Everyone knows the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but should a vegan’s breakfast include bagels? These rings of wheat can provide an easy, filling, and versatile breakfast that pairs well with juice, coffee, tea, or a smoothie, but are bagels vegan?
In this post, we’ll help you determine which bagels are suitable for vegans, and give you ideas for how to take a humble, plain bagel and make it into a gourmet plant-based breakfast.
But first, let’s figure out what animal-based ingredients are lurking in some bagels.
What can make bagels non-vegan?
Bagels (or beigels, if you’re referring to the traditional version of this Polish staple), like most bread-based products, may contain any number of additives that can make them not vegan. The most common offenders are milk by-products, egg, honey, and a dough conditioner called L-cysteine.
You’re surely familiar with eggs, milk, and honey, but L-cysteine is foreign to most people, including those who are just starting their vegan journey. L-cysteine is an enzyme used as a dough conditioner to make bread products softer, but it’s usually derived from duck feathers or human hair.
Now, I’m all about soft bread, but not if it means eating feathers or hair!
One way to guarantee that your bagels are free of all animal-based ingredients is to make them yourself!
Of course, not everyone will have the time or patience for homemade bagels.
Fortunately for all you bagel-loving vegans out there (I know I’m one of them!), many of the bagels you’ll see at grocery stores, coffee shops, and other eateries are vegan-friendly. We’ll go through some of the more popular brands so you can identify vegan bagels like a pro.
Vegan bagels on the go
If you’re out and about and need to grab breakfast on the go, a bagel may be the perfect option. In this section, we’ll look at many of the most popular chains and figure out once and for all which of their bagels are vegan-friendly.
Einstein Bagel Bros.
If you love bagels, you probably love Einstein Bagel Bros. Thankfully, most of their fresh and tasty bagels are vegan-friendly.
There are a few exceptions, such as the Cinnamon Sugar flavor, which uses an egg wash to make the sugar topping stick, and other, more obviously non-vegan flavors that use cheese.
You can check out their product information spreadsheet to determine which types of bagels contain eggs and/or milk. (1)
If you’re picking up a baker’s dozen to take home, you may want to invest in a quality bagel slicer to avoid accidentally butchering your bagels.
Owned by the same parent company as Einstein Bagel Bros., Noah’s Bagels is another popular destination for true bagel lovers.
For many years, Noah’s Bagels contained L-Cysteine, and were therefore not vegan-friendly. However, according to several emails from the company, Noah’s has transitioned to 100% synthetic L-cysteine that isn’t derived from feathers or hair. Now vegans can enjoy most of their bagels!
Like Einstein Bagel Bro’s, Noah’s offers a complete list of product allergen information, making it easier to determine which of their bagels and other products are vegan-friendly. (2)
Even the world’s most popular coffee chain carries vegan-friendly bagels. Per the company’s website, their vegan flavors include plain, Sprouted Grain, Raisin, and Blueberry — the perfect pairing with your favorite coffee or tea! (3)
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
If you prefer The Coffee Bean to Starbucks, you can still enjoy a vegan bagel at this chain.
While Coffee Bean’s bagels used to contain honey, this ingredient has recently been removed, making all of their bagels vegan, except for the cheese jalapeño flavor. (4)
If Panera isn’t on your vegan watchlist, it certainly should be. This casual chain has a ton of vegan options, including several of their bagels. (5)
Treat yourself to a blueberry, poppyseed, sesame, cranberry walnut, or plain bagel on your next visit.
America’s favorite donut chain offers a surprising variety of vegan options, including several of their bagels. (6)
You can enjoy a cinnamon raisin, everything, garlic, onion, plain, poppy seed, salt, or sesame bagel with a cup of Dunkin’s beloved coffee (now available with almond milk!).
Vegan-friendly bagels at the grocery store
Many of the generic brands of bagels that you’ll see at grocery stores tend to be vegan, with the exception of obviously non-vegan flavors like honey wheat or egg. Trader Joe’s store brand of bagels are vegan in the plain and whole wheat varieties, as are the 365 brand bagels sold at Whole Foods.
Nearly all of Sara Lee’s bagels are vegan, with the exception of the “Soft & Smooth” varieties. Most of the Thomas brand of bagels are vegan as well, including their Blueberry, Everything, and Cinnamon Swirl flavors.
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Building the perfect bagel sandwich
If you’re craving something more filling than a simple bagel with vegan cream cheese, there are tons of recipes for mouthwatering bagel sandwiches that will spark your culinary creativity and make you a happy, happy vegan.
PETA offers great suggestions for yummy bagel toppings and fillers that vary from sweet to savory, simple to slightly more complex. Many of these options are loaded with protein, but if you’re particularly active, you may want to consider adding a vegan protein bar to your breakfast or post-workout meal. (7)
Along with a bagel, dairy-free yogurt, or green smoothie, the right bar can give you an extra boost of energy and make it much easier to meet your daily protein needs.
If you’re missing a good ol’ fashioned bagel with lox, My Darling Vegan has got you covered with a salmon-free version of this classic. (8)
For something a bit heartier, try Rabbit and Wolves’ vegan breakfast bagel sandwich, which has all the flavors of an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich with none of the animal cruelty. Paired with a hearty shake with a spoon or two of plant-based protein powder, this could be the perfect post-workout breakfast. (9)
You can even make yours extra special by toasting it up in a sandwich maker before diving in!
“Are bagels vegan?”…answered!
Bagels are more often vegan than not, but some may contain egg, milk, honey, or a gross feather- or hair-derived enzyme known as L. cysteine.
Fortunately, avoiding these ingredients is easier than ever, with most major restaurant and grocery store chains offering plenty of different varieties of vegan-friendly bagels.
And remember, a plain bagel is really just a blank culinary canvas waiting to be painted with plant-based goodness, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different toppings and flavor combinations.
Once you’ve found a winner, let me know in the comments section below!
About The Author:
Cristina is a writer, doggy daycare attendant, and vegan of nearly a decade. She earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature with a minor in gender studies from University of California, Irvine. As an undergrad, she served as president of the university’s animal rights club and conducted and presented research on the intersections of feminism and veganism.
When she’s not writing or taking care of dogs, she enjoys reading everything from autobiographies to YA fantasy novels, tending to her houseplants, cooking, and drawing. She lives in Southern California with her boyfriend and their dog.
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- Einstein Bros. | Nutritional Information | https://www.einsteinbros.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/EBB-Nutrition-Guide-Master-April-2021.pdf
- Noah’s Bagels | Nutrition & Allergen Information | https://noahs.com/wp-content/uploads/NNYB-Nutrition-Guide-Master-1.pdf
- Starbucks | Sprouted Grain Bagel | https://www.starbucks.com/menu/food/bakery/sprouted-grain-bagel
- PETA | The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Adds a Bunch of New Vegan Snacks | https://www.peta.org/about-peta/victories/coffee-bean-tea-leaf-new-vegan-snacks/
- Panera Bread | Vegan Menu: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Options | https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/articles/eating-vegan.html
- Gabby Cano | 5 Vegan Dunkin’ Donuts Menu Items You Didn’t Know About | https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/vegan-dunkin-donuts-menu-items
- Whitney | The 7 Best Vegan Bagel Toppings | https://www.peta2.com/vegan-life/best-vegan-bagel-toppings/
- Sarah McMinn | Vegan Lox Bagel Sandwich | https://www.mydarlingvegan.com/vegan-bagel-lox/
- Lauren Hartmann | Vegan Breakfast Bagel Sandwich | https://www.rabbitandwolves.com/vegan-breakfast-bagel-sandwich/