English Muffins have been an American staple (ironic, right?) since 1880 when English immigrant Samuel Thomas used his mother’s recipe to create an English-style muffin.
These muffins are commonly used in breakfast recipes and are often eaten by themselves, as they’re a good deal more filling than your typical slice of bread.
However, are English muffins vegan?
English muffins can be vegan, depending on the brand. Traditional English muffin recipes (including the original Thomas English muffins) include dairy or eggs, which often makes them non-vegan.
However, there are several brands of great-tasting English muffins on the market you can choose from.
Today’s post is going to be all about English muffins! As a teenager, they were one of my favorite breakfast foods and fast snacks.
Below, I’ll answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about English muffins and give you a full breakdown of the original Thomas English muffin recipe, so you can see for yourself.
Let’s take a look at this generations-old recipe together!
Do English Muffins Have Dairy?
At first glance, English muffins don’t look like something that would contain dairy. If you’ve ever eaten them before, then you’ve probably noticed that they don’t even taste like they have dairy.
Dairy is often added to bread products to create a sweeter, softer bread. English muffins are neither sweet nor soft. In fact, they’re quite tough and plain-tasting compared to a slice of white bread.
Despite appearances and taste, though, most traditional English muffin brands contain at least one dairy by-product. Some of the most common culprits are:
- Nonfat milk
- Sodium caseinate
All of these ingredients start off as milk and are processed, extracted, or separated forms of milk.
Milk is often used in baking, as it creates sweeter, softer bread products. Some of the most popular types of cakes and cookies are non-vegan, simply because they contain milk.
After going vegan, and discovering that most of my favorite brands of cookies contain dairy, I had to find vegan cookie alternatives to snack on instead of my usual favorites.
Vegans don’t consume milk products, as the dairy industry is incredibly cruel to cows.
Female cows are artificially inseminated (raped by humans) to keep their bodies in a constant state of milk production.
When they give birth, their young are immediately taken from them and are usually slaughtered for veal (a delicacy in many parts of the world).
They often live very short lives and die prematurely of stress or disease.
All of these reasons, and more, are why the dairy industry is just as cruel as the commercial meat industry.
What Are English Muffins Made Of? Ingredients Demystified
So, my rant about dairy aside, let’s get back to business.
The recipe for English muffins hasn’t changed much since Samuel Thomas first started selling his breakfast muffins on New York City streets in 1880.
The only thing that’s changed is that today’s English muffins contain a few more preservatives and additives that improve shelf life and subtly change the flavor.
Fun Fact: In England, English muffins are just called “muffins,” and are commonly sold at most bakeries and grocery stores.
Here’s the shortlist of the ingredients used in Thomas English muffins:
As you can see, the ingredients are relatively simple compared to other processed carbs I’ve been reviewing lately. However, there are still a few ingredients that some first-time vegans may not be well-acquainted with.
So, to ensure that everything’s 100% transparent, here’s a brief rundown of all of the ingredients!
As a vegan, it’s always a good idea to learn the basics about some of the main ingredients in food. Processed food additives are nearly impossible to avoid in today’s society, but they should be limited whenever possible.
Thankfully, these English muffins don’t contain too many artificial ingredients. It’s still worth learning about, though!
1) Enriched Wheat Flour
Enriched wheat flour is the main ingredient in English muffins (and most other bread products, for that matter). Wheat flour is a vegan, plant-based baking ingredient that’s quite literally been around for thousands of years.
It’s simply dried wheat that’s been ground into a fine powder. It’s the base of almost all bread and is commonly used in chips, cookies, cake, and even French fries!
To make the flour more nutritious, it’s enriched with natural vitamins and minerals, such as iron and healthy B vitamins. These are essential nutrients that humans need for survival.
Many vegans are also iron deficient, as they don’t consume meat (one of the biggest sources of iron in the vegan diet). So consuming enriched wheat flour is a great idea for vegans!
The dough is simply water and flour mixed together to form a thick paste. This is then baked and turned into bread, cake, and other edible carbohydrates.
Thomas uses pure filtered water that doesn’t have any chemical additives or minerals to ensure that the taste of their English muffins remains consistent.
If you didn’t already know, all water is vegan.
Farina is a type of wheat “meal.” On the surface, it’s similar to flour, in the fact that it’s dried and ground wheat. However, farina isn’t quite as fine as flour is, and has a thicker consistency. If you’ve ever had Cream of Wheat, then you’ll recognize the texture.
Farina uses the middle section of the wheat germ, which has a rich flavor profile.
Farina is added to English muffins to give them a richer, more wheat-like taste. It’s one of the main reasons why English muffins taste so different from your everyday loaf of bread and have a thicker consistency.
Yeast is an essential ingredient used to bake bread. This small single-celled organism feeds on the sugars and carbs inside of the wheat dough, which allows the organisms to multiply. As the yeast feeds on the sugar, it releases natural gas into the dough.
These natural gasses create air bubbles inside of the dough, allowing it to rise and give it texture. If you’ve ever sliced an English muffin in half, then you’ve probably realized that it has larger air pockets than most loaves of bread.
This is because the yeast is allowed to sit and remain active for a longer period of time in English muffins than in traditional bread.
Active yeast (or baker’s yeast) differs significantly from the nutritional yeast that vegans use for a cheese substitute and seasoning.
Baker’s yeast is active, or alive. As soon as it’s exposed to the water in the dough, it’s activated and starts feeding on the sugar in the dough.
Nutritional yeast, on the other hand, is deactivated yeast. Nutritional yeast can’t be used for baking as the organisms are no longer alive and active. Once they’re deactivated, they have a more savory, umami flavor profile that’s similar to parmesan cheese.
This is why nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cheese substitutes and vegan cheese sauce.
Salt is one of the most common additives in baking and bread. It’s included in everything from pizza dough to cookies. Salt serves two purposes when added to the dough.
For one, it helps round out some of the sharper flavors of the dough, giving the bread (or in this case, muffin) a more complex flavor.
Secondly, the salt strengthens the dough. It acts as a binding agent, helping to create a thicker, more consistent dough that doesn’t fall apart so easily. Here’s a cool video explaining the process in greater detail:
Although English muffins are far from sweet, they do contain a small amount of sugar. This sugar balances out some of the sharper flavors of the wheat dough and gives the English muffins a warmer flavor palette.
Unfortunately, Thomas English muffins use refined white sugar to sweeten their dough. Most vegans boycott white sugar since it goes through a refining process that uses animal bone char.
Unlike organic cane sugar (which has a natural brown color and malty flavor), white sugar is filtered through this bone char to remove the malt flavor and brown coloring.
The result is a more concentrated and “pure” form of sugar that’s easier to bake with and has a more consistent level of sweetness.
The only problem is that this refining process results in a form of sugar that’s not quite as vegan as most people assume. Instead, vegan English muffins brands use raw cane sugar or another plant-based sweetener.
7) Calcium Propionate & Sorbic Acid
Both calcium propionate and sorbic acid are lab-synthesized, mineral-derived acids that are commonly found in baked goods. They serve as a mild preservative, which improves the shelf life of the muffins.
They’re commonly found in other brands of bread as well and are considered vegan, as they’re not derived from animals.
These preservatives work by increasing the acidity of the dough. The more acidic a food is, the harder it is for bacteria to grow on it.
8) Soybean Oil
A bit of soybean oil is added to the dough to act as a binding agent, giving the English muffins a more complex flavor and preventing the dough from burning as easily in the oven.
Soybean oil is 100% natural and plant-based, though, so you should never worry about it being used in food products.
9) Wheat Gluten
Wheat gluten is the pure protein that’s found at the center of wheat. This is also the same protein that gluten-intolerant individuals are sensitive to, so if you’re allergic to gluten or suffer from celiac disease, then you’ll need to watch out for this ingredient.
That being said, wheat gluten is plant-based and vegan. One of my favorite vegan proteins, seitan, is pure wheat gluten and is an excellent (and affordable) source of plant-based protein!
10) Grain Vinegar
Grain vinegar is a special type of vinegar that’s made from distilled grain spirits. This is plant-based, vegan, and is a common additive used by bakers. It helps create a more consistent texture and helps the muffins rise correctly in the oven.
11) Soy Lecithin
Soy lecithin is a natural, plant-based preservative that’s added to many grocery store products to increase their shelf life. It’s not healthy to consume all of the time. However, it’s not harmful in small amounts.
Soy is used in English muffins to give them more protein content and create a thicker, more tough texture. This is part of the reason why English muffins are so filling and nutrient-dense.
Other than refined white sugar, whey is the only non-vegan ingredient present in English muffins. This protein is extracted from milk and is commonly added to chips, snacks, cookies, and other bread products.
In English muffins, it serves a similar purpose as soy, adding to the nutrient density of the food and making it more filling.
The Verdict – Are English Muffins Vegan-Friendly?
Although the original Thomas English muffin recipe may not be vegan, there are lots of great-tasting vegan English muffins on the market.
One of my favorites is sold by Dave’s Killer Bread! Dave’s English muffins can be purchased on Amazon or from most health foods stores.
While you’re at it, be sure to check out my favorite vegan bread brands!