Is Pita Bread Vegan? What About Pita Chips?


Is pita bread vegan? are pita chips vegan?

Like other types of specialty bread, folks often ask if pita is generally considered vegan. This question is common for good reason. If going vegan meant giving up this tasty circular Middle Eastern treat, it would make the transition to a 100% plant-based diet much more difficult.

Luckily, yes pita bread and pita chips are both considered vegan by most standards—i.e. insofar as most bread is considered vegan. They’re made with the usual bread ingredients plus a few tweaks. The main difference is the proportion of ingredients and temperature at which they’re cooked.

It’s preferred by many vegans for making sandwiches because it can be filled with a variety of foods—basic sandwich ingredients, vegetables, dairy-free cheeses, etc.

Why Pita Bread Is Considered Vegan

Pita Bread Achieves It’s Texture Without Animal Products

Pita bread has a unique shape and texture. Anytime a food product has a unique character, you have to wonder whether animal products were needed to achieve it.

Fortunately, pita bread achieves its shape and texture due to how it’s cooked.

Pita bread aka pocket bread with its large hollow center is prepared by flattening the dough into thin circles about ¼-inch or less in thickness and 9 inches in diameter. They’re baked very briefly at high temperatures—about 500°F or 260°C—until they form two symmetrical halves.1

The characteristic shape is achieved because the moisture in the dough heats up so fast under such high temperatures that it doesn’t have time to escape through the pores.

As a result, the dough balloons out allowing the bread to bake in that position, collapsing again when removed from the oven. The whole process takes less than a minute!

Alternatively, they can be cooked on a lightly greased griddle for a few seconds on both sides.

Pita Bread Contains Plant-Based Ingredients

The number of ingredients used to make pita bread can range from basic baking ingredients you probably have in your pantry all the way to the most obscure additive you probably can’t even pronounce. The basic ingredients include whole wheat flour, usually listed with lots of descriptors like “stone ground”, etc.

Then there’s water, yeast, and wheat gluten used for leavening.

Anyway, these are the standard bare-bones pita bread ingredients

Then there are the additives.

Pita Bread Contains Vegan-Friendly Additives

Micronutrients

Enrichment of flour with B vitamins and iron started a few decades ago in Canada.2

A lot of deficiency disease syndromes were identified and documented in the 1930s and 1940s.3,4

So, the Committee on Food and Nutrition (currently the Food and Nutrition Board or FNB) recommended the addition of thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3), and iron to flour.

Around that time the FDA established standards to classify flour as enriched per the use of these nutrients. The idea was to encourage the use of them in order to improve the nutritional status of the population.

These days, other B vitamins such as folic acid are also used.

Citric acid is often used as a preservative.

As discussed in the articles on hummus and English muffins, citric acid is an organic acid found widely in citrus fruits.

It’s an strong edible organic acid, and perfectly safe. It’s an antioxidant which makes it ideal for use as a preservative, though it can also be used as a flavoring agent.

Production usually involves A. niger cultures fed on simple sugars from molasses, etc. to produce the compound directly.5

Soy Lecithin

Soybean oil is one of the most common sources of lecithin which is used as an emulsifier—it attracts both lipid and water components helping maintain a homogenous dough mixture.

Animal-derived lecithin (from eggs) can be used, but soy is a favorite because it doesn’t contain enough of the problematic proteins found in soy to induce an allergic reaction in most.6

Preservatives

Like most baked goods, the common preservatives used in pita bread include calcium propionate and potassium sorbate. These are used to increase shelf life and reduce the growth of molds, etc.7

Sometimes, sorbic acid is used (unbound to potassium). So, if you see sorbic acid, fear not, it’s vegan-friendly.

Possible Non-Vegan Ingredients in Pita Bread

So, we know by now that pita bread is vegan-friendly by most standards. However, vegans vary quite a bit in the degree to which they abstain from certain ambiguous ingredients that can be derived from either animal or non-animal sources.

Keep in mind that the presence of these substances doesn’t render a food product non-vegan by most standards.

But, if you’re an especially strict vegan, this is just something you may want to keep in mind.

Monoglycerides

Like soy lecithin, these are used for emulsification. These can be a grey area for some, as they can be derived from animals. However, in all my scanning of pita bread labels, this is the least common emulsifier I’ve run across. So, that’s nice.

However, if you do come across this in a food label, keep in mind that not all vegans avoid such additives. Again, they’re a grey area. But, if you’d rather avoid the additive, just know that the next brand of pita bread you find probably won’t even contain it.

Xanthan Gum

Thickening agents are often used in pita bread and usually come in the form of cellulose gum, guar gum, and/or xanthan gum.

I wrote a whole article on guar gum you can read here.

Only the latter (xanthan gum) is potentially problematic for some vegans. Like monoglycerides, it can be sourced from animals. In the same manner, products containing the additive are still considered vegan by most.

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide (complex carb) with a lot of industrial uses. It’s used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods and cosmetics.

It makes a good stabilizer because it’s good at preventing ingredients from separating.

Xanthan gum is produced by fermentation via Xanthomonas campestris. Anyway, the controversy comes from the fact it is sometimes grown on lactose in whey protein (a milk protein waste product).8

However, it’s often grown with simple sugars like sucrose and glucose.9

Commercial Vegan Pita Bread

This product is nearly always vegan by most standards, so it would probably be faster to list brands that may not be vegan.

But, we’ll cover a few here just for good measure.

Vegan by Most Standards

Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Pita Pocket 

I say most standards, because these contain monoglycerides and xanthan gum.

Ingredients include:12

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Water
  • Cellulose Fiber
  • Yeast
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Soybean And/Or Canola Oil
  • Polydextrose
  • Salt
  • Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid)
  • Monoglycerides
  • Citric Acid
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Reb A (Stevia Leaf Sweetener)
  • Soy Lecithin
Sam’s Choice Traditional Pocket Pita (White)

Ingredients include:13

  • Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Water
  • Wheat gluten
  • Oat fiber
  • Potato flour
  • Yeast
  • Soybean oil
  • Sugar
  • Fruit juice
  • Dextrin
  • Vegetable fiber
  • Salt
  • Calcium propionate (a preservative)
  • Monoglycerides with ascorbic acid (preservative)
  • Dough conditioner (wheat flour, calcium sulfate, salt, enzymes)
  • Xanthan gum
Sara Lee Mr. Pita 100% Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Ingredients include:14

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Water
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Soybean Oil
  • Salt
  • Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid)
  • Grain Vinegar
  • Monoglycerides
  • Citric Acid
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Soy Lecithin

Vegan by Strict Standards

Sam’s Choice White Greek Style Pita

Ingredients include:15

  • Enriched Unbleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Cane Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Soybean Oil
  • Salt
  • Calcium Propionate (a preservative)
  • Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate)
  • Sugar Cane Fiber
  • Enzyme (plant based)
  • Citric Acid (a preservative)
Papa Pita Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Ingredients include:16

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Water
  • Enriched Unbleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Malt Barley Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Oat Fiber
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Soy Oil
  • Calcium Propionate (A Preservative)

Pita Chips

Common Ingredients in Pita Chips and Their Vegan Status

Pita chips are basically made with the same ingredients. They’re, of course, smaller, and use the ingredients in different proportions. They have a similar mouthfeel, but are harder, have no pocket, and are usually dipped in condiments and hummus, etc.

Not all pita chips are considered are suitable for vegans. Some common pita chips contain milk products.

For example, Keebler Town House Pita Chips contain whey protein.

Are Pita Chips Vegan

Examples of Vegan Pita Chips

Nature’s Promise Pita Chips Sea Salt

Ingredients:10

  • Wheat Flour
  • Malted Barley Flour
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Reduced Iron
  • Thiamin Mononitrate (vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Folic Acid (vitamin B9)
  • Yeast
  • Sunflower and/or Canola Oil
  • Sea Salt
O Organics, Organic Caramelized Onion Pita Crackers

Ingredients:11

  • Organic Wheat Flour
  • Organic Wheat Gluten
  • Organic Sunflower Oil
  • Organic Maltodextrin
  • Organic Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Organic Onion
  • Organic Yeast Extract
  • Lactic Acid
  • Organic Red Pepper
  • Citric Acid
  • Organic Rice Concentrate
  • Salt
  • Organic Yeast

As you can see, no problems here.

Anyway, that sums it up for pita bread. Until next time.

References

  1. Alford J, and N. Duguid. Flatbreads and Flavors. A Baker’s Atlas. William Morrow, 2008.
  2. Bhagwan G. ShahAlexandre GirouxBartholomeus Belonje. Specifications for reduced iron as a food additive. J. Agric. Food Chem.1977253592-594
  3. Foltz EE, Barborka CJ, Ivy AC. The level of vitamin B-complex in the diet at which detectable symptoms of deficiency occur in man. Gastroenterology. 1944;2:323–344.
  4. Williams RD, Mason HL, Wilder RM. The minimum daily requirement of thiamine in man. J Nutr. 1943;25:71–97.
  5. Lotfy, Walid A.; Ghanem, Khaled M.; El-Helow, Ehab R. (2007). “Citric acid production by a novel Aspergillus niger isolate: II. Optimization of process parameters through statistical experimental designs”. Bioresource Technology. 98 (18): 3470–3477. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2006.11.032
  6. “Soy Lecithin”. Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  7. Erich Lück, Martin Jager and Nico Raczek “Sorbic Acid” in Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2000.doi:10.1002/14356007.a24_507
  8. Tortora, G.J., Funke, B.R., & Case, C.L. (2010). Microbiology: An Introduction, 10th edition. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. Pg. 801.
  9. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources (14 July 2017). “Re‐evaluation of xanthan gum (E 415) as a food additive”. EFSA Journal. European Food Safety Authority. 15 (2): e04909. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4909. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  10. Nature’s Promise Pita Chips Sea Salt. http://smartlabel.peapod.com/upc/00688267167171#ingredients
  11. O Organics, Organic Caramelized Onion Pita Crackers https://smartlabel.labelinsight.com/product/4337853/ingredients
  12. Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Pita Pocket Thins Flatbread 8 Count 11.75 Oz Jude – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Arnold-100-Whole-Wheat-Pita-Pocket-Thins-Flatbread-8-count-11-75-oz/45942072
  13. Sam’s Choice White Pocket Pita BudgetBuyer13- Fromfargo- Unhappyshopper – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sam-s-Choice-White-Pocket-Pita/441683211
  14. Sara Lee Mr. Pita 100% Whole Wheat Pita Bread, 6 Count https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sara-Lee-Mr-Pita-100-Whole-Wheat-Pita-Bread-6-count/10534266
  15. Sam’s Choice White Greek Style Pita,16.8oz, 6 Count DeeDee – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sam-s-Choice-White-Greek-Style-Pita-16-8oz-6-count/731116710
  16. Papa Pita Whole Wheat Pita Bread, 6 Ct https://www.walmart.com/ip/Papa-Pita-Whole-Wheat-Pita-Bread-6-ct/12443380

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

Recent Content

error: Alert: Content is protected !!