Are Bagels Vegan? Learn What Ingredients You Need To Watch Out For!

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Do you know that bagels were a multi-million dollar business in the mid-90s? Every year, at least 20 million Americans eat bagels!

Is it the donut ring shape or the versatility with spreads and beverages that make bagels a long-standing favorite? Well i couldn’t care less really, because there’s one more important question: are bagels vegan?

If you love bread and live on it, you need to know the answer, right here, right now:

Well, not all bagels are vegan. But hey, that gives us hope! Now let’s find out which bagels we vegans can enjoy!

A Slice Of Bagel’s History

Popularly known in the mid-1900s as the “Jewish English muffin”, bagels were initially sold as frozen bread. The most popular story of its origin is that Austrians made the bread in the shape of a Polish king’s stirrups as a tribute. This was back in the late 17th century.

However, there is no way to verify this popular story’s veracity.  The old bread can also be seen in Polish books from the early 1600s. But, it doesn’t end there. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics were also said to have bagel drawings!

Although it’s still unclear whether the first bagel was made in Austria, Poland, or ancient Egypt, bagels were often seen as a bread with Jewish origins. 

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Other countries like Italy and China, during their earlier times, also have their own version of bagel breads.

The bagel first came to U.S. through New York in the late 19th century. Thanks to the Eastern European immigrants. This is why New York also had a long history of bagel specialties.

The bagel’s ring shape was thought to make them easier to transport. Some bake shops also find this shape useful for stacking them on a stick or stringing them up for display. But then again, a more practical explanation is that the middle hole allows the dough to cook more evenly.

In its earlier times, bagels were made with very basic ingredients like most staple breads. Now? A bagel can have a dozen or so ingredients! But still, they are known to have a longer shelf life than most breads. When it starts to get stale, you can just dip it in coffee or what have you to soften it again.

Bagels today are known as an all-American breakfast staple. You can see it in almost every café and bakery, and of course in homes, in different versions and varieties.

The bagel first came to U.S. through New York in the late 19th century. Thanks to the Eastern European immigrants. This is why New York also had a long history of bagel specialties.

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Bagel Ingredients: Traditional Vs. Commercial

Traditional bagels are known for their distinct way of cooking: boiling and baking. Ideally, it should be a bit chewy and dense with a blistered brown crust, although smooth and shiny crusts are more common now.

Both traditional and homemade bagels can be made with just:

  • bread flour
  • salt
  • sugar
  • yeast
  • water

Some recipes have also made it possible to make bagels out of just water and flour. Also, adding flavors and toppings are now more common.

On the other hand, most commercial bagels are more airy and sweeter. Not to mention they have much more ingredients that help to add volume and lengthen shelf life. Yes, I’m talking about preservatives and enhancers! And these are the most common ones you’ll see:

  • vitamins & minerals (fortification)
  • xanthan gum
  • cellulose gum
  • mono- & diglycerides
  • enzymes
  • emulsifiers

Traditional bagels are known for their distinct way of cooking: boiling and baking. Ideally, it should be a bit chewy and dense with a blistered brown crust, although smooth and shiny crusts are more common now.

What Makes A Bagel Not Vegan?

Although a lot of bagels are vegan like the traditional ones, many bagels are also NOT vegan. These ingredients from animals are becoming more common, so watch out for them:

  • eggs – a common binder often in place of gluten; some bakers also brush egg wash onto the crust to make them shinier.
  • butter – for flavor, although more common as a spread
  • animal fats – emulsifier
  • milk – usually a flavor enhancer
  • honey – they’re commonly a substitute for sugar, although some bake shops also add them in boiling water for the dough. An example is like how traditional Montreal bagels are made.
  • l-cysteine – an amino acid which is also a popular dough conditioner, which comes from human hair or duck feathers.
  • enzymes – non-fungi ones in baking are usually from the pancreatic enzymes of pigs.
  • mono- & diglycerides – emulsifiers which can either be from plant oils or animal fats.
  • xanthan gum – makes bagels chewy; some xanthan gums use milk products for fermentation; unless the brand says they are vegan, treat them as non-vegan

Common Non-Vegan Flavors & Toppings

  • cheese/cheddar
  • honey
  • egg
  • milk chocolate (choco chips)
  • cinnamon (most have milk)
  • asiago (contains cheese)

Although a lot of bagels are vegan like the traditional ones, many bagels are also NOT vegan.

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FAQs

Got some bagel questions? You might find the answer here!

1. Is there dairy in a bagel?

Not all bagels contain dairy, but when they do, it’s usually eggs and milk.

2. Are plain bagels vegan?

Not all. Plain bagels may also contain eggs and a lot of hidden animal products, depending on the brand.

3. Are Thomas bagels vegan?

Although the brand has said that the monoglycerides in their products are from plants, they did not say anything about their xanthan gum content. This emulsifier may be non-vegan since lactose and other milk products can be used in its fermentation.

4. Are Einstein bagels vegan?

Einstein Bros.’ plain bagels contain one mysterious ingredient: enzymes. In baking, this can be carbohydrases, proteases, or lipoxygenases. While many enzymes are grown from fungi, there are also ones that come for pigs’ pancreas.

5. Are Dunkin Donuts bagels vegan?

Many websites list Dunkin Donuts’ bagels as vegan. However, these websites do not contain sources to verify this. Moreover, their website lists enzymes as one of the ingredients of their plain bagels. They also have a warning:

“Please be advised that any of our products may contain, or may have come in contact with, allergens including Eggs, Fish, Milk, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree nuts, and Wheat.”

That said, it’s safer to treat them as NOT vegan.

6. Are Panera bagels vegan?

Mostly, yes! The plain bagels from Panera have the brand’s vegan symbol. Their other vegan flavors are: everything bagel, sesame, and blueberry.

7. Are Sara Lee bagels vegan?

The plain bagels from Sara Lee contain monoglycerides, which may come from animal fat. They also contain xanthan gum. I treat them as non-vegan, especially since there are many vegan bagels I can go for instead anyway.

8. Are Safeway bagels vegan?

Safeway bagels also contain monoglycerides. Their website does not address any vegan concerns, so they are also non-vegan to me.

9. Are Starbucks bagels vegan?

Hooray for vegan Starbucks patrons, their plain bagels are vegan!

10. Are Tim Hortons bagels vegan?

Yes. Tim Hortons’ plain bagels are vegan, as well as the rest of their classic varieties except for the grain bagel which contains honey.  Also avoid their specialty bagels as none of them are vegan.

11. Are Noah’s bagels vegan?

Noah’s pride themselves with their bagels made from simple ingredients: flour, yeast, brown sugar, salt, and water. However, while this definitely applies to their plain bagels, not all of their bagels are vegan as some flavors contain milk and eggs.

12. Are New York bagels vegan?

New York style bagels are known to be soft, chewy, and doughy, with a bigger hole. While its traditional recipe is vegan, it may still vary between brands, so you must always check the ingredients.

13. Are Bruegger’s bagels vegan?

Their plain bagels do not have any animal ingredients. However, Bruegger’s produces them in a facility that also processes eggs. This means all their bagels may contain traces of eggs, making them NOT vegan.

14. Are everything bagels vegan?

Everything = every topping! While this usually only includes different tiny seeds (sesame, poppy) and garlic and onion flakes (vegan!), this will again depend on the baker. Some may add non-vegan toppings like cheese, plus the dough may or may not contain non-vegan ingredients. So NOT ALL of them are vegan.

15. Are cinnamon raisin bagels vegan?

Mostly not because of the addition of milk, but some brands of cinnamon raisin bagels do make them vegan, like The Greater Knead.

16. Are whole wheat bagels vegan?

It depends on the brand or bake shop. Whole wheat breads don’t usually contain eggs, but many brands add enhancers and preservatives from animal products.

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What Brand Of Bagels Are Vegan?

Now since it’s hard to tell if a bagel is vegan just by the flavor, here’s a solution: vegan brands! These brands have all-vegan bagel varieties so whatever flavor they have, you can trust it’s vegan-friendly!

I’m sure there are more vegan-friendly bagel brands out there waiting to be found! If you know of any other brands, just let me know and I’ll gladly add them to this list!

Now since it’s hard to tell if a bagel is vegan just by the flavor, here’s a solution: vegan brands! These brands have all-vegan bagel varieties so whatever flavor they have, you can trust it’s vegan-friendly!

Vegan Bagel Recipe

Got some spare time to boil and bake? Try this recipe for vegan bagels!

Making your own bagel can be a bit time consuming as you wait for the dough to rise. But once you get it right, it can be so worth it! You might actually never buy bagels from stores ever again! Here’s a traditional recipe you can make at home:

Traditional Vegan Bagel from Genuine Ideas  (tweaked version!)

Yields: 8 bagels

Ingredients (weigh the ingredients for accuracy):

  • 500 g (18 oz) of your choice of bread flour, sifted (if you like your bagel denser and full of blisters, you’ll need a high-gluten bread flour)
  • 2½ tsps table salt (no less than 1 ½ tsp: this is important to get the right crust and firmness)
  • 270 g (1 ¼ cups) lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsps barley malt syrup/powder
  • 2 tsps yeast (preferably cake yeast, but dry active yeast is okay)
  • your choice of toppings (e.g., poppy or sesame seeds), as much as you’d like
  • 2-4 tbsps of baking soda (to use on boiling water)

Materials:

  • oil for greasing
  • large pot
  • mixing bowls, small and medium to large size
  • sift or strainer for flour
  • spatula or spoon for mixing flour
  • slotted spoon or Chinese skimmer (for flipping doughs while boiling)
  • stand mixer
  • wire rack or cloth towel (for draining bagels after boiling)
  • fine mesh (¼”) wire rack for oven heating or parchment paper on a baking (cookie) sheet (must be a dark color)
  • plastic wrap
  • rimmed baking sheets with any cover
  • smooth cotton cloth or parchment paper (in the size of your baking sheet)

Procedure:

  1. In a small bowl, combine salt, yeast, malt, and water. Give it a vigorous stir until it dissolves completely. The resulting mixture should look milky. Transfer all the mixture to the stand mixer’s bowl and attach the dough hook.
  2. Slowly and carefully, add the flour to the mixture. Set the mixer to its lowest speed and let it mix until you get a dough. This will take about 3 minutes. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed and continue until the dough is stiff enough but smooth. This usually takes 5-7 minutes.

After this, you can take the dough from the bowl and knead with your hands to make sure all sections are stretched. Then you can put it back in the mixer and mix for 2 or 3 more minutes.

By this time, your dough should be smooth and not tacky. If you don’t achieve this, add a teaspoon of flour little by little and knead until you get the right texture. This part might need more patience and strength if your dough feels tight.

  1. Place the dough on a clean, flat surface and stretch it into a long, cylindrical shape. Cut it into 8 equal parts and roll each one into a ball until smooth even. Lightly brush some oil on a plastic wrap and use this to cover the dough completely. Leave for 5 minutes.
  2. To shape the balls of dough into a bagel, push your thumb into the center and gently stretch outwards in a circle until you get an even ring or donut shape (about 1” hole). You can save the bagel holes that you’ve taken off from the middle. Roll them into balls and cook with your bagels if you like.
  3. Spread the cotton cloth on the bottom of your baking sheet. Lightly dust it with some flour before placing the bagels in it. This will keep them from sticking. This works better than using oil directly on the baking sheet.

However, if the dough is on the stiff side, oiling a parchment paper will also work.

  1. Leave the baking sheet in room temperature and allow it to rise for one hour. Pour cool water in a big bowl for dough testing.

Place one bagel in the water; if it immediately floats to the surface, then it’s risen fully. Otherwise, just pat it with a clean cloth to dry, place it back in the baking sheet, and leave for another 10 minutes.

You can also use the bagel holes for the water test if you don’t want to use the bagel doughs.

  1. Place a cover on the baking sheet to cover the bagel doughs. You can use another baking sheet but make sure to secure it with a rubber band or tie. However, a plastic wrap with some oil will work better. Refrigerate it overnight (12-48 hours, although 24 hours work better).
  2. On your oven, make sure the rack is right in the center. Preheat it to 4500 (4250F for convection ovens since the higher airflow will cause the crust to go dry thick prematurely).
  3. On your large pot, pour water until it’s ⅔ deep. Add the baking soda and stir thoroughly. This alkaline mixture will help you get a brown and bubbly crust. Heat it up until it boils just after simmering.
  4. Take out the bagel doughs and carefully drop them one by one into the boiling water with the top side down. Remember that the doughs should be floating. You can work by batches, maybe 2 or 4 at a time. After about 45 seconds, flip each dough over and leave for 45 seconds more.

To drain, just remove the bagels from water and transfer them to the wire rack or cloth towel, with the bottom side down.

  1. If you want to use toppings, this is the best time to sprinkle them as they will stick better to the moist bagel. When you’re done, just lightly pat the toppings into the bagel so they stay in place.
  2. Brush some oil on a fine mesh wire rack (1/4″ mesh) before transferring the bagels in it. This mesh rack will allow air to circulate more evenly around the bagels while you heat it in the oven. This way you’ll get a more even-looking crust.

If you don’t have a fine mesh rack, you can just oil up a parchment paper then place it on a any baking sheet with a dark color. That also works. Place the fine mesh rack (or baking sheet) on the grating inside the oven.

  1. Leave to bake until the bagels get a crisp-looking deep gold brown color. This may take 12-15 minutes, but shorter if you’re using a convection oven. Note though that ovens can be so different with each other.  

Feel free to experiment, especially if it’s your first time, to find out how long it takes to get the right color and texture. On your first attempt, you can try this by baking with smaller batches.

Example:

  • 1st batch – remove after 10 mins.
  • 2nd batch -remove after 12 mins.
  • 3rd batch – remove after 15 mins. and so on.
  1. Once you get the right color and crispness of the crust, transfer bagels on the wire rack and allow to cool. But you’ll probably want to eat it while warm anyway, especially with your fave spread or dip!
  2. For storage, let the bagels cool down completely and wrap tightly in a container or zip bag. You can freeze this for up to a month (or a bit more!). 

BONUS: To learn how to make your very own vegan bagels, check out the video below!

Bonus: Vegan Bagel Spreads!

Don’t get me wrong, bagels can be perfect just by itself, whatever beverage you choose to have it with. Actually even without a beverage! But admit it, sometimes, upgrading your bagel with some tasty and creamy spread can make a whole lot of difference!

Here are some spreads you can also use as a dip for your favorite vegan bagel.

Bagels are almost always synonymous to cream cheese, so here are vegan cream cheese brands for you:

These cream cheese brands also come in other flavors which are vegan as well. So, feel free to give them a try!

You can also try these vegan spreads that you can easily make at home:

  • hummus
  • peanut butter
  • avocado
  • carrot lox (vegan version of salmon lox)
  • slices of fruits and vegetables
  • dark chocolate
  • fruit jams

Conclusion

Any bagel recipe today can easily have eggs and other non-vegan ingredients in it. What you can do is stick to brands that you can trust, and always make it a point to check the ingredients. Just always remember what to watch out for!

How do you have your bagel as a vegan? Have you come across any new brands and bakeshops that have vegan bagels? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.

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