You’ve made yourself a killer toasted sandwich using our tasty vegan toast topping ideas and you’re about to take a huge bite out of it when your friend walks in and asks:
“Oh, is all bread plant-based then?”
You stop and think about it for a second and then your heart sinks as you realise you don’t know for sure…
The good news is that many of the best types of bread are vegan but unfortunately, not all bread is. That’s why it’s a great idea to always read the label before you buy a loaf.
So, you’re reading the ingredients and…hang on, what’s sodium stearoyl lactylate? Casein? Monoglycerides? Diglycerides? And lecithin?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help you navigate the confusing world of commercial bread ingredients, guide you through which breads are traditionally vegan, and provide you with some failsafe options to share at your next plant-based sandwich party!
(Who doesn’t love a sandwich party?!)
We’ll start with the bread types that are not vegan-friendly because of tradition or culture. These include bread recipes that have been passed down for generations with the inclusion of animal-based products. For example, naan flatbreads in parts of South Asia are traditionally made with milk, yoghurt, or ghee (clarified butter) and Jewish challah bread often contains eggs.
While plant-based versions do exist, often thanks to incredible vegan bakeries around the world, here are the non-vegan breads to watch out for:
Fluffy and sweet, brioche can contain eggs and milk!
Made with, you guessed it, honey! Which is not vegan.
A thick flatbread common in Southern Asia, naan bread can be made with milk or yoghurt to give it a tangy flavour and is sometimes brushed with butter or ghee.
Griddle bread made from batter, crumpets have a very distinctive round and fluffy appearance with numerous pores across the top. Although many brands make these without animal ingredients, some recipes call for milk and eggs.
The majority of store-bought garlic bread use butter, although this is changing, with many vegan options now available!
Jewish dietary laws state that meat should not be mixed with dairy products, so many types of kosher bread are made dairy-free to allow for toppings. That means that many kosher breads are suitable for vegans (as long as no meat is added, obviously). However, some types are made using eggs, such as challah.
Less processed bread, such as real sourdough, is usually vegan. And the ingredients labels are much easier to read and understand as well!
Unfortunately, naturally-leavened and unprocessed bread is not always available to buy. Therefore, it’s sometimes safer to opt for savoury and dry types of bread, including flatbreads, which are more likely to be vegan.
Watch out for fluffy and sweet bread, since this type usually contains eggs, honey, or dairy products. Although, it’s getting a little harder to tell now we have so many awesome vegan egg substitutes that make baked products so light and fluffy!
Ultimately, the best way to tell if bread is vegan is by checking the ingredients label OR by buying your bread from a local vegan business/bakery!
So how can you tell which ingredients are suitable for vegans and which aren’t?
Well, some are obvious:
Some are less obvious:
And some are just completely obscure:
E481 (sodium stearoyl-2 lactylate) – sometimes vegan, sometimes not.
E472e (mono and diglycerides) – sometimes vegan, sometimes not.
E920 (L-cysteine hydrochloride) – usually hair, animal or human! Can also be synthesised.
Lecithin – sometimes vegan, sometimes not.
Make sure you check out Peta’s animal-derived ingredients list for full disclosure.
With the aforementioned obscure ingredients, you may have to check with the manufacturer or avoid them altogether. Alternatively, look out for a vegan certification!
The good news is that there are plenty of delicious types of bread suitable for vegans! Here are some of our favourites (while these are usually failsafe options, remember to always check the label):
Real sourdough bread is 100% vegan! How can you tell if it’s real? Sourdough should only be made using flour, salt, and water. Check out our sourdough guide for more info!
Flatbread containing flour, water, yeast, and salt.
Italian flatbread drizzled with olive oil, herbs, and other plant-based toppings.
Crusty and flat, elongated bread with an aerated crumb. Ciabatta is traditionally vegan.
High-protein bread made from sprouted whole grains and legumes.
Long and thin, crusty bread, popular in France.
Milk and yoghurt are easy since we now have so many plant milks and plant-based yoghurts on the market – simply switch to vegan alternatives when baking.
For eggs, we recommend checking out our guide on how to bake with egg substitutes.
There you have it, most bread is suitable for vegans! Just always remember to read the ingredients or check for a vegan certification to make sure. Alternatively, support the vegan economy by buying your bread from a local plant-based bakery.
And don’t forget, you can learn how to make your very own vegan sourdough using our Ultimate Guide to Sourdough.
Happy sandwich party!