I thought I’d do up a cheat sheet of some common vegan substitutions for items that you might be wondering about whether they do in fact have a vegan substitute. These are some of the more common questions I’ve heard regarding substitutions in the vegan diet.
Hopefully these will help new vegans who think they need to find a substitution for a particular animal product, and I also help it will be of use to long term vegans who are looking for some ideas.
1. What is a good vegan substitute for butter?
This is a good one. First of all because butter is bad for you and secondly it is an easy item to substitute in the vegan diet.
Though it depends what you’re using the butter for. For things like a spread, then vegan margarines like Becel vegan or Earth Balance or Fleischmann’s (the original as of this writing, early 2014, is vegan) will work. Or how about just plain old peanut butter on your toast.
If you’re looking for a vegan butter substitute for frying, then the above margarines will work. As will olive or canola oil or even coconut oil. For a butter substitute for baking, I’ll generally use an odorless oil like canola, or a hard vegetable fat like vegetable shortening (Crisco), though I use this very seldom due to the saturated fat and trans fat content. You can also use margarine too without much of a problem. For flaky pastries however, I’d generally stick to a shortening or coconut oil if the flavor won’t be a problem.
2. What is a good vegan substitute for buttermilk?
Buttermilk for those wondering is more of a sour regular milk than a high fat or buttery milk. It is the milk that is left over after making butter. Therefore, it has less fat than you’d be inclined to think. Cultured buttermilk is nowadays made by souring regular milk with lactic acid bacteria.
To make vegan buttermilk the recipe is easy. Just add one tablespoon of white vinegar OR one tablespoon of lemon juice (my preferred method) to one cup of soy milk or other plant milk. Stir and let sit for five to ten minutes. Once the milk has curdled you can use it like buttermilk in your recipes.
Generally buttermilk is used for baking, and most specifically in biscuits or other bread type recipes.
3. What is a good vegan substitute for condensed milk?
Mmm… I used to be able to eat cans of condensed milk with plain cookies. It was nirvana, when I was young and naive about the plight of animals. But don’t lose hope all yeah who venture to veganland, there are easy ways to make vegan condensed milk.
Take 3 cups of soy milk (unsweetened is best) and simmer it in a pot over a low to medium heat with a half cup of sugar added. Tend to it constantly, stirring so it doesn’t burn. This will take quite some time. You’re probably looking at up to an hour or two depending on how thick you want it. Basically, you’re looking for about a cup and a half of reduced or condensed vegan soy milk at the end.
Let it cool before using. Another great alternative to this is to use coconut milk. The real kind like you find in the cans. If you’re in a rush, this is the way I’d go, as it is already quite thick and can cut your cooking time in half. Add the same amount of sugar.
4. What is a good vegan substitute for evaporated milk?
This is really an easy gimme. Evaporated milk is really what you think it is. It is condensed milk’s gnarly cousin. Why do I say gnarly, ‘cos you don’t add any sugar.
You make vegan evaporated milk the same way as you make vegan condensed milk except you don’t use any sweetner. You just heat it to a low simmer until it has reduced its volume in half.
5. What is a good vegan substitute for eggs?
This is also one of the more common questions for new vegans, or folks looking to bake or cook for vegans.
I’ll be the first to admit that there is no substitute that is exactly the same as eggs. If you’re looking for fried eggs, fuhgeddaboutit, ain’t no vegan substitute. However, a very yummy but slightly different than eggs vegan substitute for scrambled eggs is scrambled tofu.
I prefer firm tofu, but then I never liked wet scrambled eggs. If you did, then choose a soft or medium tofu. Put the package of tofu in a bowl and mash it with an egg masher until it’s quite broken up and looking kinda eggy if you squint. Throw it in a pan over medium heat and fry up with whatever you like. Turmeric is mandatory as it gives it a nice yellow color. I like to add thinly chopped up mushrooms, chopped green onions, garlic and salt powder, a dash of cumin, a dash of Mrs. Dash and salt and pepper. Other additives can include ginger, salsa, beans, capers, chopped olives etc. Go wild and experiment.
If you’re looking for a vegan egg substitute for baking there are several options. I like egg replacer. It’s easy and convenient. When I don’t have that I’ll often use a small ripe banana mashed until it’s quite runny. I’ll also finely grind flaxseeds and use 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of warm water and mix well. Let it sit for a bit until it gets gooey. The above replaces a single egg.
If you’re trying to replace more than 2 or 3 eggs it gets more difficult, and I’d recommend trying a different recipe to make vegan. I’ve also had great success just omitting eggs altogether in my recipes and using a little more oil and/or water. Works very well for my cupcakes and cake recipes.
Instead of a third of a cup of mashed banana you can also use a third of a cup of apple sauce. Unsweetened or sweetened depending on what you want. Of course, if you’re not baking anything fruity, like cakes or cupcakes, you’ll like want to use the flax seed recipe or the egg replacer. I’d recommend the egg replacer.
If you’re looking for a meringue substitute I haven’t figured out how to make vegan meringue. Sorry. It’s just one of those things I gave up. Although I have found a couple of others who allege success in overcoming the vegan meringue problem. I’d love to hear from you if it works out or you have a way of doing vegan meringue. What this goes to prove is that soon enough veganism will overcome any problem it faces and we’ll have a vegan substitute for anything in time. It’s a great time to become vegan!
One other note about vegan egg replacers, eggs often make baked goods fluffy and rise well. Vegan cakes and cupcakes will not be quite as airy as you’re used to. This is not necessary a bad thing.
I have heard tell of using sparkling water or club soda to help aerate the baked goods but I haven’t found this method to be reliable or consistent. Just enjoy your baking. It’s different, but it’s kinder to the animals. That’s a decent trade off.