I remember when I was working at a vegan restaurant just a few months after I become a vegan. One day a customer came in and asked me if our bread was vegan. I said, “yes,” but I couldn’t help but think, “What an odd question… why wouldn’t bread be vegan?” After all, we only served white and wheat. Later that night when I got off work, I decided to do some research, and boy did I feel like a fool.
Much to my surprise, I discovered bread is seldom vegan. Technically speaking, your basic loaf of white or whole-wheat bread requires little more than flour, yeast, and water, but if you check the ingredients label on a loaf of sliced bread at the grocery store, odds are you’ll be in for a shock. Not only do most store-bought breads contain enough ingredients to send up a red flag that you shouldn’t be eating them just because of how heavily processed they are, a good number of those ingredients aren’t vegan.
The most common non-vegan ingredient I see just about every loaf of bread I pick up at the store is whey. Whey is a protein extracted from cow’s milk, and for some reason, it is often added to bread. You can save yourself some time from having to skim the ingredients list looking for whey by just looking right underneath the ingredients and checking for “contains milk” printed in bold letters. You should also keep an eye out for butter and dry milk.
Eggs don’t show up in the ingredients nearly as often as whey, but once in a while I’ll come across a loaf that contains them.
Lastly, you’ll want to keep an eye out for honey. Often times, if bread contains honey, it will say so in the name or description of the bread – e.g., “honey wheat.” Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to look over the ingredients.
Fresh Baked Bread
Bakery breads are much more likely to be vegan friendly, but I would still suggest investigating it. I know a lot of grocery stores these days list the ingredients on the packaged breads they have for sale in the bakery. When in doubt, you can always just ask the baker.