If you are transitioning to a vegan diet or just experimenting with alternatives by learning what to substitute milk, eggs, meat and other animal based products with can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. There are also some things to learn in trying to reduce or eliminate the oils from your diet. I hope to provide a good resource here to help that transition be a little bit easier.
This page will be updated from time to time and will grow and change as new products come on the market or I learn a new technique from other’s out there. If there are things you would like to see on this page please let me know and I will work hard to provide it for you.
These things are just some of MY favorite products and what I like to buy but know that I am not being paid by any company to recommend their product. If you find you don’t like something I recommend you might have a different taste preference than I do and you should try another brand (don’t give up after only trying one brand!).
As you may have noticed when reading through my blog I try and cook low fat, low sugar, low salt, low (or no) oil, whole food-plant-based, vegan meals. I have a picky family to feed and being 100% oil free is just not possible in this family but I do cut corners where I can and where it won’t compromise the flavor of the food too much. I have learned that added oils are very bad for our health according to Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. T. Collin Campbell, Dr. Joel Furhman and many others so I try my best to not use them. BUT a little oil/fat in our diet is much better than animal products so the transition can take some time and taste adjustment. As you also may have noticed I LOVE desserts so I do cheat a little (HA) with those (hey I’m not perfect!) so don’t get caught up in being perfect and do what you can and use what works for you right now at what ever stage you are at in your quest towards healthier eating.
If you ever feel I am missing something please leave a comment and I will look into it!
Almond milk; This brand is my FAVORITE!!!! It is rich, creamy, smooth and just tastes damn good. If you are new to plant based it is probably the closest to regular milk in consistency. It works really great in baked goods for a richer flavor and also works wonderfully in soup that calls for a creaminess like whole milk. I use it to make an amazingly creamy and delightful Mixed Potato Chowder. This is the one I always have on hand and use the most (98,99% of the time!). I do prefer the unsweetened kind but the original is great in a pinch. We all really love the chocolate and go through it very fast when I do pick it up which is a rare treat. I have not listed the vanilla here because I am not a fan but if you love vanilla milk go for it!
Soy milk; This is the soy brand I like the most because it does not have added sugars in it. I might use the full fat version to make puddings or add to soups when serving guests to get them accustom to plant based food but normally I use the low fat kind. This works great for a straight across swap for traditional milk. You can use full fat soy for full fat milk and low fat soy for skim. There is also soy cream available that can be used in place of heavy cream in recipes. I keep these on hand because they are shelf stable and easy to get if you run out of the Almond Breeze.
Rice Milk; I have tried a few brands of rice milk but love Rice Dream’s the most. It does not have any added sugars and is lower fat than soy milk and is what I use if I want to keep things light. It is pretty thin and slightly grainy though so it is not the best for drinking. It is very similar in taste and texture to what skim milk is and I was used to that before my switch to vegan. I use it to thin my oatmeal, with cereal and to mix in some baked goods and pancakes as the milk sub. This is also shelf stable and one to keep on hand for when I run out of the cold Almond Breeze.
Coffee Creamer; Both of these soy creamers brands are AMAZING tasting! I usually buy the Silk French Vanilla soy creamer for my coffee since it is cheaper than the coconut. If you just need plain creamer most soy creamers are equally good. I have my whole family switched over to the French Vanilla soy creamer (even the meat and dairy eaters), every little step towards health counts! The original works great for recipes calling for cream or heavy cream. I am leaning away from processed foods and have been experimenting with whole-nut based creamers with natural sweeteners, I’m very close and will be posting that soon as another even healthier alternative.
Buttermilk; To make your own butter milk add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup milk substitute, stir and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This is a wonderful addition to any pancakes calling for milk, makes them so much more full of flavor.
Other milk substitutes; I have tried oat milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk and coconut milk and they all work fine for many different things but cost more because they are not in as high of demand as the above milks. Our family did do a taste test of all of these milks and the almond and chocolate are the best to drink straight but oat (thick and creamy) and hazelnut (thinner than oat but thicker than rice and has a nutty flavored-duh!) are not bad straight either. If you have an allergy or taste aversion to one type keep trying other types until you find what you like the best.
Oil is not a healthy food for your body no matter what you have read (yes even olive oil is bad-check out http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/aug/oils.htm if you want to know more).
Vegetable broth; Vegetable broth can be used in many recipes instead of butter or oil. If you need to saute something just use vegetable broth or even just plane water instead, completely eliminating the need for that added fat. I really love the Pacific organic vegetable broth because there is nothing but organic vegetable broth in it. No preservatives, weird spices or added MSG like so many broths have. It is a little lower on flavor than the kinds with msg have but it is worth using and adding a little garlic or onion powder on your own. I use this in most of my soups and to saute almost everything in. If I really need some extra flavor or am out of my Pacific brand I always have the Rapunzel brand of bullion cubes in my pantry as a back up. They taste amazing and you can even make your own ramen by just using one of the cubes and cooking noddles in it then topping with some veggies.
Applesauce or Bananas; If you are baking a sweet food like brownies, cakes, cookies or muffins that call for oil or butter you can usually substitute applesauce or bananas for either one. The purpose of those fats are to add moisture and these two fruits do a great job on most (not all!). To use applesauce you would use it for baking sweet things, just substitute the same amount straight across. A warning with bananas, they have a strong flavor and can make foods taste a bit like bananas and applesauce is more subtle letting the other flavors come through so keep that in mind. Other fat free cooks also use prune puree, blended pumpkin or plain soy yogurt but they all lend a specific taste or require too much work for me so I stick with applesauce or bananas.
Pureed Tofu; Pureed plain tofu will work well as a replacement for oil in most non sweet baked goods. You may need to use a little less than the oil that is called for so experiment until you get it right.
Earth Balance Spread.; Sometimes in baking you need a little butter and you just can’t get around it or don’t want to. I usually use the smallest amount I can get away with if any. The great thing about this brand is it does not have any hydrogenated oils in it unlike other margarine spreads. Also, most margarine spreads on the market have some form of dairy in them but this brand is 100% plant based. My husband and kids enjoy this spread thinly on some toast and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I use it in my Glazed Cinnamon Biscuits and Soft & Chewy Vegan Caramels and you can use it in pretty much anything you would use butter for. It comes in soy free as well for those who need that, my husband likes that one the best. Again though if you can substitute water or the below two things for your butter or oil it is best to do.
Replacing eggs can be a bit of a challenge depending of what the egg is required to do in the recipe and how many eggs are needed. You will have to experiment a little to find what is going to work best with your recipes but for now here are some of the tricks I have learned so far that seem to work really well. There are many more options on the Internet that you can search that others have tried but I can’t say if they work because I have not tried them. It is not that hard once you get the hang of things.
Flax Seeds; This is my preferred and in my opinion the easiest way to replace eggs in most baked goods. To use flax seeds you can use 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed meal with 3 Tablespoons of warm water. Stir/whip then let sit for 5-10 mins then whip again until the constancy is like an egg. It works well with pancakes, brownies, cookies or cakes, I even use it to replace the eggs on any prepackaged mix and it is always great. With flax you get the wonderful Omega-3’s that you so need so they are good to fool around with until you can figure out how to add them to your diet daily if possible.
Ener-G Egg Replacer; This is a powder mixture that you measure out by how many eggs you need in a recipe. Just follow the package directions to add the right amount of water and power but make sure to really whip it up well. One trick I have found it pouring in the water, stirring then let it sit for a minute then whip it well. This is a really great product and one that is great to have on hand if you don’t have flax or want to use flax. It is very cheap (1 box was 7.00 and it lasted me about 6 months!) and works pretty well for most sweet baked goods. This would not work well for making something that is eggy like quiche or other egg dishes, tofu is a better bet for that texture otherwise it really is a multipurpose egg replacer. Make sure to whip it up like you would egg whites before adding it to you mixture, that helps it make the dish more airy and fluffy.
Bananas or Applesauce; You can use approx 1/4 cup of bananas or applesauce in most sweet baked goods for every egg called for. Again remember that bananas can lend their flavor more than applesauce does so if you are making say banana bread a banana is great. These also work great for things like pancakes, cakes or muffins.
Tofu; Pureed plain tofu will also work well as a replacement for eggs in most baked goods that require several eggs instead of one or two that Ener-G or the above things might not work for, although it works just as well when replacing one or two eggs. This will work well for things like casseroles or other main dishes. Crumbled tofu is usually a good swap for scrambled eggs and with the right seasonings such as nutritional yeast, turmeric and others you can have a nice scramble that you can add vegetables or imitation meats to or use in a breakfast burrito.
Agar Powder; This works really well for recipes that call for egg whites. I used to just use the egg replacer for that and although it does work it does not work as well as using agar powder. For 1 egg white dissolve 1 Tablespoon of agar powder in 1 Tablespoon of water. Whip, chill and whip again, I know sort of a pain but if you put it in the freezer for a minute while you work on other parts of the recipe and come back to it then it is not a big deal right!
Tofu; If you are making something that calls for ricotta or cottage cheese you can usually use crumbled firm tofu to be a similar texture with some added nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, just make sure to drain the excess liquid! There is a great new product on the market called a tofu press that pressed the liquid out, I love it but you need more than one if you cook for more than 2-3 people. One nice tip if you have time is to freeze the tofu 2 days before use, defrost it in the fridge the day before then press the liquid out the day of. The texture is even more firm and similar to cottage cheese and more ready to absorb the flavors that are added to it.
Nutritional Yeast; I know this seems weird but nutritional yeast (not regular yeast!!) has a very cheesy flavor and is a great topping to spaghetti or other dishes you might normally put cheese on. Of course it is not going to give that exact flavor but you get a hint of cheesy flavor along with a very nice dose of B-12 which all vegans need to watch. It is also and must addition to tofu scramble (amazing dish, must try!).
Ground Cashews; This is such a great topping to Italian dishes like lasagna or spaghetti. It has a cheesy flavor and it is a stronger cheesy flavor than nutritional yeast is. Cashews have a good dose of vitamin E but they do have a good amount of fat so use sparingly. I actually mix cashews, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, a dash or two or salt and onion powder together and blend into my own parm cheese! These are also great sprinkled onto a salad, chili, soups or anything you might sprinkle Parmesan cheese onto. They also are amazing to make your own homemade coffee creamer, just add a handful or two along with some dates and water to your desired thickness into a blend and blend until you have the perfect creamer, YUMMMMM!
Daiya Vegan Cheese; I have tried so many of the imitation cheeses out there and I really just would rather go without until I found Daiya cheese. This cheese tastes rich and melts into a creaminess that is amazing! According to the manufacturer this cheese is not made with any artificial ingredients, preservatives, hormones & antibiotics. It does have quite a bit of fat so I only use it occasionally when I really am craving something rich and naughty. My kids love this stuff and it makes a pretty mean grilled cheese with the Earth Balance Spread. They also have another flavor (I have not tried it), pepper jack style shreds that I think are worth at try. Another great thing about this cheese is you can freeze it which means when it goes on sale for half or more off you can buy a ton and freeze them. I actually even keep the opened one in the freezer then just bang it on the counter to loosen what I need and let it sit at room temp for 5 mins and it is ready. This way it won’t go bad if you don’t use it often like us.
Vegenaise; This stuff is yummy! It is very similar in taste and texture to regular mayo. If you are new to vegan or low fat you can start out with the full fat kind and work you way down to the reduced fat. I ca not tolerate the full fat version anymore now that my taste buds have adjusted but my husband would rather eat the full fat kind. This is great on/in anything you would use mayo with like on sandwiches or in Pasta salad or Potato salad.
Nayonaise; This is a brand by Naysoya that many low fat/fat free vegans use. I have used it on some sandwiches that are otherwise full of flavor and sometimes I mix half Nayonaise with half Vegenaise in potato or pasta salads. Honestly though I can’t use is alone, it is very bland and in my opinion is a bit gelatinous and that texture is gross to me. I really just sick with vegenaise most of the time and use the low fat version. I can say my meat eating husband and son won’t touch this stuff but you never know so try it out if you really want to cut the fat.
Tofu Mayo; This is a homemade version of mayo that many low fat vegan’s use as well. It is better than Nayonaise but for me I already put in so much work with other cooking things that I would rather buy the Vegenaise and honestly have not tried it so I might give it a whirl just to say I have tried it. If you are interested here is a link to the recipe. http://www.nealbarnard.org/pdfs/Diabetes_Recipes.pdf
Homemade smoothies or ice cream; You can make your own homemade ice cream or smoothies for a delicious treat that is low fat, good for you and taste sinfully good without adding any extra fat or sugar to your diet. Frozen bananas make the base then you add fruit and flavors to your taste. I have several on my recipe page and their are many more on the web at other vegan websites.
Purely Decadent; OMFG this is my favorite brand of non-dairy ice cream and even my husband and son think it is just as good or better than regular ice cream. I can get seriously fat when I indulge on these babies which is why it is a super super rare treat because I can put down a whole container at one sitting. I have not tried every flavor YET but can say that the vanilla bean, coconut, chocolate brownie almond, blueberry cheesecake, cookie dough and mint chocolate chip are to die for!! (ugh, wow I have tried a lot)
So Delicious; These are a super close second to the purely decadent and they have a lot of different products like the ice cream sandwiches (which are so scrumptious!), the fudge bars that taste just dairy fudge bars and the many different flavors of ice cream. If you are on a budget this is the cheaper of the two brands or at least you get more for your money.
There are many different brands and types of vegan meat and seafood substitutions out there and I have not even come close trying them all. The following are the ones that I like and have used many times. I would love suggestions of what others like so if I have not tried it before I can with your recommendation. Word of warning though, most meat substitutes are made with wheat so they contain gluten and if that is a problem for you look for the soy based meat substitutes. If you have an issue with or just don’t like soy then you can always use beans or grains in many dishes, just get creative and you never know what you will come up with. Of course this list is small compared to what is offered out there. You can get into more things like TVP, Tempeh and tofu but this gives you and idea of what is available if you are just starting out or want to try something new.
Amy’s California Veggie Burgers; These are my favorite veggie burgers on the market but they do cost quite a bit more than the Boca burgers that are in every store. To me these taste very clean, if that makes sense. They are 95% organic and made with lots of good things like wheat, mushrooms, walnuts, rice and more. These are my husband’s favorite veggie burger. He is not a fan of the Boca burgers and would rather me make my black bean burgers but when I am in a hurry he is happy to have one of these. Amy’s also carries 6 other veggie burgers ranging from gluten free, low sodium to even having a real cheese filled burger for the regular vegetarians instead of vegans. Amy’s is a brand worth checking out because they carry a large variety of vegan products that are almost always organic and do not have preservatives and other junk.
Boca Burgers; the original Boca burgers are vegan and they also have an organic soy version as well but can be hard to find sometimes. These are decent enough and many meat eaters seem to like them and that is probably why they are the veggie burger served in a lot of chain restaurants around the country. I use them when I am in a hurry for a quick meal and they crumble well to put in things like chili mac. The original is pretty cheap and can be found at almost every store. They are a good transition food but pretty processed.
Tofurky Deli Slices; This is the best brand of deli slices in my personal opinion. The hickory smoked (pictured) is my families absolute favorite and my little ones can eat a whole package each. It does have yeast extract in it so I don’t eat it that often but every once in a while I just want a big ole sub sandwich and this makes it just amazing! The other flavors are really good too but for some reason that smoked flavor it the best.
Tofurky-Turkey; This is a nice option for vegans at Thanksgiving especially if you are new to being vegan and need that centerpiece “meat”. Make sure to add tons of veggies to the recipe and you get a very nice meal. It is a little high in fat once you add the recommended oils but I usually cut those way down or out depending on who is eating with us. Just make sure to baste, baste, baste or it will be a bit dry.
Yves Veggie Cuisine; This brand offers tons of meat and dairy alternatives. I have tried several of them and some I like and others I don’t. Their veggie dogs and morning sausage patties are pretty good. They also offer low fat chicken strips and veggie pepperoni that are really pretty good too. They offer almost everything you can think of and I have yet to try it all because I try and stick with whole foods where possible but sometimes their food is very convenient and great to take over to someone’s house if you are visiting and don’t want to have to bother them with fixing you something special.
Cashew Sour Cream: This is super-de-duper easy to make, tastes amazing and you have the good fats with no added oil! Just soak some cashews for 2-4 hours in some water. Pour off the water and put into a blender with a little lemon juice, ACV, tiny pinch of salt and blend. Taste test as you go and whola wonderful sour cream! I make extra and freeze servings in baggies then just defrost in a bowl of water, cut a hole in the corner and squirt onto my food. NOM
Sour cream; This is a pretty good sour cream if you need it as a topping although I don’t care for it that way. It works wonderfully in recipes that call for sour cream and is not too expensive but again I really just make my own.
Cream cheese; This is a pretty good cream cheese. I would not say it tastes exactly like regular cream cheese and do not eat it plain but have used it on a bagel with jelly on top of the cream cheese. I also make some AMAZING cheesecakes with this, Pumpkin Swirls Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce & Berry Topped Cheezecake. This works great for appetizers calling for cream cheese and amazing for vegan cheese cake!! Again, a processed food I would use sparingly.
Yogurt; I have tried quite a few yogurt and yuck! BUT then I found Wholesoy & Co and OMG it is good. They offer many flavors of their yogurt including plain if you want to try it for a sour cream sub. I have tried most of their flavors and they are all very tasty. I highly recommend this brand because not only does it taste great it is non-GMO and organic too so you can’t go wrong. One problem with this brand is it is hard to find and usually only at Whole Foods SO if I really want yogurt or my kids want it I get….
Silk brand. This brand tastes good and is reasonably price and best part is at many stores so much easier to find. My kids loves this yogurt.
Amy’s; I have to mention Amy’s brand separately because I really enjoy so many of their products. Although they are not low fat they are organic and made with whole foods and not packaged with tons of preservatives so when you are in a hurry you don’t have to feel guilty giving your kids canned soup or frozen pizza. I do have to say that I don’t love everything they have (the chili is nasty and the teriyaki bowl is gross-just my opinion) and I have not tried every single thing the offer but again you might like things I don’t so check them out. I love the vegan pizza (looks gross but OMG my husband said he could eat it every day), lentil, southwestern, split pea and minestrone soups are all amazing and my kids will eat everyone of them. The Black Bean Enchilada meal and the Red Curry is so AMAZING! I could eat those for lunch, dinner or snack every day and even though I get full from one I could easily eat two of them because I love it so much (but I don’t-most of the time)!
Chocolate; Most people think “OMG I could never give up chocolate” because I have heard it is better than sex for some people (who are these people ;-0). Well there are a couple of reasons for that, according to the book Breaking the Food Seduction by Dr. Neal Barnard “Researchers showed that chocolate does not merely tickle your taste buds but for some it actually works inside your brain in much the same way opiate drugs do”. Never fear! There are many different types of vegan chocolate that can fill that deep seeded need for chocolate!
Ghirardelli offers several different things for the vegan chocolate connoisseur. Becareful though, not all their stuff is vegan, semi sweet chips are vegan (in the gold package) the ground sweetened chocolate to make a wonderful cup of hot chocolate is vegan and some of there large bars in the baking isle are vegan but read the back to be sure. You are going to have to avoid milk chocolate because it has milk in it (duh! again). But when reading the ingredients don’t be fooled by cocoa butter it is not dairy it is OK to eat!
Dark Chocolate Dream is a very good vegan chocolate bar. They are not as dark tasting as most and actually very smooth and creamy. I have used them very successfully in my vegan smores and they are amazing!
There are tons of other vegan chocolates at natural food stores and online so go searching if you are a choco-holic!
Marshmallows; There are a couple of brands of vegan marshmallows around but they can be a bit difficult to find even at some natural food stores unless you have a big vegan clientele who goes there. There is also a vegan marshmallow cream called Ricemellow and it is not bad. If it is mixed into a recipe for something like fudge or other dish it works very well. I would not eat it right from the jar though. The good thing about it vs the regular cream is (beside not having eggs in it) it does not have fructose corn syrup and is made from much more natural ingredients.
Broth or Bouillon; see above for suggested brands that I use but know there are imitation beef and chicken broth brands out there too. These usually have yeast extract in them but ok to use occasionally.
Gelatin; If you were once in love with Jello gelatin rest assured you can make your own and it is not made from animal tendons and toenails (GROSS!). Agar flakes (flavorless ground seaweed) are very cheap and can be bought at all natural stores and they store forever. Follow the package directions or look online or at the natural food store for a vegan jello and you are good to go.
Sauces; It is amazing how many things have animal products hidden in them that you would never guess. Worcestershire sauce has anchovies, many Chinese sauces have fish or animal broth in them, and of course pretty much all gravies are made with animal broth and chunks. There are vegan versions of all of these things at specialty stores or online. I really have not bothered with most of these other than the Worcestershire sauce and honestly the one I bought was nothing special and I could have made my own by looking online. You decide how much work you want to put in and if you are lucky enough to have a great natural store with alternatives in it you won’t have many problems otherwise the Internet is your best friend.
Cereal; there are TONS of cereals on the market that are vegan just by chance, I would say more than half on the shelves are vegan. One word of caution for the health concious, most of those cereals have high fructose corn syrup in them so read your labels. One brand that is almost always vegan and never had HFC or other junk in it is Kashi. Kashi is found in every market so you don’t have to go to the natural food store and pay double what you would at a regular store. Autumn wheat, cinnamon wheat and strawberry fields are our favorites. I think Almond Breeze milk is best for use on cereal.
I could go on and on about vegan products but this gives you a general idea of how easy it is to make the transition. The world today is become more and more vegan friendly and more products are coming onto the market everyday so just open your mind and your eyes and you will see a whole new world of possibilities. ENJOY!