Is Sorbet Vegan? Is It Only Made Of Fruit And Sugar?

Come the warm weather it’s nice to be able to eat head out of the house and eat delicious ice creams with friends, however, most ice creams are typically made with dairy, so if you’re vegan, you’re out of luck, unless you’re in a place where alternatives are abundant. 

Traditionally, sorbet combines fruit, sugar, and water, so it’s usually suitable for vegans. Some sorbets, however, might be made with honey, which is an animal ingredient according to most vegans, but don’t worry as most places will use simple cane sugar to make sorbet. 

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about sorbet. 

What is Sorbet?

sorbet
star5112, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sorbet is a frozen dessert that usually combines fruit (or fruit puree), sugar (or other sweeteners), and water that is churned in an ice cream machine. 

Compared to other ice desserts like ice cream, sherbet, or gelato, sorbet tends to be lower in fat, as it usually does not contain any dairy and is vegan. Sorbet is made in the same way as ice cream – the ingredients are slowly frozen while being slowly churned to produce a smooth, consistent texture. 

Besides fruit, sorbet can also be made with flavors such as chocolate, coffee, nuts, and liqueur, but those aren’t as common as fruit-based flavors. 

Sorbets such as strawberry or chocolate sorbets are often served as a dessert after the main course, but crispy flavored sorbets like lemon or orange are commonly served between courses to clean and refresh the palate so that you don’t get mixed flavors between meals. 

Sorbet can be traced as far back as 3000 B.C. It is believed that Asian cultures discovered the roots of sorbet in the form of crushed ice and flavoring. Five hundred years later, you can also see something similar to sorbet in Egypt with Pharaohs offering visitors a cup of ice mixed with fruit juices.

As centuries passed, Marco Polo rediscovered sorbet (and other forms of sweet ice) throughout his travels and brought those techniques to Italy, where sorbet and gelato were refined and turned into something elegant. 

What Is The Difference Between Sorbet, Ice Cream, Gelato, and Sherbet?

Even though sorbet, ice cream, gelato, and sherbet all look very similar, there are actually differences between them, which are not very difficult to understand. 

  • Sorbet contains no dairy and is made with fruit and sugar, and it has a more icy texture than all the others. 
  • Sherbet is also fruit-based but also contains milk, which gives it a texture that is creamier than sorbet.
  • Ice cream requires at least 10% milkfat, according to the USDA. It must be churned while it’s still freezing, giving it the texture most people are familiar with. 
  • Gelato can be translated to “ice cream” in Italian, but they’re still different. Gelato contains less milk fat, and is served at a warmer temperature, and has a texture that is denser and softer than ice cream – which is a result of churning less air in the mix while it’s freezing. 

Between these four different options, sorbet is the only one that can be vegan-friendly, as it is the only one that doesn’t require dairy ingredients.

What Might Make Sorbet Not Vegan?

cane sugar
CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sorbet doesn’t contain milk, cream, or eggs, and is typically made with three ingredients – fruit, sugar, and water, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable for vegans. 

Fruit is always vegan, but the sweetener used in sorbets might not be vegan.

Cane Sugar

Even though sugar is derived from a plant source (sugar cane or sugar beets), it’s still common in the United States for sugar refineries to use bone char to filter cane sugar. 

Bone char is a charcoal-like material produced by charring animal bones, and it’s used as a decolorizing filter, which allows cane sugar to achieve its desirable white color. 

Naturally, this is disturbing for a lot of vegans, so many avoid consuming cane sugar, especially from companies that are known to source cane sugar from suppliers that use bone char.

Honey

Some sorbet producers might also use honey as an alternative to sugar because they claim that honey is a healthier alternative, however, that’s a rather moot point for vegans because honey is not vegan-friendly.

Honey is produced by bees, so if bees are animals, then honey is an animal derivative like milk or eggs. Also, from a commercial standpoint, it’s clear that bees are exploited and mistreated for profit.

Much like industrialized farming of cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, and fish, commercial beekeeping is not concerned for the bees’ wellbeing, so it’s possible to assert that mass scale honey is not vegan.

However, when it comes to local beekeeping, it’s a little more complicated, because it’s clear that local beekeepers are passionate, knowledgeable, and deeply care about their bees.

There’s even a pet-like relationship between keepers and their hives and unlike industrialized honey, they don’t use harmful chemicals, artificial sweeteners, or antibiotics.

They will also only remove the excess honey – not take all of it and leave a cheap sugar replacement that fragilizes the bee’s immune systems. 

With that being said, some variables may still harm or kill bees, even if you’re trying your best to minimize cruelty as a local beekeeper. 

Most honey in products is derived from industrially produced honey, so most products with honey will not be vegan.  

Summary

Sorbet is usually suitable for vegans as it’s only a mixture of fruit, sugar, and water. 

However, that might also depend on the type of sweetener that is used to make sorbet. Some sweeteners like cane sugar may be processed with bone char, particularly in the United States. Another sweetener that sorbet products might use is honey, which is an animal derivative, and therefore is not vegan. 


Sorbet FAQs

Is Sorbet Gluten-Free?

Yes, sorbet is definitely gluten-free, as it’s merely a combination of fruit, sugar, or water, and it doesn’t call for any gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, or barley. 

Is Sorbet Italian?

Sorbet can be traced back to 3000 B.C. – but it wasn’t available in the form that exists today. It wasn’t until Marco Polo brought it to Italy that it was refined and eventually developed into the sorbet we know today, so it’s possible to infer that sorbet originated in Italy. 

Our Recommendation For Vegans

Future Kind’s Essential Vitamins: This is our favorite multivitamin. It’s not the typical multivitamin because it was formulated to specifically address potential shortcomings in the vegan diet. It contains the essential vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA) delivered in necessary doses so you don’t have to worry about potential deficiencies. Want to learn more about it? Check out the review we did on it.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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