Is bread vegan?

January 28, 2021

January is well and truly upon us. It’s the month when many people try to improve their lifestyles and diets. Eat less, move more etc! It’s also the month that has been renamed “Veganuary” and champions of the plant-based diet try to encourage and convert consumers to try or adopt veganism. One of the challenges this poses is knowing what foods are vegan and which ones are not. Not everyone is in a position to make their food from scratch, and buying ready to eat vegan foods is much easier. There is a really good selection of new plant-based food producers emerging in the marketplace.

So where does bread fit into a vegan diet? The good news is that most bread is already vegan! All bread is made from four basic ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast. Yeast is found everywhere, in the air even, and is definitely vegan.

So what about the other ingredients that you will find on the label on a sliced pan? Well, here is a breakdown or the most commonly found, none of which are of animal origin:

Vegetable oil extracts are used as emulsifiers and provide dough stability in addition to improving loaf volume and in maintaining softness. These might be listed in the ingredients as Emulsifiers either by name or using their E number, E472a (Mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids, Mono and di-acetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids, Sodium Stearoyl – 2 Lactylate).

Ascorbic Acid is another flour treatment agent, and it’s more commonly known as Vitamin C, which is used to strengthen the dough and support the gluten structure, and it helps with the volume, crumb structure and softness of the bread. Everyone knows that ascorbic acid is naturally found in citrus fruits. The ascorbic acid used in bread is made using a combination of microbial fermentations and chemical methods.

Acetic acid (vinegar) is sometimes used as a preservative to prevent mould growth and to ensure the freshness of the bread. It also adds flavour to yeast breads.

L-Cysteine is sometimes used to help soften the dough. It relaxes the dough by breaking down the gluten structures. The origin of L-Cysteine is sometimes misrepresented as being from animal sources, but that is most definitely not true! It is made using a sustainable fermentation process and plant-based raw materials such as corn.

Lastly, you may know that enzymes are sometimes added to bread to help to speed up the fermentation process. They are destroyed during the baking so don’t appear on the label. However, just so you’re clear, commercially, enzymes are produced by fermentation. Food-grade microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi are used, also vegan. So now you know!

While the sliced white pan is definitely vegan, not all breads are suitable for a plant-based diet. Obviously, any bread containing butter or eggs (brioche), milk (soda bread), honey (honey spelt or honey wheat), brack (egg) is not vegan – so it’s always best to check the label (Irish Bread Blog, May 2020).

For more information and to find out which breads are / are not suitable for vegans, check out these websites: - all vegan except for the brack; - all except for soda bread and brack;