Milk in cooking provides flavor, moisture, and thickness. It is important to consider the different qualities of the vast array of plant-based milk options in order to decide which will best suit the particular recipe. When using plant-based milk instead of cow's milk, you may want to cut down on any other sugars in the recipe. There is no recipe that can not be made just as well using the right cow's milk substitute for the recipe.
- Replacing cow's milk with water can serve to add the needed moisture but frequently results in less rich foods; in that case, use plant milk.
- Soy Milk
- Soy milk can generally be substituted directly for cow's milk in any recipe, though it does not curdle in the same way cow's milk does when heated.
- There are a massive variety of soy milks available. Soy milk also comes in an unsweetened variety. There are also refrigerated brands.
- Coconut milk
- Coconut milk is a wonderful substitute for cow's milk and cow's cream in many recipes. It has a thick, rich and sweet taste, which suits some vegan cream sauces and cream soups. It doesn't become grainy like soy milk. However, it is one of the few plants with saturated fat. However, the fat is in the form of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are easily and efficiently processed into energy and are considered to be beneficial to heart health.
- Rice milk
- Rice milk is relatively watery and grainy.
- Oat milk
- Oat milk can be very thick and creamy.
- Almond milk
- Almond milk is also somewhat watery, but has a rich flavor. Almond milk also comes in an unsweetened variety.
Most are made with oils, which are generally considered to be bad for human health, as they raise bad cholesterol levels. Margarine is also made by emulsing stabilizers such as protein powder, starches, or gums with oil. This technique may be better for human health, but is not widely adopted.
It is worth noting especially that many margarines may contain some sort of milk by-product to make them taste more like butter (including whey, lactose, sodium lactate, or casein) so a good rule of thumb is to read the labels and do your research. If you don't know what something is, write it down and do a search for the ingredient later.
Under most conditions, vegetable oil may simply be used as a replacement for butter or margarine for cooking and baking, using the measurement of 1 cup butter/margarine = 3/4 cup oil. Adding a tablespoon of a good vegetable or nut milk will provide more of a creamy/dairy-type taste if desired.
In some recipes, butter is a major ingredient, as in icing, and margarines often leave a greasy feeling in your mouth if used as a substitute; this is because the melting point of margarine (33-43 °C, depending upon formulation) is often higher than the temperature of the human body (37 °C), while the melting point of butter is below it (32-35 °C). In these situations cocoa butter can be used, since it has a melting point closer to that of butter (34-38 °C).
- Vegetable or canola oil
If a recipe calls for one stick of butter (1/2 cup), use 1/3 cup of oil.
- Flax oil
Use it as a topping for potatoes, rice, popcorn, etc. Used in eggplant or tempeh dishes, some people think that it can create a "fishy" taste for appropriate dishes, but this is not the opinion of everyone. Not generally heated or used for cooking.
- Nut butter
Nut butter can be made from almonds, cashews, or other nuts. Peanut butter, though technically made from a legume, is also considered part of this category. When replacing butter with a nut butter, use the same amount as listed in the recipe.
- Coconut oil
Raw coconut oil is becoming increasingly available and can be used to substitute for butter. Note that while solid at room temperature, it melts at a lower temperature than butter and is unsuited for making pastry (unless you can chill the room significantly). Raw coconut oil is great spread on baked goods and can also be used in cooking. Note that processed coconut oil is not the same product as cold-pressed raw coconut oil and has been shown to be detrimental to human health.
Use for sweet baking only. Use the same amount you would for butter. Especially yummy in brownies! For muffins, etc., replace up to 3/4 of the butter with applesauce, using vegan butter for the rest.
- Prune puree
Use in the same way as applesauce: Puree 1/2 cup of pitted prunes with 1/4 cup of water. You will want to reduce the amount used, or the final product may be too moist. If the recipe calls for a half cup use 1/3 cup instead. You may also want to add a little oil, maybe a tablespoon per cup of fat needed, because a little fat goes a long way in taste and texture.
Most substitute cheese is made of soy, though there are also nut varieties. Beware: some soy cheeses contain casein / caseinate, a milk derivative.
Replace cottage cheese or ricotta cheese with crumbled tofu in lasagna and other dishes. Adding a little miso can give a "blue cheese" flavor.
Products marketed as vegan cheese have a cheese-like taste and melt well (including on pizza) and are available in Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, and other flavors. Some are allergen-free, cholesterol free, and trans fat free. However, most are quite low in protein and are thus nutritionally not equivalent to dairy cheese.
Cashew cheese or nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce may also be appropriate for some dishes.
Vegan cream cheese is available in various flavors and without hydrogenated oils.
Vegan cream substitute has a very similar texture to real cream and tastes quite similar. Rice-based creams are good for those who don't want or can't have soy, but are allergic to gluten and so cannot have oat-based creams.
Coconut milk also is a great substitute for cream in many baking recipes. One part raw cashews with one part water, blended till smooth, also functions well as a cream substitute - especially because cashews are naturally a little sweet.
There are a variety of soy yogurts ("cultured soy") available that can be used in place of dairy yogurt. Coconut yogurt is also available. Oats can also be fermented to make a delightful and cheap yogurt.
Vegan mayonnaise is available in canola oil ("original"), expeller-pressed canola oil, grapeseed oil, and organic expeller-pressed soybean varieties.
Eggs have a varied role in cooking; as a wash they provide a glossy texture to breads, when the whites are whipped they provide volume, sometimes (as in pancakes) they are simply traditional and play no structural role, other times they are used to make mixtures stick together.
Vegan egg replacements are generally not good for washes or where they are a major component, as in meringue.
The following amounts are intended to replace 1 egg.
1 1/2 tsp. vegan egg substitute + 2 tbsp. warm water (multipurpose baking)
1/4 cup tofu, add to blender with enough water/ soya milk to blend smoothly
1/3 cup Applesauce (muffins, brownies, and cake)
1/4 cup Soy Yogurt (Quick breads, muffins, cakes)
1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree (for pies and baking)
1/2 small mashed Banana (for quick breads, muffins, cakes, and pancakes)--helps browning
1 heaping Tbsp. Soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. Water (muffins, cookies and cakes)
1 Tbsp. ground flax plus 2 Tbsp. Water; mix well before using
1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water (mixed separately, prior to adding to recipe)
(Note that the strong flavors of some substitutions such as banana or pumpkin will come through in the finished dish.)
To bind things like burgers, use mashed potatoes, bread crumbs (blended), blended tofu, cooked rice/oatmeal, nutritional yeast, flaxmeal, or tomato paste.
For the firmest binding, and if you are not actively avoiding gluten, use "gluten flour" (also sometimes marketed as "vital wheat gluten").
The following can be used well in certain recipes, to replace 1 egg:
- Tofu: 1/4 cup of Tofu blended. For dense cakes, brownies and the like, use only 1/2 cup to replace 3 eggs for lighter/fluffier baked goods, and add a teaspoon of arrowroot or cornstarch for cookies to keep the right texture. Bad for pancakes. Leaves no taste.
- Flax Seed "Gloop": 1 tablespoon flaxseed, finely ground in blender or coffee grinder or 2.5 tablespoons pre-ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water (for pancakes, breads, and other baking)— distinct earthy granola taste great for things like pancakes, and whole grain items, such as bran muffins and corn muffins. It is perfect for oatmeal cookies, and the texture works for cookies in general, although the taste may be too pronounced for some. Chocolate cake-y recipes have mixed results, I would recommend only using one portion flax-egg in those, because the taste can be overpowering. Seed quality was investigated by means of a grain moisture meter. Measurement of moisture in the soil is an important indicator for the growing of grain.
- Arrowroot powder
- Agar powder: Use with recipes that call for egg whites. For each egg white, dissolve 1 tbsp plain agar powder in 1 tbsp water. Whip, chill and whip again.
- Vegan egg substitute: A versatile, commercially available egg replacer made from potato starch, tapioca flour, and vegan leaveners. You can find it at natural/health food stores. One whole egg = 1 tsp vegan egg substitute powder + 2 tbsp water. Tastes chalky.
- To make something similar to commercial egg replacers:
- Mix together 1 tsp Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp Baking Soda, 2 Tbsp Flour, 3 Tbsp Water.
- A heaping tablespoon of soy flour or bean flour mixed with a tablespoon of water.
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch beaten with 2 tablespoons of water.
- To make something similar to commercial egg replacers:
- Baking powder mixture: 1 tsp baking powder, 1 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp vinegar; or 1 1/2 Tbsp water, 1 1/2 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp baking powder
- Yeast mixture: 1 tsp yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- Apricot puree: 1 Tbsp
- Aquafaba: The viscous liquid found in canned chickpeas and other canned legumes. Can be whipped like egg white to make meringues, and can also substitute for egg as a binder.
Honey comes from an animal source. Some good substitutes include:
- Agave syrup: a general-purpose liquid sweetener derived from the agave plant. (additional note: agave syrup has a low glycemic index and is appropriate for low-carb diets)
- Maple syrup: a syrup produced by the Maple tree.
- Golden syrup
- Date syrup
Many Asian foods stores have false meat available. False squid is especially realistic, but there is also false chicken, pork, duck, and fish. These are usually made from gluten, but often also have soy ingredients.
Fish sauce is made of fish. This cookbook has a recipe for vegan fish sauce.
Worcestershire sauce is traditionally made with anchovies. There are many vegan Worcestershire sauces. Some grocery store brands of Worcestershire sauce are also vegan.
Broth & Bouillon
Chicken or beef broth can be replaced by a vegetable broth or by vegetable bouillon cubes.