Trust me, I understand how difficult it is to suddenly go vegan and dream about all the snacks, pastries, and desserts you had to forfeit in order to live a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and commit to a strict whole-food, plant-based diet. There are still certain dirty foods that remain plant-based, and now, more than ever, establishments are forced to adapt and create alternatives for the non-vegan treats.
For example, I’ve always loved croissants, and 4-5 years ago you couldn’t find a vegan croissant.
But due to their immense popularity and the magical boom of the vegan community, you can now find several pastry shops selling vegan croissants.
Pretzels are one of the most popular comfort foods in America. You’re able to find them anywhere — in stadiums, theatres, plazas, and supermarkets. You have to thank the German and the Swiss for that, as they were the ones to introduce the pretzels in North America.
Funnily, one of the most asked questions on Google about Pretzels in North America is if they’re suitable for vegans. So, are Pretzels actually vegan? Let’s find out.
How are Pretzels even made?
To fully understand whether or not a pretzel is vegan, we must know how it’s made.
Put simply, Pretzels are made with refined flour, sugar, oil, and salt, all of which are plant-based ingredients. However, what I’ve noticed in some DIY recipes is that they call for eggs and butter, immediately disqualifying them from being vegan.
Those animal ingredients, in most recipes, are used to brush the dough so it has a thin, greasy layer that encourages browning as it sets in the oven, and also gives the pretzel a richer taste.
This approach is also used in some traditional and modern bakeries, where the addition of fats like lard (traditional method) and/or butter or margarine (modern method) add an interesting touch to the dough.
However, for mass-produced pretzels, those ingredients are not part of the recipe.
In factories, the process starts with shortening, sugar, and salt that go in a huge mixer machine that automatically ads yeast, corn syrup, cold water, and flour to the mix.
The dough that comes out of the mixer is then put through a hopper, that feeds each chunk of dough to a guillotine that chops the chunks into different sized balls to make small and large pretzels. Next, the pretzels are squeezed in conveyor belts that shape the dough into noodles, which are then carried into a robot-like machine that twists the ends of the dough to give the pretzel its signature shape.
The raw pretzel is then carried through a conveyor belt for a couple of minutes, allowing the dough to rise. Right after, the raw pretzel moves through showers of liquid sodium hydroxide heated to 180º F, which seals in the moisture, making the pretzel chewy when you eat it.
Finally, they go into an oven that’s about the length of a city bus, spending about three and a half minutes at 560ºF, the pretzels are hot and brown. But before getting packaged, they still go through a moving freezer for 30 minutes to cool down.
Throughout this entire process, not a single animal-based ingredient is used.
This being said, you should keep in mind that not every company follows the same process. In
The two types of pretzels
There are two types of pretzels: soft pretzels and hard pretzels.
Soft pretzels, also known as traditional pretzels, follow the traditional German recipe and is composed of three ingredients: yeast, water, and flour, which make up the dough.
And hard pretzels are the ones that more popular in American culture. Although they have the same ingredients, they have a different texture.
That’s because hard pretzels contain less water, and the cooking time is usually longer.
In conclusion, soft pretzels have a soft, chewy texture much like bread, while hard pretzels feel more like crackers.
So, are pretzels actually vegan?
It actually depends.
If you go to a traditional or modern bakery, there’s a chance some animal fats have been used at the later stages of the process to add some softness and taste.
But even so, it is a good idea to ask, because that may not be the case for every bakery. And if you find a bakery that doesn’t use animal fats, keep in mind that you’ll have to avoid toppings such as cheese and dipping sauces such as mustard, which contain honey.
When it comes to store-bought pretzels, companies don’t usually add animal fat, but shower the pretzels with liquid sodium hydroxide to make them chewier.
However, you also need to keep in mind that some store-bought pretzels are imbued with toppings like cheese and mustard dips, which is why you need to keep an eye out for the ingredients.
Popular pretzel brands
Let’s look at some popular pretzel brands and check which ones are vegan so that you have an idea of which ones you can go for once you leave the house.
According to the FritoLay website, the original Rold Gold pretzels are vegan. But the cheddar version and the Garlic Parmesean Thin Crisps both contain milk products, and you can also find some honey-based variations that are not vegan.
Snack Factory also has different pretzel variations — some are vegan and some are not.
You got the original Snack Factory pretzels that are vegan, but you also have the deli variations such as the Garlic Parmesan, and the Buffalo Wing pretzels that contain dairy-based ingredients.
Before you buy anything from Snack Factory, be sure to check the ingredients first.
Akin to the previous examples, the SuperPretzel brand is the same. You have the original pretzels that have no animal ingredients, and then you have a cheese-filled soft pretzel stick that isn’t vegan. In addition, the multigrain variation is also not vegan because it contains honey.
Auntie Anne’s is an American chain of pretzel shops that was founded back in 1988.
According to their website, their Original pretzel is vegan as long as you request it to be made without butter. The same can said about the Cinnamon Sugar, Sweet Almond, Raisin, and Jalapeno variations. Communication is key when you visit a bakery!
Homemade vegan pretzels
The best way to make sure you’re eating vegan pretzels is by making your own.
Soft vegan pretzels
What I’m about to share with you is a simple soft pretzel recipe, because you’ll be making standard dough, using dried yeast and lukewarm water to soften the outside, then bake it.
The hardest part will be to twirl the pretzel, but other than that, the rest should be fairly easy to accomplish.
The recipe I found was created by Izy Hossack and it’s in a video format:
Hard vegan pretzels
I’ve also found a recipe for in case you prefer hard pretzels, so the end product is a crunchy, brown pretzel with the right balance of sweet and salt. It’s absolutely delicious!
Here is a short 2-minute video of a vegan pretzel recipe by Feasting on Fruit:
With a vegan diet, it can be quite difficult to indulge in the core, traditional treats that have been created over the decades. However, we must believe there is always a solution, whether it’s removing one ingredient or looking for an alternative.
At their core, pretzels are just a mixture of yeast, water, and flour. But later in the process, animal fats and additives (toppings and dipping sauces) are added to enhance the flavor.
Certain bakeries can create vegan pretzels, but you must ask them beforehand to exclude all animal fats. At the same time, you also need to avoid toppings and dipping sauces that may contain any dairy-based ingredient or even honey (like the mustard dip).
When it comes to store-bought pretzels, the original variations are usually vegan, but you always have to keep an eye out for variations that include cheese, and honey.