One of the world’s major staple foods, humans have been making bread from grains for even longer than they have been growing crops. The world’s oldest evidence of bread production dates back to 14,500 BC in the Middle East. From there it spread across the Western world and into the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. Now, it is one of the world’s most popular foods and comes in almost infinite varieties. But is bread vegan?
In its simplest form, bread consists only of flour (from crushed grains), water, yeast, and salt. So, it should be vegan, right? Not so fast. As regular readers of this blog will know, nothing in the world of veganism is that simple. The enormous variety of bread available in the modern world use all sorts of extra ingredients, some of which are not suitable for vegans.
So, while most bread is vegan, you still need to really check the labels to make sure. In this blog, we’re here to help you out by highlighting the ingredients to look out for and letting you know if some of the main bread types and brands are vegan.
Which ingredients do vegans need to look out for in bread?
When checking the ingredients list of any bread, there are some obviously non-vegan things to look out for, like milk, eggs, and honey, all of which are used by some bakers. Dairy products in bread are not just limited to milk, however, as some recipes also call for butter, buttermilk, cheese, whey, or casein, all of which are not suitable for vegans (whey and casein are both proteins found in milk).
In addition to those obvious things, that are other ingredients that vegans need to watch out for. For example, royal jelly (which comes from honeybees) and gelatin (which comes from boiling the skin, ligaments, tendons, and/or bones of animals, typically cows or pigs).
Another issue is that some bread is sweetened with sugar, which is not always vegan. That’s because some cane sugar is passed through a filter made from “bone char” (i.e. the charred bones of animals, normally pigs or cows). It’s very difficult to find out which cane sugars have been through this process, and which haven’t. The easiest way to guarantee that what you are purchasing hasn’t been through bone char processing is to look for either beet sugar or organic cane sugar. Or, alternatively, just pick bread without any sugar at all…
Another ingredient that is technically vegan but avoided by many ethical vegans is palm oil. This is because of concerns about the links between palm oil plantations and the destruction of the tropical rainforest habitat of numerous endangered species (most prominently the orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra).
Beyond all the ingredients listed above, there are even subtler things to look out for in bread, which may or may not be vegan. For example, lecithin, an emulsifier that is used for texture and moisture retention. Lecithin is usually derived from soy, but it can be made from egg yolks. Then there are the mono and diglycerides, which are types of fat that are also used as emulsifiers. Again, they are normally made with soybean oil, but some mono and diglycerides are sourced from animal fats.
Generally, labels will not detail the source of any lecithin or mono and diglycerides that bakers have used. So, unless the product is labeled vegan, you may prefer to avoid bread containing these ingredients altogether until you’ve had a chance to do further research to check if they are free of animal products.
One thing that vegans don’t generally have to worry about when choosing bread is the type of flour that has been used. As we explored in our recent article “Is Flour Vegan?” nearly every type of flour in the world is suitable for vegans. The only exceptions to that are flours that use L-Cysteine, which is derived from duck feathers or the hair of pigs (or even humans). Once upon a time, it was a common addition to flours, but, thankfully, its use now is very rare. So, L-Cysteine (sometimes just called cysteine) is something to look out for, but you are very unlikely to find it; it has been estimated that only 1% of flour in the world contains it.
Another thing that vegans don’t have to worry about is the yeast used in bread. Some people have suggested vegans shouldn’t eat it because it is alive, but yeast is a fungus, meaning that it is a plant rather than an animal. In other words, it is suitable for vegans.
However, with all the above issues to think about, choosing suitable bread can be a minefield for vegans. But fortunately, we’re here to help out. Now, let’s take a look at some of the main types of bread to check whether or not they are suitable for vegans.
Is white bread vegan?
Still the most popular bread type in the world, white bread gets a bad rap among the health-conscious because its processing removes many of the nutrients. There’s no fundamental reason why white bread wouldn’t be suitable for vegans, but there are so many varieties of it and some of them use the non-vegan bread ingredients listed above. So, ultimately, the only thing to do is to check the labels or ask your baker to confirm that the white bread that you are buying is free of animal products.
Is wholewheat bread vegan?
White bread’s healthier and more wholesome cousin; wholewheat bread is less processed than white bread, meaning that it keeps more of its nutrition intact. However, that doesn’t mean that wholewheat bread is any more likely to be vegan than white bread. In other words, your favorite wholewheat brand might very well be vegan but you need to check labels or speak to the baker to make sure.
Is sourdough vegan?
Sourdough is a type of fermented bread that has recently boomed in popularity as it is both healthier than regular bread and tastes delicious. Sourdough is typically made just with flour, water, salt, and, occasionally, baker’s yeast. Some varieties of sourdough use milk instead of water, so make sure to check out that that’s not the case with your favorite varieties from your local artisan baker.
Is rye bread vegan?
Most of the world’s bread is made from wheat, but it’s perfectly possible to make great bread from other grains. Rye bread used to be a major staple in medieval Europe, and many people still love it. Most varieties of rye bread are vegan, but, as with the other major bread types listed above, there are some exceptions, so you still need to check.
Is garlic bread vegan?
The much-loved combination of garlic and bread is generally not suitable for vegans because the garlic tends to be mixed with butter before its application to the bread. Nevertheless, you can get vegan suitable garlic breads that are made with either olive oil or vegan margarine.
Is pita bread vegan?
Pita is a type of flatbread most commonly associated with the Middle East. It’s normally made from a simple mix of flour, water, salt, and yeast. However, some pita bread does include dairy, eggs, or even occasionally honey. So, vegans still need to check ingredients to make sure your preferred pita bread brands are suitable.
Is ciabatta vegan?
An Italian bread variety that is normally flat and elongated, with a hard crust and an airy interior. Most types of ciabatta are suitable for vegans, but there is a variety to watch out for called ciabatta al latte, which, as its name suggests, uses milk instead of water.
Is focaccia vegan?
Another Italian type of bread that tends to be suitable for vegans. Focaccia is normally baked in a flat pan with herbs and, typically, olive oil. However, some focaccia recipes use milk or eggs as their source of fat, so vegans need still need to double-check.
Is Indian bread vegan?
Bread is a major staple of North India and Pakistan, and bread from the sub-continent comes in many varieties, including naan, chapatti, and paratha. Chapattis and parathas tend to be vegan. However, dairy plays a massive role in Indian culinary culture, and naans, in particular, often contain milk or a type of clarified butter called ghee. As always check the labels or ask in your local Indian restaurant if their bread is vegan.
> Read more: is Indian food vegan?
Is Ezekiel bread vegan?
Another healthier bread variety, Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted whole grains and legumes, so it packs more nutritional punch with every bite. Ezekiel bread is generally vegan but, as always, you’ll need to check your labels in case any of the non-vegan ingredients listed above have sneaked in.
Is Subway bread vegan?
Subway has more outlets than any other restaurant in the world but is their bread suitable for vegans? Yes and no. The only vegan bread that is available across all their locations is the Italian (white). However, they do have other vegan-suitable bread in some Subways, namely the Hearty Italian, Sourdough, Harvest, Roasted Garlic, and Ciabatta.
Is Dave’s Killer Bread vegan?
Despite having the word “killer” in its title, no animals were harmed in the production of most of “Dave’s Killer Bread” range, meaning that they are suitable for vegans. The only exceptions to this are their loaves that contain honey, each of which has the word “honey” in its name, making it easy for vegans to steer clear of them. Other than that Dave’s non-GMO, USDA-certified organic bread is suitable for vegans.
Summary: what bread is vegan?
So, what does it all mean? There are no fundamental reasons why bread shouldn’t be vegan: its basic, traditional ingredients don’t contain any animal products. However, some varieties and brands of bread do incorporate a wide range of non-vegan ingredients, including dairy products, eggs, and gelatin. Some vegans will also want to be careful about bread that contains sugar or palm oil. There are also subtler things to look out for like lecithin, monoglycerides, and diglycerides, each of which can be derived from either plants or animals.
But, ultimately, there are an enormous amount of types of bread out there that are suitable for vegans. So, as long as you check the ingredients carefully and know what you’re looking for, you should find no problem finding vegan bread that you can feast on until your heart is content. We hope you found this blog helpful, please feel free to leave any questions or comments about your favorite vegan bread brands below.