vegan breads

Vegan bread: Can I eat bread on a vegan diet?

From crumpets drenched in (vegan butter) to your favourite doorstop sandwich, bread is not only a staple food in most daily diets, it’s also a favourite comfort food. So, if you’re considering converting to plant-based eating, you’ve probably given more than a passing consideration to this question ­– can vegans eat bread?

Here we talk vegan bread and what common bread ingredients could catch you out.

Is bread vegan?

Yes, usually. Bread is primarily a grain-based food. The four base ingredients are wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. So far so good. In fact, if all breads kept to this simple recipe, the answer to ‘is bread vegan’ would be a clear and resounding ‘yes.’ But in reality, when you’re browsing the bakery aisles, you’ll find there are many types of bread on offer. And it’s often the fancier varieties that could catch you out if you follow a vegan diet.

From crusts brushed with butter to sweet, fluffy breads that often contain egg, there are lots of animal-derived ingredients to look out for in bread. Sometimes it’s blatantly clear a loaf isn’t going to fit into your plant-based diet. For example, flavour additions such as bacon, cheese and honey are usually added to the title on packaging and marked clearly in the ingredients. But it’s the cryptic sounding additives and preservatives that aren’t vegan approved that can be harder to spot.

Non-vegan ingredients to look out for in bread

When you’re searching for vegan bread, these are some of the main animal-derived ingredients you need to watch out for. They are often used to tweak the texture or flavour. For example, you’ll often find butter in muffins, eggs in brioche and milk in naan.1,2
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Cream
  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Honey
  • Leithin
  • L-cysteine
  • Mono and diglycerides

Less obvious non-vegan ingredients

Most of these ingredients will already be on your vegan radar. But there are a few that may be less familiar. To add to the confusion, these ingredients can often come from plant, animal or synthetic sources – the problem is it’s hard to tell which one from the packet.3

Whey or casein

These milk proteins are sometimes added to bread products to increase protein content, lengthen shelf life and sometimes for flavour purposes.

L-cysteine

This amino acid is sometimes used in bread as a softening agent. One source is poultry feathers.

Mono and diglycerides

These fatty acids are emulsifiers. They change the texture of bread and help preserve moisture. Although they’re often a derivative of soybean oil, they can also come from animal fats.

Leithin

This is an emulsifier used to improve texture and help preserve moisture. Leithin can come from plants but it could also be from egg yolks.

What bread is vegan?

The good news is you’ll find most of your preferred breads are probably vegan.4 Here is a summary based on a range of breads as you mostly commonly find them on shop shelves.

 


Bread Is it a vegan bread?
Sourdough Usually
Pita bread Usually
Ciabatta Usually (except ciabatta al latte which contains milk)
Naan No
Rye Occasionally contains milk and eggs
Focaccia Usually
Cream crackers Usually
Crumpets Usually (when shop bought)
Muffins No. Look out for butter
Brioche No. Contains eggs and butter.

 

How to spot vegan bread on your next shop

The only way to be sure is to check the ingredients (either on the packaging or ask at the bakery counter.) Or make your own bread at home. But as a general rule the simpler and less processed the bread the more likely it is to be vegan.5 Also, flat and drier textures are usually more characteristic of vegan bread products. However, there are exceptions, so it’s always wise to check. For example, naan bread often contains milk and ghee (a clarified butter.)

Summary: Can vegans eat bread?

The short answer is yes.

So, if you’re considering veganism but don’t want to give up your bakery habit, it will be a relief to hear most breads are naturally vegan.

However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t check the ingredients carefully. Some breads contain non-vegan friendly ingredients to achieve a certain texture, to add extra flavour or to extend shelf life. As well as the obvious eggs and dairy products (that should be clearly labelled) look out for more cryptic additives and preservatives that could be animal derived.

Last updated: 24 July 2020

Sources
  1. https://www.veganfriendly.org.uk/is-it-vegan/is-bread-vegan/
  2. https://www.veganfriendly.org.uk/is-it-vegan/is-bread-vegan/
  3. https://www.peta.org/living/food/is-bread-vegan/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-bread-vegan#common-vegan-breads 
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