If you are new to vegan cooking or even if you are just starting to get a little experimental in the kitchen, you may be looking for some substitutions you can use in your old non-vegan recipes. Thankfully, there are plenty of products vegans can use in place of animal ingredients that will make vegan cooking a breeze and more and more are being developed all the time. So let me show you how to replace animal ingredients with vegan ingredients.
Milk - It is so very easy to substitute animal milk in any recipe or for normal daily use. You can use soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, or various nut milks measure for measure. To make buttermilk, simply put 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in your measuring cup and then add your soymilk to the amount specified in the recipe.
Cheese - Be sure to read the label as some vegetarian cheeses contain casein, which is not vegan. If you can find a great vegan cheese that you like, use it in your recipes in the same manner that you would use dairy cheese. In place of cottage or ricotta cheese, you can use crumbled tofu, but remember that it won’t melt or have the same creamy consistency you’d expect from cottage or ricotta cheese. You may need to spice it up with herbs and add some salt to make it work in your recipe. There are also a whole range of recipes online for making your own vegan cheeses and cheese sauces, including parmesan type cheese, melty cheese, pizza cheese and even blue cheese.
Eggs - A great substitute for scrambled eggs is tofu scramble. You can either use a recipe from a cookbook or simply buy a box of Tofu Scrambler in the store that you then mix with crumbled tofu and heat in a frying pan. Kids generally like tofu scramble, especially kids who have been vegan their entire lives. You can spice it up with tomatoes, peppers, onions, or even potatoes and vegan bacon bits. In baked goods, good substitutions for eggs include applesauce, pureed soft tofu, Ener-G egg replacer, a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons water or other liquid, blended), or mashed bananas. You’ll have to experiment with your recipe to see what works best for you. In dishes where eggs are usually used for binding (such as meatloaf) you can use oat or soy flour, rolled oats, cooked oatmeal, bread crumbs, instant potato flakes, nut butters, tomato paste, or cornstarch. For glazing pie crust or phyllo dough with egg wash, just use soymilk instead. A fairly recent addition to the egg replacement circle is Aquafaba. The best bet for this is to simple search on Facebook for it as it is a subject all of it’s own. It is something we will likely chat about quite regularly in group as more and more recipes are using it. (essentially it is the juice that comes in tins of chickpeas and butterbeans).
Beef or chicken stock - The easiest way to replace beef or chicken stock is simply with with water or vegetable broth. But there are various new stock cubes and bouillon cubes for vegetables, chicken and beef flavours that are also vegan, but always check the ingredients carefully and if unsure always ask, as some of them have hidden dangers.
Butter - There are plenty of vegan margarines on the market that work well in substituting for butter, but be sure to read the labels carefully, because not all margarines are vegan. You may also want to consider using oils like sunflower or olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
Yogurt - Several companies make soy and coconut yogurts that will substitute well in your recipes. You can find them in fruit flavors and also plain for cooking and baking.
Sour Cream - You can try plain soy yogurt, especially if used in making dips. There are also a few commercially available vegan sour creams popping up on the market now. In addition, there are several excellent recipes for making homemade vegan sour cream online.
Mayonnaise - There are a few vegan mayonnaise products on the market. You can use vegan mayonnaise exactly the same way you always used the non-vegan version. Vegan cookbooks often contain a recipe for vegan mayonnaise as well; I’ve actually tried a few of these myself and they come out better than the real thing! Of course, having a readymade one sat ready to use is kind of practical for when your in a rush.
Gelatin - If you need to substitute for gelatin in a recipe, use agar flakes or powder (You will see agar used in a lot of recipes, so it is one of those ingredients you shouild endeavure to get used to working with). It will thicken as it is heated. Also, there are a couple of companies that make a vegan fruit gelatin product that you should be able to find at your local health food store.
Honey - There are a good few liquid sweeteners around that you can use in your recipes instead of honey. However, they vary in consistency and sweetness, making substitution a bit of a guessing game, at least initially. You may have to experiment with ratios until you figure out what works best in your recipes. In general, however, maple syrup and liquid FruitSource can be substituted measure for measure in recipes. Other sweeteners that are less sweet than honey include agave syrup, malt syrup, light and dark molasses, and brown rice syrup. Frozen fruit-juice concentrates, sorghum syrup, and concentrated fruit syrups range from being half as sweet to just as sweet as honey.
Sugar - Many vegans do not eat sugar since some sugar is refined using bone char from animals. Others object to using sugar simply because it isn’t as healthy as other sweeteners, it’s often full of pesticides, and the sugar plantation workers aren’t always treated very well. If you want to replace crystalline sugar in a recipe, here are some alternatives: beet sugar, fructose, organic sugar, unbleached cane sugar, turbinado sugar, date sugar, maple crystals, and granulated FruitSource. Some of these sugars dissolve better than others, so again, you’ll have to experiment.
Chocolate - I’m sure there are many people who simply could not consider being vegan if it meant giving up chocolate, but luckily you don’t have to. There are a lot of non-dairy vegan chocolate chips, cocoa powders and chocolate bars that are easily found in the health food store and on the shelves of many supermarkets. Be warned though, that some brands of non-dairy chocolate chips don’t melt too well in cookies. You can also switch to using carob (powder and chips) instead of chocolate in your recipes.
Meat - If you want your foods to have a similar taste and texture to meat, you really are in luck, because never before have so many companies manufactured products just for us and new ones are showing up all the time. Among the products on the market now that will substitute for meat are: veggie deli slices (bologna, ham, turkey, and other flavors), veggie burgers, veggie meatballs, veggie sausage links and patties, veggie bacon, veggie mince (ground “beef,”), soy chicken burgers and nuggets, veggie meatloaf and steak, veggie jerky, and whole “turkeys” for Thanksgiving or other holidays. Check your vegan cookbooks for recipes for foods like “neatloaf,” nut roasts, lentil-walnut pates, seitan, mock bacon and other old favorites that traditionally contained animal flesh.
Ice Cream - Along with the proliferation of meat analogues, your health food store is now probably well stocked with vegan ice cream. This industry has grown tremendously from the day I first went vegan. There are vegan ice creams with a soy base, rice base, or nut base, and they’re all delicious. Some are high in fat and some are fat-free. Some are fruity like sorbet, while others are sinfully decadent like butter pecan, peanut butter zig-zag, or peanut caramel. You can also buy vegan ice cream sandwiches, mud pies, and ice cream bars. I’ve made some great shakes, floats, and malts using vegan ice cream products. Your kids will love them too! Oh and a lot of them are way better than the old versions you would have been used to...
If anyone can think of anything else that needs to be covered, please do let me know...