A Guide to Vegan Substitutes

Pretty much anything that “isn’t vegan”, is!

Dairy

Butter

For cooking and baking, plain old Earth Balance will get you there. You can use it to make garlic butter, beurre noisette, buttercream, doughs and batters, and anything you would normally use butter for! However, if you want to up your game and get a fancy, artisanal butter for drizzling over popcorn and smearing on toast, try Miyoko Schinner’s cultured European-style butter or make your own version using the recipe  from this super cool and helpful baking website.

Cheese

For making pizzas, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, nachos, etc., you can rely on the variety of shreds and slices offered by brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Chao and Go Veggie (careful with Go Veggie, not all their dairy-free products are vegan). From Follow Your Heart American Slices (grilled cheese!) and Fiesta Blend shreds (nachos!) to Go Veggie cream cheese (cheesecake!) and Parmesan shakers to Daiya Smoked Gouda blocks and boxed Mac and Cheese. If you’re throwing a party, check out Miyoko Schinner’s online cheese shop and treat yourself to a gourmet wheel!

Yogurt

Many brands and even store-brands make vegan yogurt. My favorite is Stonyfield’s O’Soy. The runner up is Silk.

Ice Cream

There’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a bowl (or pint!) of ice cream. You’ve probably heard about Ben&Jerry’s brand new vegan line. It’s really exciting, and truly a huge step, for such a mainstream brand — the ice cream kings themselves! — to come out with vegan products. However, while their flavors are spot-on, the fact that they chose almond milk as a base means their ice cream isn’t the creamiest. Try So Delicious’s Cashew-milk-based line for a richer texture. If you live in New York or LA, you have the privilege of having access to Van Leeuwen, a nonvegan brand with a line of rich and delicious vegan flavors (try dark chocolate or and cookie dough!).

Buttermilk

Even if you’re not vegan, buying buttermilk is a pain. It always comes in half-gallons, and usually you only need a cup. Luckily, it’s super easy to make your own at home. Let’s say you need a cup. Take out a 1-cup measuring cup and fill the bottom with 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar (apple cider is preferred because of the flavor profile) and then fill the rest of the cup up with (plain, unsweetened) soy milk (must be soy for the protein). Stir with a toothpick, and let sit for at least 5 minutes (best method is to do this first before you start whatever you’re making with it). The acid in the vinegar will curdle the proteins in the milk, leaving you with a rich and tangy buttermilk that can enhance pancakes or star in red velvet cupcakes.

Creamer

Yes, they even make vegan versions of creamer. Silk’s is available in most grocery stores.

Egg

Egg substitutes really depend on what you’re doing with it.

Baking

You may need to have a little baking knowledge, or do a couple minutes of Google research to find out the purpose of the egg in the specific recipe you’re making before you can replace it. In cookies and similar baked goods, eggs serve as a binder. For binding purposes, a flax egg (1 tbs flaxmeal + 3 tbs water) is a great binder. Chiameal eggs work the same. In a pinch, you can also use mashed banana, applesauce or corn starch. In cakes and other fluffy pastries, eggs work primarily as a leavener. Add extra baking powder, or even seltzer, to these recipes. In the case of very rich desserts such as cheesecake, mousse and lava cake, the eggs add a rich texture, and the recipe often calls for more than 2 or 3 eggs. In these cases, the substitutes above will not work. Here, blended silken tofu will provide the rich texture and take on the flavor of other ingredients. In very special baking cases, you will use a meringue to make pastries such as meringue cookies or macarons. In this case you can either buy molecular gastronomical tools such as Versawhip or use aquafaba, the brine from a can of chickpeas.

Scrambled Eggs

Traditionally, scrambles are made with tofu. For a recipe, you can check out the scrambled tofu I made for my fried rice. Alternatively, Follow Your Heart has come out with a VeganEgg. This is a powder that you whisk with water to form a viscous yellow liquid that looks, smells and feels like a raw, beaten egg. With the VeganEgg you can do anything you would do with a conventional egg, including egg washes, omelettes, french toast, baking, breading and making scrambles! This product is incredibly versatile and realistic, but if that’s still not good enough for you, Hampton Creek, the geniuses behind Just Mayo and Just Cookie Dough (oh my god, just buy it) are coming out with a similar but probably better (sorry FYH) product very soon!

Meat

Meat alternatives are probably the easiest substitutes to find. One brand, Gardein, is available in most grocery stores, and makes a variety of super realistic “meats” from chicken cutlets to be used in your own recipes to chicken nuggets to be served as is. A really cool food tech company, called Beyond Meat, is catching up with super realistic chicken strips, ground beef, and their super cool Beast Burgers which replicate the taste of animal flesh using hemoglobin and other cool food science techniques. For hot dogs, deli slices and bacon, look for Lightlife in your grocery store. For gourmet “meat” products, keep yourself up to date on The Herbivorous Butcher. And for everything from mock duck to mock seafood, visit May Wah Vegetarian Market in New York.

 

Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list. If there is anything I missed, or you have any follow up questions, please comment and I will get back to you. Just remember, whatever you’re craving, hit up Google, me, the grocery store, or one of the many super cool food tech companies coming up with new stuff everyday, and it can be yours!

 

 

 

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