Can Gelatin Be Vegetarian?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “can gelatin be vegetarian?” by providing an in-depth analysis of substitutes of gelatin for vegetarians, uses of gelatin, and the nutritional value of gelatin.

Can gelatin be vegetarian?

Gelatin is non-vegetarian in nature, as it is mainly produced from animal products. Majorly pig’s skin, leather, cattle bones, and horns are used to derive gelatin. Commercially byproducts of meat and leather are also used for the production of gelatin.

There are vegetarian options available in markets such as agar agar, carrageenan, vegetable gums, and pectin. Such products are indicated with a green square and green dot in the center and are labeled as vegetarian gelatin. These products are certainly gelatin but not gelatin, so known as gelatin-like products.

Gelatin itself is mostly protein. It is made from heating the tissues found in humans and animals. The connective tissues are present in an ample amount in living organisms. Collagen is the protein present abundantly in the skeletal system i.e. bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. as well as the skin.

To make gelatin, we heat the collagen abundant bones, skin, tendons in water. On cooling, the mixture extracted is flavorless and colorless. This mixture gains a jelly-like consistency and is labeled as gelatin. The gelatin formed on cooling has many health benefits.

Substitutes of gelatin for vegetarians

As vegetarians stick to a diet completely non-dependent on the livestock, they need some substitutes for replacing gelatin-containing products. Some substitutes are mentioned below;

Agar-agar is one of the substances which can easily replace gelatin. It is derived from algae making it possible for both vegetarians and vegans to consume. Agar-agar is readily used in custards, jellies, and puddings. It is mostly available in the form of a powder but works almost similar to gelatin in terms of food. 

 Pectin is another substitute for gelatin. Unlike, agar-agar it is obtained from the fruits hence rendering it fit for consumption for vegetarians. Pectin can easily be made for use by heating it with sugars as well as acids, this way it maintains a gel-like consistency and is fit for use. It is mostly present in jams and jellies and is obtained from fruits like apples and oranges. Pectin, like agar-agar, also comes in the form of a powder. It, however, is less firm in comparison to gelatin. 

Carrageenan: It is derived from seaweed, often used in jellies, puddings, mousses, soups, and ice cream. Carrageenan is flavorless and sets things more softly than actual gelatin, it melts in the mouth. To use carrageen in its dried form, they are rinsed well then soaked in water for 12 hours until they swell, and then boil it thoroughly.

Uses and benefits of gelatin

  • Gelatin is a rich source of amino acids required by the human body and hence has a wide variety of uses. Some of them are

·         Gelatin has essential amino acid named glutamic acid in abundance which is known to improve the activity of the digestive system.

·         It is also known for aiding in joint pain and other inflammatory disorders as it contains collagen protein.

·         Gelatin is used in the food industry on a large scale. It is present in jelly, stock, stews, marshmallows, and other items with nearly the same composition.

·         Gelatin is also said to improve the texture of hair and nails in humans as the proteins present in it provide the essential nourishment required for them to grow.

·         According to research, gelatin also aided people to maintain a healthy sleep cycle and improved the quality of sleep too.

·         Due to its high protein content and low fat, gelatin may also play a role in losing weight.

·         It also can play a vital role in the strengthening of tissue and bones.

Gelatin contains collagen which is used in the cosmetics industry to manufacture products needed for boosting and improving the elasticity of the skin. It plays a vital role in improving the appearance of the skin.

The nutritional profile of gelatin

Gelatin is mostly proteinaceous in nature but it also contains several other useful substances in trace amounts. Following is a brief outlook on the nutritious profile of  85 g serving of gelatin

·         Carbohydrates       76.92 g

·         Calories                324 kcal

·         Protein                   6.63 g

·         Calcium                 3 mg

·         Sodium, Na           396 mg

·         Magnesium           2 mg

·         Phosphorus          120 mg

·         Amino acids          6.646


In this short article, we provided an answer to the question, “can gelatin be vegetarian?”, while providing an in-depth analysis of the uses and benefits of gelatin, substitutes of gelatin for vegetarians to use, and the nutritional value of a serving of gelatin. Gelatin is non-vegetarian in nature but alternates are available for vegetarians.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.