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Are Bagels Vegan?

Health + Wellness
guitarfish / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Elise Mandl, BSc, APD

Vegans avoid products that come from animals, including meat, eggs, dairy, and any other animal-derived foods or additives.


However, it's not always clear which foods are vegan, particularly baked products that may contain ingredients that are not immediately recognizable.

Bagels are popular, doughnut-shaped breads that come in a variety of flavors, ranging from plain to sweet to savory. Plus, they can be filled with an almost endless array of toppings.

This article explains how to determine whether a bagel is vegan.

Vegan vs. Non-Vegan Bagels

Bagels are made from a simple, yeasted dough that's shaped like a doughnut. They are boiled, dried, and then finished in an oven (1, 2).

Depending on its ingredients and fillings, a bagel may or may not be vegan.

Regular Bagels Are Vegan

A basic bagel contains the following vegan ingredients (1):

  • Flour. Wheat flour is commonly used, resulting in a strong, glutinous dough and dense, chewy texture.
  • Yeast. This ingredient ferments the sugar in the dough, releasing carbon dioxide and causing the dough to rise.
  • Salt. This mineral helps toughen gluten strands, regulate the yeast, and add flavor.
  • Liquid. Traditionally, only water is used to create moisture and bind ingredients together.
  • Sweetener. This can be from plain sugar, barley malt syrup, molasses, corn syrup, or malt extract.
  • Fat. Some recipes call for vegetable oil or shortening to enhance the crumb of the finished bagel.

Vegan bagel recipes may call for additional ingredients to add flavor, color, and texture, such as fruits, seeds, grains, nuts, vegetables, berries, herbs, and spices (1).

What Makes a Bagel Non-Vegan?

Some bagel recipes or store-bought products may include non-vegan ingredients, including:

  • Honey. Certain recipes use honey or honey powder in place of sugar or malt. While some vegans eat honey, most don't (3).
  • Eggs. These are sometimes added to the dough for flavor and color and may be used to glaze a bagel to give it some shine.
  • Milk. In some recipes, milk is used in place of water.
  • L-cysteine. This amino acid and dough softener is sometimes used in commercial bagel products. It's usually derived from human hair or poultry feathers. However, there are also vegan production methods (4, 5Trusted Source).

Additionally, many bagel fillings or toppings are not considered vegan, including:

  • Dairy products: cream cheese, hard cheese, whipped cream, etc.
  • Meats: beef, ham, turkey, chicken, etc.
  • Fish: smoked salmon, canned tuna, caviar, etc.
  • Eggs: including in sauces like hollandaise or mayonnaise.

Essentially, any ingredient that's derived from an animal will make a bagel unsuitable for vegans.

Summary

Regular bagels are vegan, but some types may include extra flavors, additives, or fillings that are animal-derived and thus not vegan. These include honey, eggs, or dairy in the dough, as well as cheese, meats, or fish in the fillings.

How to Ensure Your Bagel Is Vegan

There are a few ways to ensure your bagels are vegan-friendly, including making them yourself, checking ingredient label, and looking for a vegan certification.

Make Your Own Bagels

Most recipes for bagels are vegan-friendly, and by making them yourself, you can control exactly what goes into them.

Plus, innumerable vegan ingredients can add flavor and variety to your bagels.

A basic dough recipe can be improved by adding seeds, nuts, onions, garlic, spices, fresh or dried herbs, and grains, such as rye and oats.

Vegan toppings include vegan cream cheese, nut butters, vegan patties, meat substitutes, tofu, avocado, hummus, leafy greens, vegetables, berries, and other fruits.

Read the Label

If you're buying bagels from the store, check the ingredient list for any non-vegan items.

The most important ones to look out for are eggs, honey, honey powder, L-cysteine, milk, and milk products like casein, lactose, and whey.

L-cysteine should be labeled by name or with the number E920. However, it may not be clear from the label whether the source is vegan (6, 7).

If you're in doubt about a particular brand, contact the manufacturer to verify the product's vegan status.

Check for Vegan Certification

Most countries don't regulate the labeling of vegan products by law.

Still, many independent organizations, such as Certified Vegan, offer vegan certification of products.

If you find a bagel with such a certification, it's a good idea to check out the requirements of that organization to see whether they meet your expectations.

Keep in mind that a product may be vegan, despite not being labeled as such. Thus, it's still a good idea to check the ingredient list when deciding whether the product is right for you.

Summary

You can ensure your bagels are vegan by making them at home or checking the label for vegan certification and the ingredient list for non-vegan items. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to ask whether the product is suitable for you.

The Bottom Line

Basic bagels are vegan and made from flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and sometimes vegetable shortening.

Still, some include non-vegan ingredients, such as eggs, milk, honey, or L-cysteine.

To ensure your bagels are vegan, make them yourself or check the package for vegan certification or the ingredient list for non-vegan items.

Overall, with a little attention to detail, you can continue to enjoy your favorite morning or lunchtime bagel on a vegan diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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