Bread has been and will always be one of the most popular staple foods in the world, thanks to its versatility, convenience, and value for money. Bread is used in many recipes and can be an amazing addition to almost every meal: the question is, is bread vegan?
The answer is usually, but not always. There are many types of bread available on the market, and many of them can contain ingredients, from recognizably animal-based ingredients to non-vegan additives and preservatives, that are definitely not vegan.
Answering the question “what kind of bread is vegan” isn’t easy, so we’ve put together this handy brief guide to help you.
What Is Vegan Bread?
First of all, let’s answer the main question: what is vegan bread made of?
In its most basic form, bread is made from four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Water and salt are obviously vegan-friendly ingredients, but what about the other two?
Flour is a powder produced by crushing or grinding cereal grains or roots, both of which are vegan-friendly in every form. This means that any flour produced with just these two ingredients is safe for vegans.
The problem is that there are several non-vegan additives, like L cysteine, that are usually added to flour. Luckily, this doesn’t happen frequently these days, so you should be okay with any flour.
Yeast is a bit more confusing for many people because it is primarily classified as a living organism.
However, yeast is a type of single-celled fungi, so it’s actually a fungus rather than an animal. This implies that just like mushrooms, you can eat yeast too.
What would make bread not vegan?
We’ve established that the four main ingredients of bread are, indeed, vegan-friendly, so the next question is: are there any ingredients that would make bread non-vegan?
The first ingredient that is a no-go zone for vegans is butter, which is made from dairy milk and definitely not vegan. It’s not an ingredient used in the majority of bread, but it can be used in bread products or specific types of bread.
Then there are certain proteins derived from milk, which are often added to bread as an ingredient to increase the protein content in bread, to add flavor, or even to increase shelf life.
Eggs can also be used in specific kinds of bread, like brioche, and can be used in some types of commercial loaves as fillers or stabilizers. Eggs in bread might be listed as lecithin, an ingredient used for different purposes like increasing volume and aid preparation.
The problem with lecithin is that although it can be obtained from plants and soybeans, often it is derived from egg yolks in absence of the plant-based alternative. If you want to buy a type of bread that contains lecithin, you need to make sure this particular ingredient is plant-based.
Another ingredient that can be added to some specific kinds of bread is buttermilk, the liquid that remains after butter has been churned. This is obviously a dairy product, and therefore not suitable for vegan consumption.
Refined sugar, also a controversial ingredient for vegans, is usually added to bread, sweet or savory alike. We referred to refined sugar as controversial because the refinement process sometimes uses bone char, which is definitely not vegan-friendly.
Honey is also added to some (usually sweet) types of bread to enhance the flavour.
Other definitely-not-vegan ingredients, like cheese, bacon, and other meats can be added to some types of bread and other bakery items.
Types Of Bread
That being said, the majority of bread is actually vegan. As a rule of thumb, it will do you good to remember that the less processed the bread is, the higher the likelihood that it is vegan.
Also, savory and dry types of bread are more likely to be vegan, while brioche-types of bread usually contain dairy or eggs, which makes them unsuitable for vegans.
Here is a list of a few types of bread that are usually safe for vegans.
- Ciabatta: a flatbread, recognizable thanks to its harder crust, softer interior, and elongated shape. Most versions of this bread are vegan, but keep in mind that a few versions replace the water used in it for kneading the dough, with milk.
- Sourdough: a version of fermented bread, made with only the main four ingredients for bread. It’s a bit uncommon, but there are a few varieties that use milk instead of water, so you gotta ask before you buy!
- Baguette: one of the most popular types of bread, long and thin with a crispy crust and a soft interior.
- Focaccia: a type of Italian flatbread, baked in a flat pan and topped with herbs. Focaccia is also usually topped with a fat ingredient of choice, which is usually olive oil, but you can also find variants that use butter or eggs. So watch out!
- Kosher bread: the majority of kosher types of bread are dairy-free since Jewish dietary laws prohibit mixing dairy with meat. However, remember to always check that these types of bread don’t contain eggs.
- Ezekiel: this is a type of bread particularly loved by vegans, since it’s made from sprouted whole grains and legumes, and is usually very rich in protein and other nutrients
If you want to be absolutely sure that the bread that you’re holding in your hand is vegan, your best bet would be to always to check the list of ingredients to avoid anything that could be unsuitable for vegans.
Another really good option could be to bake your own bread at home: it’s way easier than it sounds, it allows you to control what exactly goes in your bread, and it’s incredibly satisfying!
That being said, there are a few varieties of bread that will almost never be suitable for vegans, due to their traditional ingredients.
A few examples are:
1. honey wheat bread, obviously made with honey,
2. biscuits, made using butter and milk,
3. Crumpets, made using milk. 4. Naan made with eggs and milk.
Many kinds of bread are naturally vegan, however, a few of them still include some non-vegan ingredients, such as eggs, milk, refined sugar, honey, or butter.
There are a few occasions when even the usually vegan types of bread can use non-vegan ingredients, so the only way to be 100% safe is to always, always check the ingredients of what you’re buying.