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back to the basics: vegan substitutions

Posted Feb 16 2012 6:00pm

Despite the fact that I do not eat vegan 100% of the time, I typically use vegan tips and substitutions in my cooking and baking. Vegan baking is a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake (literally – haha!)! There are a number of substitutions you can make when working in the kitchen. Even if you’re not into veganizing baked goods or cooking creations, try it out for size one of these days because you might just be surprised!

What can I use in place of eggs?

Flax Eggs – Did you know that flax is an amazing way to get in Essential Fatty Acids in your diet? Flax is filled with Omega’s, which are crucial for your health. Flax eggs are really simple to make. For every egg that is called for in a recipe, you should mix 1 tbsp. ground flax with 3 tbsp. water (for 2 eggs, mix 2 tbsp. flax with 6 tbsp. water, etc.). After the flax and water is mixed together, give it a stir and set it aside for 3-5 minutes. After the few minutes have passed, the flax egg will have thickened and created more of a “gel” that is almost the consistency of an egg.

When using ground flax, be sure to store it in the fridge or a cool place as it can go rancid quickly.


Chia Eggs – Same method as the flax eggs! Mix 1 tbsp. chia seeds with 3 tbsp. water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Note: I like using flax eggs more than chia eggs!

What can I use in place of butter?

Fat is by far the easiest thing to replace in a recipe – there are countless ways to replace the fat, but I typically use the same substitutions for all of my recipes.

Earth Balance – A vegan margarine that tastes buttery. To substitute, use the same amount the original recipe calls for (ie: 1 cup for 1 cup)


Coconut Oil – Coconut oil is best used for baking when it is in it’s solid state. In the winter, my coconut oil is always solid, even when it’s in the pantry. However, in the summer, you may want to store it in the refrigerator. Coconut oil should be substituted for the same amount the original recipe calls for as well.

Unsweetened Applesauce – I love using applesauce in place of butter in recipes. Obviously you will only want to use applesauce in baked goods and not for cooking with butter/fat. You do have to be careful though because sometimes applesauce can change the texture of baked goods. I also think that fat in baked goods tastes delicious, so if you don’t like the low fat taste of dishes, this one isn’t for you. You can use equal amounts of applesauce for what the original recipe calls for.

How can I substitute milk?

With any non-dairy milk! Rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, flax milk, coconut milk – shall I continue?


edited to add: Someone did point out that rice milk is quite thin and may not work as well in baked goods as other non-dairy beverages.

What about buttermilk?

Piece of cake! Buttermilk can be easily made with any non-dairy milk and lemon juice. For every 1 cup of non-dairy milk, mix it with 1 tbsp. of lemon juice. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes before mixing with any batter.

How can I give my dishes a “cheesy” flavor?

There are many non-dairy cheeses out on the market, but I rarely use them because some of them have some sketchy ingredients and don’t mesh well with my stomach. My go to cheese flavor replacer is nutritional yeast. It obviously doesn’t substitute gooey strings of cheese, but just a sprinkle of nutritional yeast can give the same cheesy flavor I crave from time to time. It’s easy to make cream based sauces and cheese sauces with nutritional yeast. When I buy nutritional yeast, I get it at Whole Foods or online. When in Whole Foods, it can be found in the bulk section or by the vitamins and supplements.

For more back to the basics posts, you can read the following:

Question: Have you ever made any vegan substitutions? What did you think?

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