Finding the right vegan alternatives for animal-based products in recipes can be one of the most challenging aspects of following a vegan meal plan. Vegan meat alternatives found in the grocery store, such as processed faux meats like sausages, burgers or tofurkey, are oftentimes highly processed and therefore detrimental to your health and fitness goals. It’s difficult to find good stand-ins but, when done well, vegan substitutes can easily meet your non-meat needs.
Whether you are cooking for a vegan friend, new to herbivorous eating, or a seasoned plant fanatic, we’re going to show you how to make your favorite recipes with a nutritious, vegan twist.
Vegan alternatives to eggs
One of the most common vegan alternatives to eggs is flax seed eggs made by combining one tablespoon of flax seeds with three tablespoons of water.
This plant-based omega-3 seed works as a perfect replacement for eggs. Start by grinding the flax seeds into a fine powder, whisk in the water until and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it has a gel-like texture. Add your flax seed egg to recipes as you would a chicken egg. Check your 8fit recipe book and give these Peanut Butter Biscuits a try.
Another great egg alternative is a chia egg, made with almost the same formula — one tablespoon chia seeds combined with two and a half tablespoons water.
The sticky gel that forms is due to chia seeds’ soluble fiber content. This thick paste works to slow digestion, keeping you satisfied while also feeding healthy gut bacteria. Put chia seeds in a small dish and top with water, stir and let it rest for 5-10 minutes until the chia seeds absorb the water and thicken up. Use chia eggs to replace eggs or egg whites in recipes such as cakes, cookies or other baked goods.
This one isn’t just for baking. Replace one egg with ¼ cup of puréed or finely chopped tofu. Tofu makes for an ideal vegan alternative for eggs because it’s high in protein and contains all of the essential amino acids. Try it in brownies and cakes for moisture or as a replacement for scrambled eggs (try our Bread with Scrambled Tofu). Since it doesn’t have a strong flavor, it adapts to the seasonings you add to it.
This one might seem a little out there, but we promise it works. Aquafaba is the liquid that we usually strain out of our canned chickpeas, i.e. the chickpea juice.
This aquafaba is aqua-fabulous (yeah, we went there). This magic ingredient creates an egg white like foam when whisked, making it a great vegan substitute for meringues, soufflés, mousses and even macaroons. This can also be added to cocktails — or mocktails — that include egg white foam, such as a whiskey sour or a gin fizz.
To get the aquafaba, simply drain a can of chickpeas and use the liquid in place of egg or egg whites in your recipe. If you’re using it to replace whipped egg white, put the aquafaba a bowl and whisk until foamy or frothy. Use about one tablespoon for one egg yolk, two tablespoons for one egg white, or three tablespoons for a whole egg.
Vegan cheese alternatives
One of the hardest thing for some non-plant-based eaters to wrap their heads around is the absence of cheese in the diet. If you’re a cheese lover — or former cheese lover — rejoice knowing that there are tasty substitutes for you.
Make a tasty parmesan by blending ⅓ cup of cashews, one and a half tablespoons nutritional yeast and your favorite Italian-inspired seasonings (salt, pepper, and maybe a touch of dried basil and oregano). Nutritional yeast is the key ingredient in this parmesan because it is fortified with vitamin B12, a nutrient typically lacking in a vegan diet. Use a food processor or blender to blend ingredients into a powder and season your food as desired. No food processor or blender? Use almond flour instead of cashews.
Ricotta is another cheese you don’t have to give up altogether. Make a almond-based ricotta by blending one cup of almonds, ¼ cup of water, one tablespoon of lemon juice and your desired seasonings. Almonds and lemon make the perfect pair when it comes to their iron-boosting tendencies. Then, the vitamin C in lemons helps your body absorb that plant-based iron. Soak your almonds in the water for at least one hour before making your ricotta, then blend with lemon juice and seasonings (we recommend some pepper, mustard, and fresh garlic).
Vegan alternatives to butter
You don’t need real butter to make a dish delightful. Here are some great vegan alternatives to butter:
- Olive oil and salt: This combination is great on toast or crackers. Toast your bread, drizzle the oil and finish it off with a sprinkle of salt.
- Mashed avocado: Do we really need to sell you on this one? Avocado is an amazing addition to bread, chips, dips and as a butter replacement in baking.
In addition to these spreads, you can make your own fruit or vegetables “butter.” Cook these vegan butter options in a crockpot for 4-8 hours (or Dutch oven for one and a half hours) until the fruit or vegetable has become soft. Blend to your desired consistency, keeping some chunks for texture if you’re into that.
- Onion or garlic: Remove the peel and finely chop your onion or garlic. During the cooking process, the onions and garlic will shrink down into a spreadable paste. You can season as desired.
- Squash or carrot butter: Finely grate these before adding them to your crock pot since they take longer to cook. Add some hot spices like chili or dijon mustard for flavor.
- Fruit butter: Remove stems, seeds, and pits, and wash your fruit before you start. Once cooked down, add a bit of sweetener like honey or maple syrup, a splash of lemon juice, and a dash of salt.
Vegan substitutes for common condiments
Eggs and butter aren’t the only things we spread on toast or add to baking. Here are some other vegan substitutes for common condiments:
- Mayonnaise: Make your own vegan mayo by combining ½ cup plain soy milk, two teaspoons of maple syrup, one teaspoon of dijon mustard, one cup of oil (olive or coconut), one teaspoon of lemon juice and some salt. Place everything except the oil and lemon juice in a blender. Blend while gradually incorporating the oil. When it starts to thicken, add the lemon juice.
- Yogurt: Make a tasty yogurt with ½ cup of cashews, ¾ cup of water, a bit of lemon juice and a dash of salt. Soak the cashews in water for at least 30 minutes to soften them. Add the salt and lemon, blending until it forms a smooth paste. Enjoy with fresh berries and nuts or as overnight oats (like our Carrot Cake Overnight Oats).
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk can be make by mixing one cup of unsweetened soy or almond milk with one teaspoon of vinegar. Combine the two and set aside a couple of minutes until it begins to curdle. Use your vegan buttermilk in any recipe that calls for buttermilk such as cupcakes, pancakes, and biscuits.
Use these vegan alternatives in any 8fit recipe that calls for eggs, butter or the condiments above. Not an 8fitter yet? Sign up today.