Friday 14 July 2017

Things That Vegans Surprisingly Can Eat... Like Bread and Pasta!

can a vegan eat bread
Alongside the usual questions people ask me like 'why are you vegan?', 'isn't it unhealthy to be vegan?' and 'is it possible to travel as a vegan?', people often ask me if vegans can eat certain things – like bread and pasta. In fact the two questions I'm asked the most are 'can vegans eat pasta?' and 'can vegans eat bread?' (Spoiler alert: yes, mostly... it depends!)

It's a fair question. To most, what a vegetarian can and can't eat is very simple: vegetarians don't eat meat and meat tends to come as meat and isn't really hidden anywhere... okay, there are a few exceptions like sweets, parmigiano cheese and certain beers, but meat very often looks like what it is (albeit usually without feathers, bones and skin, etc).

But what a vegan can and can't eat is much harder: alongside the meat and fish that vegetarians can't eat, vegans just don't consume any kind of animal product at all: no dairy, no eggs or honey – all three of which are used in many many types of processed food. Certain cakes, chocolate, breads, pastas crisps, cereals – you name it. Thus the confusion about bread which is a processed food too, after all. Don't worry, I'm here to answer all your other questions as well – like 'can vegans eat yeast?' :)
is bread vegan
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Can Vegans Eat Bread?

can vegans eat bread

Vegan Bread: the Short and Easy Answer

Yes... but please double check that label! Sure, bread is grain-based (the base is some kind of flour) and grains are plants, therefore bread is vegan. Plus the inorganic ingredients: water and salt. Well, it can get a bit more complicated than that... it does depend on the type of bread (see the list just below), that is, all the other ingredients added. For simplicity's sake, here's a list of ingredients that can make a bread non-vegan:

a.) Dairy-derived ingredients:
  • milk itself (my mum once said ‘but I used lactose-free milk so it’s vegan, right?' nope.... also: goat's milk, buffalo milk, ewe's milk, camel's or yak's milk, etc... doesn't matter, as long as it's animal-derived);
  • butter;
  • buttermilk;
  • ghee (a type of clarified butter from India);
  • cream or sour cream;
  • yogurt or yoghurt;
  • kefir or kephir (a fermented milk drink from the North Caucasus);
  • whey (a type of milk protein)
  • casein or caseinate or sodium casinate (a milk protein used as a filler)

b.) Eggs (yes, both yolks and egg whites... I've been asked that question before, too lol)
c.) Honey and royal jelly (which is the stuff bees produce to feed their larvae and queens... think of it as 'bee's milk')
d.) Gelatine (which is derived from the by-products of the meat industry: bones, hides, skin and connective tissue).

When it comes to what a vegan can eat, the safest way to play it is to make it yourself from scratch (and again, make sure it doesn't contain meat, fish, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, honey or anything else that came from an animal). In case you want to buy bread, always keep an eye out for breads which have a vegan label on them at your supermarket or ask your local baker... or you can also just order cheap from Amazon in bulk. Our favourite vegan bread brand is currently Biona Organic, we simply adore their rye bread stuff: rye bread with sprouted seeds with linseeds and/or pumpkin seeds. I mean, YUM! If you wanna make your own bread, I can also highly recommend this Vegan Bread Recipe Book – added bonus, it's gluten-free too. And the cover is cute:
vegan bread

I know they say not to judge books like that – but don't worry the contents are good too, we've tried and tested numerous vegan bread recipes :) And of course, if you want to start making your own vegan bread the easy way, just get some vegan bread baking mix like this one.

Vegan Bread: the More Complex Question of Yeast

The first country I travelled to as a vegan was Italy, and this was the first time someone asked me: 'can vegans eat bread?' Whilst it is true that vegans can't eat certain kinds of bread (any of the ones that have milk or egg in them, like traditional naan bread), that wasn't the reasoning behind my questioner's inquiry. The reason they thought vegans couldn't eat bread was... because of the yeast! Well, the consensus among most vegans is: fungi isn't derived from animals, therefore: vegans can eat yeast (phew). But in a way the question still is very very logical, if you think about it for a minute: it comes from the fungi family, which, according to Wikipedia: '[is] classified as a kingdom, [...] separate from the other eukaryotic life kingdoms of plants and animals.' This might be a bit confusing with the clear-cut division between animals and plants in mind... so what about fungi, a completely different group of living beings? Neither animal, nor plant.... well, the judgement is yours! The question of whether it is ethical to eat fungi or not is still undecided in vegan circles – what do you think? Most vegans would probably say 'yes'. You can find an interesting discussion of it here and and a post discussing it here. All in all, in case you're planning to buy bread for a vegan the safest thing to do is to ask them about their stance on fungi first! We definitely do eat mushrooms – a lot of them! :) (see the section on mushrooms below)

For those who are okay with the above consensus (and most vegans are) this is really really good news, because nutritional yeast flakes are an absolute vital in the vegan's arsenal. These flaky wonders are the key to making vegan cheeses and are surprisingly easy to use (even though I'd never even heard of them before I went vegan). Mix nutritional yeast with soaked cashews, garlic, lemon and salt, whizz in a food processor and boom you have a healthy, tasty, cheese-like and simple pasta sauce!
can vegans eat bread
Yes, it does look like fish food, yes, it tastes dry when it's raw, but it is the cheesiest thing I've had that didn't come from an animal, and if you buy the fortified version it is packed with B12 (a important micronutrient for vegans, and humans in general), B6, niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2) and thiamin (B1) – it's basically like a B-complex multivitamin that comes in natural form. You can find nutritional yeast in health food shops (usually at high prices) or order them in bulk from Amazon. (Hot tip: nutritional yeast flakes are an excellent gift for a newbie vegan – teach them about the simple pasta sauce and the nutritional aspects if they don't know already! AND old hat vegans, as well... in our experience, most vegans love nutritional yeast flakes :)

So... What Kind of Bread Do Vegans Eat?

Okay, sorry for sidetracking, back to vegan breads, buns and rolls.... so vegans can eat most breads – but do double check that label plz! Easier said than done if you travel vegan and can't read the label (like we couldn't in Thailand, for example)... so as a general rule of thumb vegans will probably be able to eat these traditional breads:>

  • the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern flat bread and/or pita bread (Florentin has one that happens to be vegan and organic at the same time.... lucky for us :)
  • the South Caucasian / Western Asian lavash flatbread (flour, water, salt, sesame of poppy seeds... with hummus mmmmm)
  • the Italian flatbread focaccia (according to the traditional recipe: water, sugar, yeast, white flour, olive oil, salt and rosemary leaves mmm.... watch out though, honey is sometimes used instead of sugar and the olive oil might be substituted by butter or eggs!)
  • the classic German pumpernickel bread, like our favourite one from Biona (btw this one doesn't contain any yeast sooooo.... super-vegan :D)
  • the French baguette (usually just water, flour, salt and yeast... here's a recipe we've tested, tried, messed up, then tested, tried and messed up again... but had success in the end :) In case you don't like experimenting in the kitchen, the ones produced my Amisa are vegan and organic, too, according to the label)
  • Mexican tortillas (MexGrocer has one that's 100% vegan: corn, water and salt)
  • classic Italian pizza dough (we usually go with Jamie Oliver's recipe: flour, sea salt, yeast, sugar, olive oil... mmmmm. But if you're lazy and are looking for a pre-made pizza base mix, this one by Freee is vegan-friendly, too);
  • the Italian ciabatta (traditionally: wheat flour, water, olive oil, salt, and yeast... some recipes might use milk ('latte' in Italian) instead of water though so watch out);
  • the super-healthy Ezekiel bread, our fave store-bought version would be the one from Food For Life and we've also tasted the one made by Everfresh, was pretty good too (btw if anyone is interested in why this is possibly the healthiest type of bread on Earth, read here)

And then of course, there are the alternative breads, e.g.:

Again, if you don't want to read labels / can't read the labels / have a bread you like but want to veganize it, make it yourself from scratch using our favourite Vegan Bread Recipe Book!

List of Breads Vegans Might Be Able to Eat

  • hamburger buns (watch out, regular ones might contain eggs, we usually buy Schar's vegan version at our local organic food shop if we want any vegan junkfood... also, this wonderful, mouthwatering book on vegan hamburgers for plant-based burgers... yumm);
  • brown bread (regular ones might contain butter... we tasted these vegan versions when we were in the UK a few months ago);
  • sourdough bread (could also contain butter... if you need a vegan sourdough starter set, I'd recommend this one from Freshly Fermented);
  • some types of Jewish kosher bread (types of kosher: 'milchig', meaning it can't contain dairy products and 'pareve', meaning no eggs... like this one from Yehuda Matzos: wheat flour and water... I mean, how minimalistic can you get? :D )
  • English muffins (regular ones usually contain milk... we're not really into sweet pastries anymore, but we do have this wonderful vegan muffin book in the kitchen, just in case and have also given this vegan muffin mix a try in the past... no disappointment :));
  • bagels (they sometimes add yoghurt and/or egg whites... SweetSimpleVegan has a vegan bagel recipe we've been thinking about trying sometime);
  • sandwich breads (mostly contains milk and butter... Livlife's loaves are very often vegan, like the one I've linked to.... this reminds me: vegan mayo? In a weird way it has always reminded me of the taste of tuna;
  • bread rolls (might contain milk/butter, French rolls might contain honey... buuuut here's our fave vegan bread roll recipe and our fave organic vegan almond butter - palm oil-free, yay!);
  • croissants (milk and butter in regular ones... but OMG theseeeeeeee;
  • crackers (might contain cheese or butter but we vegans have got options, too... Greek or Italian? ;)

Sorry for the 'food porn'... it's just that ever since the vegan food industry started booming about five years ago, there's been so many delicious products just coming out, it's hard to keep up to date with tasting everything... trying hard tho :)

List of Breads Vegans Very Mostly Can't Eat

If you're not sure, and can't read the label and can't ask the baker/shop assistant, you should avoid 'squishier' breads because they often contain milk/yoghurt/eggs. Generally vegans can't eat:

  • the Asian Naan (or Nan or Noon) flatbread (contains ghee or at least butter, sometimes dairy-based yoghurt, too... our friend lovingitvegan has a dairy-free version of the original recipe, yay!)
  • the French brioche (usually contains: eggs, butter, milk, cream, etc.... for a veganized brioche recipe, see here -- thank you, Holy Cow!)
  • the Jewish Challah (traditional recipes probably contain honey and/or eggs... rhe Edgy Veg has a veganized version tho ;)
  • all kinds of milk loaves in general (duh :D )
  • honey wheat (and any other bread made with honey...)
  • the British/Scottish/Irish/etc. crumpet;

In case you decide not to eat anything containing fungi which includes baker's yeast, options become somewhat more limited... fortunately, there are certain types of breads that don't include any kind of added yeast, only the natural sourdough that develops in meal (which, however, is also a type of fungi). So in case you're planning to buy bread for a vegan the safest thing to do is to ask them about their stance on fungi first! (they will probably be okay with it though :)

Can Vegans Eat Pasta?

Moving on from vegan bread, we ask is pasta vegan? Like bread and alcohol there are certain types of pasta that vegans can and can't eat. Lots of fresh pasta is made with egg which means it's a no for vegans. This includes lasagne sheets and often cannelloni. Sob. Although, a quick google will find you vegan Cannelloni and vegan lasagne sheets, yey.
can vegans eat pasta
In general though, most types of pasta can be eaten by vegans. We usually try to opt for ones with a vegan label like this one (Penne)this one (Spaghetti)this one (Tagliatelle) and this one (Fusilli). For pastas without labels/with labels you can't read, as a general rule of thumb vegans can eat:

  • spaghetti;
  • tagliatelle;
  • penne;
  • fusilli;
  • bucatini and more!

And when it comes to fresh pasta, luckily, there are more and more vegan restaurants offering vegan fresh pasta – there's even one in Budapest! Okay, so vegans can eat pasta, but what do vegans put on pasta? Here are some quick ideas:

No. 1: Vegan Arrabiata

is pasta vegan
Despite what your cheese likes to tell you, cheese doesn't have to be the main ingredient of your pasta dishes. Arrabiata, for example, is delicious in it's own right. It's a simple pasta sauce straight from Rome: fresh tomatoes + garlic + red chilli peppers + olive oil. Simple, healthy and bursting with flavour (thanks chilli and garlic). Since we've been saving money ditching the cheese, we can now afford to go for organic olive oil and add some extra tomatoes, too :) Some sun dried tomatoes, perhaps? Mmmmmmm....

No. 2: White 'Cheesy' Sauce

In case you missed my love letter to nutritional yeast in the bread section, please allow me to repeat it: nutritional yeast + soaked cashews + lemon + garlic + salt. Whizz together. (omg, my mouth just started watering)

Vegan Pasta Recipe No. 3: Bolognese

Bolognese was my favourite pasta comfort dish before I turned vegan, so for the last three years of being vegan I've spent an unhealthy amount of time looking for a vegan replacement. I now have two. First, there is lentil bolognese – perfect for students, with a tin of brown lentils and tinned tomatoes (you can read my full recipe here). If you have a bit more money than your average student, we recommend getting organic lentils, like these from Suma which is one of our favourite companies – we always try to support organic labels & workers' co-ops in general! For something a little less studenty (read snobby) I go for yellow split peas like these (once agan, Suma :): if you have a strong food processor, mince them raw, then treat them as you would beef (fry in oil, before adding to a delicious red sauce). For more vegan pasta recipes and Italian food in general I recommend checking out Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen book, that's the one I bought when I was in Italy :)

Can Vegans Eat Mushrooms?

can vegans eat mushrooms

On that note, and for the same reasons, can vegans eat mushrooms? Yes, vegans can eat mushrooms. When I was in Budapest, a hotel manager asked me this very question, and when I said I could he concluded that I wasn't a very hardcore vegan. Haha. On a semi-related note, one of the best gifts I've ever received as a vegan was this grow your own organic mushroom kit! Foodie gifts are always great for vegans and what better foodie gift than one you can grow yourself?
gifts for vegans

Can Vegans Eat Cooked Food?

can vegans eat yeast

Back in Italy, an Englishman once asked me if being vegan meant you couldn't eat cooked food. I'm asked this one quite often and again this one is kind of logical: there are lots of raw vegans who (you guessed it) only eat raw, vegan food. However, as a general vegan, you can eat cooked food. Here are some recipe books to get you started:

But back to my story, the funniest thing about this guy, though and what makes him memorable, was he thought vegans could eat ANYTHING, as long as it was raw - aka they could eat raw meat. Lol.

Can Vegans Drink Coffee?

can vegans drink coffee
This is probably the one I get asked most often - can vegans drink coffee? I'm not sure why people think coffee is non-vegan: perhaps because coffee consumption is bad for the environment, perhaps because people associate a vegan lifestyle with restrictiveness and no fun (and hence no coffee), or perhaps because lots of people take milk in their coffee. If the latter is true, think about black coffee, Americanos and Espressos. All vegan. And lattes or flat whites etc can all become vegan with non-dairy milks. Hence the next popular question:

What Non-dairy Milks Can Vegans Drink?

Almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk or hemp milk. And more! I get it, if you don't like one of them with your coffee, but have you tried all of them yet? Experiment a little, go all out and get a Vegan Milker - a tool that makes plant milk from any kind of nut, grain or seed. I am actually trying to give up coffee, but only because it makes me too hyper when I drink it and grumpy when I don't #addicted

[Update: I've given up giving up coffee.]

So... Can Vegans Drink at Starbucks?

When we were in Dubai our friend asked if we could drink Starbucks. Not because he didn't think we could drink coffee (he'd already asked us that a few hours before), but because Starbucks isn't ethical. You don't have to be ethical to be a vegan (though you do have to be a vegan to be ethical). So vegans can go to Starbucks. Personally, I don't but only cause shitty coffee isn't my thing.
can vegans drink starbucks
Vegans can go to McDonald, KFC and Burger King, but I personally don't and this time it actually is for vegan reasons: these 'restaurants' are anti every reason that I am vegan: McDonald's treat animals humans and the environment appallingly, plus it's bad for your health. If we're out and about together and you want to go to McDonalds, I'll wait outside and judge you. If I've been drinking I'll physically stop you from going in (I'm a great friend and a model vegan). Hahah.

Can Vegans Drink Alcohol?

Can vegans drink alcohol? Actually, there are lots of wines and beers that vegans can't drink: lots of wines use eggshell to filter, and lots of beers line their pipes with fish (why)? (note that this is also true for some orange juices) However, I think most people who are asking if vegans drink alcohol, are coming from a place of 'vegans are restrictive, ergo no alcohol', rather than thinking about pipes and egg shells.
can vegans drink alcohol
Luckily, there are still plenty of wines and beers vegans can drink and as far as I'm aware almost all spirits are vegan (well apart from those ones with scorpions or worms in, but you know). Actually, Tanbay and I had a really nice time doing wine tasting tours in Budapest... they even provided us with vegan finger food instead of the usual cheese selection :)

Wrap Up: Surprising Things That Vegans Can Eat

Did it have a face? No. Did it come from something that had a face? No. Then you're good, feed it to your vegan friend. I hope this clears up the 'can vegans eat bread' / 'can vegans eat mushrooms' questions. Initially being vegan is a lot harder than being vegetarian, there are so many foods you don't that contain eggs or dairy that you don't even realise. Like wine. But after a few months, you will adjust and it will be second nature. As for the crazy questions, keep them coming, I love the interesting way people think. What about you? What's the strangest thing someone has asked you if you can eat as a vegan?  Which item on the list surprised you the most? I'll admit, I had to double check if vegans can eat yeast.

Recap: a List of Things Vegans CAN'T Eat

If you're still not sure, here is a list of things vegans definitely CANNOT eat:

  • meat: beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, duck, pork (e.g. bacon or gammon), so any kind of meat sausages or meat burgers;
  • seafood: fish, shellfish, crabs, shrimps or prawns, etc.;
  • dairy: milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese, sour cream, cream;
  • eggs;
  • honey.

NB: most vegans don't use anything made from animals (e.g. silk, feathers, leather, etc.), either.

Recap No. 2: a List of Things Vegans CAN Eat

Before you freak out you'll have nothing to eat as a vegan / nothing to feed your vegan friends, here are a list of things vegans can eat. Always:

  • Fruit, preferably raw and whole (smoothies are nice once in a while but they ruin a lot of the good stuff that can be found in whole fruit)
  • Vegetables: raw, boiled, steamed or roasted with mustard or olive oil mmmmmm...
  • Nuts & seeds: be careful with these though because of their oil content!
  • Oats in any form: just soak 'em in warm tap water for 3 minutes... done! :)
  • Tofu, soy sauce, edamame beans (one of our best sources of essential amino acids)
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, falafel and HUMMUS (everyone's favourite :)
  • Rice, both white and brown (there are far more nutritious side dishes though!)
  • Pasta & bread (see above)
  • Spirits, wine and beer (see above)
  • Middle Eastern Ancient grains: couscous, bulgur, amarant or quinoa (another one of our best sources of essential amino acids)
  • Potatoes in any form: baked, roasted, steamed, chips & crisps
  • Seitan, if you're looking for the perfect meat replacement (kinda tastes like cooked gizzards, says Tamás :)
  • Dark chocolate (double check for milk powder though!)

If you're still stuck, then once again, I highly recommend any of these books:
I also included this vegan baking video to demonstrate how to make vegan bread... enjoy! :)

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us, veganvstravel as well, use this link please to download Abillionveg. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

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