One of the things many people struggle with when first attempting to lead a vegan lifestyle is leaving behind many of their old favorites. They might get a little discouraged thinking about never eating a Ruben sandwich or slice of pizza again. After all, you can’t help but crave the tastes you grew up with, your desire to lead a animal product-free lifestyle notwithstanding. Not to worry.
Experienced vegans know that there are plenty of excellent substitutes for animal ingredients. All are tasty, and some of them are nearly indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts. Plus, many vegan substitutes are healthier than the ingredients they replace.
So, without further ado, here is our guide to some common vegan substitutes.
It used to be that if you were a vegan with a craving for delicious cookies, you had to make them yourself. As vegetarianism and veganism have become more mainstream, it has gotten much easier to pick up a vegan cookie on the go. I even saw some at the airport the other day.
But, sometimes there is no substitute for homemade, oven-fresh baked goods. And, there are plenty of ways to make them vegan.
If a recipe calls for eggs, you can substitute half a banana, 1/4 cup blended silken tofu, or 1/4 cup apple sauce. Commercial substitutes, such as Ener-G egg replacer are also available, and they do the job quite nicely.
There are more substitutes for milk than you can shake a measuring cup at. Soy, rice, hemp, almond and hazelnut milk can all be substituted cup for cup for cow’s milk in baking recipes. For recipes where butter is a must, vegan butter substitutes fill the bill quite nicely.
Sometimes, you just get a craving for the protein boost and rich flavor of meat. The great news is that you can get the same satisfaction from plant sources.
Tofu is the old standby meat substitute. It was originated in ancient China, and is made from coagulating soy milk and by pressing the curds into blocks. We know some people have a phobia of tofu, and that it has been the punchline in some jokes. But properly prepared, tofu can be mouth-watering.
Tempeh is another soy-based meat substitute. It has a nuttier, richer flavor than tofu, and is made by fermenting soybeans. It’s excellent sauteed or stir-fried and many vegans love it as a bacon substitute.
Seitan makes a great sandwich meat. It’s also an excellent substitute for chicken or duck in curries or stir-fries. Many vegans say that of all the meat substitutes, seitan has the most satisfying, chewy texture. Seitan is made of wheat gluten though, so those with gluten allergies should definitely steer clear.
If you’re looking for a hot dog or some sliced sandwich meat, there are many commercial substitutes available. Some favorites are Tofurkey Deli Slices (the peppered ones are fantastic), Field Roast Meatloaf, Amy’s Texas BBQ Burgers, and Yves Canadian Bacon.
For many vegans, cheese is the toughest thing to give up. It’s also apparently hard to duplicate without using animal products. Beware that some non-dairy cheeses actually contain casein, which is a milk-protein.
The problem with vegan cheese generally comes down to texture. Many do an excellent job of emulating the complex flavors cheese offers, but don’t melt correctly, or don’t have the right mouth-feel.
Thankfully, there are some outstanding products that melt, taste great, and have the right texture. Daiya mozzarella and cheddar-style shreds are great, as is Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese. Daiya is made from a woody crop called cassava and arrowroot (a starch derived from rootstock).
[Photo Credit: peta]