Answer: It depends.
Soft pretzels are practically vegan, but you must ensure that all ingredients used to make them are plant-based.
Choosing to be a vegan takes commitment, not just to abstain from meat and other animal-derived products but also to do your research. Soft pretzels, while they may appear completely vegan at first, can still include additives that automatically exclude them from the vegan choices.
Reading the label and asking questions before taking a bite will save you from trouble. Luckily for you, this article will answer all your questions about what makes soft pretzels vegan.
What Exactly Are Soft Pretzels? How Are They Different From Hard Pretzels?
Hard and soft pretzels share the same ingredients. Their dough is composed primarily of three ingredients, namely yeast, water, and flour. The only thing that differentiates the two is their texture.
Hard pretzels are said to be popularized in American culture. They have a crunchy texture because hard pretzels contain less water, and their cooking time is quite long.
On the other hand, soft pretzels are derived from a traditional German recipe. However, soft pretzels are just as common in an American supermarket as hard ones. If hard pretzels are crunchy like biscuits, soft pretzels have a chewy texture similar to bread.
Soft pretzels are chewy because of their higher water content and less cooking time than hard pretzels. Although, some people add extra ingredients to soft pretzels to achieve a much softer texture. Animal fat is one of the top choices of soft pretzel bakers for this matter.
That being said, there is a chance that the soft pretzels served in restaurants or stocked in grocery stores contain animal derivatives.
Common Ingredients That Make Soft Pretzels Non-Vegan
Soft pretzels are automatically vegan if not for the flavors added to some store-bought products. There are special pretzel flavors like cheddar cheese that make soft pretzels non-vegan. Also, adding animal fat to the dough mixture is a common practice to make some soft pretzels even softer.
To avoid consuming animal byproducts from a soft pretzel, you need to check the label first before buying it from a store. If the soft pretzel is served in a diner, you can make a few inquiries before making an order.
It is best to ask for a plain soft pretzel if you want a safely vegan pretzel treat. You may also do your investigation and be on the lookout for these animal-derived ingredients that may be present in your soft pretzel.
Aside from being mixed with flour and water to create the pretzel dough, butter can be applied directly to a freshly-baked soft pretzel as a thin layer. An outer coating of butter and salt is what sets the difference between pretzels and other baked products.
To ensure that you will be consuming your soft pretzel without butter, ask if the baker used plant-based fats to emulsify the dough mix or simply brush it on top of the pretzel.
Vegan Alternative To Butter
A good vegan alternative for butter is margarine, which is derived from vegetable oil. Issues were raised in the past regarding the amount of trans fat present in margarine. However, this is not much of a problem nowadays as manufacturers have learned to make their margarine healthier with zero trans fat.
Another great candidate to replace butter in a soft pretzel recipe is coconut oil. In terms of health benefits, there is no doubt that coconut oil is an absolute winner. The plant-based saturated fats present in coconut oil have positive effects on people’s cholesterol levels.
Among all edible oils that can be mixed in baking goods, coconut oil is the closest to mimicking butter as an emulsifier. This is because coconut oil has a thicker texture than animal and plant-based oils. It is also semi-solid at room temperature, which makes it suitable for baking purposes.
Milk ingredients are added to processed foods for many reasons. One good reason is to make them sweet and creamy. Perhaps the most important reason is the added nutritional value, as milk is a good source of protein.
Talking about baking purposes, milk proteins such as caseinates are good emulsifying and stabilizing agents in a dough mixture. Other proteins also contribute to gelling and thickness in texture.
Some milk ingredients also contain a little bit of sugar, which turns brown upon cooking to give baked goods a nice color.
Vegan Alternative To Milk
Soy milk is the number one vegan alternative to whole milk extracted from animals. It tastes almost like ordinary milk but with a distinct soy flavor. In terms of nutritional value, soy milk is cholesterol-free.
While low in fat is an advantage of using soy milk as a milk substitute, it does not have the same amount of calcium as regular milk. Although, there are soy milk products in the market with added calcium and protein, which you can pick up instead.
Eggs are probably the most challenging animal-based food to avoid. They are present in almost every meal, particularly in baked goods like soft pretzels. Eggs are good binding agents because of their naturally-occurring emulsifier called lecithin.
However, some of you may not know that gluten, which is present in wheat flour, is already a good binder on its own. Therefore, using eggs as a binder is unnecessary to make bread products. You can actually make completely vegan bread by just avoiding eggs altogether.
We expect that many people would still rather use eggs in baking in spite of the fact that we mentioned. For starters, eggs make the dough texture soft and fluffy like pillows. Most importantly, eggs are packed with tons of protein and other minerals beneficial to our growth.
Vegan Alternative To Eggs
If you want an equally nutritious substitute for eggs in a soft pretzel batter, then flaxseed is the way to go. Flaxseeds are not only a good source of high-quality protein like eggs, but they are also rich in omega-3 fats. They are perfect for those who are keeping their cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check.
A tablespoon of finely ground flaxseed, mixed with 3 tablespoons of water, is enough to match the binding qualities of eggs. They can be used in baking cakes, cookies, muffins, and of course, soft pretzels.
Veganism is not just exclusive to eating only plant-extracted food. Vegans also avoid any products made out of animal exploitation. In this regard, honey is considered non-vegan because of how people exploit bees to produce honey for their consumption.
Sadly, many store-bought soft pretzels contain honey extract for added sweetness. Sometimes, honey is glazed on top of pretzels to form a glistening layer that makes them more appetizing.
Vegan Alternative To Honey
It’s too bad that honey is off the vegan’s choices because of its health advantages. However, there are other natural sweeteners out there that are just as healthy. Date paste, for example, is a great honey substitute.
Date paste does not have high levels of sugar. It is also filled with iron and other beneficial micronutrients to keep the human body well-regulated. One wouldn’t mind having their soft pretzels drizzled with date paste as a honey replacement.
Which Popular Brands Sell Vegan Soft Pretzels?
Knowing what you will pick up from the store from the get-go will save you time checking unwanted ingredients in your pretzels. Here are some of the popular brands that offer vegan-friendly soft pretzels.
Like other pretzel brands, Snack Factory offers a variety of soft pretzel flavors for the general public. As a vegan, you ought to choose the original Snack Factory pretzel, which does not have extra flavors that contain dairy or honey.
Rest assured, SuperPretzel’s plain soft pretzels have no animal derivatives such as eggs, milk, or honey. However, if you are health-conscious and vegan in one, you may want to avoid their multigrain variant because it contains honey extract as a sweetener.
You should also not risk trying their cheese-filled soft pretzel sticks because it is made of a majority of animal-derived ingredients.
America’s most popular pretzel place since 1988, Auntie Anne’s, serves soft pretzels that are perfect for vegans. Their original soft pretzels are delicious and oven-fresh, and they are not baked with eggs and dairy ingredients. However, you must say beforehand that you want your soft pretzels made without butter.
As stated earlier, flavored pretzels are off-limits to vegans, so you must avoid Auntie Anne’s California Raisin, Sweet Almond, and Cinnamon Sugar specials. However, it is better to ask the store directly if they have flavored variants that are good for vegans.
Sustaining a vegan diet can be challenging. You need to make sure all the time that every food that comes into your mouth has no animal-based products. When it comes to soft pretzels, you don’t have to worry too much because they are already as vegan as they can be.
Whether you are buying soft pretzels from a grocery store or a restaurant, there are many safe vegan options for everyone. The plain soft pretzel is the best vegan pick because other flavored pretzels are more likely to have milk, butter, or honey.
You can also take note of the alternative vegan ingredients for soft pretzels. In case you are craving special flavors in your pretzel, you can ask if there are vegan-friendly substitutes that can give you those flavors. For example, there are bakery stores that offer cheddar flavors made of vegan cheese.
If there are none of those pretzels are readily available, then you can always make your own in the kitchen.