactate
  • Silicates

Nutrition facts (per 100 g):

  • Calories: 330
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 91 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Calcium: 700% DV

Vegan food naturally rich in lactic acid – nutritional information

If you want to benefit from the potential health benefits of lactic acid, consider some of these vegan-friendly foods that naturally contain lactic acid.

Madge’s Food Company Vegan Kimchi


  • Napa Cabbage
  • Daikon Radish
  • Asain Chives
  • Green Onion
  • Red Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Umami Powder (Mushroom, Sea Vegetable)
  • Sweet Rice Flour

Nutrition facts (per 2 tbsp):

  • Calories: 8
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 125 mg (0% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 2 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Total Sugars: 1 g
  • Protein: 0.5 g

Seattle Sourdough Waterfront Sourdough Bread


  • Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, And Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Contains 2% Or Less Of Each Of The Following: Vital Wheat Gluten, Salt, Yeast, Distilled Vinegar, Vegetable Oil (Canola And/Or Soy), Corn Meal, Dough Conditioners (Ascorbic Add), Calcium Sulfate, Enzymes, Potassium Sorbate (Mold Inhibitor).

Nutrition facts (per 1 slice):

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 220 mg (10% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 23 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Lightlife Original Tempeh

Soy products are a popular vegan protein source. Tempeh consists of fermented soybeans which offer a more unique taste than plain tofu. Tempeh is a good source of protein, fiber, and iron.


  • Cultured Organic Soybeans (Soybeans, Lactic Acid from Plant Source)
  • Water
  • Organic Brown Rice

Nutrition facts (per 3 oz.):

  • Calories: 160
  • Total Fat: 4.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 12 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 18 g
  • Calcium: 6% DV
  • Iron: 10% DV

Tillen Farms Pickled Crunchy Carrots

The process of pickling vegetables creates lactic acid which is what gives them their distinct sour flavor.


  • Carrots
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spices

Nutrition facts (per 5 pieces):

  • Calories: 30
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg (0% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
  • Total Sugars: 6 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Vitamin A: 60% DV

Health-ade Organic Vegan Pink Lady Apple Kombucha

Kombucha is a drink made from fermented tea. Sugar has to be added to feed the cultures, so kombucha isn’t sugar-free. It’s much lower in sugar than many drinks like soda and sweetened coffees, though.


  • Organic Kombucha [Filtered Water, Kombucha Culture (Yeast and Bacteria Cultures), Organic Black Tea Organic Green Tea, Organic Cane Sugar, Carbonation],
  • Cold Pressed Organic Pink Lady Apple Juice

Nutrition facts (per 16 oz. bottle):

  • Calories: 70
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 16 g
  • Total Sugars: 16 g
  • Added Sugar: 12 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Other vegan alternatives to lactic acid

Phosphoric Acid

For home brewers and chefs, phosphoric acid is a vegan alternative to lactic acid. Similar to lactic acid, phosphoric acid is used to help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Phosphoric acid is a popular ingredient in colas since sugary drinks can potentially feed bacteria.

Milliard Citric Acid

Milliard Citric Acid 5 Pound - 100% Pure Food Grade Non-GMO Project Verified (5 Pound) Citric acid can be used interchangeably with lactic acid. Citric acid is popular in soft drinks and candies and is used as a preservative and flavoring.


  • Citric Acid

Nutrition facts (per 1/4 tsp.):

  • Calories: 0
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 2 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Related Questions

Is lactic acid a preservative?

Lactic acid is often used as a preservative in processed foods. Lactic acid produces bacteriocins, a type of organism that kills other bacteria without harming the original bacteria.

Is lactic acid in food bad for you?

While natural sources of lactic acid are preferred (they’re more likely to be whole and less processed), lactic acid added to foods provides similar benefits as naturally fermented foods.

Does Lactic acid contain dairy?

Lactic acid isn’t sourced from dairy products. It can be found in fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese, though. Lactic acid added to processed foods typically comes from fermented plant sugars.

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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.

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