Why Is American Bread So Sweet?

Published Categorized as Recipes, Ingredients

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Let’s be honest, we all love bread. Even something as simple as a bit of bread and butter or some toast can be delicious. Naturally, with how simple, tasty and filling bread is, many cultures in history have made their own spins on this staple food. However, the expectation when eating bread in most contexts is that it will be a savoury treat. Naturally then, many people who visit America usually have at least one question about the food. Why is American bread so sweet?

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American Bread vs British Bread

A loaf of bread in America is a very different beast to one from the UK. Just perusing the options in the bread aisle of an American grocery store would baffle and confuse many British and indeed European people.

American Bread

This is because American brands like Dave’s Killer Bread or Wonderbread are packed to the brim with high fructose corn syrup and various chemicals. 

This results in a very sweet and sugary bread that lasts ridiculously long due to the sheer amount of preservatives. To non-Americans, this bread tastes weird and is often considered to be revolting.

This has even become a legal issue in parts of Europe. For example, in Ireland, a court judge ruled that Subway bread was legally not bread at all. The reasoning for this is because of the high quantities of added sugars. As such, in Ireland, Subway bread is legally seen as a confectionary, similarly to something like cake.

British and European Bread

Outside of some exceptions, European and British bread is typically savoury. In other countries than America, regular white and whole wheat bread loaves will have little to no sugar at all.

Whilst in America you may have to diligently hunt for bread without sugar, in Britain and Europe these are standard options whether at the local bakery or the bakery section of a supermarket.  

Why Is American Bread So Sweet?

The cause of the sweetness of American bread is something that is prevalent in a lot of average American foods. This is the heavy presence of high fructose corn syrup. 

The American sweet tooth is something evident across a whole variety of different products on the market. White bread and even some whole wheat bread loaves are included in this. In fact, some brands contain so much added sugar that a loaf of bread will take up more calories than a snickers bar whilst containing just as much sugar, if not more.

Part of the reason for this difference in bread is how they are used. Whilst Americans may enjoy a good sandwich, they will be more likely to gravitate towards sweeter options than savoury. Examples include peanut butter and jelly. Meanwhile, in the UK and Europe, cheeses, sliced meat, some veg and maybe olive oil are commonly seen. As such, sweeter bread suits the former more, whilst more savoury loaves are better for the latter.

Why Is American Bread So Sweet?

Common Ingredients for American White Bread Vs British Bread

If you compare the difference in ingredients between British and American bread loaves, the reason for the difference in taste becomes even more obvious. This is true even when comparing different types of white sliced bread.

Below are the ingredients of two different bread brands, from the UK such as Hovis or Warburtons, along with one from America like Rainbo.

British Bread Loaf Ingredients:

  • Wheat flour (milled from 100% British Wheat)
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Soya Flour
  • Fermented Wheat Flour
  • Vegetable Fat
  • Emulsifiers made from vegetable oils (E472e, E471)
  • Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

American Bread Loaf Ingredients:

  • Enriched Bleached Flour: this contains Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Folic Acid
  • Skimmed Milk
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Yeast
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Yeast Nutrients: including Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate), Cornstarch, Calcium Propionate (Preservative 
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Soy Flour

Additionally, American loaves will likely contain two of the following dough conditions:

  • Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
  • Mono- and Diglycerides
  • Calcium Peroxide 
  • Enzymes
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Azodicarbonamide

Is there always sugar in American bread?

In the supermarket or grocery store, the vast majority of American bread products will contain sugar. In most brands of white sliced bread, you can expect that you’ll get at least three grams of sugar in every two slices. 

However, that is typically just the minimum as some brands will have obscene amounts of sugar in their bread. In fact, as mentioned above, the average American loaf of bread will contain more sugar than a Snickers bar. Bear in mind, that is just the average, meaning there are some which will contain more.

Why Is American Bread So Sweet?

Can You Find Good Bread In America?

The dominance of sweetened bread on American store shelves makes finding actually good bread very difficult. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an impossible task. When in search of some proper bread, you really have two options. These are to find somewhere that stocks it or making your own.

Buying Your Bread

We’ve thoroughly established that mainstream bread brands from big chain stores are a lost cause. However, if you look hard enough in the right places, you should be able to find bread that doesn’t have added sugars.

Good places to look are independent stores and bakeries, particularly if they make their own stock. However, places like Trader Joe’s or a Whole foods market will probably stock bread with less sugar. The caveat though is that you’ll be very hard-pressed to find regular white bread without sugar, as such your options will be wholegrain varieties.

If though, you are lucky enough to live near an English pub, you may be able to buy a loaf from them on the side. Alternatively, when you next visit the UK, you can stock up on a few loaves and freeze them when you get back to America.

Making Your Own Bread

If any of the above options either aren’t practical or are underwhelming then making your own bread may be the answer. This process can be as simple or as complicated as you wish it to be and this may even become a fun hobby. To make bread, all you need to do is get some ingredients, find a decent recipe and either get a bread maker or use your oven.

Whilst this is obviously more involved than buying your bread, the smell and taste of freshly baked bread just can’t be beaten. Especially when served with butter with something like tomato soup. Although you may have to watch that no sugar has snuck its way in there.

Why Is American Bread So Sweet?


American bread is sweet due to the inclusion of high amounts of sugar, with the average loaf exceeding the sugar content of a snickers bar. Additionally, many preservatives are included which further alter the taste of American bread. As such non-Americans visiting the states may wish to avoid mainstream brands and either seek out smaller bakeries or make their own bread.


How Sugary Is American Bread?

In the supermarket or grocery store, the vast majority of American bread products will contain sugar. In most brands of white sliced bread, you can expect that you’ll get at least three grams of sugar in every two slices. Additionally, the average American loaf of bread will contain more sugar than a Snickers bar.

Why Is American Bread Different?

American bread is different from European and British bread due to containing high quantities of added sugar. Additionally, it will also contain more chemical preservatives that make it last longer.

Why Is American Bread So Weird?

The taste of American bread is heavily influenced by the addition of sugar in the form of corn syrup. Additionally the inclusion of chemical preservatives will both influence the flavour along with making it last much longer than it otherwise would.

Is Bread Supposed To Taste Sweet?

Whether bread is meant to taste sweet often depends on the type of bread in question. Something like brioche or challah bread should absolutely taste slightly sweet. However, something like normal sliced bread shouldn’t really taste sweet and likely only will due to being made with excess sugar in the form of corn syrup.