There are some foods you can very obviously eat on a plant-based diet — bananas, rice, beans and all the leafy greens in the world. Then, there are some foods that aren’t as clear cut. You may wonder “is bread vegan?” What about pasta, honey or fries?
Let’s take a step back first. Veganism refers to an ethical position that seeks to reduce the suffering of non-human animals as far as practically possible.
The most exploitation of animals takes place in our food production and there are so many ways in which by-products can find their way into everything from hard candy to cereals or baked goods.
Is bread vegan when it contains mono- and diglycerides that are not further explained? Do we need to look out for lecithin or yeast?
This article will answer all of your burning questions from what makes bread healthy or unhealthy to the different types of bread, delicious sweet and savory vegan recipes as well as the most important question — is bread vegan.
What Bread Is Vegan?
All types of bread that are traditionally made with just the simple components of flour, water, salt and yeast are vegan. Yup, yeast isn’t technically from the plant kingdom but rather a microscopic fungus — but it doesn’t have a central nervous system and can therefore not suffer.
So, vegans are cool with yeast.
Things like rye bread or sourdough bread are most often vegan — however, the fancier you get, the more likely you are to find some animal products like eggs, dairy, honey and others.
Here are the best choices of vegan bread!
The latter of these types of bread are more likely to be made with dairy products, so please always check the label before you buy.
This was just a quick look at what bread is usually vegan, let’s see whether or not you should eat bread on a plant-based diet and what ingredients are probably not vegan.
Can I Eat Bread on a Plant-Based Diet?
This depends on the type of plant-based diet you’re following and on the specific bread in question. As we will establish, there are certain non-vegan or animal-derived ingredients found in bread you need to look out for.
Generally speaking, though, you can eat from the following foods on a plant-based diet:
- Grains (including bread & pasta)
- Nuts & Seeds
This means that you can eat bread on a plant-based diet but try to choose healthier varieties and keep in mind that it’s richer in calories compared to rice or beans (which can either be a good or bad thing depending on your goals).
People on a low-carb or strictly whole food vegan diet usually skip the bread, no matter if it’s vegan or not.
New to a plant-based diet? Check out our full guide below.
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Guide →
Is Bread Vegan? Look for These Ingredients!
Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, usually bread is vegan. But the thing is that there can be “hidden” animal products in some baked goods that you need to be aware of to make sure your bread is 100% vegan.
Bread, like other processed foods from sauces to spreads or frozen meals, is one of those items that you need to check the ingredients before you buy it.
But trust us, once you know which bread is vegan, grocery shopping becomes really easy and you don’t need to double-check all of the time! Most of your food shouldn’t come with a label, anyways, but rather from the produce isle.
Full Vegan Grocery List →
As a rule of thumb, the healthier and firmer a bread seems, the more likely it is to be vegan. Fluffy types of bread, like brioche or challah, are often made with whey, casein, eggs, milk or butter.
It becomes trickier when the ingredients sound very cryptic, so we want to help you out!
Non-Vegan Ingredients That Can Be Found in Bread
These ingredients are never vegan:
- Eggs or Egg Whites, which are used for a fluffy texture
- Butter or Ghee, often found in Indian products or sweet breads
- Milk, Lactose, Cream or Yogurt, which some breads contain either in fresh or dried form
- Honey and Royal Jelly, which come from bees
- Casein, Caseinate and Whey, which are derived from milk and used to add texture or flavor
- Gelatin, which comes from animal connective tissue
- L-cysteine, a dough conditioner and flavor enhancer derived from duck feathers, pig bristles or hooves.
These may be vegan:
- Mono and Diglycerides, which are basically some type of fat. Most of the time, it’s made from soybean oil and therefore completely plant-derived. But they could come from other sources too, namely animals and synthetic components.
- Lecithin, which is also an emulsifier and most always derived from soybeans – but it’s possible that in some cases it’s actually derived from egg yolks.
- Enzymes, while usually fungal-based, they can also be derived from pig pancreatic tissue.
While many types of traditional bread are usually free from these non-vegan ingredients, things like naan, biscuits or garlic bread are almost always not vegan.
These days, more and more brands choose to put the vegan label on their items, including bread, which makes shopping a lot easier. But just because your bread doesn’t have a vegan label, doesn’t mean it contains any animal products.
Let’s check out some common types of bread and see whether or not it’s likely that they are vegan or what to look out for.
Healthy Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich →
Is Sourdough Bread Vegan?
Yes, sourdough bread is usually vegan. Thank goodness, because it’s both very delicious and healthy thanks to the fermented flour.
It is unlikely that sourdough bread is not vegan but made with milk products in the starter culture — this is usually not stated on the label and nothing to be sweated. The same goes for the “mono and diglycerides”.
Such tiny contributions of animal products won’t make a shift in the market as a whole and veganism would just seem unattainable to most people if this had to taken into account. So, have your sourdough bread!
Is White Bread Vegan?
If sourdough bread is most likely to be vegan, white bread is the least likely. The answer depends on things like which country you’re in (some places use processing methods that include animal products like bone meal).
Enriched white flour can contain dairy in the form of dried milk powder, butter or milk, and eggs but the added vitamins and minerals can also be synthetically produced.
White bread products that are savory and “lean” like baguette and sourdough breads are usually vegan while softer varieties (rolls, bagels, sandwich bread, English muffins, Wonder Bread) are more likely to have milk or eggs.
What Is the Healthiest Vegan Bread?
Just like with all meals, the more whole foods that are used, the better. The healthiest vegan bread recipes are made with whole-grain flour from wheat to spelt or rye and have small to no amounts of added sugar and oil — plus, bread can be high in sodium, so this is something to keep in mind.
If you want to have gluten-free bread, be aware that they are often made with eggs to replace the binding plant protein gluten but there are some gluten-free vegan breads at the store containing rice, oats, corn, millet or buckwheat!
For an extensive and updated list of brands or options for vegan bread, check out Peta’s resource.
Quick Look at the Nutrition
While grains in general and bread in particular have been bashed on numerous news outlets, the major food and health organizations state that whole-grain foods, including bread, oatmeal or rice are recommended due to their health benefits.
Bread is a staple food in many countries and has been consumed worldwide for thousands of years — the different varieties that have evolved offer different nutritional profiles that can include good sources of:
Whole grains are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity and for those looking to consume enough calories or need to follow a low-fiber diet, white bread is definitely helpful.
That’s why nutrition recommendations need to be adapted to each individual person and their needs.
And if you’re concerned about gluten in general, rest assured that only 1 % of the Western civilization has celiac disease and needs to avoid gluten completely since this is a serious matter and should be treated by a medical professional.
At the same time, the cases of supposed “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”, which have been coming up over the past years, are almost always unrelated to gluten, which a 2015 study has shown.
Don’t forget that it’s also about what you put on your bread or in your sandwich that plays a huge role in whether or not your meal contributes to your health! Choosing hummus, cashew mayo, avocado or almond ricotta along with different raw and roasted or pickled vegetables is the way to go.
The best way to ensure that your bread is fully vegan and pretty healthy is to make your own at home! All kinds of bread from yeasted to yeast-free, sourdough, garlic or gluten-free as well as all the sweet breads in the world can be made vegan.
Here are a couple of great recipes ranging from beginner-level to skilled-kitchen-chef!
How to Make Vegan Bread From Scratch
There are easy substitutions you can make to turn any bread recipe into a fully plant-based one! Let’s check out our favorite replacements before we share delicious vegan bread recipes.
- Eggs — use flax or chia eggs (seeds mixed with water) or aquafaba, the liquid in which legumes have been cooked.
- Butter — plant-based oils like olive, coconut or vegan margarine. On an oil-free diet, you may want to choose applesauce or nut butter instead!
- Milk — that’s easy because there are so many vegan milk alternatives! From soy to almond, oat or pea milk, all of them work for different types of bread — just be sure to choose an unsweetened variety for your savory bread.
- Honey — brown sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup or whole dates are our favorite vegan sweeteners.
Easy Vegan Bread Recipes to Try
There are so many delicious variations of bread out there that you can easily make, but we decided to share some very basic and versatile recipes that you don’t need a lot of kitchen skills for.