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Is Malt Vegan? Can Vegans Consume Malt?

From bagels to milkshakes and even in our beer and whiskey, is Malt, an invisible ingredient, mostly unknown to man. It is one of those versatile ingredients that sneak into a wide range of unexpected foods. The universal nature of this ingredient raises questions about its vegan friendliness. 

So, is malt vegan? 

Yes! Malt is vegan without any animal-derived ingredients. The word malt refers to malted cereals, primarily barley, and less frequently rye, wheat, rice, and corn. 

However, the same cannot be said for its products containing malt. For example, malted milk and milkshakes definitely contain milk. The same goes for malt loaf, which contains eggs. So, it is up to you to read the labels carefully when purchasing products containing malt. 

Is Malt Vegan-Friendly? 

Generally speaking, Yes! Malt is vegan-friendly. Most commonly used in producing alcohol such as whiskey, malt is a sweetening agent mainly made from barley. 

Malt is made from a germinated grain and hence doesn’t contain any animal products or animal-derived products. Furthermore, the process of manufacturing malt doesn’t involve animal-based ingredients making it purely vegan.

What is Malt?

Malt is essentially a cereal grain that is soaked and allowed to germinate. The germinated grains are then dried in a process called malting. Typically made from whole-grain barley, malt is also derived from rice, corn, wheat, and, most recently, millets. Once dried, the grains are ground into a slightly sweet powder called malt. 

Due to the malting process, maltodextrin (a sugar) is developed along with sucrose and fructose (already present) in the grain. This process makes it sweeter and gives it qualities similar to fermentation.

Apart from the sugars, malt also contains enzymes that aid in fermentation. The outcome is a sugary, protein-rich fermenting substance popular in the beer and whiskey industries. 

Origin of Malt

Malt has its roots in ancient Egypt. According to age-old legend, early Egyptians made malt by placing barley in a wicker basket and lowering them into the water for soaking. The soaked grains were then raised and tied above the water level for germination. 

Growing them inside the wells allowed for a controlled germination process. To reduce the germination rate, the basket was dropped closer to the water to a lower temperature level. For accelerated growth, the basket was raised and placed at a higher level. The germinated grains were then dried under direct sunlight. 

In the earlier days, malt was exclusively used to prepare beverages. 

Types of Malt

Depending on the usage, malt can be categorized as diastatic and nondiastatic malt

  • Diastatic malt: contains active enzymes that convert starch into sugar. 
  • Nondiastatic malt: is pure malted barley flour and contains only inactive enzymes. It is often used in bakery products for its distinctive flavor and deep caramel color. 

Keep in mind that you cannot swap diastatic malt powder in place of nondiastatic malt powder. 

Furthermore, brewers also categorize malt as Base malt and Specialty malt. 

  • Base malt: contains diastatic power, i.e., fermentable sugars to convert starch into sugars. In addition to malted grain, base malt also contains a small amount of adjuncts, starch from unmalted grain. They require mashing to break complex sugars.
  • Specialty malt: contains very little diastatic power and requires heat treatment instead of mashing to convert starch into sugar. It provides flavor, aroma, and viscosity to the end product. 

Different Malt Products and Their Vegan Status

Malt is used to make various products, from vinegar to liquor and even confections such as Maltesers. Some are vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, while others contain animal-based products. 

The malt in itself is entirely vegan. However, based on the end product, it may or may not be vegan. 

Here are some of the malt-based products and their vegan status. 

malt products vegan status

Health Benefits Of Malt

Malt is not new to the culinary world. Ancient cultures have been using malt for more than 10,000 years. And as such, the health benefits of malt are also proven and evidence-based. 

  • Malt is a rich source of vitamins (B-complex vitamins), minerals, micro-minerals, amino acids, and dietary silicon. 
  • Malt facilitates the growth of probiotic bacteria, thereby enhancing digestive health.
  • Malt helps promote healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Thanks to Hordenine, malt positively affects mental health and is a mood booster. 


Is Malt Gluten-Free?

No! Malt is not gluten-free; it contains gluten. It is commonly made from germinated barley which is a glutinous food. However, those made from rice and millet may be gluten-free.

Does Malt Contain Milk?

No! Malt in itself doesn’t contain milk or milk-derived products and is safe for those with lactose allergies. 

Is Malt Extract Vegan? Can vegans eat it?

Yes, malt extract is generally considered vegan as it is derived from barley, a plant-based source. However, it’s important to note that some malt extracts may be processed using non-vegan methods or cross-contaminated with non-vegan substances. Therefore, it’s advisable to check the specific brand and processing methods to ensure they align with vegan principles.

Wrapping Up

Malt is a cereal grain that has undergone a malting process wherein the grain is soaked, germinated, dried, and ground into powder. 

Pure malt is entirely vegan. However, the same cannot be said for malted products such as malted milkshakes, milk, and milk powder. They contain milk which is an animal product. 

And some other products, like a malted loaf, can have both vegan and non-vegan versions. But most malt products like malt vinegar, malt liquor, malt syrup, malt extract, and malt flour are purely vegan.

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