Happy Herbivore Blog

March 2, 2012

Looking for Plant-Based (Vegan) Bread

Bread is a staple in the American diet, and many diets and cuisines around the world. In fact, bread one of a few foods that's loved globally, even though it sometimes takes a different shape in other areas of the world.

I get a lot of questions from Herbies asking if bread is vegan or plant-based and the answer is -- it depends!

While bread may seem innocent enough (all you need is water, yeast and flour... maybe a little sugar and salt), commercially baked bread can take an unhealthy turn and some brands add in animal products that you need to look out for. For those following a vegan diet, they'll also need to look out for honey which is often included in whole wheat or whole grain varieties.

(I previously posted the picture below about a bread I found at my store -- yikes!)

Eggs and whey (milk protein) are the two most common animal ingredients added into commercial bread, though there are others to look out for. If a bread contains dairy or eggs, it should say "Contains Dairy and Eggs" in bold at the bottom of the ingredients list, but do still check the ingredients list too. I find whey is more common than eggs and it tends to show up in whole wheat breads.

Casein (also called Caseinate or Sodium Casinate) may also be added to bread - this is a milk/dairy product.

Other ingredients to lookout for are: 

  • Mono- and di-glycerides 
  • Lecithin 
  • DATEM (Diacetyl Tartaric Ester of Monoglyceride) 

However, these ingredients COULD be plant-based, they're not necessarily animal derived. 

If you're looking to buy whole wheat bread, make sure it says 100% whole wheat on the label and also check the ingredients to make sure the only flour ingredient is "whole wheat flour." Truly whole wheat breads should not include white flour, wheat flour, enriched flour, enriched wheat flour, all purpose flour, etc. If it contains any "wheat" flour other than whole wheat -- the bread is NOT whole wheat. It's white bread with a tan and clever marketing :)

There are also many gluten-free types of breads as well, such as Ezekiel, Udi's or Rudi's. These breads use non-wheat flours such as chickpea flour or brown rice flour. As with wheat breads, you'll still need to check the ingredients to make sure they are plant-based. Many GF breads contain eggs or egg whites. (To read more about gluten-free flours, check out my earlier post here.)

I always go for whole-wheat bread varieties with the fewest number of ingredients, no added sugar or oil, and organic whenever possible. It sounds like a tall order but I usually find at least one brand that fits the bill. When I lived near a Trader Joes, I favored their brand of sprouted whole wheat bread and miss it.

Of course, you can always make your own -- try HH's beer bread, just a few ingredients and so easy!

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