The Funny Things Well-Meaning Non-Vegans Say

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

Being vegan is not so much a dietary choice as a never-ending journey guided by strong beliefs and convictions. We learn as we go, encounter road bumps, and discover new things about ourselves and others. When we become vegan, we don’t take this journey alone; our friends and family join us for certain parts of the ride, which can result in humorous consequences.

I’m lucky to have a pretty supportive and curious group of friends and family who are eager to accommodate me at events, ask questions, and frequently visit my blog for recipes. I remember telling my friend Lauren not to worry about making a vegan fondue for me at one of her get-togethers — that I was perfectly fine bringing an appetizer. I didn’t want to impose, but she insisted and said, “No. I need to learn.”  I was blown away at how determined she was to support me.

I often bring cupcakes to parties because I think it’s bad luck to show up invited empty-handed, and on one occasion my friend introduced me by saying, “This is Lindsay, the one who makes cupcakes with nothing in them!” I sometimes have to dispel the myth that vegan doesn’t always mean healthy; that a vegan cupcake is essentially still a cupcake.

I have to give my father credit for continuing to make an effort to support my veganism, despite the fact that I think he died a little inside when I said I’d never eat steak again. He used to call and ask what he should pick up so I could eat with everyone. One time I told him to just get a couple of potatoes, and that I could make a few filling dishes with them. I didn’t think anything of it until we were on our way and my sister called and said, “You’re going to need to pick up some veggie dogs or something, Dad has 5 different types of potato salad for you from Safeway.” From then on my dad would call ahead and tell me the menu, and I’d make the call whether to drop by Whole Foods on the way or not.

Sometimes friends ask questions that I realize I don’t know the answer to, which forces me to investigate. One of my biologist friends asked me if I could eat bread since yeast is a living organism. It turns out that it is a fungi and not a sentient being that vegans avoid consuming — good to know!

Even my 80-year-old Grandma will get in on the action by preparing a 3-course vegan meal; and she found vegan whipped cream before I did! She told me that she started out by heading to the grocery store and asking an employee for help by saying, “I need to make a meal for my granddaughter who only eats vegetables.” Apparently the employee said, “Don’t worry, I do too.”

I think the most hilarious questions might come from strangers. I’ve ordered sandwiches with no meat, cheese, or mayonnaise and when I explained why, one cashier asked “How….do you live?”

However, the indicator of a true friend or loving family member is the friendly and creative vegan-inspired insult, to ensure that we are absolutely still one of the gang. My boyfriend dropped me off at a vegan event and told me to have fun with my “Hummus-breathed hippie friends” while my sister will respond to my sarcasm by telling me I smell like tofu. Being able to laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously is a key part of surviving as a happy vegan in this non-vegan world.

What are some of the funniest things non-vegans have said to you? Share your comments below…

About the Author:

Lindsay is a vegan in Vancouver who spends her time cooking, drinking soy lattes, and writing about our relationship with animals.
  • Kenny

    I’m concerned about your protein intake let me tell you about it

  • illecebrous

    Wait, so you mean all vegetables and fruits are vegan?  Uh yeah, I was afraid to ask why they thought they wouldn’t be though we do have a running joke at work now if I’m eating “meaty strawberries”!

  • Snoopy_100

    but peanut butter isnt vegan because it has protein in it…..Seriously….

  • Rob Ignorant

    Jokingly I offered someone a “vegan bannana”. They responeded with “ewww gross, no way, that can’t be natural”

  • Rob Ignorant

    Someone also offered me a chicken and shrimp smoothie because they thought if I wasn’t chewing it, it was vegan.

  • Gina

    But, hey, how do you live?
    Oh, I read somewhere that plants can feel when they are cut from the ground and stuff, how come you don’t eat animals but kill plants?

  • Paul

    My mother-in-law always points and says “He’s a vegan!” (it’s a joke now, but the first time she did it I still don’t know if it was meant to be helpful or embarrass me)….  for the most part everyone understands that it is something that matters to me, but I do get tired of questions sometimes.  

  • Mina

    “But… you don’t look sick or skinny! You sure you’re a vegan?”

    Yeah, I am sure. And that would be because I love food and I’m not sick.

  • Tamstardeluxe

    when hearing I didn’t eat meat, one woman said to me, “oh, so you only have chicken”.  And I said no, I did not eat chicken as it was also meat.  And so she then said “oh, well so you only have cold meats and salad?”.  Apparently once meat is cold, it no longer counts!

  • Dzeigfinge

    I once told a chef in Las Vegas that I was 75 years old and didn’t I look wonderful for my age?
    I told him it was the vegan diet (I was 53 at the time). He believed me…..

  • Mommabearof3

    My mom will still make me veggie lasagna as an “alternative” when I tell her I don’t eat cheese she says “I only put a little cheese”. Sigh.

  • Apple

    When people say “Eee, I could never eat vegan” and then I point out to them that what they’re eating at the moment actually IS vegan (usually snack foods like chips, cookies, or candy).
    My other favorite is when they incredulously ask “Wait…you can eat BREAD?” Traditional breads contain no animal products, it is only when we start using fillers and flavoring agents in today’s processed, packaged, sliced breads where you will see milk, whey, eggs, butter, and butter fat – but none of these things is necessary in making bread, especially not good bread. 

  • Amandafriend00

    My Aunt like’s to announce which dishes are vegan (too healthy for her she says) before holiday dinners. Then I’m stuck taking home tons of leftovers because no one eats them. But one Thanksgiving she forgot and there were no leftovers to take home. Now I pick on her and offer to point out all the dishes that I didnt make that are vegan on the table.

  • Fineartmarcella


  • OceanDog

    I had a steak salesman come to my door (drives a refrigerated van, sort of like Schwans) when I politely said “no thank you, I am vegan” he told me no way could I be I was too fat! 

  • OceanDog

    I also went to dinner with a boyfriend to his friends house.  He carefully explained my dietary choices.  The hostess made a big to do about the dish she had prepared for me.  When I took a bite, I could tell something was “off” but couldn’t figure out what it was.  Wanting to be polite and  not hurt her feelings, I ate other things, and spread it out on my plate.  When the meal was over, she asked how I liked it.  (this is where one learns to tell the truth!) I lied and said it was good and appreciated her efforts.  She said ‘AHA I KNEW YOU WEREN’T A REAL VEGAN!  I pureed meat in that dish and YOU didn’t notice!”

    Also once tried the line of I don’t eat anything with a face…. so they offered my baby octupus.  Really??

  • Fineartmarcella

    I never forget a good friend of mine that handed me a bowl of ‘pork and beans’, I told him I would not eat it ‘did you not remember I am a vegetarian Rob?’, he then preceeded to debate that it was vegetarian because of the ‘beans’. That was the last time a ate anything prepared by a meateater. They may be well-meaning but alot of times they just don’t get it. I’ve also heard the ‘I just put alittle bacon grease in it, it’s not going to hurt you!’

  • Melissa


    What is this… I can’t even?! Hiding MEAT in a “vegan” dish? What a JERK.

    How on earth did you respond? I’m a very soft spoken girl but that would have set me right off and I would have had to be dragged off before I said something regretful.

    My Nana once tried to convince my Aunt to use chicken broth in vegan rice she was making for me stating I “wouldn’t notice”. They were in the broth aisle at the time and veggie broth was *right there* equally available.

    My Aunt told me so I’d know Nana was a potential saboteur.

  • OceanDog

    I told her I actually did notice something was off, that I thought she used a spoiled ingredient or wasn’t a good cook but was too polite to say something.  But thanks for clearing it up, now I know she is just thoughtless and unkind!

    Funny thing is… my boyfriend was furious WITH ME for insulting his friend!  I should have known then it was a deadend relationship, but I was too young to realize it wasn’t “giving up” just using good discretion.  Older and much wiser now!  Or was that much older and wiser….

    Too bad about your Nana!  Odd how insensitive people can be about this.  Now if you used an objectionable meat, I bet they would object, no?

  • Courtney

    Or rather… “You can eat chocolate?! It has milk in it.” – well, no, chocolate is a cocoa bean product, not a dairy product. (Yes, I know much chocolate out there has milk, but still.)  I am so glad I’m surrounded by a majority of people who at least vaguely “get” the lifestyle, but I love the funny questions and assumptions.

  • The one I always get: “What *do* you eat?”

  • Vegan+Raw

    I used to volunteer at a raw, vegan restaurant (an outreach program for a bigger non-profit organization) & was invited to a catered banquet honoring contributors to the organization (to be seated at a table of the restaurant volunteers). I asked if the meal would accommodate my vegan lifestyle each week leading up to the banquet, and told the restaurant head that it would be easier to accommodate the vegan request if the caterers were given at least a few days’ notice before the event. At the banquet, a puff pastry tomato bisque was served to everyone as the appetizer. The RV restaurant head said to just poke through the buttery crust & eat the soup — “It’s delicious,” which everyone else at our table did. I told her the soup probably contained heavy cream if not a chicken stock, as well (I couldn’t bring myself to try it). The entree was pasta with chicken & vegetables in an alfredo sauce; I asked the server if she could bring me straight-up pasta with vegetables since “I have problems with dairy products and I don’t eat meat.” The server said she would talk to the kitchen, and that it would probably take a little while since the kitchen was busy plating all the regular entrees. No sooner did I pipe up that the restaurant head (who had known about this event for more than a month) chimed in, “Yes, me, too, could I have it without the meat and sauce, as well?” as did another at our table.  We had to wait 20 minutes before heavily-oiled but vegan entrees were brought to us. I won’t even talk about the desserts. I was most perplexed that there wasn’t even a simple salad option. Just proof that you can’t really trust anyone in honoring your dietary/lifestyle choices.

  • Amelia

    A couple of days ago I purchased a ready made meal from a supermarket: Spanish rice with a tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. When I got to the till the cashier looked at it with a perplexed look on her face and asked me: “What’s IN there – just vegetables?!” Apparently the thought of a meal without any meat in it was incomprehensible to her. 

  • Carrotface

    “Im gonna sit here and enjoy my chicken wings while you eat that sad looking ‘chicken’ sandwich”- Guy I dated VERY briefly. And it was a chickpea mock tuna salad sand which… *slaps face*

  •  Good on you for speaking out, and shame on your boyfriend for not respecting your lifestyle over saving face. Good to hear he’s no longer in your life 🙂

  • Claire

    The classic I encounter is ‘well just eat around the meat bits’. Aaarrrgghhh!!!

  • Rascal

    My mother-in-law was eating “egg” salad on a cracker and commenting on how good it was. When I told her it was actually tofu, not egg, and that the salad was vegan she made a gagging sound and spit it out in the garbage. Oh well, more for me.

  • KattePizano

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that just made my day:)

  • KattePizano

    Or how about, but you can’t eat BUTTER! 😛

  • KattePizano

    Ugh that would sound repulsive even to an omnivore.

  • Haha, my grandma does the same thing!