Once you decide to go vegan or follow a plant-based diet, you learn a lot about ingredients. First you learn what foods are off the menu, then you learn how to read labels like a pro and then you learn all about ingredient substitutions. The good news is that there is a vegan substitution for pretty much every food that exists. The bad news is that it can be a challenge to stock up on all of them. If you tried, your wallet would be empty and your home would look like a supermarket. That’s why we all need to make smart choices when we shop. If we can choose products that can serve multiple purposes, it will save money and space. Here are 10 vegan-friendly ingredient substitutions you can use in almost any recipe.
1. Flax and Chia Seeds
You probably already know about using flax and chia seeds because they are both superfoods. They can be used to replace eggs in cooking and baking simply by combining 1 tablespoon of ground seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water for every egg you need to replace. Just one pound of seeds can replace up to 45 eggs! That makes the price of the seeds worth it alone but these tiny super-seeds can do even more. Either flax seeds or chia seeds can be used to replace part of the fats called for in recipes. Depending on the recipe, you can replace half the fat with flax or chia seeds or all of it. Ground flax seeds or chia seeds can replace a portion of all-purpose flour in baking for a healthier recipe and replace xanthan gum in gluten-free recipes. To learn how to do all of that and more, see Tips for Using Flax and Chia Seeds to Replace Eggs in Baking and Cooking. Of course, you can use flax and chia seeds as the star ingredients in recipes like these Flax and Chia Seed Crackers, Chia Pudding with Blueberries and 3-Ingredient Miraculous Grape Chia Jelly.
2. Non-Dairy Milk
Milk is probably the easiest of all food substitutions. Just buy non-dairy milk and use it however you would have used cow’s milk. There are so many to choose from: soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, cashew milk and coconut milk. There are also non-dairy creamers for your coffee and for super-creamy desserts, thick coconut milks for cooking and specialty seasonal milks. It’s also easy to learn how to make your own almond milk, peanut milk, cashew milk, coconut milk and more. Non-dairy milk is great for drinking and adding to your smoothies and cereal but honestly, I use it more for cooking than for drinking. Use it for dredging tofu as in this “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks with White Gravy. Make rich sauces for pasta like this Homemade Alfredo Sauce and creamy soups like this Cream of Mushroom Soup. Make non-dairy buttermilk by mixing 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of milk and wait ten minutes until it curdles and then make these Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits. Of course, you can use non-dairy milk in all your baking recipes. Try these Coconutty Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and Peppermint Mocha Crumb Cake. Read Which Milk for What Recipe: A Non-Dairy Milk Guide for All Your Cooking and Baking Needs for help deciding which milk is best for you.
In my opinion, one can never have too much tofu. I admit it, I love this food that I used to avoid like the plague. Once I mastered the art of tofu, everything changed. You can master it also by reading 6 Tips that Will Make You Love Tofu and 7 Tips for the Perfect Tofu Dish. There are so many dishes you can make with tofu from familiar favorites to vegan seafood dishes to stir-fries to Epic Vegan BBQ Tofu Wings. You can use tofu to make omelets, frittatas, quiches and other egg dishes. Tofu can be used to make vegan cheese like the ricotta in this Ooey-Gooey Baked Ziti and the cheese inside these Blueberry Blintzes. Silken tofu is shelf-stable and can be used for making dressings, dips, puddings and desserts. Try this Easiest Ever Silken Tofu Mousse, Low-Fat Tofu Ranch Dip, and Chocolate Banana Coconut Cheesecake. Once you discover all the amazing ways to use tofu, you will make sure you never run out of it again.
4. Coconut Oil
Of all the products you can buy, coconut oil gives you the most bang for your buck. Coconut oil is really healthy. Check out 10 Amazing Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Coconut oil has a high smoke-point which means you can use it for cooking with high temperatures and it won’t break down into harmful compounds. Use coconut oil to make Jamaican Rice and Peas, Stuffed Mushrooms with Lemony Asparagus and Pistachios, Slow-Cooker Ginger and Cauliflower Curry and Spiced Indian Tempeh with Vegetables and Quinoa. Coconut oil is also great for baking; use it in place of any oil or butter listed in a recipe. Try it in these Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Castle Black Forest Cupcakes, Malibu Rum Cupcakes with Pineapple and Jalapeno Filling and Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Bars. You can also use coconut oil outside the kitchen. Find out 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Coconut Oil and 9 Cool Beauty Products You Can Make with Coconut Oil.
5. Nutritional Yeast
For those who remember the days before there was a dozen different brands of vegan cheese that actually tastes good, there wa nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast, which is endearingly known as nooch, is inactive yeast that adds a rich cheesy, salty taste to foods. It also is an excellent source of fiber, protein and several B vitamins especially vitamin B12. Learn more in Nutritional Yeast: Health Benefits, Tips and a Recipe and Pass the Nooch: 5 Ways to Incorporate Nutritional Yeast Into Every Meal. Nooch can be added to any recipe to add flavor and nutrients as well as just sprinkled on top of foods. Use nutritional yeast to make Cheesy Cauliflower Popcorn, “Egg” Salad Sandwiches, Cheesy Vegan Hot Corn Dip, and Extra Creamy Vegan Mac N’Cheese.
6. Chickpea Flour
Huh? You might be wondering how flour is a vegan substitute. Besides it being a substitution for gluten-free recipes, chickpea flour can be a vegan substitution for eggs. I use chickpea flour to make omelets, crepes, quiche, and batter for French toast and tofu cutlets. Chickpea flour can also be an egg replacement in baking. Check out 7 Ways to Use Chickpea Flour in Holiday Meals: From Breakfast to Dessert and then try Chickpea Omelets with Mushrooms, Greens and Vegan Swiss, Savory Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Tamarind Syrup, Tofu Francaise, Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Blintzes, Chickpea Blinis with Grilled Vegetables and Lemon Cream, Challah French Toast and Spinach, Tomato and Vegan Cheddar Mini Quiches with Lemon Cashew Cream.
7. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes have long been a vegan substitute for meat because of their rich flavor and “meaty” texture. They are also extremely versatile making them a must-have in the pantry. Beans and legumes are economical and easy to cook. Beans make amazing soups like this White Bean and Kale Soup, yummy burgers and sausages like these Hoisin Black Bean Burgers and Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Black-Eyed Pea Sausages and salads like this Chickpea “Tuna” Salad. Lentils are perfect for Lentil Meatballs, Double Decker Tacos and South Indian Lentil Stew. Their versatility doesn’t stop at these hearty dishes. Beans and legumes can also be used in desserts! Beans and legumes can be processed into a thick paste that not only add flavor and moistness but can replace flour and eggs in recipes. I love making my Chocolate Peanut Butter Black Bean Brownies. No one believes they have beans in them. Try them or these Black Bean Chili Chocolate Brownies. Learn how to make similar brownies using sweet red lentils here. Use white beans to make these Pumpkin Bean Bars. Lentils can be roasted for crunchy snacks similar to chickpeas.
Another versatile food you want to keep on hand are raw cashews. These seeds (yes, they are seeds, not nuts) are like little transformers. They can become so many different things. With a little help from you, cashews can become cashew milk or cashew cheese. Learn How to Make the Ultimate Homemade Cashew Milk, Cashew Coconut Cream Cheese, and Vegan Pepper Jack Cheese. You can make cashew cream in both sweet and savory types. The sweet cashew cream can go on to become Cashew Cream Cups and Pumpkin Cashew Cream Cake with Chocolate Sauce while the savory cashew cream can be used to make Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Basil Cashew Cream and an Onion Tart with Greens and Cashew Cream. With a bag of cashews, you can make vegan cheesecake and ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth. For those who prefer savory tastes, cashews can help you make rich, creamy pasta sauces, thick soups, condiments and of course, homemade cashew butter. For more recipes and ideas, see 10 Vegan Food Hacks with Cashews.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Growing up, I ate sweet potatoes one way: roasted. Now I know so many different ways to eat these beautiful, orange powerhouses of vitamins and antioxidants at every meal. Breakfast: add pureed sweet potatoes to your oatmeal to sweeten it up or try these Sweet Potato Waffles and this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie. Or how about these Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Maple Sage Butter. Yum! Lunch: did you know you can make hummus with sweet potatoes? It’s called Yammus. This Sweet Potato Quiche and this Southwestern Vegan Grilled Cheese are both amazing ways to spend an afternoon. Dinner: serve some Maple Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers, Sweet Potato Gnocchi and some stick-to-your-ribs Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili. Make noodles out of sweet potatoes like these Sweet Potato Noodles and Coconut Curried Vegetables. On the side: Spicy Sweet Potato Salad and Sweet Potato Latkes. Save room for dessert because we have Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles, Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake and Sweet Potato Maple Mousse Pie. Sweet potato puree can also be used in baking to replace eggs, oil and sugar as in these Mint Carob Walnut Brownies.
If we are going to talk about foods that can be used in a variety of recipes, we cannot leave out cauliflower. Cauliflower can be used to make burgers, Buffalo wings, and entrees like Cauliflower Piccata, Sweet and Sour Cauliflower and Aloo Gobi. But cauliflower can go way beyond these dishes. With a head of cauliflower, you can replace rice as in this Spicy Curry Cauliflower Rice with Kale, swap out potatoes like in this CauliMash, and make pizza crust like this Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Mung Bean Curry. Pureed cauliflower is so creamy you can make rich sauces with it like this Vegetable Rigatoni with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce or use it in desserts as in this Healthy Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Crust.
Each of these ten foods can be used as a vegan substitute but they are also extremely versatile. When stocking your pantry and fridge, choose foods that can be used in multiple recipes for the best use of your money and space.
Lead Image Source: Sweet Potato Noodles and Coconut Curried Veggies
There is one error which I\’ve noticed while skimming through this article. Nutritional yeast is NOT a great source of vitamin B12, unless it\’s been added to it, perhaps. Just look it up or read the label on packages.