Are bagels vegan? The Vegan Guide to Bagels
There’s nothing quite like the dense, toothy texture of bagels. In their most basic form, bagels are vegan, made only from flour, water, yeast, and salt. But other non-vegan ingredients, including dairy, honey and eggs, as well as less easily identifiable animal products, commonly appear in commercially produced bagels.
Learn how to decipher the label on that bag of bagels at the grocery store using our guide to plant-based bagels.
Why Many Bagels Are Vegan
Due to their simple base ingredients, most bagels fit perfectly into a plant-based diet. In addition to using yeast to leaven (or leaven) the dough, some vegan bagels use sourdough starter. There are also vegan rye and pumpernickel bagels as well as vegan bagels dyed in all the colors of the rainbow.
Bagels can often contain a sweetener such as molasses (or honey or non-vegan sugar) as well as other emulsifiers and preservatives. Thickeners like vegan xanthan gum, guar gum. and tapioca starch or other enzymes are also quite common. Generally speaking, the less processed the bagel, the more likely it is to be vegan.
Why Some Bagels Aren’t Vegan
Although the majority of bagels are completely plant-based, some recipes add animal products for different flavors and textures. Some are pretty easy to spot, like the egg in egg bagels or the slice of toasted cheese on a jalapeño bagel. But others are more difficult.
Take l-cysteine, a dough softener, for example. You would never know from its name that it is a by-product of the poultry industry.
More common non-vegan ingredients are also found in sweet bagels where the recipe replaces water with milk or when milk is used for a confectionery filling, such as chocolate chips or cinnamon crunch.
What you fill your bagel matters too. Sure, a good schmear will almost always arrive with a bagel brunch, but unless the cream cheese is plant-based, you’ll only have your bagel with veggies.
A controversial ingredient in the vegan community, honey comes from small animals: bees. Vegans who care about animal welfare see bees making honey as animal exploitation and therefore refrain from it.
Although less often discussed, this reasoning can extend to almonds and avocados, which would not exist on a commercial scale if bees were not available for pollination. In reality, one-third of all food grown for humans needs bees to grow.
Processed from chicken and turkey feathers, l-cysteine is made from the same proteins that make up fingernails and hair (although the rumor that some l-cysteine comes from human hair is most likely fake.) This dough softener appears in many commercially processed baked goods, including bagels.
Also a dough conditioner, leticin helps blend oil and water to provide a smoother consistency. Lecithin is often derived from vegan soy, but it can also come from eggs.
Mono- and Diglycerides
These fatty acids generally come from vegetable oils, including palm and soy, but they can also be derived from animal sources. They give processed foods a better texture and help increase shelf life. You can see them listed as follows:
- Mono- and diglyceride esters
- Ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides
- Monoacylglycerol and diacylglycerol (MAG and DAG)
- Diacylglycerol oil
Sugar can come from two sources: sugar beets and sugar cane. Beet sugar is suitable for vegans because it does not require a second refinement like cane sugar. During the second part of the processing, the cane sugar is filtered with non-vegan Arctic char to produce whiter sugar crystals.
If the sugar does not distinguish its source, it is probably a mixture of beet and cane sugar. For this reason, some vegans do not eat any type of sugar. However, many vegans who focus on what is “practical and possible” consider sugar to be a vegan-friendly food.
Did you know?
Wheat is the third largest major crop in the United States, behind only soybeans and corn. This means that wheat cultivation will have to play a future role in sustainable harvesting. Research indicates that intercropping wheat with corn (along with a few other tactics) can improve wheat production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with grain.
Common Types of Vegan Bagels
Vegan bagels come in a variety of flavors and styles with added seeds, nuts, spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables.
- Whole wheat
- Cinnamon Raisins
- Chocolate Chip
- Multigrain (may contain honey)
Types of non-vegan bagels
Sometimes non-vegan bagels speak for themselves, but other times animal ingredients show up where you least expect them. In fact, some bagel shops brush all of their bagels with egg whites. Be sure to read the label or check with your server before purchasing to keep your bagel free of animal products.
- Egg (often also includes sugar)
- Asiago cheese
- Jalapeño Cheddar
- French toast (likely to contain eggs, dairy and sugar)
- Honey Wheat
- Cinnamon Crunch (likely to contain dairy products)
Frequently Asked Questions
Do bagels contain eggs?
Unless it’s an egg bagel, identified by its distinctive yellow color, your bagel is unlikely to contain eggs. Still, some pastry bagels will include eggs for a lighter texture.
Are Starbucks bagels vegan?
Yes! All three varieties of Starbucks bagels — plain, cinnamon raisins and all — are vegan (though cinnamon raisins do contain sugar).