Trying to make the leap into a vegan diet or whipping up food while entertaining for a vegan friend is easier than you may think! Instead of fretting over finding the perfect recipe, swap out a few simple ingredients from all of your favorite recipes to make them suitable for any hungry vegan.
1. Replace butter with vegetable-based alternatives.
If you are baking, then swap out the butter with nonhydrogenated margarine or coconut, vegetable, or other high-heat but neutral-tasting oils. Use olive or peanut oil when cooking a savory meal in place of butter. It’s a simple replacement since it can be swapped out at a 1-to-1 ratio, so no pesky math is involved. Try our Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe, which uses nonhydrogenated margarine instead of butter , or our Vegan Chocolate Cupcake recipe, which contain non-dairy milk and canola oil. Or if you don’t have time for baking, try this Edible Vegan Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough recipe, which is also gluten-free!
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2. When baking, swap out eggs with a “flax egg” substitute.
By whipping flax seeds with water, you get the same consistency as whisked eggs, and a similar reaction will occur in your baked goods as would if you were cooking with eggs. Check out Minimalist Baker’s tutorial on how to make a flax egg—and see other vegan egg substitutes if you’re fresh out of flax seeds (including an aquafaba option).
3. Use nutritional yeast for a cheesy substitute.
Want to make that delicious macaroni and cheese recipe but don’t want to spend a fortune on processed vegan cheese substitutes? Nutritional yeast has a similar nutty flavor and can create a creamy cheese substitute when mixed with the right ingredients. Try it in this Vegan Macaroni and Cheese recipe. (You can even use it to make homemade vegan cheese for your next wine and cheese night!)
Anthony’s Premium Nutritional Yeast Flakes, 1 lb for $12.99 on Amazon
An essential ingredient for authentically cheesy tasting vegan dishes.
4. Replace honey with agave nectar.
Agave nectar is derived from agave (the same plant that tequila is made of!) and has a similar texture as honey. The flavor is slightly different but it is still a sweetener that will work great in baked goods or your morning oatmeal. Try agave in Leite’s Culinaria’s Vegan Baklava recipe.
Bee Free Honee Vegan Honey, $12.48 on Amazon
You can also try this vegan version of honey made from organic apples.
5. Use mushrooms or eggplant in place of red meat. (And jackfruit in place of pork or chicken.)
They both have a “meaty” texture and work great when topped with pasta sauce or sautéed in red wine to create a fancy vegan dinner. Try this Vegan Lasagna recipe made with eggplant. You can also try jackfruit for a vegan pulled pork that will fool even the biggest carnivores with the right sauce and seasoning. Of course, you can also venture into the world of processed meat substitutes, like seitan, tofu, or tempeh.
Related Reading: Our Favorite Fake Meat for Every Occasion
6. Swap out cow’s milk with nut or soy milk.
Almond, cashew, and soy milk are all cheap alternatives to dairy milk and work great in baking or cooking. Don’t forget about rising superstar oat milk either. When using any of them in your kitchen, just make sure you purchase the “unsweetened” version so it doesn’t alter the flavor of your recipe. Vegan brownies are just as decadent and delicious when made with non-dairy milk—and they taste great with a cold glass of the same on the side!
Related Reading: A Guide to Non-Dairy Milk
7. Replace dairy whipped cream with coconut whipped cream.
Instead of using heavy cream to create a fluffy topping, you can use the fat from coconut milk to create an equally delicious and light topping. Check out Oh, Ladycakes’ tutorial on how to whip up your own (and try using to top the luscious Vegan Chocolate Mousse recipe pictured above.)
8. Make cashew cream to replace sour cream or yogurt in any recipe.
There are vegan sour cream replacements you can purchase at the store, but oftentimes they’re full of preservatives and more expensive than the regular versions. Instead, we recommend you whip up your own cashew cream, which has a similar color and texture, by blending soaked cashews with water. Try Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Cashew Cream recipe and tutorial to learn more about how to make your own (then dollop it on top of our Vegetarian Chili recipe).
Related Reading: 12 Delicious Vegan Sauces to Put on Everything
9. Use agar as a replacement for gelatin in any recipe.
Agar is a staple in most vegan kitchens because it will create the jelly texture that gelatin is known for, without using any products derived from animals (instead of being derived from the usual bones, it’s made from red algae). Try out Healthfully Ever After’s Vegan Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
Agar Agar Powder, 8.8 oz for $14.99 on Amazon
Harness the power of algae to gel vegan desserts, cheese, and more.
Related Video: A Visit with the Queen of Vegan Cheese, Miyoko Schinner
Shelly Westerhausen is the founder of Vegetarian Ventures, a food blog that focuses on planet-based recipes and healthy eating habits. In her free time, you can find her rocking a wolf T-shirt, sipping on hibiscus tea, and working on her magazine, Driftless.