Traditional sourdough bread made from 3 simple ingredients (flour, water and salt) is vegan and free from animal products.
However, there are a number of things you need to look out for, particularly when buying sourdough bread from the grocery store or bakery. Some types of sourdough bread can contain non-vegan ingredients, not suitable for a vegan diet.
When looking for vegan sourdough bread, you should look out for the following things:
- Ingredient List Inclusions
- Enriched sourdough bread
- Sourdough bread baked in bread tins greased with fats and dairy products
- Animal derived sweeteners used in sourdough bread (honey)
- Sourdough loaves or rolls glazed or washed with non vegan ingredients
- Sourdough Starter fed with things other than flour and water
Please note this post is general information only and cannot be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition or are wanting to change your diet, please seek professional advice.
Is Sourdough Starter Vegan?
Sourdough starter made with flour and water is vegan. The wild yeast and bacteria that are colonised in this mixture are also considered vegan and suitable for a plant-based diet. When making a vegan sourdough starter, you need to ensure that you do not feed your sourdough starter with anything other than flour and water.
Sometimes, it is suggested to feed your starter with honey, whey or even milk. Feeding your sourdough starter with these animal-derived ingredients are not considered vegan and any sourdough bread made with a sourdough starter fed with these ingredients would not be considered vegan either.
Types of starter culture such as Pasta Madre are often fed with honey and so are best avoided if you are following a vegan based diet.
Making and using your own sourdough starter to make a basic sourdough bread recipe is the best way to ensure that the sourdough bread you're eating is vegan.
Are The Ingredients In Sourdough Bread Vegan?
If you are making or purchasing traditionally baked sourdough bread that is made using just flour, water and salt (and a vegan sourdough starter) then you can be sure that this sourdough is vegan friendly. The natural yeasts in sourdough bread are considered vegan and safe for a plant based diet.
However, unless you've baked the sourdough yourself, you must look out for additional ingredients that may not be suitable for a vegan diet. This can be particularly important if you are purchasing your sourdough bread from a local bakery or grocery store.
Sourdough ingredients that are not considered vegan:
- Egg Whites
- Egg Yolks
- Royal Jelly
None of these ingredients should be included in vegan bread.
They are not always included in sourdough recipes, however, if you are venturing beyond simple sourdough using basic ingredients and looking at sourdough breads like sandwich bread, hamburger rolls, challah, brioche etc then they can be a common addition to these recipes and ones you will want to avoid. That is unless you are making them yourself with a vegan alternative (you can find some of these further down the page).
Soy Based Ingredients ... But Not Always
There are a few ingredients often used in bread, particularly grocery store bread, that cannot be relied upon to be vegan, unless the sourdough has been labelled as "certified vegan". They are fairly common ingredients you may want to look out for.
Monoglycerides, diglycerides and lecithin are often made using soybeans, but not always. Lecithin in particular can be derived from egg yolks, so it's important to do your homework when purchasing sourdough bread that is vegan.
Monoglycerides and diglycerides are often included in store-bought sourdough bread to improve the texture of the bread and retain moisture. You may not know you're even eating them when buying store bought bread, unless you read the label carefully. And even then, you won't know if they are plant-based ingredients or not, so they are best avoided where possible.
Is Sourdough Bread Suitable for a Plant Based Diet?
While sourdough bread made from bread flour or all purpose flour is not considered a whole food because it's still a refined carbohydrate, the long fermentation process make it much better for you than regular white bread.
Fermented sourdough bread made without commercial yeast has a myriad of health benefits and is suitable for a plant-based diet. The lactic acid bacteria lower the phytic acid in the bread, ensuring that the nutrients are more bio available to our bodies. It is also lower in gluten than regular bread. You can read about the calories in sourdough bread here.
Whole grain bread and sourdough made with whole grain or whole wheat flour is an even better choice and would be considered a healthy option on a plant-based diet, such as vegan.
What Type of Sourdough Bread is Vegan?
While there are many things you need to look out for, including the ingredient list, these types of sourdough bread are almost always suitable for vegans (you will need to make your own decision and check ingredient listings though).
These types of sourdough bread are almost always made using just flour, water, salt, sourdough starter and sometimes olive oil.
Sourdough Recipes Suitable for Vegans
If you are following a vegan diet, but want to venture beyond a simple sourdough bread recipe, then you may like to try these ideas:
- Sourdough Hot Dog Rolls
- Sourdough Discard Rolls (soft pull apart rolls)
- Sourdough Focaccia Bread
- Sourdough Tortillas
- Walnut & Raisin Sourdough Bread
- Vegan Sourdough Discard Crackers
How Can I Make A Sourdough Recipe Vegan Friendly (Vegan Ingredient Substitutions)
If you are following a vegan diet, you will need to look for vegan ingredient substitutions for your sourdough baking to ensure you can produce a vegan version of your favorite sourdough bread.
You might find the following chart helpful in substituting regular ingredients for animal-free alternatives:
|ANIMAL DERIVED INGREDIENT||VEGAN ALTERNATIVE||AMOUNT|
|Honey||Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup, Molasses, Agave Nectar||Substitute same weight as listed in the recipe.|
|Eggs||Flax Seed or Chia Seed (soaked in water), aquafaba.||1 tbsp of seeds soaked in 3 tbsp of water.|
|Butter||Vegan Butter, Sunflower Oil, Walnut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Rice Bran Oil.||Substitute same weight as listed in recipe.|
|Milk||Any plant based milk including coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, soy milk.||Substitute same weight as listed in recipe - just compare the thickness of the milks.|
|Buttermilk||Lemon juice + non dairy milk of choice||1 tbsp of lemon juice added to 250g of non-dairy milk (approx 1 cup).|
What Is Enriched Sourdough Bread And Is It Vegan?
Enriched sourdough bread refers to any type of sourdough bread that includes fats and sugars. These can include butter, milk, eggs, honey or buttermilk.
Common types of enriched sourdough bread include soft sandwich breads, hamburger rolls, brioche loaves and buns and challah. If you are purchasing these types of bread, you'll need to pay particular attention to the ingredients list and check all food labels.
The good news is that you can make these different types of bread at home using common vegan alternatives.
For example, this soft sourdough sandwich loaf can be made using vegan butter or olive oil instead of real butter and a plant based milk instead of dairy milk.
Is Allergy Information Helpful in Identifying Vegan Sourdough Bread?
Allergy information and allergy labels are an easy way to quickly identify whether sourdough bread contains dairy and or eggs. Of course you should still check the ingredient list, but prominent allergy labelling can be helpful if you are following a vegan diet and wanting to avoid dairy and egg products.
Allergy labelling won't always show whether the bread contains honey, royal jelly or other animal derived ingredients though, so it should not be fully relied upon.
What Questions Should I Ask When Buying Vegan Sourdough Bread?
If you are able to speak to the baker or producer of the sourdough bread you are buying, here are some questions you may want to ask to double check whether the sourdough bread you are buying really is vegan friendly:
- What do you feed your sourdough starter with?
- What do you grease your bread tins with?
- What sweeteners or bread improvers have been added?
- Has the crust been egg or milk washed prior to baking?
- Has the crust been softened with butter after baking?
Frequently Asked Questions
Vegan butters can be substituted in sourdough recipes that use real butter. You generally want to substitute ingredients with the same texture and vegan butter generally has the same texture as real butter, as well as being a solid.
Yes, sourdough bread made with white flour (all purpose flour or bread flour) is considered a refined carbohydrate, despite the fact that it is fermented.
Yes, vital wheat gluten is considered a vegan friendly additive to sourdough bread. Vital wheat gluten is often used to make seitan, which is a vegan friendly source of protein that can easily be made at home. You'll find tips for adding vital wheat gluten to sourdough bread here.