Veganism refers to a way of living that attempts to minimize animal exploitation and cruelty. For this reason, vegans aim to exclude all foods containing meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey from their diet (
That said, it can be challenging to tell whether a food contains ingredients derived from animal products. This causes many new vegans to question whether the foods they eat are in fact vegan — including bread.
This article tells you how to determine whether your bread is vegan.
Is all bread vegan?
At its core, a bread recipe contains four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast — a type of microscopic fungus used to help bread rise. Therefore, the simplest form of bread is vegan.
However, some types include additional ingredients like sweeteners or fats — both of which can be of animal origin.
For instance, some recipes may use eggs, butter, milk, or honey to modify the flavor or texture — which means that not all types of bread are vegan.
The simplest forms of bread are generally vegan. Still, some call for ingredients of animal origin like eggs, dairy, or honey — making them non-vegan.
How to tell whether a bread is vegan
It’s usually straightforward to tell whether a bread is vegan.
You can easily distinguish vegan from non-vegan bread by looking at the ingredient list. Bread containing eggs, honey, royal jelly, gelatin, or dairy-based ingredients like milk, butter, buttermilk, whey, or casein isn’t considered vegan.
You may also come across these ingredients that are usually — but not always — vegan:
- Mono and diglycerides. These types of fat are used as emulsifiers to improve texture and help retain moisture. They’re often derived from soybean oil but can also be sourced from animal fats.
- Lecithin. This is another type of emulsifier usually derived from soybeans. However, lecithin can also be sourced from egg yolks.
It’s impossible to tell whether these two ingredients are made from animal products or plants simply by looking at the label.
If you want to be sure that your bread is vegan, it may be best to avoid types that include monoglycerides, diglycerides, and lecithin altogether — unless the product in question is certified as vegan.
Checking the ingredient list is the best way to avoid bread containing animal-derived ingredients like eggs, dairy, gelatin, or bee products. Ingredients like monoglycerides, diglycerides, and lecithin may or may not be vegan.
Most common types of vegan bread
Many types of bread are naturally free of animal products. Here’s a list of types that are commonly vegan:
- Sourdough. A type of fermented bread made from flour, water, salt, and sometimes commercial baker’s yeast. Though uncommon, some varieties use milk instead of water, making them non-vegan.
- Pita. A flatbread made from a simple mixture of flour, water, yeast, and salt. Though often vegan, some varieties may add milk, eggs, or honey for flavor.
- Ezekiel. A bread made from sprouted whole grains and legumes. This type of bread is often vegan and typically richer in protein and other nutrients.
- Ciabatta. A flat, elongated bread recognizable by its harder crust and soft, airy crumb. Most versions are vegan, though ciabatta al latte replaces water with milk — making it non-vegan.
- Baguette. A popular type of French bread that’s long and thin with a crispy crust and tender crumb.
- Focaccia. An Italian flatbread topped with herbs and a source of fat, baked in a flat pan. Most recipes call for olive oil as the fat of choice, making this bread vegan — but a few use butter or eggs instead.
- Kosher bread. Jewish dietary laws prohibit mixing dairy with meat, so many kosher types of bread are dairy free to allow for meat toppings. Some — though not all — also contain no eggs, making them vegan.
The less processed bread is, the higher the likelihood it’s vegan. Moreover, flatbreads, savory, or dry types of bread are more likely to be vegan, whereas fluffier brioche-types often contain dairy, eggs, or both, making them non-vegan.
However, there are exceptions. For instance, Indian-style naan flatbreads often contain milk or a clarified butter known as ghee, while a specific type of Jewish bread known as challah often contains eggs.
Therefore, checking the ingredient label remains the best way to ensure that no animal products have been added to the food.
Many types of bread are naturally vegan, including a lot of flatbreads, savory, or dry types of bread. Fluffier brioche-style types are more prone to including animal-derived ingredients. The best way to ensure your bread is vegan is to check the label.
How to substitute non-vegan ingredients in a bread recipe
Making your own bread is a great way to ensure that it’s vegan.
The simplest recipes are naturally vegan. Still, it’s possible to modify more complicated recipes requiring non-vegan ingredients by substituting them for vegan ones.
For instance, eggs can often be replaced with flax or chia seeds.
To replace one egg, simply mix 1 tablespoon (15 mg) of chia seeds or ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of warm water and let sit until the mixture gets a jelly-like consistency. Then add to your batter in the same way you would add an egg.
Egg whites can also be replaced with aquafaba — the viscous liquid in which legumes have been cooked. Chickpea aquafaba appears to be the most popular in recipes and you can either make it at home or use the liquid from a can of chickpeas.
Use 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of aquafaba in place of 1 whole egg, or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) to replace 1 egg white.
Plant oils like olive or coconut oil are a great substitute for butter. Unsweetened plant milk like soy, almond, or oat milk is a good alternative to dairy milk. Finally, maple syrup can be used in recipes calling for bee-products like honey.
Simply add plant oils, milk, or maple syrup to your recipe in the same amount as the non-vegan alternative.
Making your own bread is a great way to make sure it’s vegan. Non-vegan ingredients can easily be swapped for vegan alternatives like flax seeds, chia seeds, aquafaba, plant milk, maple syrup, or vegetable and nut oils.
The bottom line
Many types of bread are naturally vegan. Still, some include non-vegan ingredients like eggs, milk, butter, or honey.
Checking the ingredient list is the best way to ensure your bread is vegan. Alternatively, you can make your own by substituting non-vegan items for vegan ones.