This is a simple question with a lot of confusion surrounding it.
My verdict is: The majority of regular white or wheat flour (bleached or unbleached) is vegan.
As long as you don’t have a wheat allergy, you shouldn’t be too worried about it. If you do have an allergy, you can substitute almond flour for wheat flour.
If you spend 30 minutes or so reading about this on discussion forums, the controversy around flour comes from:
- Claims about bone char being used to make white flour.
- Additives in “enriched” flour being non-vegan.
Let’s go over both of these issues in more detail.
Is Bone Char Used to Make White Flour?
Bone char is a concern when it comes to white sugar.
While it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s used for flour as well, I can’t find any credible manufacturing process outline that specifies that flour makers use bone char.
Also, from reading anecdotes of people who actually worked at flour manufacturers, they never used bone char.
Furthermore, most people define veganism as avoiding animal harm as much as reasonably possible.
I don’t think avoiding flour because there’s a small chance that it’s been filtered through bone char (the char isn’t in the actual flour) is reasonable.
If you’re super concerned about this, make your own flour, it’s not too hard. Or, use other flour alternatives like chickpea flour or oat flour, or stick to whole wheat flour.
Does Flour Contain Non-Vegan Additives?
This is where it’s tricky to be 100% sure.
Different flour brands add different vitamins and minerals. Some may very well not be vegan.
The most common non-wheat ingredients and additives used to make wheat are:
- Amylase (Typically comes from bacteria or fungus – amylase is typically considered vegan)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3 – vegan)
- Folic acid (Vitamin B9 – vegan)
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1 – vegan)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2 – vegan)
Iron is the tricky one. It can come from animal sources or non-animal sources.
The only way to know for sure is going to be to contact the company who makes the flour and see. I understand that’s not a convenient answer, but it’s the only way to be sure.
Summary: White flour is considered vegan by the vast majority of vegans unless something weird like iron is added to it, which isn’t common.
Is Self-Raising White Flour Vegan?
Another type of white flour you may use is self-raising flour (not a great substitute for bread flour).
This is just white flour (vegan) with a few ingredients added. It’s almost always just salt (vegan) and baking soda (also vegan) added.
Sometimes you’ll also see other raising agents like calcium phosphate, which is also almost always vegan.
In short: Self-raising white flour is essentially always vegan.