For as long as I can remember, flour has been a staple in my pantry. My favorite bread and pastries are just impossible without it!
And speaking of food, flour is also one of the most common ingredients in many food labels.
So as a vegan, whether you’re into baking or not, this is a question you must think of:
Is flour vegan? Mostly yes. But what are the exceptions? And how do you choose the right flour?
If you are yet to figure that out, don’t worry! All the answers are right here, just read through!
How Is Flour Made?
Flours are a product of milling or grinding grains into a fine powder. Although wheat is the most common source, many other plant products can also make for a great flour:
How Is Flour Made?
Most grain sources of flour already contain natural nutrients. However, a lot of these are often lost during processing. Also, most productions remove a lot of the layers of the grains, which contain more nutrients. What is left is usually just the endosperm, which has little nutrients only.
This why a lot of manufacturers enrich or fortify their flour with vitamins and minerals. However, there are also laws in many countries that require the addition of nutrients in flour products.
The flour production process is a bit lengthy, but chemicals and machines can help speed it up:
Physical and chemical analysis
Grading for protein content
Washing and drying
Conditioning/tempering to control moisture content
Processing (bleaching, oxidizing)
Addition of vitamins, minerals, and leavening agents
Common Ingredients In Flour
1. Bleaching agents
When flour ages, exposure to oxygen eventually makes it white, although this natural process can take 1-2 months or more. So, to make it faster, manufacturers usually just rely on bleaches to get a white color in just 2 days.
Bleaching chemicals also help to make flours softer and finer. Flours with bleaching agents have a distinct bright white color while the ones without it have a dull, off-white color.
- benzoyl peroxide
- calcium peroxide
- chlorine gas
- chlorine dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
Although FDA regulates the levels of these chemicals in food manufacturing, other countries like Canada and UK bans it use.
2. Oxidizing agents
Improves baking quality by enhancing its elasticity and strength once it turns into dough. Oxidizers also help to age flour
- ascorbic acid
- calcium bromate
- calcium iodate
- potassium bromate
- calcium iodate
- calcium peroxide
- chlorine dioxide
- glucose oxidase (mold or honey)
If you notice, there are chemicals that act as both bleacher and oxidizer. However, most manufacturers still use more than one of these chemicals.
- Leavening agents – you’ll only see this in self-rising flours. Usually in chemical forms, leaveners help to increase the release of gases for more volume.
- calcium phosphate
- fumaric acid
- monocalcium phosphate
- sodium bicarbonate
- sodium pyrophosphate
- sodium aluminium sulfate
These chemical leaveners come in pairs that include a base (bicarbonates) and an acid (phosphates). It may also include a diluting agent.
- Salt – often comes with leaveners as it helps improve the flour’s rise by strengthening the gluten content, allowing more flexibility for rising.
- Vitamins and minerals – some laws require flour manufacturers to add nutrients to their products. The most common ones are iron and B vitamins, especially thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
- Enzymes – improves shelf life by stabilizing the quality of the flour. Some enzymes act as oxidizers and bleachers as well. These enzymes in flours usually come from wheat, yeast, and bacterial or fungal fermentation.
Although animal enzymes do exist and are not uncommon in the food industry, the ones in flour are usually vegan.
Blending or creating a mixture of enzymes is also common. This improves the efficiency of the enzymes, although combinations vary depending on the type of flour.
When Is Flour Not Vegan?
The chemicals you’ll find in flours are all vegan. So what should you look for when shopping for vegan flour? First, let’s talk about the most common consumer beliefs surrounding vegan flours.
1. Bleaching With Bone Char
If you already know how bone chars taint sugars (if not, read this), then you’ll probably think manufacturers may also use animal bones to bleach flour. This sounds like a big possibility of course, but I am yet to see flours that use bone char.
In the copious amount of research I did about flour brands and manufacturers, they all use chemical bleaches. NO BONE CHARS. Zilch! I’m not really sure why but I’m guessing this is because chemicals are cheaper. Plus it doesn’t require additional methods (like setting bones on fire first).
2. Insects In Grains
Okay, this might sound crazy, but there are also concerns about the presence of insects in grains. This is after harvest and during flour manufacture. Insects after harvest are likely I’m sure, but during the manufacturing process? I really, highly doubt it.
If you look at the production process of flour, quality control will make this impossible.
Grains that go through the purification process are repeatedly run through machines to check for foreign materials. Not to mention the repetitive cleaning. This means that no foreign bodies (like insects) will ever end up in the mill, so the machines only grind pure grains.
What To Really Watch Out For
1. Sharing Of Facilities
It is also common for companies that produce flour to also produce bread products. What does this mean? Sharing of facilities! Breads often include dairy products like eggs, milk, and butter.
Most brands usually only have separate facilities for their gluten-free products and not for regular flours. For hardcore vegans, sharing facilities with dairy products is a no-no.
2. B-Vitamins Sources
Do you know that the most common source of B vitamins are animal products? Synthetic sources are also available especially for use in food fortifications. However, this is something you can’t just figure out from the labels. Unless the packaging carries the vegan stamp, you’ll have to ask the brand to be sure.
Although enzymes can be made in laboratories, animals are also sources of enzymes. Those with names like lipo- or lipase, are usually from animals, although not all of them. Again, it will always be best to ask the manufacturer to make sure.
4. Insect Flour
There are also flours that are NOT vegan even without the additives. Have you heard of insect flours? They are commonly made by pulverizing insects:
- cricket flour
- grasshopper flour
- locust flour
- mealworm flour
Not trying to gross you out, but yes, these insect flours exist! Proponents of this idea believe that insects are a more nutritional and economical choice. These ground insects are usually made for protein powders, but baking flour versions are seem to be more common now.
While these flours are obviously not vegan, they can be combined with plant flour like cassava or wheat flour. That’s what you need to be careful with!
Toxic Ingredients In Flours!
Flours are mostly vegan, hooray! But there’s a caveat: some flours may contain harmful chemicals!
Just how harmful are they?
- potassium bromate – an oxidizer that can cause kidney and thyroid tumors, including cancer.
- azodicarbonamide (ADA) – a dough conditioner, can cause kidney problems, asthma and allergies; also potentially carcinogenic.
- chlorine – bleaching agent, high levels are acutely toxic to organs.
- alloxan – a byproduct of bleaching, induces diabetes in laboratory rats.
Although harmful, the FDA allows the use of some of these chemicals in food in small amounts. However, a lot of countries ban their use for obvious reasons.
While the low levels of these chemicals may seem harmless, constant exposure to these chemicals may eventually be harmful.
1. Is white flour vegan?
The popular white flour (usually all-purpose) is made from wheat grains and may be bleached or unbleached, and refined. Bleaching flours use chemicals instead of bone char, so white flour is vegan.
However, try to avoid flours that had bleaching, as they might also contain bromates and peroxides, which are toxic and carcinogenic.
2. Is plain flour vegan?
Plain flour is also known as white flour, so yes, it is vegan.
3. Is wheat flour vegan?
Yes it is! But always check the ingredients. Pure wheat flour without additives is vegan.
4. Is unbleached flour vegan?
Yes, and better than bleached too! However, it may also contain chemicals, so choose carefully.
5. Is corn flour vegan?
Better known as cornstarch, corn flour is only made with ground corn endosperm, and is vegan! Just make sure to choose non-GMO brands since corn is one of the most common GM crops.
6. Is rice flour vegan?
Yes! It can be made from either white or brown rice. As always, check the additives for any suspicious ingredient.
7. Is tapioca flour vegan?
Tapioca is another name for the root crop cassava. It is naturally vegan, but make sure you’re getting the pure version, without additives.
8. Is chickpea flour vegan?
Yes. Chickpea flour is made from garbanzos beans.
9. Is almond flour vegan?
One of the most common nut flours today, yes, almond flour is vegan!
10. Is coconut flour vegan?
Made from ground coconut meat, yes it is vegan!
11. Is all-purpose flour vegan?
Also known as white flour, most all-purpose flours are vegan. If it contains additives that may possibly be from animal products, ask the manufacturer to be sure.
12. Is Gold Medal flour vegan?
The brand does not answer this in their website. Their flours contain “enzymes” and B vitamins, so I sent an email to ask, and here’s their answer:
“All our flour is Vegan Friendly.”
13. Is King Arthur flour vegan?
King Arthur flours are free from preservatives and bleaching chemicals. They also seem free from any additives as well. But since there’s no vegan stamp, I sent an inquiry as well to confirm. Their answer was quite lengthy, so here’s the gist:
- Signature Flours plus their organic versions
- Gluten-free Almond Flour and Coconut Flour
Flours that share production equipment with eggs and milk:
- Specialty flours plus the majority of their conventional mixes and ingredients
- Gluten-free line of blends and mixes
14. Is spelt flour vegan?
Yes. Spelt flour is made from ancient grains, which has a tougher husk. This nutty vegan flour is also the best alternative for whole wheat flour.
Vegan Flour Brands
Finally! The brands that have vegan stamps, either on the product packages or the website’s product page! Click on the links to get ‘em!
- Bob’s Red Mill (all flours)
- Anthony’s Goods Flour (except peanut flour and almond flour)
- Planet Organic Flours (all flours)
- Extra White Gold (all flours)
- Now Foods Flour (all-purpose, almond, coconut, and tapioca)
PHM Products (unbleached all-purpose flour, and unbleached artisan bread flour)
Tips In Choosing Vegan Flour
❌NO chemicals (bleach, bromate, etc.)
❌NOT made in facilities that process animal products
✅ Simple and pure ingredients
✅ Carries a vegan stamp
Lastly, flours, especially those that went through a refining process, is not really healthy. Breads and pastries are a nice treat once in a while. But as much as possible, go for more nutrient-dense foods instead.
Most flours are vegan, thank goodness! But although you don’t need to worry much, remember to choose flours carefully. Watch out for toxic chemicals, and just keep your consumption to a minimum.
Are there flour brands you trust? Or would you rather just make your own flour? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.