Pita bread is one of the most popular side dishes, particularly in Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Also known as “Pitta”, this flatbread has evolved over time into regional variations, gotten itself different names, and is even available in a range of flavors.
But has it evolved enough to become a vegan-friendly choice? Below, we’ll take a look at pita in more detail, examine each of its ingredients and answer the burning question of “Is pita bread vegan?” once and for all!
Is Pita Bread Vegan?
Let’s cut straight to the chase and find out if pita bread is vegan. Focusing on traditional pita bread, rather than regional and flavor variations, we can see that pita bread is made from just four ingredients. These are:
With this in mind, we can see that there are no animal-based ingredients and, therefore, most pita bread is vegan. However, as with all mass-produced products, it’s impossible to say whether or not every single brand of pita bread available is vegan as some may have been produced using ingredients that have been processed using animal byproducts, such as bone-char sugar.
It’s also important to note that we have focused on the traditional pita bread recipe here. There’s no doubt that there are flavor variations that include animal products such as bacon or beef, and it goes without saying that these are obviously not suitable for those following a vegan diet.
There may also be some pita breads that have milk or egg amongst their ingredients list, so these would also be unsuitable for vegan consumption. These would, however, be a suitable choice for vegetarians.
The Yeast & Flour Used in Pita Bread
There is some debate around whether or not yeast is a suitable ingredient amongst the vegan community. This is because it is technically a living, non-plant-based ingredient. But what does this mean for pita bread?
To put things simply, yeast is 100% vegan-friendly, which means that it’s suitable for using and listing as part of the ingredients in a vegan pita bread.
The reason it is considered vegan despite being non-plant-based is that it is a part of the fungi kingdom, the same way that mushrooms are. So, since it isn’t an actual animal, it’s fine for vegans to eat. Unless, of course, you’re yeast intolerant, in which case you should steer clear of it at all costs!
But what about the flour used for making pita bread? The reason that there is still some concern around the vegan-friendliness of flour is that, many years ago, L-cysteine used to be added to flour. This is derived from duck feathers and pig hair, which are clearly not something that anybody would particularly want to consume, whether they are vegan or not!
However, this practice hasn’t been used for a very long time, and it’s virtually unheard of today. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the flour used in pita bread is also 100% vegan.
Of course, if you have any concerns about the vegan credentials of the ingredients used in a brand of pita bread that you’re thinking of purchasing, you can always contact the brand directly for more information.
Palm Oil, Xanthan Gum, and Lecithin
It’s virtually impossible to find any processed foods that don’t contain some sort of additional ingredient or preservative in them, and pita bread is no exception to this. So, unless you make your own pita at home, you’ll also need to check for ingredients that may be problematic for vegans.
Palm oil is used in pretty much everything these days and it’s even lurking in products that you wouldn’t expect to find it in, such as shampoo and body wash. For the most part, palm oil is considered vegan since it comes from the fruit of a palm tree. However, there are some ethical issues surrounding palm oil that might make a person following the vegan lifestyle think twice about consuming it.
The main issue surrounding palm oil is deforestation. As the demand for palm oil has rapidly increased, the need to clear huge areas of the rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations has grown. With this, the natural habitat of several animal species has been taken away.
The farming process used to grow and harvest palm oil is also a concern, as it has a large impact on climate change.
So, if you’re concerned about either of these two things, it would be worth looking for a brand of vegan pita bread that doesn’t contain palm oil.
Xanthan Gum is mostly considered to be vegan since it is made from sugars. However, vegans may want to look further into the way the sugar used to make the xanthan gum was processed.
Some sugars are processed using bone char to give them a brighter appearance and, while there are no bone particles left in the sugar afterward, it still means that the sugar came into contact with an animal byproduct.
If you’ve noticed xanthan gum as one of the ingredients on pita bread that isn’t explicitly labeled as being vegan, then it’s fairly safe to assume that bone char has been used to process the sugar. Again, it’s always an option to check with the brand themselves to double check before you purchase.
Lecithin is another ingredient that is worth looking out for when purchasing vegan pita bread. Although most lecithin is now produced from soya beans (making it vegan-friendly), there are allergy issues surrounding other types of lecithin. This includes those made from corn and sunflower seed oils.
Looking through the four ingredients that are used to make traditional pita bread, we can see that there are no animal products and, therefore, pita bread is vegan. However, flavor variations and additives could take away these vegan credentials and make some pita breads suitable for vegetarians, but not vegans.
The easiest way to check if a certain brand of pita bread is vegan is to check whether or not it is ‘certified vegan’. This makes it much easier to tell if the pita bread you’re looking at is suitable. If you can’t find this information, we’d recommend getting in touch with the brand themselves and asking about the ingredients and how they were processed.
Fun Pita Bread Facts
Pita bread has been around for centuries and, with such a long history behind it, there are some interesting things it has been used for since it was invented. Below, you’ll find 7 fun pita bread facts that you can wow people with at your next dinner party!
- Pita bread has a super-long history and was evolved from flatbreads that were in many parts of the world during the late stone age. As well as pita, other variations on these original flatbreads include lavash and roti.
- It is believed that the Bedouin people of the Levant created pita bread and they took it with them as they traveled the world, Pita was used for trading and, as such, it found its way across the globe.
- The etymology of pita bread remains unclear to this day. However, some possible related words include “pizza”, Turkish “Pide”, Albanian “Pite”, and Bulgarian “Pitka”.
- Making pita bread from scratch was the first ‘outdoor challenge’ given to contestants of the Great British Bake Off. This challenge was met with some controversy, but as far as ‘world firsts’ go, they don’t come much bigger than the world’s most famous baking show!
- The famous ‘pocket’ inside pita bread is unique in the bread world, and no other type of bread can be stuffed in the same way. It’s ideal for hummus, roasted vegetables, and a plethora of other vegan tasties!
- If you’ve ever struggled to open a pita’s pocket, it could be because you’ve not warmed it up! Pitas are designed to be heated at 400ºF or even higher before eating. Doing this creates a blast of steam produced by the water in the dough, which causes the pita to puff up and the pocket to open.
- You have to keep a close eye on pita bread while it’s being heated up, however, as the mixture of high-temperature and the natural thinness of the dough can cause it to burn very easily. A pita bread can puff up and open its pocket in just one minute, or even less depending on the power of your oven!