The Ultimate Cooking Guide To Vegan Substitutes (Hello Veganuary!)

A collection of bite-sized wisdom from a well-seasoned vegan — pun intended!

Hello and welcome to The Ultimate Cooking Guide To Vegan Substitutes!

Whether you’re new to the world of plant-based cooking, just taking a curious peak at some of the neatest tips and tricks out there, or, you’re like me, and you can’t seem to remember any of this information unless it’s written down somewhere and available for repeated referencing — then this guide is for you!

With half a decade of experience creating plant-based versions of my favorite foods for both vegans and non-vegan friends and family alike, it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about mimicking taste, texture, and overall satisfaction!

With that said, I’m always on the lookout for new creative ways to replicate non-vegan items and flavors, so feel free to leave a comment or a note with great additions or suggestions you may have! I would love to add them to the list (and my personal arsenal of kitchen hacks, too!).

The Ultimate Cooking Guide To Vegan Substitutes:

Beef

When it comes to replicating the flavour and texture of beef, soy-based products are typically the way to go! Choose soy crumbles for ground beef, soy curls for beef tips or beef jerky, and keep your eyes out for any tasty plant-based beef burgers or meatballs that your local grocery store has to offer.

Alternatively, to mimic traditional beef dishes using whole food items instead of soy, try adapting this delicious vegetable “beef” Wellington that uses lentils, mushrooms, and the power of seasoning to achieve that perfect meat-less meatiness.

Butter

If you’re in a pinch for time, butter can often be substituted for equal parts vegetable oil in baking recipes with no noticeable differences in the flavour profile. Linked is also a super easy recipe to make your own vegan butter!

Alternatively, check out the wide variety of plant-based butters available in the grocery store (Earth Balance, Flora, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and Myoko’s all offer vegan versions of this staple ingredient).

Cheese

Cheese is one of those things you have to get right in a vegan kitchen — but that there are so many easy ways to get wrong! There are hundreds of types of cheese out there, and even more variety exists when you take into account all the different ways they can be prepared and eaten.

Let me break it down for you:

For eating plain/as a topping: cashew cheese is your best bet if you’re looking to mimic cheeses such as brie, camembert, and boursin. Linked is a recipe to create your own. When boiled and blended, cashews have an amazing texture thats cheese-like enough to convince almost any skeptic.

On the other hand, nutritional yeast provides an incredible nutty and cheesy taste when added to foods à la grated-parmesan-cheese style — and click to make a leveled-up version, too!

For sauces: Cheese sauce can be made using a base of plant-milk and flour to form a thick roux, which can then be flavoured with garlic powder, nutritional yeast, paprika, salt, pepper, and mustard. I use these ingredients to make my all time favourite (but I like to add a little Frank’s Hot sauce as the secret ingredient to further bring out the cheesy taste)!

For melting: Finding a cheese that has that special melty quality when added to a sandwich, pasta dish, or burger can sometimes present a challenge. I reccomend checking your local grocery store or online supermarket for cheese products by Daiya, Follow Your Heart, or Violife, to see which ones you love the most!

Chicken

Chicken is usually best substituted using either seitan or tofu, which, when cooked correctly, provides the same mouth-watering qualities of anything from kebabs to fried drumsticks, to chicken korma. In addition, try your hand at making and thank me later!

Some of my favourite store bought versions of ‘chicken’ nuggets, fingers, and strips, include Boca or Gardein — of which are typically found in the frozen section. For turkey products, try infamous Tofurkey brand items.

Chocolate

Lucky for us, most dark chocolate over 70% is accidentally vegan and contains no dairy derived ingredients or additives — just make sure to always double check the label before purchase.

When it comes to making chocolatey desserts and baked goods, check out this recipe for an that proves you don’t have to think about saying your goodbyes to chocolate any time soon!

Cream Cheese

Vegan cream cheese is super easy to make using only a few very simple ingredients like cashews, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and salt — a particularly scrumptious recipe is linked . Also make sure to check out your grocery store for Daiya, Nush, or Kite Hill cream cheese products!

Double Cream

Double cream, also know as heavy whipping cream, can be substituted by using equal parts coconut cream (bear in mind, your dish will have a hint of coconut flavour this way), or by locating Silk heavy whipping cream at a store near you. my favourite cheesecake recipe using double cream just cuz.’

Eggs

Eggs are used as a binder for baked and fried foods, as well as enjoyed on their own, and although these substitutes might seem a little far-fetched, believe me when I say you won’t know the difference! (Yes, they are really that good…)

For baking: In any baked or cooked good, such as cakes, brownies, cookies ,or muffins, using half a mashed banana or half a cup of applesauce helps to bind your ingredients while maintaining adequate fluffliness and moisture, without the need for any eggs. Though, if you prefer your baked goods more on the chewy/crunchy side then substitute 1 tablespoon of ground (milled) flax or chia seed, mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and left to set in the fridge for 10 minutes, per egg.

Lastly, if you’re in need of making vegan merigue, check out this recipe that uses aquafaba — also known as the juice from canned chickpeas — in the place of eggs, in order to achieve that signature airiness.

For eating: Use firm tofu and the magical combination of black salt, cumin, pepper, and turmeric to recreate that eggy taste and texture in either a , or . Alternatively, get your hands on some JustEgg for that perfect vegetable omelette or serving of scrambled eggs!

Fish

Amazingly, fish can be replicated in a couple different crazy ways! Firstly, many vegan restaurants now use banana blossom (when battered and fried) to recreate the textured layers of cod, or salmon.

My favourite way to make plant-based fish is by using smashed chickpeas in this Seriously…you’ll never want to go back after seeing how declicious this copycat recipe tastes!

Gelatin

There are two main ingredients that offer plant-based alternatives to gelatin, whether thats for gummy bears, marshmallows, or pudding (and don’t forget the jello shots!), and those are fruit pectin and agar agar. Check out this delicious fruit gummy recipe for inspiration

Honey

No matter what type of recipe calls for honey, agave syrup boasts so many of the same qualities that you’d be hard pressed to find any noticeable difference! If you’re looking for something a little thicker to bind your baked goods, but want to avoid the use of high fructose corn syrup, then date syrup is another great go-to.

Ice-cream

While there are many different store-bought varieties of vegan and dairy-free ice-cream (hello new flavours of Ben&Jerry’s!) it’s so incredibly easy to make at home with ingredients you have on hand that I seldom bother to splurge on the $6 pints.

By blending frozen sliced bananas with a splash of any plant-milk of your choosing, you create a creamy ice-cream base that you can then flavour however you like. My go-to is typically to add cacao nibs, crunchy peanut butter, a drop of vanilla, and a pinch of cinnamon!

Mayonnaise

If you’re looking to replace mayo in a sandwich, I often find that smashed avocado, hummus, or even tahini get the job done while avoiding processed oils. Sometimes that true mayonnaise taste is really what we’re after, though, so this quick and easy that using only 6 ingredients has you covered!

Store-bought varieties also exist in abundance nowadays, so look for Hellman’s Vegan, Follow Your Heart, or JustMayo in a store near you.

Milk

There are SO many different options for plant milk (hemp, rice, soy, coconut, cashew, pea, almond, oat, to name just a few ), each one providing a slightly different flavour profile dependent on the nuts and foods used in the making. Here’s my breakdown.

For binding/thickening: There are two milks, soy and oat milk, that are best for the purpose of binding, respectively, because of the higher protein content as well as the thickening properties of oats.

For desserts: For desserts and sweet treats, using an almond or rice milk provides a subtle hint of sweetness and depth of flavour — on the other hand, if your dessert has any coconut ingredients, using a coconut milk will enhance those.

For light creams and soups: For sauces, creams, and soups, oat milk is my typical go-to because this type of plant milk easily takes on whatever flavours are being introduced, and contributes well to the creaminess. Alternatively, I would recommend going with coconut milk (or cream) if you’re making a curry or anything where that hint of flavour might work in you favour!

Click for a plant milk DIY recipe with over 12 different flavour options.

Pork

They key with plant-based versions of pork is making sure the texture is right. As far a store-bought goes, Field Roast and Tofurkey brand products are my ultimate favourite substitutious for any sausauge, sliced ham, or chorizo needs, so be sure to locate theose at a retailer near you. Did you know name brand Bacon Bits are also accidentally vegan? Now you do!

However, the best way to personally replicate pork, to me at least, is by using jackfruit. This super healthy food comes either as a whole fruit, or more conveniently canned in brine (salt water). When cooked and seasoned properly, jackfruit takes on the exact same look and feel of pulled pork. my favorite recipe — it’ll blow your vegan socks off!

Ricotta

I am fully aware that ricotta is a type of cheese — so, why not put this recipe in the cheese section above, you ask? Well, my argument is that it’s so versatile and tasty that it deserves a section of its own.

For example, I’ve use vegan ricotta in anything from lasagnas, to savoury pie fillings, to something to dip carrot and celery sticks into for a healthy and high protein snack! Combine soaked cashews, firm tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, basil, oregano and garlic powder to make this creamy spread!

Sour Cream

As far as grocery-store brands of sour cream go, my number one is by Follow Your Heart, which can usually be found in the cheese and dairy section. However, if you’re looking for something a tad healthier, or don’t have time to run out to the store, I’ve had a lot of success substituting vegan yoghurt and a splash of acid (either lemon or white vinegar depending on what you’re making it) for any recipes that call for a sour cream addition!

Whipped Cream

To make your own whipped cream, drain a can of chickpea juice/aquafaba into a mixing bowl and whisk until your arms feel like they’re going to fall off! Eventually, stiff peaks will start to form and you can then carefully mix in any flavourings you like. ReadyWhip also does a vegan coconut whipped cream if you’re after something a little less labour intensive!

Yoghurt

Thankfully, we have reached a moment in time where there are a multittude of vegan yoghurts products to choose from. Silk, Alpro, So Delicious, Follow Your Heart, Kite Hill and Daiya offer a huge selection of both fruit yoghurts with and without bits, plain greek and vanilla yoghurts, as well as dessert and seasonal options for some more decadent!

Alexandra Walker-Jones — December 2020

Writer and published author with an international background in psychology, nutrition, and creative writing. I’m just here to learn ;)

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