Here's Why You Should Avoid Bagels If You're Vegan

Veganism has officially hit the mainstream. TikTok has given us thousands of viral vegan recipes, and many fast food chains — formerly among the least friendly places for hungry vegans — now offer plant-based burgers. Even some of our favorite celebs like Ariana Grande and Lizzo have sworn by vegan diets to keep them feeling energized.

Today, there are more options than ever for those who want to follow a vegan diet — goodbye, bland salads! Still, many foods found in restaurants or on supermarket shelves that appear to be vegan actually contain hidden animal products. This is often the case with baked goods, especially when they're commercially mass produced.

Bagels are one example of a staple baked food item that may seem at first glance to be vegan, but looks — and ingredients lists — can be deceiving. If your morning go-to is a chewy bagel (topped with vegan cream cheese, of course), here's why it might be time to change up your a.m. meal.

Some bagels contain hidden animal-derived ingredients

Traditional bagels are made with a few basic ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, water, oil, and a touch of sweetener. As Healthline notes, these ingredients tend to be vegan friendly. However, there are sometimes hidden animal-derived ingredients that vegans should watch out for. One such ingredient is a dough softener found in many packaged baked goods called L-cysteine. L-cysteine is an amino acid that is often sourced from poultry feathers, according to Healthline — something obviously not ideal for animal lovers. In some cases, though, this ingredient may be sourced without animals (but, surprisingly, it might come from human hair instead).

Vegans should also watch out for the sweeteners used in their favorite bagels. Some brands turn to honey to enhance flavor, but for most vegans, honey and other bee products are a no-go. While it might seem like a safe alternative to stick to bagels that only use regular ol' sugar, that, too, might not be vegan. According to The Spruce Eats, granulated sugar is sometimes made from a process using animal bone char. Some sugar production doesn't use charred animal bones, but your standard bag of bagels won't typically specify which method was used.

Finally, vegans should beware of obvious offenders including milk, eggs, cheese, and toppings like salmon or ham.

With a few tips, vegans can still enjoy bagels

So should vegans swear off the bagel section of their grocery store for good? Not exactly. Plant-based foodies can still enjoy this doughy breakfast staple, with a few tweaks.

First, Vegan Products recommends always checking the label and choosing products that contain basic, clear ingredients. Better yet, look for brands that have a vegan certification label on the package. To fully customize your bagels, try making your own at home. Then, you have total control over the ingredients, making it easier to avoid hidden animal products.

Once you have a yummy, chewy bagel of your choice, top it off with non-dairy (a.k.a. vegan-friendly) cream cheese, peanut butter, jam, or hummus. You can also veganize bagel recipes like homemade pizza bagels, swapping out pepperoni for vegan faux meat. For vegans trying to go green — in more ways than one — stuff your bagel with lettuce, avocado, and other fresh veggies.