Even though there’s much more to veganism than just following a plant-based diet, learning how to cook amazing vegan meals is arguably the most crucial step in transitioning to an animal products-free lifestyle – and sticking to it in the long run.
More people than ever have signed up to Veganuary this year, signalling that the growing interest in adopting a vegan diet has not been stalled by the uncertainties of 2020. On the contrary, with more people staying at home and a whole lot of time available to focus on meals and meal prepping, the past year has seen a dramatic spike in vegan home cooking and meat-free takeaway orders. Despite the many wins, however, it is also true that most people who go vegan don’t stay vegan, as most of us tend to fall off the cruelty-free wagon after a year or six months.
The key in staying vegan goes back to the food: breaking the habits of a lifetime can be incredibly daunting when we are faced with tempting non-vegan choices for at least three meals a day, seven days a week. Knowing how to replicate your childhood favourites in a cruelty-free fashion is the best way of making the job that much easier – and it’s easy to do as well, as long as you know how to work easy vegan substitutes into your everyday cooking!
In this article, we’ll go over some of the most popular vegan substitutes for staple kitchen ingredients like meat products, fish, eggs, and butter, so that you can go vegan without completely revolutionizing your routine and still indulge in the meals you love the most.
Hard to pronounce but incredibly easy to make and use, aquafaba has become one of the most popular vegan kitchen staples in recent years, perhaps due to the fact that it is the cheapest vegan egg substitute you could ever find!
Aquafaba is the name given to the leftover water found in your regular chickpea can, a somewhat miraculous substance that is able to replicate the texture and function of eggs in cooking and baking. Omelets, French toast, pavlova, mousse, and even vegan mayo – aquafaba can get it done just like eggs can. As a general rule of thumb, one egg white equals to two tablespoons of aquafaba, one tablespoon will make for one egg yolk, and three a whole egg.
Seitan and tempeh
When it comes to replicating the texture of meat and poultry, however, no other vegan substitutes can beat seitan, a soy-free product made with vital wheat gluten. You can easily make a basic batch to keep in the freezer, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and add it to all the meaty meals you love, from fiery curries to hearty potato stews.
When fully matured, jackfruit is a sweet tropical fruit whose flavour somewhat resembling a cross between pineapple and childhood bubble-gum. When far from ripe, on the other hand, jackfruit makes for the perfect vegan substitute for pulled pork, chicken, and even fish, thanks to its characteristic “shredded” texture.
You’ll find young jackfruit sold in cans in most supermarkets and Asian grocers. All you have to do to use it in a stir-fry or wrap is drain the water and season like you normally cook meat products!
In the mood for some fish-free fish and chips? While mashed chickpeas or young jackfruit can five you the texture you are looking for, the flavour of fish is perfectly imitated by the food that fish eat in the wild: seaweed!
You can find seasoned nori sheets at your local Asian grocers or online, and you can use them straight out of the package to shred and add to your jackfruit fish, chickpea tuna, or stir-fried noodles.
Butter is a staple in every kitchen, and thanks to the rising popularity of vegan and dairy-free diets, you can easily find plenty of dairy-free spreads in your local supermarket.
Though they do tend to be less creamy and oilier than your standard dairy butter, vegan spreads can easily replace butter in savoury recipes like soups, mashed potatoes, and bechamel sauce. When it comes to baking, on the other hand, you’ll want to look at a different option…
When baking cakes, brownies or other sweet bakes, classic applesauce can replace butter by binding the ingredients together and providing moisture. Don’t worry, the apple flavour won’t be as overpowering as you think!
As a general rule of thumb, you can use one cup of applesauce to substitute one cup of butter, making your bake much healthier and virtually fat-free in the process.
Maple syrup, agave syrup, brown rice syrup
If a recipe calls for honey, or if you simply love to add a splash of honey to your yogurt and morning porridge, you can easily replace it with maple syrup, agave syrup, or brown rice syrup (which is hands-down the closest to honey in taste and texture).
While the first two products can be found in any supermarket, you’ll have better luck finding brown rice syrup at your local Asian grocers, as it is a popular ingredient in Korean cuisine.
Besides aquafaba, ground flaxseed (known as flax egg) is the most popular vegan substitute for eggs in cooking and baking.
Making a flax egg is incredibly easy: just mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water, mix, and let it sit in the fridge for up to 15 minutes to thicken. You can use this mixture in recipes to substitute one egg, so all you have to do is double the recipe if you need more!
All you need for a vegan-proof kitchen
So, are you ready to whip the chef’s hat out and start experimenting?
Going vegan can make you rediscover the fun of cooking at home by pushing you to try brand-new ingredients, new recipes, and cooking techniques you might have never heard of before – all while making a positive impact for your health, the planet, and the animals.
Vegana Marketplace has all you need to get the kitchen experiments rolling… so browse our growing range and let yourself be inspired!