Pretzels are one of the oldest snack foods in existence and are one of the most popular snacks sold in American supermarkets and corner stores.
They’re simple, crunchy, and aren’t loaded down with all of the crazy additives that most processed chips are. If you’re reading this post, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are pretzels vegan, though?”
As it turns out, most pretzels ARE vegan! Traditionally, pretzels are dairy-free, egg-free, and don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
However, there are a few exceptions to the rule, such as butter-brushed hot pretzels and some flavored varieties that contain dairy in the form of cheese.
The good news is that the average store-bought pretzel is 100% vegan, as long as it’s the plain salted or unsalted variety. Once you start looking at large hot pretzels and flavored pretzels, though, things can get a bit tricky. That’s why I’m here to guide you!
In today’s post, I’ll show you why most pretzels are vegan and help you navigate the “twists” of non-vegan pretzels.
I’ll also show you what ingredients to look out for so you can be sure that you only purchase vegan-friendly pretzels.
Pretzels are one of those classic snacks that have quite literally been around forever (or as long as most people can remember anyway).
Although they’re not the oldest snack in the world, they’re regarded as the second-oldest snack after popcorn (another great vegan snack, by the way).
It’s believed that pretzels originated somewhere between southern France and Italy. They were a simple, great-tasting, easy-to-make snack that consisted of a few simple ingredients:
- Wheat flour
Unlike other popular bread recipes, which often required dairy, sugar, or eggs, pretzels were a simple snack that almost anybody could cook at home.
This is what led to them becoming one of the world’s most well-known and affordable snacks.
Despite advances in food technology and all of the crazy processing that goes into making today’s modern foods, pretzels have remained pretty much the same.
The only thing that’s changed is most modern pretzels use baking soda as a leavening agent. That’s how pretzels are so small and tiny. Old-fashioned pretzels were always large and unleavened.
As you can see, all of the ingredients are perfectly ethical for vegans to consume. I’ll break each one down further below. First, though, I’ll take a few minutes to answer some of the most common vegan-related questions about pretzels!
Most pretzels are completely dairy-free. Dairy is a common additive in baking, as it can help create fluffy, sweet loaves of bread. However, pretzels are known for being sour and salty, not having sugar.
The only pretzels you’ll need to look out for are the ones that feature cheese or buttermilk flavoring. These almost always use dairy-derived flavoring and aren’t acceptable on a vegan diet.
Although eggs are commonly used in baking and help add texture to fluffy loaves of bread and cake, pretzels are never made with eggs (even the big, fluffy ones)!
To show you why pretzels are considered such a vegan-friendly snack, let’s take a couple of minutes to break down all of the main ingredients in your average store-bought hard pretzels.
For this example, I’ll be examining Snyder’s classic hard twisted pretzel recipe:
1) Enriched Flour
Since it’s the most plentiful ingredient, let’s start by looking at enriched flour. Enriched flour is just all-purpose flour that contains added vitamins and minerals to make for a healthier, better-tasting product.
For those who are concerned, niacin, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and folic acid are all 100% vegan and are healthy, natural additives to a human diet.
As I recently described in a previous post, all-purpose flour is also vegan. It just consists of finely ground wheat and grain, which are purely plant-based.
Water is… well it’s water. Water is always vegan and is essential for human life. Without it, we’d die! While I’m at it, here’s your daily reminder to drink more water.
Salt is generally considered vegan and is an important food additive. It helps add flavor to our food and helps our bodies produce electrolytes, which are vital for their role in balancing our body’s chemical levels and keeping cells healthy.
Just don’t overeat salt, as that can cause its own complications!
So “malt” is a bit of a tricky ingredient that can vary slightly from one pretzel recipe to another. Simply put, malt is a natural sugar blend that’s designed to feed the yeast and produce more flavorful bread (or pretzels, in this case).
It also contains enzymes that help break down the bread, making it softer, and enhancing its shelf life.
Snyder’s malt recipe is simple. It consists of tapioca syrup (a natural plant-based sweetener) and malted barley extract (which serves as the enzyme and is also plant-based).
5) Canola Oil
Before they’re baked canola oil is brushed on the pretzels to give them a crisp texture when they come out of the oven.
Canola oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils, as it has less saturated fat and lowers cholesterol than other fatty cooking oils like vegetable oil, palm oil, and others.
Canola oil is also 100% vegan! It’s created from crushing the seeds of the canola plant, a bright yellow flower that naturally grows and produces a high number of seeds.
6) Potato Flour
Although this recipe doesn’t have any potato flour, some of Snyder’s larger pretzel twists contain a small amount of potato flour. This is vegan and is added to provide a better texture for the dough.
Although yeast is a living organism, it’s single-celled and is widely accepted as a vegan ingredient. The yeast feeds on the dough, breaking down sugars, and providing an airy texture.
For those who aren’t aware, nutritional yeast also makes a great topping or seasoning for vegans! When sprinkled on food, it provides a cheesy, umami-like flavor that hits your savory taste buds.
8) Baking Soda
Last but not least, we have baking soda. Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate, a naturally-occurring salt that’s completely vegan.
It’s used as a leavening agent and prevents the pretzels from rising too much, giving them their characteristic crunch texture.
If you’re still curious, check out this cool video on how pretzels are made:
In the introduction, I mentioned that soft pretzels aren’t always vegan. While the recipe for soft pretzels is pretty much the same as it is for hard pretzels, there’s one problem…
Most pretzel stands or restaurants that sell soft pretzels brush their soft pretzels with butter to provide added flavoring.
Butter is a direct by-product of dairy and therefore is not vegan. Usually, this can be avoided by asking your server or cashier to give you a pretzel without butter.
Of course, not all soft pretzels are butter-brushed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Aside from watching out for butter-brushed soft pretzels, you should also keep an eye out for flavored pretzels.
Unfortunately, many of the more “fun” pretzel flavors contain dairy or refined sugar, two ingredients that aren’t vegan. For quick reference, here are a few well-known pretzel flavors that aren’t vegan-friendly:
|Flavor||Why It’s Not Vegan|
|Parmesan Garlic||It has parmesan cheese, a dairy-based ingredient.|
|Honey Mustard & Onion||It uses honey, a non-vegan sweetener that involves the exploitation of honey bees.|
|Cheddar Cheese||It contains cheddar cheese, a dairy-derived cheese.|
|Buttermilk Ranch||It contains buttermilk, a sour dairy-derived flavoring.|
Some of the hot/spicy varieties of pretzels may or may not be vegan, depending on the brand. While some pretzel companies may use vegan seasoning, others use whey-based seasoning, which is a dairy product.
When it comes to soft pretzels, make sure you avoid butter topping or sugary dips that are derived from refined sugar.
As far as hard pretzels go, I recommend you stay away from most flavored pretzels, as they often contain honey, dairy, or refined white sugar.
Other than those exceptions, though, most unflavored (or salted) pretzels are 100% vegan and are A-okay to eat. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, grab yourself a bag of guilt-free pretzel twists and go to town
If you liked this post and you’re looking for another great vegan snack, check out my post examining whether or not Pringles are vegan!