Whether you intend to go full-on vegan or just want to incorporate more plant-based foods into your life, there are substitutions for every animal-based food out there. Trading a few ingredients for vegan alternatives helps to put a fresh spin on any recipe, transforming your creations into healthier, more nutrient-dense options.
Let's start with the easiest swap first.
Swap out cow's milk for equal parts of any nondairy alternative. Don't forget about dairy-free coffee creamers like almond, soy, or coconut! Switch to nondairy yogurt options (hello almond/coconut yogurt) and try some nondairy ice cream. Going dairy-free has never been easier.
Best swaps for cow's milk:
- Almond milk (Make your own at home!)
- Coconut milk
- Soy milk
- Rice milk
- Cashew milk
- Hemp milk
- Hazelnut milk
Keeping that meaty texture alive in your burgers, stir-fries, and salads doesn't have to change. These plant-based swaps not only increase fiber but provide heart-healthy plant protein too.
- Shelled edamame
- Mushrooms (Try these lentil and mushroom veggie burgers.)
- Beans of all kinds—black beans, garbanzo beans, etc. (Try this mashed chickpea salad to replace chicken salad!)
- Eggplant, or just extra veggies in place of meat
- Tempeh or tofu
- Quinoa or brown rice
Depending on the recipe, there are a few different ways to replace eggs for vegan-friendly options. For baking purposes, replace one egg with:
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1 mashed banana
- 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
- Flax "egg": 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons warm water (until it forms a gel)
- Chia "egg": 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds + 3 tablespoons warm water (until it forms a gel)
- Ener-G Egg Replacer or Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer
For an "egg" scramble: Use 1/4 cup silken tofu in place of one egg. Scramble it in the same way you would an egg. Add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste! Try these tofu scrambled eggs.
Or for egg whites: Replace egg white with a mix of agar agar powder and water, according to the package directions.
Dreading the thought of giving up your beloved cheese? Before going vegan, I felt the same way. Breaking the cheese addiction is most often what turns people away from the vegan lifestyle. Let me tell you, it's totally doable and eventually you won't miss it one bit. Not to mention it's much more bikini-friendly.
- Nutritional yeast flakes will become your best friend for that "cheesy" flavor as well as for a good dose of vitamin B-12. Make your own veggie-based vegan mac and cheese sauce. Or try this fat-free nacho cheese. Sprinkle nutritional yeast over salads and add it to soups for extra flavor, vitamins, and minerals.
- Cashews that have been soaked in water and blended bring the creamiest texture to vegan cheesecakes and raw desserts. You can even make your own vegan Parmesan cheese at home. Cashews are the new cheese!
- While I recommend steering clear of processed vegan cheeses, there are plenty of options for those times when you want comfort foods like pizza, grilled cheese, and quesadillas. Choose from a variety of vegan-friendly shredded cheese, sliced cheese, cream cheese, and more. Popular brands like Daiya can be found at most grocery stores now. Whole Foods carries many more specialty brands, too.
Whether you're baking or cooking, switch from butter to one of these dairy-free options and automatically reduce the saturated fat, cholesterol, and unnecessary calories. Butter, be gone.
When baking, swap out equal parts butter (and oil too!) for:
- Mashed avocado
- Mashed banana
- Coconut oil (unrefined will add a slight coconut flavor while refined will not)
- Vegan butter/stick margarine (like the Earth Balance brand)
When cooking, swap equal parts butter for:
- Coconut oil (or any high-heat oil like olive, avocado, or grapeseed oil)
- Vegan butter/margarine (like the Earth Balance brand)
- Low-sodium vegetable broth (my favorite fat-free option for sautéing veggies!)
Add flavor to any dish by replacing chicken broth or beef stock with vegetable broth/stock instead. Choose store-bought low-sodium options or make your own at home!