You can have all of your favorite meals while still being a vegan, seriously. Our family rarely eat salads… and we love salads! While some of the substitutes are still not necessarily healthy, they are still better than the alternative of animal flesh or by products, health and ethics wise. This is a breakdown of some vegan alternatives to some of your favorites!
Vegan meat substitutes, for example. They are so many out there and most of them are quite tasty! My go-to is anything by Gardein. I’ve never had anything next to delicious and am pleasantly surprised each time I try a new product. On Gardein’s Products Page you can see all the various vegan “meats” they have. There are chicken-less options, and beef and pork and even breakfast choices! Gardein is like the holy grail for new vegans who are having a tough time making meals without their usual meat. Although most vegan “meats” are still processed, (hey, so are some of the animal meats you may be buying), they are perfect for those transitioning to a plant-based diet and are still unsure about lentils or jack-fruit, or really, just craving and old favorite.
You can also substitute some meats with just tofu, tempeh ,or seitan, all which might sound odd to you if you are new to a plant-based diet, but oh so yummy! My favorite way to use tofu as a replacement for meat is to just marinade it to taste for whatever I am replacing. It’s all about seasonings, even with animal meats. Tofu doesn’t have to be spongy and bland and boring. It’s great at soaking up flavor, and simply pressing the moisture out of firm tofu beforehand can give it a nice texture. Tempeh is similar to tofu, as they both as made from soybeans and are high in protein and calcium. The only big difference is tempeh is usually quicker to prepare, slightly firmer, and has a hint of a nutty flavor. Seitan is wheat gluten, so if gluten is an issue for you… stay clear, but if not I’d call it the closest to a meat-like texture out of the three. It’s tougher and chewier than tofu or tempeh and grills up nicely.
Then there is the healthiest and cheapest option of replacing meats, whole foods! Vegetables, beans, and even fruit can be a fantastic alternative to animal meats. One of my favorite ground beef replacements is lentils or black beans, depending on the flavors of the dish I’m having. Mexican food can easily be made vegan by omitting or replacing the cheese and switching the meat out for beans. Lentils are great in shepherds pie and sloppy joes. Mushrooms are another easy substitute. I think mushrooms work best as a substitute for “steak” like meals, such as steak roll-ups and philly cheese”steak” sandwiches. Jackfruit is something I had never heard of before becoming vegan, but is the perfect “pulled pork”.
Often times you can simply replace the broth with vegetable broth, either homemade or store bought. Other times, the chicken or beef flavor is a bit more important and there are companies that cater just for that! My favorite is the Better Than Bullion No Chicken and No Beef. A little goes a long way and the flavor is spot on!
This one is pretty easy. There are so many plant-based milks out there! With most of the world being lactose intolerant, vegan options have come to the rescue for the milk lovers! We like to mix and switch up what milks we get, but my personal favorite is unsweetened almond milk. It’s all about preference, so if you hate almond milk, you still have an array of options. I don’t like really sweet or thick milk, but you might and you may love soy milk. I haven’t tried a bad tasting one (but I also haven’t tried them all) and they all have nutritious value of different sorts. That’s why we try to switch it up from time to time. There is almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk, quinoa milk, oat milk, flaxseed milk, cashew milk, and MORE! They all have their own benefits, taste and variations, so there is no reason you can’t still have all the milk you want!
*Buttermilk can be replaced by adding apple cider vinegar to non-dairy milk and letting it sit for about 10 minutes
Butter is easily replaced with either oil or vegan butter/margarine. Sometimes vegetable/seed oils can do the trick in place of butter, if needed. For those other times, there are a few vegan butter options that are easily accessible at just about any grocery store. Of course, there are the options like Earth Balance and Smart Balance, but there are a couple options you may not know about and could save you some money. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter has recently came out with a vegan spread. Although a bit more unhealthy, Blue Bonet LIGHT is also dairy free and cheap, as well some generic 100% soybean oil options! Just check the label!
I will be the first to admit that vegan cheeses are a hit or miss, with more misses than hits. I was so turned off by the first cheese that I tried that I simply just said I would rather just go without. I wasn’t a huge cheese fan to begin with, but SOOO many people are addicted to it! It’s the most common excuse I hear, “I could never be vegan because I just love cheese so much!”. Seriously. Cheese is a bigger excuse than bacon.
I want to also make it known that I eventually let my guard down and tried another option, Follow Your Heart mozzarella. Although I was wary, I loved it and it’s been my favorite since! I opened myself up after that to try other brands and flavors and found some pretty awesome ones. Vegan parmesan cheese is easily made at home with cashews. Nutritional yeast is “cheesy” in flavor, so it’s great in and on so many foods! An easy softer cheese substitute, like ricotta, is crumbled tofu!
Just look around the yogurt section of your grocery store and they are bound to have some diary-free options! Again, which base you prefer will differ from person to person (or recipe to recipe), but coconut, almond, and soy based yogurts are easy to find and so good!
Vegan ice cream is easy to make at home and the internet is filled with simple, yet decadent, recipes. I do know most of you will not want to do that, because, let’s face it… no one wants to wait that long for ice cream to freeze. I get it. That’s why it’s also terrific that there are many vegan, store-bought ice creams! Ben and Jerry’s has a dairy-free line of flavors, like caramel almond brittle and chocolate fudge brownie, that can be found in most grocery stores. So Delicious has a huge variety of options as well and Trader Joe’s has a soy ice cream. Bigger brands, like Breyers, have even stepped into the dairy-free ice cream arena. I can only see more coming our way!
A flax egg is my personal favorite, because ground flax seed is cheap in bulk and is so easy and quick to prepare! 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed in 2 1/2 tablespoons of water is the equivalent to 1 large egg. You can do the same with chia seeds. I find this works best in baking more things like brownies, cakes, and muffins. Silken tofu can also be used as an egg replacer. It works similar to a flax egg, as it holds baked goods together and is best in thicker, heartier foods; however, it doesn’t have the hint of nut flavor that flax seed does. If you have allergies, they make vegan egg replacers like Ener-G Egg Replacer and Follow Your Heart has a VeganEgg that are practically allergen free with no eggs (obviously), dairy, nuts, soy, gluten, etc. I have honestly never tried either of these, so if you have, let me know how they are best. I know you can even scramble the VeganEgg. Then, there are even easier alternatives that you likely already have in your pantry/refrigerator; bananas and applesauce, for example. About half a banana or about 1/4 cup of applesauce can substitute roughly 1 egg. I find these work best in things like muffins (especially if they are banana or apple flavored), pancakes, and waffles, as they do give off a bit of taste as well.
PETA actually has a good list of egg replacements on their website.
It may get overwhelming when you realize that vegans have to substitute even some of the smallest things, like mayo, dressings, and honey, but don’t fret! I am here to tell you that there are alternatives for all of those, and more, and they are likely at your local grocery store! Hampton Creek has a vegan line of mayonnaise, salad dressings, and even cookie dough! That’s right, Hampton Creek has made cookie dough you can eat right out of the container without worry, because it’s egg free! What more can we ask for? Then, there is (in my opinion) the best tasting, but also priciest option to substitute traditional mayo, Vegenaise.
Some people are shocked to realize that honey is not vegan. Agave nectar or, my personal all time favorite sweetener, maple syrup, can go in place of honey in any recipe.