As with many food products, the answer to the question “is it vegan?” isn’t a straight yes or no.
Finding vegan-friendly food at the store can usually be fairly easy to navigate as all food packaging, by law have to provide a full list of ingredients, but it can be more difficult with freshly-baked goods, or eating-on-the-go.
It’s impossible not to love a nice fresh toasted bagel loaded with all your favorite fillings, so is it good news or bad news for vegan bagel fans?
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Are Bagels Vegan?
The good news is standard plain bagels do tend to be vegan.
What are Bagels?
By definition, bagels are a “bread product originating in the Jewish communities of Poland. It is traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, that is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked.
The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked on the outer crust, with the traditional ones being poppy and sesame seeds.
Some may have salt sprinkled on their surface, and there are different dough types, such as whole-grain and rye.” (source: Wikipedia).
Are Bagels healthy?
Bagels tend to be very high in refined carbs and supply only trace amounts of healthy fat and protein, meaning like most things, they are best enjoyed in moderation, but absolutely deserve a place in our pantries!
Typical Nutritional Value of a Bagel
A typical bagel will include the following calories and nutrients:
- Calories: 289
- Protein: 11 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbs: 56 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Thiamine: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Manganese: 24% of the DV
- Copper: 19% of the DV
- Zinc: 8% of the DV
- Iron: 8% of the DV
- Calcium: 6% of the DV
For a heathier, less carby option, consider wholewheat or wholegrain bagels, as they are made with grainy, less refined flour and offer more nutritional benefits, such as fiber.
It is also worth being mindful of your bagel ingredients too. While vegan options are often a much healthier option, some plant-based meat substitutes (such as Quorn products) are usually high in sodium (salt) and can often be counterproductive to a healthy diet or lifestyle.
What are Bagels’ Ingredients?
A typical or plain bagel will likely contain the following ingredients:
- Flour. Wheat flour is commonly used, resulting in a strong, glutinous dough and dense, chewy texture, meaning bagels are often not gluten-free/suitable for coeliacs.
- Yeast. This ingredient ferments the sugar in the dough, releasing carbon dioxide, which is what allows the dough to rise. More modern bagels are often made with self-raising flour and contain no yeast.
- Salt. This mineral helps toughen gluten strands, regulate the yeast, as well as adding flavor.
- Liquid. Traditionally, only water is used to create moisture and bind ingredients together, but milk can also be used.
- Sweetener of baker’s choice. This can be anything from plain sugar, barley malt syrup, molasses, corn syrup, Stevia, or malt extract.
- Oil/Fat. Some recipes use vegetable oil or shortening to enhance the crumb of the finished bagel. Other types of oil will also work.
Why are Some Bagels Not Vegan?
Nowadays, bagels can come in many different flavors or ‘types’, to suit all palates and requirements. Some of the non-vegan bagel ingredient include:
- Honey. Certain recipes use honey or honey powder in place of sugar or malt. While some vegans eat honey, most don’t as honey is derived from bees, therefore is classed as an animal product.
- Eggs. These are sometimes added to the dough for flavor and color to give them a fluffier, Brioche texture, and may also be used to glaze a bagel to give it some color and shine.
- Milk. In some recipes, milk is used in place of water. This is unusual, however, as water is naturally the cheaper substance for bakers and manufacturers to use.
- L-cysteine. This is a type of amino acid that acts as a dough softener, and is sometimes used in commercial/mass produced bagel products. It’s usually derived from human hair or poultry feathers, ergo it is far from vegan-friendly.
Types of Bagels
- Ancient Grain
- Cinnamon Raisin
- Blue Berry
- Chocolate Chip
- French Toast
- Ancient Grain
- Whole Wheat
- Apple Cinnamon
- Power Protein
Often many commercially-bought bagels contain meat or dairy products, such as:
- Cream cheese, hard cheese, whipped cream, etc.
- Beef, ham, turkey, chicken, cured meats, etc.
- Smoked salmon, canned tuna, caviar, etc.
- Sauces/condiments including hollandaise, honey mustard or mayonnaise (all of which are not vegan).
What are New York Bagels?
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a New York bagel and a standard bagel, it is as follows: Firstly, they are larger. The texture also differs.
New Yorkers will claim the main difference in taste and texture of a real New York bagel compared to other styles of bagels, is simply down to the water content. New York City tap water, which supposedly contains certain minerals which they attribute to creating a better bagel than non-New York bagels.
New York tap water has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium, which New Yorkers claim makes the water softer, ergo the dough softer.
NYC municipal water also has a high level of TDS (better known as sediment), which will also contribute to the water being softer.
What Store-Bought Bagels are Vegan?
At present, the following bagel brands are labelled as vegan:
- New York Bakery Co. The core range is all vegan, but this may not be the case with any “special edition” flavors, so it is always worth checking the packaging.
- Dave’s Bagels
- Warburtons. As above, however, Warburtons is a mass-produced baked goods brand, therefore it is very likely their bagels are produced in factories that handle milk, honey, butter and eggs, and possibly non-vegan preservatives.
- Fitzgerald’s. Again, their core range is vegan, but this may not apply to any special editions.
- Sara Lee.
A busy day running errands can call for a quick bagel take-out. Some of the following companies offer vegan bagel options:
- Dunkin Donuts
- Panera Bread
So, you’ve sourced yourself a delicious pack of vegan-friendly bagels (or you’re out running errands and need a quick bite and have found a place that do vegan bagels), what then can you load your bagel with to make it super delicious (as well as super vegan)?!
Whether you fancy something sweet or savoury, we’ve got you covered! Below is a list of delicious vegan filling ideas to whet your appetite!
- Avocado, spring onion and lime.
- Roasted red pepper hummus and sun-blush tomatoes.
- Vegan bacon and scrambled tofu
- Vegan pastrami, gherkins, and beetroot
- Peanut butter/chocolate spread and banana
- Olive, tomato and hummus
- Vegan cream cheese, lemon and jalapeño
- Peanut butter and sliced apple
- Coconut vegan yoghurt, granola and cinnamon
- Chocolate spread and mixed forest berries
- Vegan sausage, sauerkraut and mustard
Why not make your own bagels?
What you will need:
- 2 large bowls – make sure one is non-metal
- Damp, clean (and preferably warm) dish towel
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Pastry brush
- Slotted spoon
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 ½ tbsp granulated sugar (or sweetener of choice)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 ½ cups (500g) bread flour + more for kneading
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Mix the sweetener and 1/2 cup of warm water together, and then pour over the yeast. Gently mix it together, and then allow it to sit for 15 minutes for the yeast to activate.
- Mix the flour and salt in your bowl. Make a hole in the middle, then add in your sweet yeast mixture along with 3/4 cup of the remaining warm water.
- Mix well until a smooth dough forms. If it is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of the remaining 1/4 cup warm water at a time as needed. If it is too wet, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time as needed. Dough should be moist; not too wet or dry.
- Flour your countertop or table space and knead your dough for 10 minutes (or until it is smooth and elastic-y).
- Wet the inside of a clean large non-metal bowl with water, place the dough inside, and turn to coat until the outside is moist. Cover with your warm, damp towel and set it to rise in a warm place for 1 hour (airing cupboard is perfect!), or until it has doubled in size.
- Once risen, flatten your dough and set it aside for 10 minutes.
- Cover your baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper and set aside. Remove the dough from the bowl, and divide the dough into 8 pieces (or 6 if you want to make them larger/New York size).
- Roll each piece into a ball. Repeat with all of the dough.
- Coat your finger in flour, then press into the center of ball to form a ring. Stretch the dough balls into a rings about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel, then place onto the baking sheet.
- Cover with your damp towel and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 425ºF, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Get your seasonings and almond milk ready (if you’ve opted to include these).
- Once your water has boiled, reduce the heat to medium, and use a slotted spoon to lower your bagels that fit into the water. Once they to float to the top (this won’t take long), boil for 2 minutes, flip, then boil for another 2 minutes.
- Once all the bagels have boiled, transfer them to your lined baking sheet. Brush the dough with almond milk, and sprinkle with your seasoning (if you’ve opted to use these).
- Bake the bagels 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.
- Enjoy! If stored well, your bagels will stay fresh from six to eight days. You can also freeze them.
Overall, vegans definitely can enjoy bagels, as most bagels are meat and dairy-free. Some contain milk, eggs, or honey, but overall most major eateries and stores offer a variety of vegan bagels to choose from.
Bagels can be enjoyed as a breakfast, lunch, or even dinner or snack option, and can be stuffed with lots of different tasty vegan options to suit your mood.
Whether you grab one on the go, buy a bag at your local grocery store, or have a try at making your own, bagels are the ideal carby option that is both versatile and delicious.
Bagels are frequently made with refined wheat flour and sugar, they should be enjoyed in moderation. Portion sizes are often too large, especially in the case of New York style bagels.
Still, with a few modifications and a bit of mindfulness, they can fit into a healthy diet.
For optimal health, either bake your own, thus allowing yourself full control over your ingredients, and be watchful of your portion size (refined carbs are very filling and fattening) and choose ready-made bagels with toppings made from whole, minimally processed ingredients.
Many food makers also use excess salt and preservatives to maintain the shelf-life of a product, so the best way to be sure what you’re eating is good for your body is to make your own.