The Simple Guide: Are Bagels Dairy Free?

If your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy and you’re looking for something for snack time or you are a breastfeeding mum following a milk protein-free diet you might be wondering: Are bagels dairy-free? This question is also crucial if your family follows a vegan or plant-based diet.  With the wide range of bagel flavors available, it’s no wonder that they have become a staple in many people’s diets.

From the classic bagels with poppy seeds on the top, to unique twists with nut butters contained and even the famous rainbow bagels, the bagel universe is a vast, expanding and delicious one. But the question remains: Are bagels dairy-free?  In this in-depth article, I’ll guide you through all you need to know about  bagels, ensuring you can enjoy them to the fullest and making sure that they fit with your nutritional needs. 

What do people considered Dairy?

Dairy refers to products made from the milk of mammals, most commonly cows. It’s a food group that includes a wide range of products, from milk to various derivatives, including additives that you might not have heard of.  

The Most Common Sources of Dairy:

  • Milk: This includes all forms such as liquid, dry/powdered, and even condensed.
  • Cheese: Ranging from soft cheeses like brie to hard cheeses like cheddar.
  • Yogurt: This can be regular, Greek, or even varieties with added flavors.
  • Cream: Often used in cooking or as coffee additives.
  • Ice Cream: A popular dessert worldwide.
  • Butter and Ghee: While butter is a direct derivative, ghee is a clarified version of butter.
  • Buttermilk: Often used in baking. 

Alternative Names for Dairy:

Be cautious, as dairy can sneak its way into your bagel and there are many alternatives names for dairy:

  • Casein, Whey, and Curds: Proteins found in milk and its products.
  • Lactalbumin, Lactalbumin Phosphate, Lactoglobulin, Lactoferrin: All derivatives and proteins found in milk.
  • Rennet: Often used in the cheesemaking process.
  • Nisin: a preservative 
  • Tagatose: An artificial sweetener that can contain milk derivatives.

What is a dough conditioner?

Dough conditioners are additives used in bread and bagel making to improve the dough consistency, enhance its texture, and reduce the time needed for the dough to rise. They can include a variety of ingredients such as fats, emulsifiers, enzymes, and oxidizing agents. While they can make the baking process more efficient and enhance the quality of the final product, it’s essential to check the ingredients, as some dough conditioners may contain dairy-derived components.

Unexpected Foods That Might Contain Dairy:

Sometimes, foods you wouldn’t expect might have dairy in their ingredient list:

  • Margarine: Many think it’s a dairy-free alternative to butter, but some varieties contain milk derivatives.
  • Baked Products: This includes breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, and brownies.
  • Cereals: Especially cereal that are cream-filled, have chocolate contained or have a creamy texture.
  • Sweets & Candy: Make sure you check the ingredients list on this one, especially for sherbet.

When trying to avoid dairy, it’s crucial to be vigilant. It is a good idea to always read the ingredient label or look for a Vegan trademark that can support your choice. 

Basic Ingredients for a Classic, Dairy-Free Bagel:

  • Flour: The fundamental component of your bagel. Whether you prefer white, whole wheat, or gluten-free, there’s a flour to suit your dietary needs.
  • Water: The activating agent for yeast, water helps combine all the elements into a unified dough.
  • Yeast: An indispensable ingredient, yeast is responsible for making the dough rise and providing that iconic bagel chewiness.
  • Sea Salt: A small amount is often added for taste and to regulate yeast activity during the fermentation process.
  • Optional Non-Dairy Sweeteners: Traditional recipes don’t usually include sweeteners, but if you’d like a sweeter taste, you can add sugar or maple syrup. 

Bagels with Dairy & Non-Vegan Ingredients

When checking out all of the bagel flavors available, it’s important to remember that while the traditional bagel is dairy-free, many popular bagel recipes might not be. 

The toppings and flavorings added are often the culprits when it comes to hidden dairy content. Here’s a list of the common bagel varieties that you might want to approach with caution. 


For some bakers and manufacturers, the traditional basic bagels might just not be enough. That’s why some bakers might incorporate milk into the ingredients. Cream might also be a component in some recipes to give the bagel a softer consistency. That being said, not all bagels include milk or cream, so scrutinizing the ingredients list before you buy is essential. 


Butter can also be used in bagel recipes to give a rich, flavorful taste. Nevertheless, there are several dairy-free alternatives like margarine, vegetable oil, or olive oil that can be used as substitutes.


Cheese is another ingredient that may find its way into bagels, either mixed into the bagel dough or used as a topping. However, many bagels are suitable dairy-free options and now contain vegan cheese as an alternative. 


Eggs may be incorporated into even plain bagel recipes in several ways, often serving to enrich the dough and create a softer, more tender crumb. Some recipes may use eggs in the main dough, while others might use an egg wash brushed over the top of the bagel before baking, giving it a glossy, finish. Egg whites might be used to create a “wash” that helps toppings stick better to the bagel’s surface. While eggs are not a dairy product, they are sometimes grouped with dairy due to their allergenic potential. So, if you have an egg allergy or follow a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to check the ingredients list or ask the baker to ensure the bagels meet your dietary needs.

Flavored or Coloured Bagels

Nowadays the world of bagels is expanding and this can lead to confusion when trying to choose a dairy-free bagel. For instance, a cheesecake-flavored bagel will likely include elements of the actual dessert, which typically contains dairy. Similarly, innocent traditional flavors like cinnamon sugar might not be dairy-free if they feature a glaze or topping made with milk-based ingredients.  

Additionally, some bagels may have artificial flavors or colors that contain dairy derivatives, so it’s crucial to check the ingredient list carefully when at your local grocery store. 

Are bagels dairy free?

11 Dairy-Free Bagel Options

Finding a dairy-free option for bagels is easier than ever, thanks to the growing awareness of dietary needs and preferences. The good news is that many grocery stores and bagel shops are now expanding their shelves to include a wide variety of vegan options, ensuring that you can enjoy this classic staple without any animal products or dairy involved. 

​Here’s bagels with a variety of flavors;

  • Plain: The most basic of bagel flavors and often dairy-free. Plain bagels are versatile and can be paired with a variety of toppings such as vegan cream cheese, natural peanut butter or instead of avocado toast try avocado bagel!
  • Whole Wheat: A fiber-rich option with a great chewy texture. It pairs well with both sweet and savory toppings and is generally free from dairy ingredients.
  • Cinnamon Raisin: Combines the sweetness of raisins with a hint of cinnamon spice. Check the glaze or topping, as some may contain dairy, but the base is often dairy-free.
  • Blueberry: Packed with sweet blueberries, these bagels offer fruity flavor bursts and a great option to get your little ones to meet their 5 a day. 
  • Sesame Seed: These bagels come sprinkled with sesame seeds for added crunch and flavor. They are generally dairy-free but check for any added butter or milk in the dough or the glaze.
  • Poppy Seed: A bagel classic, poppy seed bagels provide a nutty taste. 
  • Onion or Garlic: These savory options are flavored with bits of onion or garlic and are usually made without any dairy ingredients. 
  • Pumpernickel: Made with a mix of rye flour and cocoa for a distinct dark color and rich flavor. Cocoa is naturally dairy-free however make sure it is sources ethically. 
  • Sun-Dried Tomato: These bagels offer a tangy and rich tomato flavor, often combined with herbs like basil or oregano. Generally free from dairy products unless cheese is added as a topping. 
  • Spinach: Usually flavored with just spinach and perhaps some garlic or herbs.Jalapeño: For those who like it spicy, jalapeño bagels offer a kick. You could pair it with some dairy-free cream cheese to take that spicy kick down a level or two. 
Picture of bagel and avocado on a wooden board

Store-Bought Bagel Brands

  • O’Doughs: Known for their gluten-free products, O’Doughs also boasts a range of dairy-free bagels that don’t skimp on flavor or texture.
  • Udi’s Gluten Free: While primarily renowned for being gluten-free, many of Udi’s bagels also skip the dairy, making them a double win for those with dietary needs.
  • Dave’s Killer Bread: Their Epic Everything bagels are not only organic but also dairy-free. They come packed with seeds and grains for an added kick of omega 3
  • Canyon Bakehouse: Another gluten-free hero, Canyon Bakehouse, offers dairy-free bagels in an array of flavors, from plain to blueberry.
  • Trader Joes: Trader Joe offers a wide range of vegan bagel options that cover the traditional plain variety to whole grain options. 

Dairy Free Bagels on the go

When you’re on the go and craving a bagel, several popular chains and coffee shops have got your back. Some of the brands out there are;

  • Starbucks 
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Einstein Bros Bagels
  • Noah’s Bagels
  • Tim Hortons
  • Panera
  • Bruegger’s bagels 

Remember to always double-check, as recipes and ingredients can change!

Recipe for Dairy-Free Basic Bagel:

My favourite recipe for vegan bagels contains only yeast, flour, a little sugar and salt if you like, and a topping of poppy, fennel, or sesame seeds if you like for that omega 3 hit! 

So are Bagels Dairy-Free?

The answer is a mixed one and not all bagels are dairy free.

Traditional bagels are generally suitable for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet making them a convenient choice. But the story doesn’t end there; specialty flavors and selections from major chains might just contain dairy.

With that in mind, always be vigilant. Read the ingredients labels on pre-packaged bagels and feel free to ask staff about the ingredients and always be cautious about possible cross-contamination when you’re out and about. 

As always if you have any questions or need any support you can contact me below

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at  | | Website

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.


Registered Dietitian
First Class Degree in Nutrition


Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition



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