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Vegan Food Substitution Guide

This list is by no means exhaustive – there are so many great substitutions to try! – but it will certainly get you started on the right foot.

If your recipe calls for… … try one of these substitutions!
Ground beef or turkey (such as for chili, tacos, spaghetti and meat sauce, or sloppy joes) Crumbled extra-firm tofu (for an even firmer and chewier result, freeze then defrost tofu, squeeze out water, and crumble)

Crumbled or grated tempeh

Ground seitan

Cooked brown lentils

Commercial meatless crumbles, such as Gardein brand

Sliced or diced beef, chicken, pork, or turkey (such as for a stir-fry or fajitas) Tofu, water pressed out, cut to desired size, and marinated

Tempeh, steamed for 10 minutes, cut to desired size, and marinated


Sliced portobello mushrooms

Commercial meatless substitutes, such as Gardein brand

Bacon Coconut bacon

Shiitake bacon

Carrot bacon

Store-bought tempeh or seitan bacon, such as Lightlife or Sweet Earth

Milk Unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice, such as soy, almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, or rice.
Heavy cream Cashew cream: ½ cup soaked and drained cashews blended with 1 cup water and a pinch of salt. Yields about 1 ½ cups. (works well in savory dishes)

Canned full-fat coconut milk (lends a mild coconut flavor; best in sweet dishes)

Buttermilk For each cup of buttermilk: Scant 1 cup soymilk or almond milk mixed with 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Sour cream Blended silken tofu with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Yogurt Unsweetened soy or coconut yogurt
Butter Refined coconut oil (use unrefined if a mild coconut flavor is desired)

Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Spread

Shredded cheese Commercial vegan cheese, such as Daiya or Follow Your Heart brands
Mayonnaise Commercial vegan mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise or Just Mayo

Substitutions for Eggs in Baked Goods

Substituting vegan ingredients for meat, milk, and cheese is usually pretty straightforward – but what about eggs? Sometimes eggs are the star of the show, such as in scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, and quiche. In these cases, I recommend seeking out tried-and-true vegan versions of these recipes, of which there are many versions online, and then tweaking them further to suit your tastes if necessary. Other times, eggs are included in recipes for either binding (helping to hold the ingredients together) or leavening (helping the ingredients to rise) purposes, primarily in baked goods. They also add moisture, so the finished product isn’t dry and unappetizing. Luckily for us, there are lots of great and easy to use vegan egg substitutes!

When I bake (and I bake often!),  my go-to egg substitute is typically ground flaxseeds and water (sometimes called a “flax egg”) with the addition of a little baking powder, which provides an extra lift to baked goods. My exceptions to this rule are when I make bread pudding, where I use organic cornstarch mixed with non-dairy milk, and when making firm puddings and pie fillings, where I prefer to use agar flakes simmered in water.

For savory recipes that call for eggs for binding purposes, such as vegan versions of meatballs, burgers, or meatloaf, choose substitutions that aren’t sweet, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, or blended tofu.

Substitution for each egg: Function: Works best for:
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water, left to thicken for a few minutes Binding; for leavening action as well, add ¼ teaspoon baking powder to recipe Cookies, muffins, quick breads, cakes (with added leavening), waffles, pancakes
1 tablespoon chia seeds, mixed with 3 tablespoons water, left to thicken for a few minutes Binding; for leavening action as well, add ¼ teaspoon baking powder to recipe Cookies, muffins (especially poppy seed muffins, where the texture isn’t noticeable)
¼ cup well-blended soft silken tofu Binding; adds moisture Muffins, quick breads
¼ cup unsweetened vegan yogurt Binding; adds moisture Cookies, muffins, quick breads
2 tablespoons garbanzo bean flour mixed with 2 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk Binding; for leavening action as well, add ¼ teaspoon baking powder to recipe Cookies, cakes
3 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, tahini, or sunflower seed butter Binding; adds moisture Cookies, quick breads, muffins
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce, pureed pumpkin, or mashed banana Binding; adds moisture Quick breads, muffins, cookies (lends a cake-like texture; avoid if you prefer chewy cookies)
2 tablespoons organic cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk Binding Bread pudding, cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes
1 ½ teaspoons agar flakes mixed with ¼ cup water, simmered for 5 minutes Binding (strong) Chilled puddings and pie fillings



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