When I kicked animal products to the curb there were some disappointing losses. No more Gr’pa’s meatloaf. (sigh) No more shrimp and grits. (quiet whimpering) No more slow-smoked brisket. (loud sobbing)
But a lot of recipes that I originally thought would be laid to rest didn’t have to be. Here are some tips on what to substitute in your favorite recipes:
Milk = Veggie-based milk of your choosing 1:1 ratio
Butter = Either vegetable shortening (baking only) or Earth Balance vegan margarine spread (baking or cooking) 1:1 ratio
Meat = Would portobello mushrooms work? A faux-meat substitute? Or maybe it can be left out altogether.
Meat broth = Use veggie broth. Seriously. No one can tell the difference. 1:1 ratio
Eggs = This is a toughie. There are many substations you can use…
A “flaxseed egg” is ground flaxseed left to soak in water- 1:3 ratio (1 T. ground flaxseed with 3 T. water)
Applesauce will often take the place of an egg in baking- 1/4 c. applesauce per egg called for.
Dry powdered egg replacers (I used one and hated it- it never worked at all) I’ve heard good things about Ener-G egg replacer.
As a leavening agent in baking, you can omit the egg and add a Tablespoon (or so) of lemon juice to react with the baking soda already in the recipe.
In custards, the eggs are omitted and either flour or cornstarch can be used as a thickener, depending on the recipe.
Start using vegan recipes and you will see some things that cooks do to overcome the egg issue. There are many options.
Actual scrambled eggs = Have you heard of the ackee fruit? Jamaicans are familiar with it and it’s flesh is exactly like scrambled eggs!
The following are not necessarily an issue of veganism but of overall health:
Sugar (dry) = Coconut sugar, turbinado sugar, date sugar, etc. 1:1 ratio
Keep in mind that date sugar won’t melt down and is best used to sweeten recipes; not as a caramel or glaze, etc.
Each sugar has it’s own properties of taste and texture and some experimentation may be necessary to find out what you like.
Sugar (liquid/syrup) = Pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, honey, etc.
Oil = Just omit it! In cooking, I have never found a time when it had to be added. Every recipe I have left it out of was still delicious. The most oil I use nowadays is a cooking spray to give a quick touch of olive oil to garlic bread before I season it. In baking, the oil is sometimes necessary as a moisturizer for the final product. I use vegetable shortening or Earth Balance in my cakes quite often. But you can totally get away with substituting applesauce for half of the oil called for and you probably won’t even notice. You can substitute more than half of the oil this way but the final product may need to be eaten right away as prolonged storage will dry it out very quickly.
Bleached white flour = whole wheat pastry flour is my go-to substitution. It is fine and not as dark and overpowering as plain whole wheat flour.
Other flour substitutes = Oat, rice, garbanzo, coconut, etc. Keep in mind that if the flour doesn’t come from a grain similar to wheat,
it may not have any gluten in it. Oat has a small amount of gluten but the rest are gluten-free. If you have allergies,
this is great. If not, try to substitute a gluten-free flour as only half of the flour called for and use whole wheat pastry flour
for the rest. Gluten is needed to provide elasticity, and without it a pizza crust would act like a graham cracker pie crust.
(Seriously. I did this once. I know.)
Recipes I have veganized:
My Grandma Myers made the best stroganoff. I saved this recipe that I had made since the early days of my marriage by substituting veggie broth for the beef broth, and omitting the beef slices in favor of portobello slices. Now it’s a mushroom stroganoff and very delicious. For those of you who like to add a bit of zip at the end with some Miracle Whip or sour cream, there are many fantastic vegan substitutes. The Tofutti sour cream is our favorite, but in this recipe I like a nice vegan mayo that has that tang to it.
Mushroom stroganoff. This time I added chunks of seitan at the end and it was pretty good, but we decided we preferred it without. I served this with cabbage and steamed buckwheat groats.
Green chili pork
Substitute veggie broth for the chicken/pork broth you might usually use. And obviously I had to leave the pork out! Bummer. But, hey, after making it with all of the same roasted Anaheim peppers I have always used and throwing in the tomatillos at the end with a can of tomato chunks and all of that glorious cumin– I was a believer! Delicious! Who needs pork, anyway?
Cream of broccoli soup
Exchange veggie broth for the chicken broth called for. No sautéing with butter; just dry sauté the onions (throw them in a very hot pan and wait at least two minutes before stirring. Should caramelize without the butter easily). Finish with Tofutti vegan sour cream mixed with half water to thin, the total amount of thinned Tofutti still being only half of the amount of total cream called for in the recipe.
Recipes that call for ground beef can often have the ground beef totally omitted with no substitutions. Spaghetti sauce and chili are two good examples. Substitute beans or quinoa for taco filling. If you really want a good sloppy joe and can’t imagine having it with quinoa or bulgur, pick up some ground beef substitute and use that. Some of the brands are very good and hard to tell apart from the real thing, especially when used in a sauce.
Let’s do a side-by-side substitution seminar. I will show you the pancake recipe that I turned vegan. Please note that I did not have to add anything to make up for leaving out the melted butter. (I just have to spritz the pan with cooking spray) Instead of an egg I added lemon juice to react with the baking soda. And every other substitution was more for health reasons than vegan ones. But the ensuing pancakes are light, fluffy, and beckon you back for seconds!
Original pancake recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 cups buttermilk
3 T. melted butter
1 large egg
Vegan pancake recipe:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 T. coconut (or date) sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 cups oat milk (or favorite veggie milk)
2-3 T. lemon juice
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
There are many recipes I have tinkered with to create vegan versions. It’s really not very difficult, but it did require repeat tries in many cases. Changing recipes around requires some confidence, and I hope that the above substitution suggestions help with that confidence level. Remember, you will have meals that are not good enough to cook again. That’s a part of anybody’s cooking experience, vegan or not. Just keep on pluggin’ away and trying new things. After a while you will have lots of go-to recipes that are wholesome and healthy.