Substituting vegan ingredients in recipes

I am an enthusiastic cook and I enjoy puddling about in the kitchen.  Few things excite me more than the prospect of a new recipe to try out.  When I was contemplating switching to a vegan diet, I felt a bit wary that my cooking would become very limited.  I was under the impression that I would have to stop making all of my favourite non-vegan dishes and that any new recipe I tried would have to be vegan approved.

 

I quickly learned that it is very simple to adapt recipes that are intended to be made with meat, dairy or eggs to make them vegan-friendly.  Today I want to share a list of the common non-vegan ingredients and the vegan alternatives that I typically use in their place.

 

Beef: Thickly sliced portobello Mushrooms.  Thickly sliced eggplant.  Seitan stir fry strips, black beans, Nut mince.

Chicken: Firm tofu, Fry’s rice protein and chia stir fry strips, Quorn vegan nuggets sliced into pieces, chickpeas, lentils.

Fish: Pulse chickpeas, lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce in the food processor.  This makes an awesome alternative to tuna in sandwiches, pasta bakes and can be mixed with breadcrumbs and fried to make “phish” cakes.

Eggs: For baking, I use an egg substitute product called The Vegg.  It’s a powder that you mix with water and add to your baking.  It bakes really well and looks and smells like egg when you mix it up.  Flaxseed oil or other vegetable oils can be used in place of eggs in baking. Applesauce may be used in sweet recipes.

Ham or bacon: For soups or stews that use ham or bacon, I like to add a can of white beans such as cannelini or butter beans for protein and texture.  Liquid Smoke can also be added to give the smokey flavour that these cured meats add to cooked dishes.

Milk: There are so many milk substitutes to choose from that it can make a vegan’s head spin!  My personal preferences for everyday are soy and almond milk. Coconut milk is naturally sweet for baking but can have a coconutty-flavour.  Rice, oat and hemp milk are also great options.

Cream: For pasta sauces that call for cream, I like to blend silken tofu in the food processor until it’s smooth.  For sweets and desserts, try this cashew cream recipe.

Sour cream: Simply blend silken tofu in a food processor until smooth and add a dash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of salt.

Cheese: Nutritional Yeast is perfect for adding a cheesy flavour to risotto, pasta bakes, soups or on top of pasta.  My favourite vegan cheeses are Biocheese and Green Vee cheeses.

Butter: It’s easy to find vegan spreads on the supermarket shelf. My personal favourite is the Nuttlex Buttery Spread.

Beef or chicken stock: use vegetable broth. Alternatively, Massal stocks contain no animal products and come in beef and chicken flavours.

Gelatine: Agar flakes or powder.

 

When you become more practised at vegan cooking, you’ll get a feel for how to adapt regular recipes to make them suitable.  When choosing your substituted ingredients, it’s important to consider the ingredient’s role in the recipe.  Is the ingredient there for texture?  To bind the mixture together?  For flavour?  This will help you to select a substitute that performs the same role so that your recipe is more likely to be a success.

 

Do you have any additions to this list?  What do you substitute to make ordinary recipes vegan-friendly?

 

 

 

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The one kitchen appliance that has most improved my life.

I am amazed by the amount of kitchen appliances on the market.  If you head down to the electrical department of your nearest department store, you’re sure to find a veritable cornucopia of gadgets that claim to make cooking easier.  You can buy food processors that chop, dice, puree and whizz.  You can buy popcorn makers, juicers, crepe machines, slushie makers, toasters, roasters and coffee-makers.  I’ve even seen fairy-floss machines at one store (which seem awesome but I’ve been assured that they’re a bitch to clean).

 

I really shouldn’t be so surprised by the influx of kitchen doo-dads.  Everyone is looking for a way to simplify their lives, to make things easier for themselves.  So many people want to eat healthier, or wow their friends with their fabulous culinary skills.  These machines and gadgets pander to that, giving us all the opportunity to do things faster, healthier and better.

 

I own quite a number of kitchen appliances, and I’m always tempted to buy more.  Many of them I don’t use more than once a month.  If I was to throw them all out and keep just one, I know in a heartbeat which one I’d keep.  Above all the others, there is one kitchen appliance that has genuinely improved my life, helped me to eat healthier and also save money…

 

My slow-cooker.

 

 

I adore this bad boy.  I love the fact that I can throw a bunch of ingredients in it first thing in the morning, flip it onto auto and spend the whole day feeling smug in the knowledge that dinner will be  cooked and ready for me when I get home.  It’s a godsend on the days I work late.  On these days, I’m starving the moment I walk in the door, and I’m likely to reach for the fastest food option.   This used to be take-out like McDonalds or KFC.  Now, it’s the pot of freshly-prepared soup or the delectable curry that’s simmering away on the table top.  I eat so much healthier without much extra effort.

 

The slow-cooker is great for making all manner of things.  You can do soups, stews, casseroles and curries.  It also makes a mean pot roast.  You can buy cookbooks filled with slow-cooking recipe, but my general approach of chucking in all the ingredients and flipping it to ‘auto’ works like a charm too. 

Not only can you make a huge variety of meals in the slow cooker, you can make them in a healthier than if you cooked them on the stove.  You don’t need to fry meats or onions in oil or butter before cooking, so meals tend to be lower in fat when you slow-cook them.  Because you’re not boiling vegetables and draining off the cooking liquid, the nutrients are locked into the broth.  It’s a really great way to prepare very healthy meals.

 

Slow-cooking is also a great money saver.  You can use tougher (read: cheaper) cuts of meat, because the cooking process makes them a lot more tender.  I also find that making a basic soup or stew is a great way to use up any vegetables I have kicking about at the bottom of the crisper drawer that are on their last legs.  It helps me to use up every last bit of the vegies I buy, which means that there’s less waste in my kitchen.

 

I find that my slow-cooker makes a huge quantity of food.  This means that there’s enough for Ross and I to have some for dinner, and then freeze a couple of serves or pop them in the fridge for lunch the next day.  This saves even more time by allowing me to have healthy meals on hand in the freezer for those days when I don’t feel like cooking (but I haven’t been organized enough to throw on the slow-cooker in the morning!)

 

If you’re looking to buy a kitchen appliance that will actually make your life easier, I would certainly recommend investing in a slow cooker.  I use mine at least once a week, and now I wouldn’t be without it.

 

Do you have a slow-cooker?  Would you consider getting one?