Are Gelatin Capsules Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

July 25, 2023

Identifying whether a brand or company is vegan can often be a complex and difficult task. 

The challenge results from manufacturers’ tendency to hide the nature and source of their ingredients behind technical jargon and ambiguous labeling. 

This article aims to uncover the truth about gelatin capsules and support you in your commitment to a vegan lifestyle.

Are Gelatin Capsules Vegan?

This one’s easy. Gelatin isn’t vegan. 

When it comes to gelatin capsules, it’s important to understand what they are made of. The primary gelling ingredient in gelatin capsules is indeed gelatin, which is derived from animal connective tissues, specifically from bovine or porcine raw materials. This means that gelatin capsules, whether they’re hard or soft, are not vegan, nor are they vegetarian.

However, not all capsules are created equal, and the world of capsule production includes alternatives that cater to vegan and vegetarian dietary restrictions. 

Vegetarian capsules and vegan capsules, made from plant-based materials, serve as alternatives to those made from animal gelatin. Hydrocolloids like hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), starches, and others meet the requirements for vegan or vegetarian formulations.

One company that offers both gelatin and vegetarian capsules is BioCaps Enterprise. Its gelatin capsules are made from 100% pharmaceutical-grade bovine gelatin, but it also offers vegetable capsules for those leading a vegetarian lifestyle, made strictly from plant-derived ingredients, as well as organic capsules made from organic tapioca.

Are Gelatin Capsules Cruelty-Free?

Despite the clear divide in the vegan status of capsules based on their materials, it’s also important to consider the cruelty-free status of the companies producing them. 

Although not all details about the manufacturing process were available during my research, it’s known that the production of animal gelatin does involve the use of animal products, meaning the process may not be considered cruelty-free.

What Are Gelatin Capsules Made Of?

Now, let’s delve into the composition of gelatin capsules to better understand their non-vegan nature. Key ingredients typically include:

  • Gelatin
  • Water
  • Optional dyes or pigments

Each of these ingredients contributes to the properties of the capsules:


As previously mentioned, gelatin is derived from the boiling of animal connective tissues. This animal gelatin provides the structural framework for both hard and soft gelatin capsules. Its property of forming a gel makes it an essential raw material in capsule production. But because it is derived from animal sources, it renders gelatin capsules unsuitable for a vegan diet.


Water is universally present and plays an essential role in maintaining the capsule’s texture and consistency. Water is vegan.

Optional dyes or pigments

These may be included to differentiate different dietary supplements visually. The source of these dyes can vary and may also contain non-vegan ingredients. They also may be tested on animals, so it’s best to avoid most dyes if you’re vegan.

Vegan Alternatives to Gelatin Capsules

Fortunately, for those committed to a vegan lifestyle, there are alternatives to gelatin capsules:

  • Vegetable capsules: As mentioned earlier, these capsules from BioCaps are made from 100% plant-derived ingredients, making them a vegan-friendly option.
  • Organic capsules: Another offering from BioCaps, these capsules are made from organic tapioca, and are also vegan.


In conclusion, traditional gelatin capsules are not vegan because they are made from animal-derived gelatin. In fact, nothing made from gelatin is vegan. 

However, food companies like BioCaps Enterprise offer alternatives, such as vegetarian capsules and organic capsules, which are suitable for vegans. The availability of these alternatives demonstrates a significant shift in the capsule production industry, and it’s heartening to see that consumer dietary preferences and ethical concerns are being taken into account. 

As always, it’s crucial to do your research and reach out to food brands directly for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Please remember that the journey to a vegan lifestyle is a personal one, and every step you take towards reducing harm to animals and the planet is a meaningful and commendable one. Keep on keeping on!