Is Sourdough Bread Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vegan Sourdough

We provide our expert sourdough shopping tips.

is sourdough bread vegan illustration on cutting board

Treehugger / Joshua Seong

Vegans have their pick when it comes to plant-based breads, and sourdough often tops the list. That’s because almost all sourdough bread is vegan-friendly. With very few exceptions, sourdough doesn’t include any non-vegan ingredients. It is full of naturally occurring yeast and bacteria that give sourdough its unique texture and taste and keep baked goods that have sourdough fresher for longer.

We explore what makes sourdough unique from other commercially produced breads and what ingredients to watch for when examining food labels or menu options. 

Why Most Sourdough Bread Is Vegan

mound of fresh sourdough bread dough next to starter ready for baking

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Sourdough begins humbly with a mix of vegan-friendly flour and water. Left at room temperature, this starter, as it's often called, begins to acidify and ferment, giving sourdough its signature sour flavor and chewy texture.

The starter becomes home to a community of naturally occurring microbes, including yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Both yeast (a member of the fungi family) and lactobacillus (which, contrary to its name, is not a dairy derivative) are generally considered vegan, even if neither of them is technically made from plants.

These microbes then devour the flour. The bacteria produce lactic acid, giving sourdough its tangy taste, and the off-gassing creates the carbon dioxide sourdough bread needs to rise without additional leavening agents.

For this reason, traditional sourdough bread (also known as Type I) doesn't include additional yeast to help rise it. Some sourdough does use baker's yeast as well as a sourdough starter. The starter enhances the texture, flavor, and shelf life in these Type II sourdoughs, but it is not the primary leavening agent. Type III sourdoughs use freeze-dried powder from either Type I or Type II sourdough, and this is the type most typical of commercially produced bread.

Regardless of its type, though, whether it's made from baker's yeast or not, sourdough is still almost always vegan.

When Is Sourdough Bread Not Vegan?

person stretches out homemade DIY sourdough loaf bread to bake

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

On occasion, additional ingredients may find their way into a basic—and vegan—sourdough bread recipe. You’re more likely to encounter these non-vegan ingredients in more highly processed or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, homemade bread. 

In highly processed sourdough sandwich bread, you may find eggs, although that’s relatively uncommon. Certain types of sourdough milk bread use both milk and butter. These sweet sourdough breads will often indicate their non-vegan status in their name, making it easy for vegans to identify and avoid them.

Additionally, some recipes for whole-wheat sourdough call for honey to add sweetness. Vegans will want to check the label or ask the server about the contents of any whole-wheat sourdough bread.

Types of Vegan Sourdough Bread

sourdough bread slices with pat of butter on blue plate with strawberries

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Sourdough appears in many more kinds of bread than just a traditional wheat flour loaf. When shopping for sourdough, keep in mind that these varieties are usually vegan-friendly as well. (But always check the label.)

  • Borodinsky. This Russian sourdough is made with rye instead of wheat, sweetened with molasses, and rich with caraway and coriander.
  • Butterbrot. As the name says, this German sourdough bread is usually topped with butter, cheese, or meat, but the bread itself is typically vegan.
  • Injera. A gluten-free Ethiopian spongy, sour flatbread that is usually made from teff.
  • Pumpernickel. A slightly sweet, dense, dark vegan sourdough made with rye and wheat flour.

Types of Non-Vegan Sourdough Bread

women cuts into large mound of Italian Panettone holiday bread with raisins

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Certain sourdough varieties regularly include non-vegan ingredients, but you can occasionally find vegan versions in both stores and restaurants.

  • Amish friendship bread. This cinnamon-and-sugar sweet bread often includes milk in the starter.
  • Coppia ferrarese. This non-vegan Italian sourdough uses lard, malt, olive oil, and flour. It is also known as pane ferraese, ciopa, or ciupeta.
  • Panettone. This Italian candied sourdough loaf is popular during the holidays. Panettone often contains honey, butter, milk, and eggs, although vegan versions exist.
  • Sourdough milk bread. Popular in Asian cuisine, variations of sourdough milk bread recipes include non-vegan ingredients including milk, butter, and sometimes honey.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is sourdough bread suitable for vegans?

    Nearly all sourdough bread is vegan-friendly. Some non-vegan ingredients, including dairy, honey, and eggs, can appear in sourdough, but those are outstanding exceptions to the rule. Check the label or ask your server if you have concerns over the contents of your sourdough bread.

  • What kind of bread is vegan?

    Fortunately for vegans, most kinds of bread are vegan. Beyond sourdough, vegans can enjoy bagels, focaccia, pita, and more.

  • Is sourdough dairy-free?

    Generally speaking, sourdough is dairy-free. The essential ingredients of sourdough don’t require dairy, but certain sweet sourdough milk bread varieties replace water with cow’s milk. If so, the dairy will likely be labeled.

  • Is Dunkin’ Donuts sourdough bread vegan?

    Yes, the sourdough bread used as the base for Dunkin’s avocado toast is indeed vegan. Since Dunkin’ doesn’t have a vegan donut yet, we love this plant-based breakfast option. 

View Article Sources
  1. Reese, Aspen T., et al. “Influences of Ingredients and Bakers on the Bacteria and Fungi in Sourdough Starters and Bread.MSphere, vol. 5, no. 1, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1128/msphere.00950-19.

  2. De Vuyst, Luc, et al. “Yeast Diversity of Sourdoughs and Associated Metabolic Properties and Functionalities.” International Journal of Food Microbiology, vol. 239, 2016, pp. 26–34., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2016.07.018.

  3. Landis, Elizabeth A, et al. “The Diversity and Function of Sourdough Starter Microbiomes.” ELife, vol. 10, 2021, https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.61644.

  4. "Sourdough Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Type, By Application (Breads, Cookies, Cakes, Waffles, Pizza), By Region, Competitive Landscape, And Segment Forecasts, 2019 - 2025." Grand View Research.