Are Bagels Vegan? The Vegan's Guide to Bagels

Do these delicious doughy discs contain animal products, or can vegans bite in?

are bagels vegan photo illustration

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There’s nothing quite like the dense, toothy texture of bagels. In their most basic form, bagels are vegan, made from just flour, water, yeast, and salt. But other non-vegan ingredients—including dairy, honey, and eggs, along with less easily identifiable animal products—commonly appear in commercially produced bagels. 

Learn to decipher the label on that bag of bagels in the grocery store using our guide to plant-based bagels.

Why Many Bagels Are Vegan

Because of their simple basic ingredients, most bagels fit perfectly in a plant-based diet. In addition to using yeast to leaven (or rise) the dough, some vegan bagels use a sourdough starter. There are also rye and pumpernickel vegan bagels as well as vegan bagels dyed every color of the rainbow. 

Bagels can often contain a sweetener such as molasses (or non-vegan honey or sugar) as well as other emulsifiers and preservatives. Thickeners like vegan-friendly xanthan gum, guar gum. and tapioca starch or other enzymes are also quite common. Generally speaking, the less processed the bagel, the better chance that it’s vegan.

Why Some Bagels Are Not Vegan

Although the majority of bagels are completely plant-based, some recipes add animal products for different flavors and textures. Some are rather easy to spot—like the egg in egg bagels or the toasted slice of cheese on a jalapeño bagel. But others are more difficult.

Take l-cysteine, a dough softener, for example. You’d never know from its name that it’s a by-product of the poultry industry.

More common non-vegan ingredients also make their way into sweet bagels where the recipe swaps water for milk or when milk is used for a confectionary topping, like chocolate chips or cinnamon crunch.

The First Bite
Make sure your spread is vegan, too. Feng Zhao / Getty Images

What you fill your bagel with matters, too. Sure, a good schmear will almost always arrive with a bagel brunch, but unless the cream cheese is plant-based, you’ll be taking your bagel with veggies only.


A controversial ingredient in the vegan community, honey comes from small animals: bees. Vegans concerned with animal welfare see bees making honey as animal exploitation and therefore abstain from it. 

Though less commonly discussed, this reasoning can extend to almonds and avocados, which wouldn’t exist on commercial scales if honey bees weren’t available for pollination. In fact, a third of all food grown for humans requires bees in order to grow. 


Processed from chicken and turkey feathers, l-cysteine is made from the same proteins that make up nails and hair (although the rumor that some l-cysteine comes from human hair is very likely false.) This dough softener appears in many commercially processed bread products, including bagels.


Also a dough conditioner, lethicin helps blend oil and water to provide a softer consistency. Lecithin is often derived from vegan-friendly soy, but it can also be sourced from eggs. 

Mono- and Diglycerides

These fatty acids generally come from vegetable oils, including palm and soy, but they can also be derived from animal sources. They provide processed foods with better texture and help increase shelf life. You may see them listed as:

  • Mono- and diglyceride esters
  • Ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides
  • Monoacylglycerol and diacylglycerol (MAG and DAG)
  • Diacylglycerol oil


Sugar can come from two sources: sugar beets and sugarcane. Sugar made from beets is vegan-friendly because it doesn’t require a second refinement like cane sugar. During the second part of processing, cane sugar is filtered with non-vegan bone char to produce whiter sugar crystals. 

If sugar doesn’t distinguish its source, it’s likely a mix of beet and cane sugar. For this reason, some vegans don’t eat any kind of sugar. However, many vegans that focus on what is “practical and possible” do consider sugar a vegan-friendly food.

Did You Know?

Wheat is the third-largest field crop in the U.S., behind only soybeans and corn. That means wheat cultivation will have to play a future role in sustainable harvesting. Research indicates that intercropping wheat with corn (along with a few other tactics) can improve wheat production and lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with the grain.

Common Types of Vegan Bagels

High Angle View Of Coffee Served On Table
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Vegan bagels come in a variety of flavors and styles with added seeds, nuts, spices, herbs, fruits, and veggies. 

  • Plain
  • Sesame
  • Poppy 
  • Everything
  • Whole wheat
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon Raisin
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Blueberry
  • Multigrain (may contain honey)

Types of Non-Vegan Bagels

Sometimes non-vegan bagels speak for themselves, but other times animal ingredients appear where you least expect them. In fact, some bagel shops brush all their bagels with egg whites. Be sure to read the label or check with your server before purchasing to keep your bagel free of animal products.

  • Egg (often also includes sugar)
  • Asiago Cheese
  • Jalapeño Cheddar
  • French toast (likely to contain eggs, dairy, and sugar)
  • Honey Wheat
  • Cinnamon Crunch (likely to contain dairy)
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do bagels contain egg?

    Unless it's an egg bagel, identified by its distinctive yellow color, the chances are slim that your bagel contains eggs. Still, some pastry bagels will include eggs for a lighter texture.

  • Are Starbucks bagels vegan?

    Yes! All three varieties of Starbucks bagels—plain, cinnamon raisin, and everything—are vegan-friendly (although the cinnamon raisin does contain sugar).

View Article Sources
  1. Bichon, Emmanuelle et al. "Determination of L-cysteine origin on the basis of its δ15 N values." Food Chemistry, vol. 260, 2018, pp. 283-288., doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.03.139

  2. Hu, F., Chai, Q., Yu, A. et al. Less carbon emissions of wheat–maize intercropping under reduced tillage in arid areas. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 35, 701–711 (2015).

  3. Chai, Q., Qin, A., Gan, Y. et al. Higher yield and lower carbon emission by intercropping maize with rape, pea, and wheat in arid irrigation areas. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 34, 535–543 (2014).