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The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions

Posted Jan 23 2011 6:45pm

Last year I was a lucky member of the recipe testers for Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman's cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions." I sometimes get questions from readers about what foods to substitute for various ingredients in recipes, and now I have the perfect reference to direct the questioners to. Whether you want to veganize a recipe, or avoid a particular ingredient because of health concerns or allergies, this book has everything you need to know. Dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, honey, gelatin, gluten, soy, refined sugar, fat and more — Celine and Joni have got it covered. There's a full chapter for each of these ingredients with explanations of what substitutions to use, and recipes for using them.

The beginning of each chapter is loaded with information about the featured ingredient, including a handy chart of substitutions, suggestions for finding substitutions at the store, recipes for making your own substitutions at home, and a sample recipe showing where and how to substitute for unwanted ingredients. An eclectic collection of creative and delicious recipes, from fast and easy to more challenging, follows. Below are some of the recipes I tested for the book.

The fast and easy walnut "parmesan" sprinkles (above) appears in the cheese chapter, as do other tempting recipes like Indian-spiced pumpkin gratin and savory artichoke pie.

One of our favorite (maybe our favorite) recipes from the book is "beef" and broccoli bowl, (above) a very easy and extremely delicious seitan dish that appears in the meat chapter. This is often our go-to recipe when we can't think of what to make for dinner. First we make one of the incredibly fast and easy seitan recipes, and while it cooks, we put rice into the rice cooker, and throw together the sauce. There's a recipe for seitan cutlets that only takes a few minutes to mix, and about 20 minutes to bake. If we have more time we might make baby back ribz (below). If we don't feel like making seitan, we use tofu, or mushrooms, or cashews, or whatever we have. Sometimes we put it into nice bowls and serve it to company. It's both delicious and impressive.

In the sugar substitutes chapter you'll find salted caramel wheat treats. I made these for a vegan bake-sale which is why they're all wrapped up and tied with ribbons. Truthfully, wrapping them quickly was the only way I could stop myself from eating them all on the spot.

Kablooey (above) is a simple, wonderful kasha (toasted buckwheat) salad that appears in the fat substitutes chapter.

These are the best oven fries. The best. We love them. They're called smoky potato wedges, and you don't think you need another recipe for oven fries, do you? Well, you're wrong. These are great! The recipe can be found in the meat substitutes chapter.

This is a good place to say a few more words about how the book is organized and indexed. Trying to find a specific recipe can be challenging if you don't know where to look. I searched the index under "p" for potato, and "s" for smoky, to no avail. I finally flipped pages until I spotted a photo of the potatoes in the meat chapter. I checked the index under "meat," but the recipe isn't listed; I finally found it under "side dishes." So, if you're just looking for a recipe to try, you're sure to find something interesting, but if you're looking for a specific recipe, it's a little trickier until you become familiar with the book's organization and limited index.

Denver quiche is, of course, in the egg substitutes chapter, and listed in the index under "main dishes."

You can find super simple creamy dijon dressing in the animal by-products substitutes chapter (subbing for honey-mustard dressing) and in the index under "salads."

BBQ beans is in the by-products substitutions chapter because it avoids honey. You can find it listed in the index under "soups and stews" because I'm telling you it's there. Otherwise, good luck.

You can find the recipe for yummy cookie cookies in the "look inside this book" feature on Amazon. They are cookies made with Oreos, or as in the cookies you see above, with Newman's O's. Just go to the Amazon page and look for yourself. (No, I don't get rewarded if you go take a look — or buy a book.)

I saved the craziest photo for last. This one is scary, isn't it? I assure you it's just seitan with fake bones made from taro root. It's called baby back ribz. Here's a link to the recipe on Joni's blog. We usually make this just to use for seitan in other recipes, not to gnaw on with juice running down our chins, like you might be picturing. :D And when we have some on hand, we always make beef and broccoli bowls. (I only made it with the "bones" when I tested the recipe — it's bone-free since then!)

While it's true "The Complete Book of Vegan Substitutions" does offer you extensive information on how to veganize just about anything, it would be a mistake to think of it just in those terms. It's a cookbook filled with tempting and delicious vegan recipes, as well as a resource for those wishing to avoid animal products.


Urban vegan recipe testing

Sticky toffee-banana smoothie

Dirty rice

Mega-Israeli salad


Watch your back!
Just a note to say I've been very involved in a graphic design project over the past few weeks, and worked on my computer a bit too intensely, and without paying enough attention to ergonomics. I really wrecked my shoulders, neck and back, and have been staying away from the computer as much as possible. I haven't been leaving comments but I've tried to keep up as best I can with reading on my husband's ipad. I'm feeling much better but not 100% so am still being careful.
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