It’s no secret that Starbucks drinks aren’t made with real caramel or fresh fruit. Each Frappuccino, sweet latte and refreshment derives its characteristic aroma from concentrated syrups, sauces and powdered mixes. The company has it down to a formula, creating a perfectly crafted food product by combining caffeine with a deliciously sweet approximation of vanilla, caramel nut or chocolate. In a way, the artificial roots of these sweeteners are a boon for vegans, as they recreate the taste of dairy-rich foods without the use of dairy. However, not all Starbucks syrups and sauces are dairy free, and that can be confusing. Concrete example: the caramel syrup is vegan but not the caramel sauce. Here’s everything you need to know about these flavor enhancers so you can order with confidence the next time you walk into a Starbucks.
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Starbucks vegan syrups and sauces
The key to any Starbucks chocolate drink, whether it’s a mocha or hot chocolate, is a few pumps of this thick, chocolatey sauce. It is used to flavor drinks and drizzled over the top for an extra burst of deep chocolate flavor.
Pro tip: For a smooth ending, ask your barista for a pump of mocha sauce at the bottom of a non-dairy Frappuccino coffee. That last sweet sip is similar to finding the chocolate center at the end of a Trader Joe’s mini ice cream cone.
Strawberry Puree Sauce
New for 2021, this fruity and thick sauce is featured in the Summer Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino (which can be made vegan with a few tweaks). It is composed of real strawberry puree, white grape juice concentrate, xanthan gum, citric acid and food coloring made from fruits and vegetables.
Pro tip: Vegetate the Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino by asking for non-dairy milk and not whipped cream.
Syrup Cake Funnel
This sweet syrup may only be available during the time that the Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino is, so experiment while you can. It is also found in Strawberry Funnel Cake Crème Frappuccino, which is caffeine-free.
Pro tip: Try ordering an Iced Almondmilk Latte with this syrup (two to three pumps for a large size, depending on your preferred sweetness).
Coffee Frappuccino Syrup
Yes, in addition to espresso, Starbucks adds coffee flavored syrup to certain drinks (like the non-vegan Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino). Just accept it.
Pro tip: For a caffeine-free treat that still tastes like coffee, order a Decaffeinated Frappuccino with your favorite non-dairy milk.
Frappuccino Cream Syrup
Clearly, you can’t really tell what this syrup looks like or what it’s used for, other than the fact that it’s found in non-caffeine-free cream Frappuccinos. We do know, however, that he is completely vegan.
Pro tip: We would not recommend adding this to any drink without free syrup. It’s sickening all by itself.
In other words, it is a simple syrup, the same one used to sweeten cocktails. It is used in everything from Frappuccinos to iced coffee. Simple syrup has no flavor other than sweet, so use it sparingly.
Pro tip: Baristas typically use three syrup pumps for a tall drink. For a less sweet option, ask for one or two tops.
Vanilla bean powder
Granted, it’s not a syrup or a sauce, but it’s a common flavoring agent found in top-selling drinks such as Caffé Vanilla Frappuccino. Fun fact: it’s not that contrived. It really contains vanilla pods.
Pro tip: Ask for a scoop of vanilla bean powder in non-dairy hot chocolate for a more complex flavor.
Matcha tea blend
Fortunately, there are no animal ingredients hidden in Starbucks Matcha. The blend does contain some sugar though, so it’s not quite for matcha purists.
Pro tip: If you haven’t boarded the Matcha Train yet, this sweet version can be a tasty first step if you want to get into matcha like the cool kids.
Chocolate malt powder
Malt has traditionally contained dairy, but in a herbal kick Starbucks launched this new ingredient without using any animal products. You’ll find it in the new favorite summer drink — Iced Chocolate Almondmilk Shaken Espresso. It’s a long time to say, but it’s one of our first favorite drinks in a long time.
Pro tip: If you like a less sweet drink, keep the same amount of malt powder but ask for an extra shot of espresso. In our humble opinion, this is the perfect relationship between the flavor of coffee and chocolate.
Ready for the list? These vegan syrups can be added to any drink for a hint or tidal wave of sweet aroma. They include: Cinnamon Dolce, Vanilla, Funnel Cake, Brown Sugar, Hazelnut, Peppermint, Pineapple and Ginger, Raspberry, Caramel Nut, and Sugar Free Vanilla.
Pro tip: While not being promoted, Starbucks offers peppermint year-round. Good to know if you’re craving a non-dairy peppermint mocha in July.
Flavored refreshing bases
Every Starbucks fruity base of refreshment, from pink beverage to kiwi, is vegan. They contain a blend of water, sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, natural green coffee flavor, white grape juice concentrate and Rebaudiside A, an artificial sweetener derived from stevia, but 240 times sweeter.
Pro tip: Remember, refreshments contain caffeine!
Starbucks non-vegan syrups and sauces
Black Caramel Sauce and Caramel Sauce
Starbucks offers two different caramel sauces, one brown and one original, and both contain dairy. Stay away from drinks containing or drizzled with any of these sauces. Alternatively, request that the caramel sauce be replaced with caramel syrup inside your drink.
White Chocolate Mocha Sauce
Like most white chocolates, this sauce contains dairy products. Sorry, old white chocolate mocha lovers. At Starbucks, stick to regular mocha.
Chai tea concentrate
Alas, look for the cellar elsewhere. This spicy concoction contains honey. It is found in both the Chai Crème Frappuccino and the Chai Latte.
Found in Honey Almond Flat White as well as any seasonal honey flavored drink, this blend contains real honey. Avoid it and maybe write a letter to Starbucks suggesting they use Un-Honey.
Pumpkin and spice sauce
After several years of consumer outrage when the secret was revealed that Starbucks’ cult favorite pumpkin spice latte contained no pumpkins, the company pivoted and added pumpkin puree. Unfortunately, Starbucks didn’t omit the dairy product while modifying the recipe, keeping the Pumpkin Spice Latte out of the reach of vegan customers. When fall arrives, look for Peet’s Coffee for a taste of this iconic drink.
Introduced to add a subtle sweetness to the coffee chain’s line of cold brews, this creamy substance is not vegan and is made with dairy-based cream. Each flavor iteration – sweet cream, Irish cream, vanilla, and salted caramel – all contains dairy. When ordering cold brew or nitro, it is best to taste it dark.
Sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious. Starbucks has made great strides in providing a mix of non-dairy milk options (soy, coconut, almond, and oatmeal), but the company has yet to introduce a vegan whipped cream. However, hope is on the horizon. In September, the company teased a non-dairy whisk made from… wait… lentils.
Found in Double Chocolatey Chip and Java Chip Frappuccinos, these pieces of chocolate chips contain milk. Omit them from vegetating these drinks.
Cinnamon Dolce Topping
Made exclusively for warming Cinnamon Dolce Latte, this edible drink set is not vegan – it contains butter extracts made from cow’s milk. Vegans can still enjoy this drink all year round by ordering it with non-dairy milk, no whipped cream, and no toppings. The syrup used to prepare the drink is tasty enough to always produce an exceptional pick-me-up.
Cake pieces in powdered sugar funnel
As part of the Limited Edition Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino, these vegan-friendly sweet chunks of yum may not be around forever. Refuel while you can.
Caramel sugar filling
This crunchy and caramelized powder is vegan! Ask for it on a hot drink that has foam in it – it just dissolves if there is nothing to hang it over the drink. Try it on a warm caramel nut latte made with your favorite non-dairy milk.
Tossed into the Java Chip Frappuccino (which can be vegetated by not asking for Frappuccino Chips or a whisk), these tiny cookie pieces are accidentally vegan. Whether we should have cookies in our cafe is a whole different matter.