Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

When following a plant based diet, like veganism, you’d have to completely eliminate products used or derived from animals in your diet. Vegan bread is usually categorised as vegan when it is created from four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. Additives such as honey, herbs and spices, fruits, vegetables, nuts and more can be added to the dough to create splendid flavours, that everyone can enjoy. So if you’re wondering whether sourdough bread is vegan-friendly, then let’s get right into it!

What is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough is a bread made from the natural occurring yeast and bacteria found in flour. Traditionally you’ll find 3 main elements in sourdough recipes, these include starter culture, which consists of flour and water, salt and flour. There is no yeast, milk, oils or sweeteners, although this does not mean that they are strictly forbidden from being added to the dough. The natural starter culture is what makes this bread spotlessly vegan, but the unbalanced additional additives are what brings this tangy bread down, from a vegans point of view.

Are the Ingredients in Sourdough Bread Vegan?

To answer the burning question, levitating in many minds, on whether sourdough bread can be classed as vegan or not, we’ll first have to take a closer look at the ingredients. Sourdough bread can only provide that divine, springy sponginess when made with perfected ingredients, so let’s take a look at the ingredients.

All-purpose flour

Water

Salt

Starter containing Wild yeast, lactobacillus bacteria and flour

So judging by these ingredients, we can most certainly confirm that sourdough bread is almost vegan. When we take a look at the types of enzymes used as the starter for the bread, you might discover that some are obtained from animal by products and are definitely not vegan. It’s very important that you double check the ingredients before purchasing the sourdough bread, as the consistency of ingredients might not always remain vegan.

Here are a list of ingredients found in normal bread that are sometimes a cause for concern amongst vegans:

  • Yeast
  • Lactic Acid
  • Flour
  • L-Cysteine

Yeast

This popular, tangy, and very tasty bread does not use controlled yeast, rather a process called fermentation which essentially works almost identically to yeast, formulating bubbles in the sourdough starter to make it rise. However yeast is actually vegan, so there is no need to worry about that!

Lactic Acid

Another thig that vegans can dismiss is the issue of lactic acid, which is a bacteria that provides sourdough with its distinctive tangy flavour. These are entirely vegan, as this takes place naturally within the flour and has nothing to do with dairy milk.

Flour

Flour is another ingredient that most vegans find themselves feeling quite concerned about. Typically sourdough is made from white bread flour, which is completely vegan as it is obtained from plants, making it entirely safe for vegans to consume.

L-Cysteine

This is primarily used to extend the shelf life of products, which is why most manufacturers choose to use this type of chemical in their foods. One of the main functions of L-Cysteine is to reduce fermentation and mixing time, it is derived from bird feathers, so while its not vegan, it is vegetarian.

Non-Vegan Ingredients Sourdough Bread

Naturally, many people prefer additional flavours to their sourdough bread, to enhance the already potent and delectable tastes. Many of the leading bread manufacturers normally gravitate towards butter and eggs to make a wonderful treat out of it. Most of the non-vegan ingredients found in sourdough bread include:

  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Butter milk
  • Cream
  • Casein
  • Whey
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Honey
  • Lard

These are the non-vegan ingredients you need to look out for, taking care and knowing that most vegan sourdough bread, can be manufactured in the same space where non-vegan bread is made, so always consider the description before purchasing and eating.

Is Sourdough Starter Vegan?

If you’re comfortable with the fact that wild yeast organisms are culturing in your bread, then sourdough bread is the one for you. If your starter ingredients consist of flour and water, then you’re using a vegan starter, as preferred by most vegans. However some starters are artificially boosted with other ingredients such as pineapple juice, honey, milk or other ingredients.

is sourdough bread vegan_alice's Kitchen

Why Sourdough Might Not be Vegan

The concerning ingredients for vegans are the non-essential additions to a sourdough recipe. Obviously if you were to make sourdough yourself this won’t be a point of concern, as you will know what exactly has been put into your sourdough recipe, ensuring that it is entirely plant-based by sticking to the three traditional ingredients: flour, water and salt. Though there are some typical ingredients that might trouble the vegans who just want to enjoy a little sourdough with their meal. Here’s some of the questionable ingredients occasionally found in sourdough:

  • Sweeteners
  • Starter Feed
  • Dairy & Meat
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Sweeteners

The first point of concern for some vegans is certain type of sweeteners used in certain food products. If a sourdough includes honey, then it is not suitable for those who are following a plant-based diet. Honey is not vegan as it is extracted from bee hives. Similarly sugar can sometimes be problematic due to the use of bone char, however this is pretty rare.

Starter Feed

There are issues and concerns regarding what the sourdough starter has been fed on. With normal bread, normally the feed is kept simple, with just flour and water. However some starters might include honey, milk, or other potentially non-vegan elements to give them a flavourful boost. Usually if it doesn’t explicitly iterate whether the sourdough has had any additional additive in its starter, then its safe to ask the baker what the exact ingredients of the starter are before purchasing.

Dairy & Meat

Other elements that are concerning to vegans, are when the sourdough is not simple and plain, as it would have started out to be. There are lots of cheesy sourdough recipes, disregarding whether they are a combination of cheese and garlic, or cheese and chive, the bottom line is that they include cheese which is a dairy product, therefore not vegan friendly.

Similarly sourdough could include bits of bacon, pancetta or other non-vegan ingredients, that aren’t safe for vegans to consume.

Milk

There are also some sourdough-style breads that include milk, but is very unlikely to be iterated on packaging labels, or on restaurant menus.

Eggs

Sourdough recipes are not as quick to include eggs, but milk is added to create a softer crumb, so there may use both eggs and milk together to create a softer texture to the bread. Not so disliked by non-vegans, however concerning for those on a plant-based diet.

Is Sourdough Starter Always Vegan?

Sourdough starter is basically flour and water, which are of course vegan friendly. However some bakers might choose to enrich their sourdough bread and add a drizzle of honey, a splash of milk, or crack a couple eggs to enhance the flavour or texture of the bread.

Here are some other factors to look out for, when unsure about sourdough bread:

  • Bread Tin Grease
  • Sweetened Sourdough Bread
  • Sourdough Starter

Bread Tin Grease

Even though the sourdough bread doesn’t contain any additional ingredients, if it has been baked in a loaf tin, chances are the loaf tin might be greased with non vegan oils, such as butter or margarine. Some bakers might even butter the bread once its emerged from the oven, to soften the crust a little, this might be a question for your baker.

Sweetened Sourdough Bread

Some sourdough breads are sweetened with non vegan ingredients. Sometimes it is added to provide a boost of energy giving it some ultimate rising powers. Sometimes they are added to lessen the potent sourness of the dough, sweetening the flavour. Different sweeteners can be used, but more often that not bakers tend to use honey.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter is maintained initially by using just flour and water, but some starters are artificially boosted with other ingredients like pineapple juice, honey, milk, and other ingredients.

Sourdough Bread Vegan Substitutions

You can create your own sourdough recipes, placing your own vegan-friendly ingredients, that’ll make you feel at ease when baking and eating, knowing the ingredients you sued were purely plant-based. With honey and dairy milk being used in most sourdough starter recipes, being due to the fact that the starter digests lots of carbohydrates, which will eventually help the bread rise; adding a soft, richer texture to the bread. Though there are no limitations when it comes to making sourdough using a recipe that’ll have your dough rising beautifully in no time. Let’s take a look at the vegan substitutions:

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a little sweeter than honey, which will make it a perfect addition to your sourdough starter, in place of the usual honey, that most bakers add. With Agave nectar being vegan friendly you can enjoy your sourdough bread in abundance. Agave nectar is entirely plant-based without being tethered to animal-products. Check out this yummy sourdough recipe, that includes agave nectar or syrup to their home baked sourdough bread.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup might be vegan friendly depending on the type you purchase. This is because sap from maple trees isn’t the only ingredient used to make maple syrup. Defoamers and many filtering agents can also be used, though this is quite rare. For vegan-friendly maple syrup check out these brands. Maple syrup can be used in sourdough starter as an additional plant-based sweetener to honey. Bringing forth new flavours and textures to the bread.

Non-Dairy Milk

Plant-based dairy milk like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and so on are great alternatives to cow, goat and other milk that is normally extracted from animals. Soy, almond, and rice milk are all great options for sourdough bread, as they are all neutral flavours, which would work exceptionally with this type of bread. Tasting the unmistakable potent flavour coconut or cashew milk, mightn’t seem so compelling, as they may impart a particularly nutty flavour after baking.

Vegan Oil

Great substitutions for butter can include vegan oils like coconut oil, and avocado oil. Adding any type of oil to your sourdough bread will help it achieve a softer crust and crumb, which can be a desirable outcome if you don’t particularly prefer tough, chewy sourdough crusts.

Types of Vegan Bread

Judging whether a type of bread is vegan-friendly or not, will boil down to the ingredients used to make it. The ingredients used to make bread can be manipulated, as long as the main elements remain the same i.e. flour, water and salt. When looking for a certain type of bread to take home from the grocery store, whilst following a plant-based diet, lots of questions sit at the base of a vegans mind. Which is why we’ve outlined the best vegan breads you can go for, minus the concerns and time consuming, research needed.

Providing that these types of bread do not contain animal products that might have been added to the starter, then these are undoubtedly vegan-friendly.

So is Sourdough Bread Vegan?

Basic sourdough bread is vegan, but when other non-vegan ingredients have been added to the sourdough starter, that’s when things start to turn a little tricky. Which is why many vegans choose to bake their own sourdough bread at home, with plant-based ingredients, so that they can comfortably enjoy the flavours of this wonderful bread.

FAQs

Can Vegans have Sourdough Bread?

Traditional sourdough bread is made with 3 simple ingredients: flour, salt and water which are all certainly vegan-friendly.

What Kind of Bread is Vegan?

The most common vegan bread types are sourdough, Ezekiel bread, ciabatta, focaccia and baguettes.

Is There any Dairy in Sourdough Bread?

Normally there are no elements of dairy or milk found in sourdough bread, although some bakers might decide to add these to the starter later on for added texture and flavours.

What Brands of Sourdough Bread are Vegan?

365 Whole Foods Market organic sourdough sandwich bread, Franz Bakery organic sourdough, Rudi’s Rocky Mountain sourdough bread.