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If you're interested in continuing to eat the foods you've alway eaten but without animal products then this post is for you. Whether you're newly vegan, or just trying to eat more vegan foods, this list will tell you what items I recommend switching to when you're ready to stop buying milk, eggs, and meat.
This post is not about what beans I keep on hand, or what grains I love. This for those who are concerned about our oceans, but want to keep eating fish and chips. For those who go through a gallon of milk a week, but realize that non-dairy milk is the more sustainable option. For my darling readers (new and old) who still love butter, marshmallows, scrambled eggs, and honey. I got you covered.
Many people don't know that the egg and dairy industries are just as cruel as the meat industry. Newborn calfs born to dairy cows are taken away from their mothers before getting any of the nurturing or nourishing all animals (including humans) should naturally receive right after birth. We know how protective animals are of their young, and cows are no different. This is just one instance of the horrific treatment of dairy cows. There are a lot of delicious options out there that don't contribute to the abuse of animal mamas. These are some of my favorites.
Instead of dairy milk:
This is my favorite non-dairy milk right now. It's super thick so it's great in cooking and baking, and there is virtually no aftertaste so it's perfect in savory dishes. I get the protein-added variety since flax milk on its own has little to no protein. Also, one serving of this milk gives you 1200mg of Omega 3's. So that's pretty fun. Of course, if you can't find flax milk there are a ton of non-dairy milks out there. I always recommend getting unsweetened original varieties for more recipe versatility. Unsweetened original non-dairy milks can be used in everything from coffee to savory sauces to cereal. You wouldn't want to use a vanilla flavored milk for gravy, right?
Instead of butter:
I love Earth Balance so much. It's delicious and versatile, and you can use it as a straight sub for butter in any recipe. While it may look like a margarine, don't be fooled. Earth Balance doesn't contain any hydrogenated or interesterified oils, preservatives or emulsifiers. It has no trans fat (unlike most margarines). Plus, it's seriously so good. It's not as rich as butter, but that's what I love about it. If you're a baker this product is a godsend for making your favorite desserts.
(If you're concerned about palm oil, I hear you! Earth Balance is committed to responsible resourcing. Of course, there is a lot of information coming in about palm oil (even responsibly sourced) so I'm always researching and trying to stay informed.)
This vegan butter is the real deal. It's incredibly rich with that fatty mouthfeel that you get from dairy butter. It kind of freaked me out the first time I tried it because it was so reminiscent of what I ate before going vegan. I wouldn't recommend baking with it only because of the price point, but for spreading and in sauce it is spectacular.
Instead of shortening or lard:
Everything Earth Balance makes is great, including their shortening. I use it in frosting, pie crusts, etc. Anything that calls for lard can be replaced and made better by Earth Balance Shortening.
It's painful to picture baby chicks being ground alive, but chick culling is the norm in the egg industry. Live baby chicks are considered waste. Luckily there are plenty of plant-based foods that can give you similar results to eggs in cooking and baking.
My tofu scramble is so easy, and delicious as well as reminiscent of the egg version you're used to. No, really! Give it a try, and see for yourself.
Follow Your Heart's VeganEgg is a newer product that can be scrambled, made into omelets or quiche, used for breading, so much more. It can be used in most applications the require an animal's egg. For more information about how to use the VeganEgg just read my review.
In quick and yeast breads:
Flax seeds are perfect for baking breads. When ground and mixed with water they make a great binder. This post from Detoxinista.com is what I reference when making flax eggs.
In cookies and cakes:
In cookies and cakes I generally prefer to use cornstarch to help bind instead of flax. While flax seed eggs do work well here, cornstarch won't affect the color of lighter baked goods. This is my method:
- Per 1 egg - Up the liquid by 3 tablespoons, and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to the dry ingredients.
Love meringue? Pavlova? Macarons? No problem! The new darling discovery in the culinary world is aquafaba, or bean water. Basically, that water you drain away after cooking or opening a can of beans? You can whip it just like egg whites. Seriously! I've only done a few experiments with it, and but this group on Facebook is full of mad scientists creating marvelous foods with aquafaba.
The great thing about changing the way you eat is finding new favorite and crave-able foods. However, since most of us weren't born vegan it's not unusual to want something familiar. Sometimes you just want the spaghetti bolognese of your childhood, and that's ok! The following ingredients are great for recreating old meaty favorites, or making vegetarian meals for veg-phobic eaters. My advice for "meat substitutes" is this: Don't rely on them. A good portion of these recommendations are no more processed than bread, but the "fake meats" are a little more so. They are fine every now and then, but I wouldn't make them staples in my diet. That would be hella pricey anyway.
Instead of chicken:
In soups, stir fries, tacos, etc.:
Seitan is one of those foods that sounds crazy processed but isn't. It's no more processed than bread. It's primarily made from wheat gluten, and is a very yummy ingredient with a chewy (or "meaty") mouth feel. It's perfect for stir fries, soups, stews, etc. Upton's Chick Seitan is delicious, and a great sub if you have a favorite chicken recipe to veganize.
When replacing meat with seitan keep in mind that it's a drier ingredient. It's not going to give off any juices. It's actually quite absorbent so you may need to add more liquid/fat when cooking with it.
For nostalgia's sake:Gardein Chicken Tenders
Gardein tenders are so satisfying for when you're craving something comforting and junky. I have yet to meet anyone (vegan or no) who isn't a fan. However, they are definitely one of those processed "fake meats" I talked about so I wouldn't eat them on the reg.
Instead of ground beef:
Both of these fall under the same "sometimes" category as the Gardein Tenders. They're incredibly yummy though, and from taste to texture you won't miss ground beef at all. We use them in bolognese, SOS, sloppy joes, etc.
Instead of sausage ground:
I love these two seitans. I use the Italian version in lots of Italian (duh) dishes, and the chorizo gets used all the time in tacos, enchiladas, beans and rice, etc. And because seitan doesn't fall under the "fake meat" processed category it isn't relegated to a sometimes food for us.
Instead of fried fish or fish sticks:
The first time I had these I kept going back to the freezer to make sure I got Gardein, and not some actual fish. They taste so much like fish to me that it still weirds me out. However, I love them so so much. I've done them up fancy, but my favorite way to eat them is still next to a mountain of french fries and a huge drizzle of malt vinegar.
The pantry is the easiest place to veganize, in my opinion. Many items are vegan by default, and those that aren't are easy to replace.
Instead of chicken or beef bouillon:
These vegan bouillon cubes get used all the time in my kitchen. They're inexpensive, the ingredients aren't creepy, they aren't too salty, and they taste good. It's an easy switch.
Instead of honey:
I've written about Bee Free Honee more than once because I love it so much. It's a thick honey like syrup made from apples. It tastes like honey covered apples on its own, but the apple flavor goes away when it's added to other foods. YUM.
This is what I used before I could find Bee Free Honee. It's quite good, more widely available, and is a decent option if you love the taste of honey.
Instead of generic sprinkles:
I can't be the only person that considers sprinkles a staple. Confectioners glaze is the guilty ingredient you need to look out for here. Confectioners glaze is an insect product often used in candies and sprinkles (among other things.). I've heard that there are a few "accidentally vegan" sprinkles out there but I've never seen them in the wild. I like this brand because they're really accessible and definitely vegan. They aren't as vibrant as other sprinkles, but for everyday sprinkling they're fun.
Instead of generic marshmallows:
Marshmallows were the second to last thing I stopped eating before going vegan. I loved marshmallows so much that I considered them my favorite food. Dandies are every bit as wonderful as the marshmallows of my childhood. They're puffy, vanilla-y, and I use them constantly. No gelatin is needed for great marshmallows, y'all!
A word on dry pasta.
Many people don't realize that most dry pastas are vegan. Unless they are egg noodles or contain a filling, the pastas you already buy are probably vegan. When buying pasta just do a quick search to make sure it's egg free. They usually always are.
A word on bread.
While homemade breads usually contain very few ingredients, store bought bread is a different story. If you regularly buy bread there are a few things to look out for like milk, dry milk, milk fat, butter, casein, whey, eggs, honey, and gelatin. It can be a little tricky finding a vegan bread in commercial grocery stores, but it's not impossible. When I don't make my own I usually buy Ezekiel bread. There are less hippy dippy vegan breads out there, but that's the one we like.
A word on sugar.
A lot of generic sugars are filtered through bone char which is used to decolorize. Organic sugar does not get filtered through bone char, so I usually buy my grocery store's brand. I've used Whole Foods, HEB, and Trader Joe's organic sugars with fine results. There are non-organic, non-certified vegan brands that eschew bone char as well, and you can find a list of those brands plus more information on sugar in this post from Ordinaryvegan.net.
Keep in mind that brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses so this applies to it as well.
A word on flour.
Feel free to use whatever flours you love. As far as I know all grain, nut, and bean flours are vegan.
Whew! That was a really long post. I don't claim that any of my favorite products are the best in the world, but they're what I'm loving right now. If you want to incorporate more plant based foods into your diet I hope you found something here that will help you. It's never been easier to be vegan, and I'm so grateful for all the genius innovators out there making strides in plant based cuisine.