Plant-based eating and vegan diets are on the rise. Although the research is yet to show that being vegan is the only way – what we do know is that we could have a healthier population and help the environment if we included more plant based foods in our diets.
Like the idea of becoming more plant-based but wondering how you could possibly live without cheese on your pizza, or eggs with your Sunday brunch? Fortunately veganism doesn’t simply mean a life of chomping on salads. There are lots of easy food swaps you can make to ensure that your plant-based diet is satisfying, full of flavour and nutritious.
There are some fabulous substitutes for eggs, including tofu, flax seeds, water bean and even banana. Find the perfect substitute below depending on what dish you’re trying to create:
If you're someone who likes to kick-start their day with some scrambled eggs, you'll want to give scrambled tofu a try! Opt for a firm tofu rather than silken tofu.
Simple Tofu scramble recipe
- 100g of firm tofu
- Mashed tofu with a fork (leave some chunks)
- Add desired flavour (turmeric, paprika etc.).
- Add a tsp coconut oil in the pan and heat up
- Add ¼ chopped onion and half a red pepper to pan
- Sauté until soft
- Add the tofu and cook on a gentle heat for 5 mins
- Serve on toast or with new baby potatoes
Eggs for Baking
Eggs are a very common ingredient in baking as a binding agent. But fortunately there are many vegan alternatives that can be used to make your favourite cake. Try one of these options:
Ground flaxseed (or chia) combined with water is your vegan egg equivalent. It may sound like a strange swap, but after sitting for about 10 minutes, it'll thicken up to a jelly-like, egg consistency. This also works a treat in vegan burger patties. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together and let it sit in your fridge for 10 – 15 mins to thicken.
- ‘WATER BEAN’/AQUAFABA
Once whisked it turns into a white and foamy egg substitute. Use to make fluffy things like Yorkshire puddings, light cakes or meringues. A general rule is that 3 tablespoons of aquafaba can be used per egg.
- SILKEN TOFU
With blended siilken tofu, ¼ cup =1 egg
Half a blended banana, unsweetened applesauce or pureed fruit (⅓ cup = 1 egg)
What would be a sandwich, wrap or toast be without a spreadable topping? Luckily there are plenty of spreadable plant-based options. You can easily swap out butter as a topping on your toast for coconut oil, avocado, hummus or spoonful of nut butter. And you'll be happy to know that they're all full of healthy fats and protein.
Luckily you don’t need to wave goodbye to your morning muesli with yogurt. There are plenty of dairy-free yogurts on the market, which can be bought plain of flavoured. Stick with plain for the healthiest option. Coconut yogurt is great if you want something richer and creamier, but if you want something lighter then opt for almond or soya yogurt.
Ah, cheese. Perhaps the one food that most people feel they just can't part with. Thankfully there are now many vegan alternatives, most often made with a cashew, coconut oil or soy base. Cashew is particularly great for pizzas. Almonds can also work well if you’re after a hard cheese like parmesan.
Make your own cashew cheese:
Soak plain, unsalted cashew nuts for a couple hours, then blend with lemon and juice and seasoning. Use as you should cheese.
Make your own vegan parmesan:
Grind up some almonds (with the skin on) add some salt and use in the same way.
The vegan milk alternatives are many. From almond to soy, coconut to rice, cashew to oat, you'll find there's an abundance of dairy-free milks readily available:
Out of all of the milk substitutes, soy has the most protein and is also the most comparable to cow's milk for baking and cooking.
Almond or Rice Milk
For those that maybe allergic to soy, almond or rice milk is a good option. Both almond and rice milk have a naturally sweet taste as it is high in sugars, similar in calcium content it is comparable to cow’s milk but low on protein.
Oat milk contains a good dose of important minerals and more protein than almond milk but less than soy. It goes particularly well with coffees and cereal. However look for versions with no added sugar, as the oats already contain some sugar naturally.
Coconut milk is a favourite for many and comes with a delicious nutty taste. The creamy taste makes a great option for frothy lattes. Coconuts are high in saturated fats, but fortunately the fats come from easily digested medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Remember though that coconut milk comes with more calories than many of the other milks. This is why you may see some combined with rice milk, to lower the calorie content.
Best plant-milk for cooking?
In general, most milk alternatives work as a perfect substitute for milk in baking, cooking and sauces, however be aware that some of them, such as soy and coconut, will add an additional flavour to your cooking, so keep this in mind when choosing to add it.
6. Milk chocolate
Being vegan doesn’t mean saying no to treats. If you have a craving for chocolate, opt for the darker variety. Dark chocolate (more than 70%) will almost always be dairy-free (check the ingredients to be 100% sure).
There are plenty of substitutes for family favourites like spag bol, meatballs or burgers. Lentils or finely chopped walnuts are a great substitute for mince in spaghetti Bolognese. Any variety of tinned beans are great for meatballs or bean patties. Quorn also offer some great frozen mince alternatives.
For creamy curries, use coconut cream. If you need a whipped cream for dessert then pop a can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight, drain off the liquid and then whip up the coconut solids. Avocados mixed with some cocoa and icing sugar also makes the most decadent dairy-free chocolate mousse.
Some people miss the texture and clean protein hit of chicken. However there are some creative and delicious alternatives worth trying:
This offers a meaty texture. This versatile veggie can be prepared many ways, including grilling, baking, stir-frying and even stuffing (similar to a stuffed chicken breast).
Similar to chicken, this soy-based veggie protein is great as it takes on the flavours of what it is season and cooked with
it may seem strange to think that a fruit can be a substitute for meat, but the ‘meaty’ texture of jackfruit is similar to pulled, shredded chicken. If you can get to a tropical fruit market, you can buy canned versions.
A great vegetable that can be used to replace many foods. We are familiar with cauli-rice, and cauliflower pizza, but it can also be used as a chicken wing replacement!
Portobello mushrooms make a great meat-free substitute for a burger patty. However chopped mushrooms in general provide a meat texture and earthy, smoky flavour that works a delicious meat replacement.