Finding good ways to substitute vegan foods for animal products may seem daunting at first, but it’s very easy once you get the hang of it and stock your kitchen with some essentials.
Non-dairy milks include oat milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, and others. You can find non-dairy milks at almost all grocery stores. Almond milk is my favorite for use in oatmeal and cereal, but I usually use soy for baking, because it has a more neutral flavor (almond milk does taste slightly nutty, which I think makes it more delicious!). Non-dairy milks may be sweetened, unsweetened, or flavored with chocolate or vanilla.
You can also make your own non-dairy milk!
Go here for more information about non-dairy milks.
There is an increasingly vast variety of vegan cheeses now available in stores, and many recipes for homemade cheese as well.
- For pizzas, lasagna topping, quesadillas, or other applications where cheese will be melted I recommend Daiya Cheddar, Mozzarella, or Pepper Jack shreds, which are available at Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market.
- For salads, spreading on crackers, or other applications with raw, uncooked cheese I recommend using cashews. Here are a few recipes for cashew cheese: Raw Creamy Cashew Cheese, Cashew Goat Cheese, Lemon Basil Cashew Cheese. Cashew cheese is also a wonderful replacement for ricotta, as is tofu. Tofutti also makes a ricotta cheese.
- For burgers, there are a variety of “singles”-type cheeses available in the same section as Daiya cheese at Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market.
- There are many recipes for vegan macaroni and cheese. Just google vegan mac and cheese to find them, or look in your favorite vegan cookbook! You can also buy boxed vegan mac and cheese at Whole Foods.
- Tofutti offers cream cheese in a variety of flavors: plain, herbs and chive, French onion, and garlic and herb. Trader Joes now sells its own brand of non-cream cheese, which I’ve found to be very good.
- There are many other pre-made vegan cheeses available on the market.
- Avocado is a popular cheese substitute- I even put it on pizza (after it comes out of the oven). Avocado is fatty and creamy, and provides the same kind of mouth feel and heaviness that cheese does.
My favorite brand of vegan yogurt is Whole Soy, which you can find at Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market. Whole Soy yogurt comes from organic, non-GMO, US-grown soybeans and is certified vegan (some other brands, including Stonyfield’s O’Soy are not vegan, because they contain cultures from milk). So Delicious also makes vegan yogurts from coconut milk. You can, of course, make your own!
Sour Cream and Mayonnaise
- There are several varieties of vegan sour cream and mayo at Whole Foods. Or you can make your own sour cream and mayo!
- Vegan ice cream is so delicious, there’s even a brand called So Delicious that makes amazing ice cream! There are also other brands that make vegan soy, rice, almond, and coconut-based frozen desserts- Taste the Dream is another example. Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market sell a lot of vegan frozen desserts. My favorite is Mocha Almond Fudge by So Delicious.
- You can also make your own vegan ice cream (just google recipes) or make it from frozen bananas (it turns out that when you freeze bananas then blend them in a food processor, they turn into a delicious dessert with the consistency of soft serve!)
Heavy Cream, Creamer, and Whipped Cream
- You can also find a couple varieties of creamers at Whole Foods, one of which is So Delicious’s Coconut Milk creamers, which come in French Vanilla, Hazelnut, and “Barista Style” if you want to get real fancy.
- For whipped cream and for (sweet!) recipes that call for heavy cream, I highly recommend SoyaToo Whippable Soy Topping, which comes in a box (I believe you can get it at Whole Foods).
- I have also heard great things about MimicCreme, but I’m not sure if it’s available at local stores.
Butter and Shortening
- I swear by Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (and baking sticks). I find that it is a near-perfect substitute for butter in every single application- cooking and baking. It does contain palm oil, which may raise concerns for some. Read about their sourcing here.
- You can also make your own vegan butter.
There are many options for replacing eggs in cooking and baking, and different things work better in different contexts. This website provides a great overview of how eggs can be replaced by various different vegan foods. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Tofu is perfect for replacing eggs in quiches, and scrambled tofu is an excellent substitution for the non-vegan breakfast dish. Silken tofu is often used to replace eggs in desserts as well.
- Ground flax seeds and Ener-G egg replacer (or other egg replacer powders) are often used as egg substitutes in cookies and cakes, as are bananas and applesauce
- Agar powder and cornstarch play the role of eggs quite well in cheesecakes, mousses, puddings, and custards.
If you’re unsure about how to replace eggs, start out by sticking to recipes and following the experts’ advice! Many vegans have experimented with replacing eggs, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel!
There are now many brands of vegan meats available at natural food stores. One of my personal favorites is Field Roast, a company that makes artisan vegan meats that are very natural, protein-rich, and high quality. Their vegan sausages and frankfurters are (of course) healthier and so much more flavorful and wholesome than animal products. They also make a variety of roasts that can serve in place of a meat centerpiece for holidays, as well as deli slices and even meatloaf.
There are so many yummy vegan burgers and other non-meat patties (fish, chicken) out there; try them all and see which one you like best! Be careful, however, because not all veggie burgers in grocery freezer sections are vegan. They should say vegan on the box, but double check the ingredients just in case.
If you’re looking for a local option, try Delight Soy products. All the soybeans used to make their “chicken” nuggets and patties, which you can find at Whole Foods, are grown in NC.
Here is some more info about the various brands of fake meat available.