Oh, Kahlua. A rich, intense, and deeply complex liquor with a flagrant coffee profile that is one of the most used liquors to create many of the favorite cocktails we know, particularly Espresso Martinis, and White Russians.
Kahlua originated in Veracruz, Mexico, and contains ingredients such as rum, sugar, and arabica coffee.
A glance at the ingredients tells us that Kahlua is vegan-friendly, but upon closer inspection and after contacting the brand, we’ve learned that Kahlua is, after all, not suitable for vegans. It’s not that the manufacturers use animal derivatives (squalene being one) during the filtering process, as it occurs with several beers, but it turns out that the brand uses sugar that is not vegan.
In this article, we’re going to explain exactly why Kahlua is not vegan, and we’re also going to provide you with some legitimate vegan alternatives to Kahlua. Additionally, we’ll also show you how to create your own at home.
Why is Kahlua not vegan?
Unfortunately, Kahlua contains sugar that is not vegan.
I know this may seem puzzling for many people, but while it’s true that sugar is obtained from plants, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vegan.
Some ingredients, like sugar, might go through filtering processes that include the use of animal ingredients. In fact, that’s exactly what happens with Kahlua.
Recommended Read: The Real Truth About Sugar
Types of sugar
There are basically two types of sugar that are used in products. One that is derived from sugar cane and is labeled cane sugar and one derived from sugar beets that are referred to as beet sugar.
While these two are very similar in taste and texture, they have two distinct filtering processes.
On one hand, we have beet sugar that is filtered using a diffuser and mixed with additives to crystallize, and on the other hand, we’ve got cane sugar that is sometimes filtered with bone char.
What is bone char?
Bone char, which is often used to process sugar, is made from the bones of cattle that are original from countries such as Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. These bones are sold to traders in Scotland, Egypt, and Brazil who then export them to the sugar industry in the United States.
Also referred to as natural carbon, bone char is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing agent, which provides sugar with its white, pristine color.
Bone char is used in several types of sugar besides conventional sugar.
For example, brown sugar is produced by adding molasses to refined sugar, which means suppliers that use bone char – also include it in the production of their brown sugar. Confectioner’s sugar is a mixture of refined sugar and cornstarch, which means that suppliers are also likely to have included bone.
Kahlua uses sugar filtered with bone char
Yes, this information is confirmed within Kahlua’s official website, and Barnivore, an exceptional resource for anyone wanting to know whether or not a particular beverage is vegan.
While they don’t use any animal derivatives, Kahlua has found that one of their suppliers uses a sugar refining process that is not vegan-friendly. Even though they do not openly specify what process that is, we know, for a fact, that it’s likely to be the filtering of cane sugar using bone char.
Here is a response Kahlua provided to an inquiry about their products in 2020:
However, it’s also worth mentioning that it may change in the future since Kahlua has already stated that they’ve initiated a process to make (some of) their products vegan-friendly.
Vegan alternatives to Kahlua
Since Kahlua is presently not vegan, we have to explore different vegan options, and we have found a wide range of vegan coffee liquors that may fit the bill.
Let’s look at three alternatives we’ve managed to find:
Kamora is also a brand of coffee liquor produced in Mexico, but it’s slightly less sweet and less expensive than its competitor, Kahlua. It’s also used to make cocktails like the White Russian and Mudslides.
Therefore, if you’re a sucker for these drinks but you want to avoid Kahlua, you can order your cocktail with Kamora instead. But keep in mind that the flavor will not be the same.
Aber Falls Coffee & Dark Chocolate Liquor
The Aber Falls’ Coffee and Dark Chocolate Liquor is made in the United Kingdom, more precisely Wales, which means it might be difficult for you to get your hands on it if you’re living in the United States.
With that being said, if you’re in the United Kingdom, then you’ll be happy to know that it’s readily available through Amazon with amazing customer reviews.
This particular liquor was inspired by the Espresso Martini because it has a well-balanced roasted, aromatic coffee flavor with bitter-sweet hints of dark chocolate. Naturally, it’s used to make Espresso Martinis.
Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy
Yet another good choice is Allen’s coffee-flavored brandy. Though this one packs a little more punch (with 30% more alcohol) and it offers a distinct flavor profile.
According to the parent company, M.S Walker, the product contains no animal ingredients and should be suitable for all vegans. Though, It’s probably not as versatile as the other two options.
How to make vegan Kahlua at home
Did you know you can make vegan Kahlua at home with just four ingredients? That’s right, Ginny McMeans, the author behind this recipe on Vegan in The Freezer can teach you how to do so.
In fact, here are the four ingredients she uses:
- Strong and freshly brewed coffee
- Organic sugar (no bone char here)
- Rum or Vodka
- Vanilla Bean (and if you don’t have it, you can use Vanilla Extract)
You combine those four ingredients and then you let it age for about two or three weeks. Feel free to read more about the recipe here.
No, Kahlua, at the moment, is not suitable for vegans.
Unfortunately, the sugar used to make Kahlua is filtered with bone char, which is a property obtained by heating the bones of cattle at really high temperatures.
And even though there are alternatives such as ion-exchange resins and activated charcoal, a few of Kahlua’s sugar suppliers do not use them. However, they have stated that they’re planning to change in the future.
If you’re interested in knowing more about how that goes, please come back to this post as we’ll be sure to keep you updated.