Just like the spekulatius, its cousin lebkuchen is an essential part of German Christmas.
You can find it in most Christmas markets and local shops across Germany.
This delicious gingerbread biscuit dates back to the 15th Century, a time in which the biscuit itself was so unique, that people used it to pay taxes and offer it as a gift to nobles.
Sadly for most vegans, the traditional lebkuchen is not vegan.
That isn’t surprising considering how its name is translated into different languages.
While in English one may call it “Gingerbread from Nuremberg”, in Portuguese we call it “Pão de Mel de Nuremberga.”.
That Portuguese translation stands for “Honey bread from Nuremberg”.
Why Lebkuchen Isn’t Vegan
Lebkuchen (different variation)
Speaking purely from a traditional standpoint, the original Lebkuchen is not vegan.
And although the sweet does vary depending on the region where it’s made, most pastry shops still use animal-based ingredients.
That isn’t to say you can’t find a vegan version of the lebkuchen in local markets, given how predominant the vegan population in Germany is. In fact, you can even find commercially available vegan lebkuchen with a quick google search.
Perhaps if you do your research in German— you might have more luck. (Don’t speak German)
Regardless, let’s go back to the original recipe to understand why lebkuchen is not vegan.
The ingredients typically include:
Honey, butter, plain flour, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice, nutmeg, orange and sea salt.
Sadly, it contains honey and butter.
But at the same time, those aren’t too difficult to replace.
Assuming you love maple syrup and vegan butter it wouldn’t be difficult to re-create a vegan version of the lebkuchen.
In fact, I’m sure that’s what most vegans (in love with lebkuchen) do.
Is The “Sugar” In Lebkuchen Vegan?
Sugar is a highly debated topic within the vegan community.
That’s because sugar suppliers are known to use bone char to filter and bleach sugar, which gives it that pristine white color. Not sure what I’m talking about?
Simply put, we have two types of sugars.
We have beet sugar which is extracted using a diffuser and mixed with additives that confer it with its crystallized color. And then we have cane sugar that is filtered and bleached using bone char after being extracted and heated to crystallize.
Sugar companies heat the bones of cows at a high-temperature and reduce them into carbon before using them in a refinery. That is a common practice in the United States.
However, many countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have banned the use of bone char in the refining process.
That being said, you have to verify if the sugar (within the product) has been manufactured locally. If that is the case, then the sugar can be considered 100% vegan.
Like I’ve said, this question usually applies to more strict vegans. Generally, most vegans are preoccupied with whether or not a product contains animal ingredients.
Vegan Lebkuchen Made At Home
If you have time on your hands, and you’re not in Germany to indulge in (potentially) vegan lebkuchen biscuits, then you can always try to make them at home.
The Unconventional Baker has a gluten-free & vegan lebkuchen recipe to help you re-create the amazing flavor of these gingerbread biscuits! Like I’ve mentioned, you sub honey + conventional butter and you have a vegan lebkuchen recipe. 🙂
According to the author, making these gingerbread marvels will take you approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of prep time, and then three hours in the oven.
Traditionally made lebkuchen are not vegan because they contain ingredients like honey and butter.
Yet it’s also worth mentioning that Germany (especially Berlin) is one of the great capitals of veganism. Thus, you might be able to find a vegan version of the lebkuchen in Christmas markets and specialized vegan stores.
At the same time, re-creating a vegan lebkuchen recipe is simple — given how you just have to replace the honey and butter. Follow this recipe if you want to make lebkuchen at home.