Is Dr Pepper Vegan?

Did you know that Dr Pepper is written without a period? That’s right. It’s not “Dr. Pepper.” It’s “Dr Pepper.” How’s that for an interesting fact? Anyway, this blog post is about whether Dr Pepper is vegan.

Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. There are no obvious animal ingredients. The only potential “gray area” ingredients in Dr Pepper products are natural flavor, caramel color, sugar, and Red 40. Most vegans are comfortable drinking Dr Pepper.

Below, I’ll lay out why each of these ingredients is controversial amongst vegans, and which flavors of Dr Pepper contain them. I’ll also look at the ingredients to each Dr Pepper flavor one by one, and review whether the soda is gluten-free!

4 “Non-Vegan” Ingredients in Dr Pepper?

The following four ingredients each cause some amount of debate in vegan circles. I’ll lay out which ones are in which Dr Pepper flavors and why they’re so controversial.

1. Natural Flavors

“Natural flavors” is an ingredient in all Dr Pepper flavors. It’s a catch-all term to describe many ingredients used as, well, natural flavors. This means it can be animal- or plant-based.

Should you avoid “natural flavor”? Vegans disagree about that.

Personally, I only avoid natural flavors when I have some reason to believe that it is specifically an animal-derived flavoring, which is not often. In the case of Dr Pepper, I wouldn’t worry about it.

2. Caramel Color

Caramel color is in all Dr Pepper flavors—and it’s probably vegan in most cases. But we don’t know for sure by reading the label. So there’s a chance it’s not vegan. (source)

Caramel color is actually just created by heating up some sugar or carbohydrate and “caramelizing” (browning) it. Usually the sugar source is clearly vegan, so no problems.

However, sometimes white sugar could be used to create caramel color. In that case, it would not be strictly vegan—see the note below about sugar to understand why.

3. Sugar

There’s one flavor of Dr Pepper that contains real sugar as a sweetener (instead of high fructose corn syrup or aspartame). But this actually makes the drink less vegan in a way.

You see—bone char from cattle is often used to filter white sugar (to make it whiter). So some vegans avoid refined sugar where this is likely. But the challenge with avoiding “bone char sugar” is that it’s not labeled as such on the package.

Sugar from beets or coconuts is not likely to be filtered with bone char. Mostly it’s conventionally grown cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and brown sugar that are filtered with bone char. (source)

4. Red 40

Red 40 is found in the “Cherry” and “Cherry Vanilla” Dr Pepper flavors. It’s an artificial food dye made from petroleum, not animals.

However, due to safety concerns, it is still being tested on animals. And the testing is not likely to stop anytime soon. Read more about that here.

This leads some vegans to boycott Red 40—which means that some vegans would avoid those “Cherry” and “Cherry Vanilla” Dr Pepper flavors, too.

Which Dr Pepper Flavors Are Vegan?

There are actually many variations of Dr Pepper. From Diet to Cherry Vanilla, which ones are vegan? Here’s the deal for each of them:

Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Dr Pepper Ingredients: “Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine.” (source)

Diet Dr Pepper

Diet Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Diet Dr Pepper Ingredients: “carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine.” (source)

Dr Pepper & Cream Soda

Dr Pepper & Cream Soda is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Dr Pepper & Cream Soda Ingredients “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), phosphoric acid, caffeine, sodium phosphate.” (source)

Diet Dr Pepper & Cream Soda

Diet Dr Pepper & Cream Soda is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Diet Dr Pepper & Cream Soda Ingredients: “carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, aspartame, sodium benzoate (preservative), phosphoric acid, caffeine, sodium phosphate.” (source)

Dr Pepper Cherry

Dr Pepper Cherry is generally considered vegan. However, Red 40 is still being tested on animals, so some vegans may avoid Dr Pepper Cherry due to that ingredient.

It is also possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

For more on the animal testing being done on Red 40, read my post here.

Dr Pepper Cherry Ingredients: “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, malic acid, sodium phosphate, red 40.” (source)

Diet Dr Pepper Cherry

Diet Dr Pepper Cherry is generally considered vegan. However, Red 40 is still tested on animals, so some vegans may avoid Diet Dr Pepper Cherry for that reason.

It is also possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal ingredients, but it is not likely.

Diet Dr Pepper Cherry Ingredients: “carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, aspartame, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, malic acid, sodium phosphate, red 40.” (source)

Dr Pepper TEN

Dr Pepper TEN is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Dr Pepper TEN Ingredients: “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, aspartame, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine, natural and artificial flavors, acesulfame potassium, sodium phosphate.” (source)

Caffeine Free Dr Pepper

Caffeine Free Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Caffeine Free Dr Pepper Ingredients: “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative).” (source)

Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper

Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. It is possible for the caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it is not likely.

Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper Ingredients: “carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative).” (source)

Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper

Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. However, some vegans may avoid Cherry Vailla Dr Pepper for including Red 40, which is still tested on animals.

It’s also possible for caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal ingredients, but it’s not likely.

Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper Ingredients: “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, malic acid, red 40.” (source)

Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper

Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper is generally considered vegan. However, some vegans may avoid it for including Red 40, which is still tested on animals.

It’s also possible for caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal ingredients, but it’s not likely.

Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper Ingredients: “carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, aspartame, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, malic acid, red 40.” (source)

Dr Pepper Made With Real Sugar

Dr Pepper Made With Real Sugar is generally considered vegan. However, some vegans may avoid it for including sugar that may be filtered with animal bone char.

It’s also possible for caramel color or natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but it’s not likely.

Dr Pepper Made With Real Sugar Ingredients: “carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine.” (source)

Is Dr Pepper Gluten-Free?

Dr Pepper is confirmed gluten-free. As the company explains on its Q&A page, all Dr Pepper products are free of gluten.

Interestingly, they note that products containing high-fructose corn syrup may contain trace amounts of corn gluten. But corn gluten is not a problem for those with Celiac Sprue disease. So this shouldn’t be an issue. (source)

Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey

1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).

2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.