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  • Writer's pictureRock Rousseau

HOW TO Find Vegan Ingredient Alternatives

​The term "vegan" was coined in 1944 by a small group of vegetarians who broke away from the Leicester Vegetarian Society to form the Vegan Society. Vegans choose not to consume dairy, eggs or any other products of animal origin, in addition to not eating meat like the vegetarians. Veganism is defined as a lifestyle of eating and living that excludes the exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals as much as possible.

Vegans excludes the following foods of animal origin from their diets:

  • Meat, including eggs, beef, chicken, fish and shellfish.

  • Dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt.

  • Honey and sugar

  • Various food and ingredients that come from animals, such as gelatin, chocolate and types of wine and beer.

​The lists below takes the foods of animal origin and provides some Vegan-friendly alternatives for replacing these ingredients when cooking.



Meat-based entrees are generally swapped for meals containing beans, lentils, Tempeh, Tofu, and nuts. Vegans can also choose from an ever increasing selection of ready-made vegan products.


In baked goods, good substitutions for eggs include applesauce, pureed soft tofu, Ener-G egg replacer, a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons water or other liquid, blended), or mashed bananas. You’ll have to experiment with your recipe to see what works best for you.

In dishes where eggs are usually used for binding (such as meatloaf) you can use oat or soy flour, rolled oats, cooked oatmeal, bread crumbs, instant potato flakes, nut butters, tomato paste, or cornstarch. Chickpea flour makes amazing omelets, and aquafaba is useful for making recipes that originally call for egg whites, like mousse and meringue.

  • Scrambled eggs. Use scrambled tofu.

  • Raw eggs. Use flaxseeds or chia seeds in various recipes.

Other alternatives include:

  • Applesauce. About 3-4 tablespoons will replace one egg in your baked goods. Just remember that applesauce does have a sweetness to it and acidity that isn't present in regular eggs, so you may have to adjust other parts of the recipe you're using to account for this.

  • Bananas. The ratio is basically 1 banana to 1 egg. The fibrous nature of bananas makes them great binding agents for your baked goods, but the texture might be a little thicker than you're expecting. If you're having trouble getting the bananas to break up entirely when you mix them into your ingredients, consider mashing them up thoroughly before adding them to the rest of your ingredients.

  • Purees. Purees and pie fillings make great replacements for eggs and other binding agents. Plus, it's a great way to improvise, adding in new flavors and making truly unique recipes.

  • Silken Tofu. Tofu is probably the closest thing you will find to an all-encompassing egg replacer.

  • "Flegg". Use as an ideal egg replacement in baking.

  • Egg Replacers. These usually come in powder form and turn sticky and thick when mixed with water.​​

  • Aquafaba. Chickpea brine, also known as aquafaba, might sound like an odd way to replace an egg, but the composition of aquafaba makes a very convincing replacement both in terms of flavor and texture. It has a soft foam texture that's remarkably similar to meringue.The composition of the brine gives it the ability to bind ingredients together almost exactly like an egg does. Plus, unlike most other egg substitutes, aquafaba is not starch-based. Aquafaba alone tastes a little bit like chickpeas, which isn't always the taste you are looking for when you make cupcakes. But the flavor is neutral enough that it can easily be masked with plenty of sweetener-- even when making meringue.


  • Deli Meat. Use veggie deli slices - they come in bologna, ham, turkey, and other flavors.

  • Ground Beef and Steak. Use veggie burgers, veggie meatballs, veggie sausage links and patties, veggie bacon, veggie ground “beef,” veggie meatloaf and Salisbury steak, and even veggie jerky.Consider replacing ground beef for tacos and burritos with beans for a meaty flavor that's both affordable and a great source of plant-based protein.

  • Poultry, like Chicken and Turkey. Use soy chicken patties and nuggets and whole “soy turkeys” for Thanksgiving or other holidays. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is particularly good for substituting chicken.

  • Beef or chicken stock. Replace beef or chicken stock with vegetable broth or vegetable bouillon cubes.

Other alternatives include:

  • Tofu. The classic meat substitute. It's spongy texture and ability to absorb flavors make it great for replacing almost any meat imaginable with the right seasoning. Tofu is a great place to start for beginner vegan chefs because it's pretty easy to handle, too.

  • Tempeh. A soy-based meat substitute that's versatile and absorbs flavors well. You can do just about anything with it that you can do with real meat.

  • Seitan. A flexible meat substitute that tastes delicious and goes with just about anything. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is particularly good for substituting chicken.

  • Eggplant. You can cut them into chunks, sautee them, and even slice them into thin, burger-like pieces. Their neutral flavor and thick texture make them great for absorbing savory flavors and creating a convincing meat substitute.

  • Mushrooms. They have a naturally savory and meat-like flavor, so it doesn't take a lot of work to transform them into a meat substitute. Use them to replace chicken in stir fry or mince them finely, sautee them, and add them to your tacos.

  • Jackfruit. Has amazing ability to transform when cooked. You might not always find it in your normal grocery store, but if you have an Asian or "international" market near you. The pieces of fruit are stringy on the inside, and when cooked, their flavor becomes neutral. Just throw on some barbecue sauce, and you've got a recipe for vegan pulled-pork that will fool even the biggest meat eaters.



Dairy products are usually replaced with plant milks. It’s so easy to substitute for dairy milk in a recipe. You can use soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, or nut milk. There several fortified plant milks, vegan cheeses and even vegan versions of your favorite desserts.


NOTE: Be sure to read the label as some vegetarian cheeses contain casein, which is not vegan. If you can find a great vegan cheese that you like, use it in your recipes in the same manner that you would use dairy cheese.

  • Cottage or ricotta cheese. Use crumbled tofu, soaked raw nuts, or a combo.

  • Mozzarella. Daiya Mozzarella Shreds work incredibly well.

  • Cream cheese. Daiya Cream Cheese.

Other alternatives include:

  • Tofu Cheese. The soft texture of tofu makes it a great base for your cheese substitutes. Of course, tofu on its own doesn't necessarily create the most amazing tasting cheeses. Experiment with flavors and spices to create a convincing cheese alternative that tastes just like real cheese.

  • Nutritional Yeast. Sold in a powdered, flaky form, nutritional yeast is entirely plant-based, and it has a uniquely cheesy flavor. Plus, there are tons of health benefits of nutritional yeast.

  • Cashew Cheese. When soaked in water, cashews become very soft and flexible, which means they can easily be blended into a smooth paste. Their neutral, nutty flavor means they can absorb flavors well. A little nutritional yeast and some herbs and spices added to these blended cashews will create a cheesy spread that's hard to resist.

  • Potato and Carrot Cheese. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots blended in the blender until they're nice and smooth make smooth and versatile cheese alternative.


  • Soy Milk, Hemp Milk, and Rice Milk. Use them to replace the milk that's called for in the recipe with a simple 1:1 ratio.

  • Almond Milk and Other Nut-Based Milks. Almond milk is loved be vegans and meat-eaters like because it's just so good! Whether you use it to replace regular milk in your baked goods or pour it over your cereal, almond milk is praised as the "good kind of fat" alternative to cow's milk.

  • Buttermilk. There's a difference between milk and buttermilk. Buttermilk has higher levels of acidity, which means that it will react differently with other ingredients. To substitute buttermilk, simply add about 1 tsp of vinegar for every cup of plant-based milk.


NOTE: Not all margarine are vegan. And sometimes mainstream margarine have questionable ingredients and hydrogenated fats. You may also want to consider using oils like sunflower or olive instead of vegan butter. There are vegan butters on the market that work well in substituting for butter. Be sure to read the labels because

  • Coconut Oil. For cooking, sauteeing, baking, use coconut oil. It melts easily, so you can use it for greasing a pan or even just as a 1:1 substitute for butter in baked goods.

  • Vegetable Oil. Use it for baking and as a substitute for melted or softened butter in recipes. If a recipe calls for a stick of butter, vegetable oil is probably not your best option.

  • Plant-Based Butter Alternatives. For all of your other plant-based butter needs, there are plenty of completely vegan alternatives to butter on the shelves of your local grocery store -- you just have to know where to look. Since these butter alternatives cost less to produce, they're usually cheaper, too.


There are many vegan yogurts that will substitute well in your recipes — soy, coconut, almond. You can find them in fruit flavors and also plain for cooking and baking.


Use plain non-dairy yogurt or make Vegan Sour Cream using silken tofu.


Use vegan mayonnaise exactly the way you’d use non-vegan mayonnaise. Aquafaba can be used to make a great homemade vegan mayo.


There are vegan ice creams based on soy, rice, nut, and coconut milks, and they’re all delicious. Some are high in fat and some are fat-free. Some are fruity like sorbet, while others are sinfully decadent like butter pecan or peanut caramel. You can also buy vegan ice cream sandwiches, mud pies, and ice cream bars.



There are many liquid sweeteners on the market that you can use in your recipes instead of honey. Honey can be swapped for plant-based sweeteners, such as molasses or maple or rice syrups. Maple syrup and agave nectar can be substituted measure for measure in recipes. Other sweeteners include agave syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, light and dark molasses, and brown rice syrup.

Many vegans do not eat sugar since some brands are refined using bone char from animals. If you want to replace sugar in a recipe, use beet sugar, fructose, natural organic sugar, unbleached cane sugar, turbinado sugar, date sugar, maple crystals, and granulated FruitSource.


Other Foods and Ingredients of Animal Origin:

  • Chocolate. Use non-dairy vegan chocolate chips, cocoa powders, and chocolate bars. These are most easily found in the natural foods aisle of your supermarket, and of course, in natural foods stores.

  • Gelatin. Use agar flakes or powder. It will thicken as it’s heated. Use a vegan fruit gelatin product at your local health food market.

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