This post contains affiliate links/ads, see my disclosure for details.
If you are transitioning to a vegan diet or are just experimenting with plant based alternatives this page will help you. Here I describe how to substitute milk, eggs, meat and other animal based products with healthier alternatives. I also share tips on how to reduce or eliminate the oils from recipes.
I will periodically update this page and it will grow and change as new products come on the market, I learn a new technique, or create/find a new recipe.
These are some of MY favorite products or tips and I am not being paid by any company to recommend their product, although, as mentioned above I do provide affiliate links to products I love. If you find you don’t like a substitution that I recommend you might have a different taste preference than I do and you should try another brand. Please, do not give up after only trying one brand!
If there are things you would like to see on this page please let me know by leaving a comment and I will look into it for you!
Click a link you want to see substitutions for.
Blue Diamond brand is my absolute FAVORITE brand!!!! It is rich, creamy, smooth and just tastes damn good. If you are new to plant based milks it is probably the closest to regular milk in consistency. It works really well in baked goods for a rich flavor. It also works wonderfully in soup that calls for a creaminess like whole milk like this one: Mixed Potato Chowder.
This is the brand I always have on hand and use the most (98.99% of the time!). I do prefer the Unsweetened Flavor 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!
I have tried a few brands of rice milk but love Rice Dream the most. It does not have any added sugars and is lower fat than soy and almond milks. I use rice milk if I want to keep really things light. It is very similar in taste and texture to skim milk but is slightly grainy so not the best for drinking.
I really love Silk French Vanilla soy creamer for my coffee. If you prefer 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).
The Original flavor works great for recipes calling for cream or heavy cream.
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
Oil is not a healthy for your body no matter what you have read (yes even olive oil is bad, check out this link if you want to know more)!
Dry sauté then add a small amount of water to completely eliminate the need for added fat.
You can substitute vegetable broth for oil in many recipes. If you need to sauté something use vegetable broth to boost the flavor.
I really love this brand because there is nothing but organic vegetable broth in it. No preservatives, weird spices, or added MSG like so many broths. It has a mild flavor because it does not have msg or other weird spices but the healthier choice. I just add a little garlic and onion powder and maybe a little more salt.
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.
Edward & Son’s
Applesauce or Mashed Bananas
For baking breads or 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.
When using applesauce substitute straight across (1 cup oil = 1 cup applesauce). Applesauce is more subtle allowing other flavors to come through. Here are some recipes that use applesauce to substitute for oil, Carrot Cake Muffins with Cashew Cream Topping, Best Vegan Cupcakes, Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Cookies.
When using mashed bananas substitute 1/2 = banana to oil (1 cup oil = 1/2 cup bananas). Please remember bananas leave a banana flavor so choose accordingly.
Other fat free cooks also use prune puree, blended squash or 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 plain tofu works 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. When I do use Earth Balance I use the smallest amount I can get away to accomplish the flavor I am going for.
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 Earth Balance 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 work really well.
Flax Seeds (or Flax Eggs) MY FAVORITE METHOD!
This is my preferred method of replacing eggs in most baked goods and in my opinion it is the easiest too. Flax eggs work great in pancakes, breads, brownies, cookies, or cakes (homemade or prepackaged mixes). Click this link to learn how to make a flax egg, there is a video too.
This brand does not add any additional taste or texture to recipes but works wonderfully. It is a powder mixture that is mixed with water and measured out against how many eggs you need in a recipe. Follow the package directions then make sure to really whip it up well!
It is very inexpensive and great to have on hand since it is shelf stable. This product does not work well for making anything that is eggy like quiche or scramble. Tofu is a better bet for eggy dishes.
Bananas or Applesauce
Yes, bananas and applesauce AGAIN! You can substitute approx 1/4 cup of mashed bananas or applesauce in most sweet baked goods for every egg that is called for. Again, remember that bananas lend their flavor more than applesauce does so if you are making say, banana bread, a banana is great. These two also work great for things like pancakes, cakes or muffins.
Pureed plain tofu works well as a replacement for eggs in most baked goods that require several eggs. Crumbled Firm Tofu makes a great Cheezy Tofu Scramble which is a substitute for scrambled eggs .
What the heck is aquafaba you ask? It is the liquid from a can of Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). This is a new craze going around the vegan community that everyone is flipping over. I am learning how to use it and will include recipes soon but from what I have found is for:
1 egg white use 2 Tablespoons whipped aquafaba
If you have not heard of nutritional yeast (or the slang term “nooch”) please know it is not regular yeast!! Nutritional yeast is a nutritionally dense powder, with several B vitamins and the oh so important B-12. The reason so many vegans (and as more omnivores are learning) is it has an amazing cheesy flavor that I LOVE love love love love love!
OH Cashews how I love thee (almost as much as nooch, almost)!! Cashews are a wonderful dairy substitute for making milks, creams, cheeses, ice creams and so much more.
I make my a Vegan Parmesan with cashews as the base and sprinkle it on savory dishes like lasagna, spaghetti, or as topping on salads or popcorn.
Most other nuts and some seeds can be used similar to cashews to make dairy substitutes. Almonds are the most versatile without adding a strong flavor, in my opinion. I stick with cashews most of the time but a Google search will return all kinds of recipes if you are not a cashew fan.
If you are making something that calls for ricotta or cottage cheese you can usually use crumbled firm tofu (drain the liquid). I always add nutritional yeast and spices to the crumbled tofu for cheesy flavor. An example is my Cheezy Vegetable Lasagna.
There is a great product on the market called a Tofu Press that presses excess liquid out of the tofu and I loved mine until I dropped it :-(.
Daiya Vegan Cheese
I have tried so many of the imitation cheeses out there and I would rather go without until I found Daiya cheese. This cheese tastes rich and melts into a creaminess that is amazing! Let be clear, my husband HATES this stuff so it is not for everyone.
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 the Cheddar Style makes a pretty mean grilled cheese.
The Mozzarella Style works wonderful on homemade pizzas or any other recipe calling for Mozzarella cheese. Another great thing about this cheese is you can freeze it which means when it goes on sale for half you can buy a ton and freeze it.
This is my favorite convenience mayo and I really do love it! The full fat is very similar in taste and texture to regular mayo. The reduced fat is similar in taste and texture to Miracle Whip (a little more tangy). Vegenaise is great on/in anything that you would use mayo with like sandwiches or in Pasta salad or Potato salad.
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, I can’t use is alone because it is very bland and in my opinion is a bit gelatinous.
This is a homemade version of mayo that many low fat vegan’s use as well. It is better than Nayonaise and is pretty quick to whip up. I did not document my own experiment with it so if you are interested here is the recipe from Dr. Neil Barnard.
Homemade Smoothies and Ice Cream
You can make your own homemade ice cream or smoothies for a delicious treat that is low fat, good for you and tastes 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 there are many more on the web at other vegan websites.
Purely Decadent by Turtle Mountain
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, SCORE. I can get seriously fat when I indulge on these babies which is why it is a super super rare treat. Seriously, I can put down a whole container at one sitting, especially the Peanut Butter Zig Zag, NOM. 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 is a super close second to the Purely Decadent. They have a lot of different products like the ice cream sandwiches (which are so scrumptious!), fudge bars that taste just dairy fudge bars, and so many different flavors of ice cream. If you are on a budget this is the cheaper of the two brands and at least you get more for your money.
Before I share the meat substitute products I want to let the newbies know that there are so many ways to substitute meat in recipes using plants. Google search homemade plant based burgers and you will return tons of results. I have a Black Bean Veggie Burger recipe you could try to start out with.
There are many different brands and types of vegan meat and seafood substitutions available. I have tried and like the following products. A word of warning if you are gluten intolerant, most meat substitutes are made with wheat. If you are wheat intolerant look for the soy, bean, or grain based meat substitutes.
365 Everyday Value Meatless Burgers
These are my very favorite veggie burgers! They are close enough to real tasting that my husband loves them and far enough from real tasting that I will eat them. They have a grilled flavor and when grilled are even better.
I think the majority of meat eaters who try these would be happy with them. As far as I know they are only available at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.
These are my 2nd favorite veggie burgers on the market. These taste very clean and free of junk, if that makes sense. They are 95% organic and made with lots of good things like wheat, mushrooms, walnuts, rice and more.
My husband enjoys these burgers and that is a big score. Amy’s carries six other veggie burgers ranging from gluten free, low sodium to even having a real cheese filled burger for the regular vegetarians. 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.
The original Boca burgers are vegan and they also have an organic soy vegan version. These are not my favorite but one I would eat if I were at one of the many chain restaurants that serve them. Many meat eaters seem to like them and that is probably why they are the veggie burger served at chain restaurants around.
They crumble well to put in things like chili mac. The original is inexpensive and found at almost every store.
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 in a few minutes. 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 I just love the smoked flavor some reason.
Even though it says it is a vegetarian roast it is actually vegan. These are 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 high in fat once you add the recommended oils but I usually cut those way down or out completely depending on who is eating with us. Just make sure to baste, baste, baste or it will be a bit dry.
This is super-de-duper easy to make, tastes amazing and you get the good fats with no added oil! 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 all kinds of food. NOM
This is a really good transition sour cream if you are moving away from dairy. It works wonderfully in recipes that call for sour cream. I do not like it as a topping on my Mexican food, I prefer to make my own.
This vegan cream cheese works very well in all recipes calling for cream cheese. Like Tofutti Sour Cream, I do not like it plain.
This band of yogurt is very similar to dairy yogurt and most people like it I have not tried every flavor but can say I enjoyed most of them. They are a bit higher priced than Silk.
This brand tastes good, is reasonably priced, and the best of all, it is available at many stores in most cities. My kids loves this yogurt.
I have to mention Amy’s brand separately because I really enjoy so many of their products. I also love that right next to the Ingredients it say Vegan if it is vegan. Although they are not low fat they are organic and made with whole foods and not packaged with tons of preservatives. They are handy when you are in a hurry, and you don’t have to feel guilty giving your kids canned soup or frozen pizza.
I love the vegan Roasted Vegetable Pizza with no cheese. It looks a little plain but OMG, it is very good. My husband said he could eat it every day and that is saying something from the pizza guy!
The 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 Thai Red Curry are so AMAZING and my two FAVORITES! I could eat those for lunch, dinner or snack every day!
I do have to say that I don’t love everything they have (the chili is nasty and the teriyaki bowl is just gross-my opinion).
Most people think “OMG I could never give up chocolate”. I have heard that some people consider chocolate better than sex. 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!
Ghiardelli offers several different things for the vegan chocolate connoisseur. Be careful though, not all their products are vegan. Their Semi Sweet Chocolate Baking Chips are vegan (in the gold package) and make amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies. The Sweet Ground Chocolate is great to make a wonderful cup of hot chocolate. Some of there large bars in the baking isle are vegan but read the back to be sure. But when reading the ingredients don’t be fooled by cocoa butter, it is non dairy it is OK to eat!
Dark Chocolate Dream
This brand is a very good vegan chocolate. 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 conscious, 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!