When it comes to vegan cooking alternatives, a one-size-fits-all approach is not the most effective way to go about it. Ingredients such as eggs or milk have more than one purpose in life, which means that finding the suitable vegan alternative depends on their role in the original recipe.
Vegan Egg Alteratives
Eggs may serve more than one purpose in a recipe. To choose an appropriate vegan substitute, consider their function in your dish.
A typical custard or flan recipe uses one egg to set 250 mL of full-cream milk with 25 g of added sugar. To replace the egg, substitute a combination of 3-4 g (1 tsp) corn starch + 0.5 g gum. Depending on the fat content of the milk, the amount of sugar, and additional ingredients in the recipe, this might have to be adjusted. If you are also replacing the milk with a plant-based alternative, add a pinch of salt to set the gel.
Eggs help incorporate oil and water-based liquids together into a stable substance. To replace them in salad dressings and mayonnaise substitute 5 g (1 tsp) lecithin + 0.5 g gum for one egg yolk. (Note that some lecithi is animal-based, so look for soy-based alternatives.) In sweet batters, combine thick fruit purées (like apple or banana) with the lecithin and gum to emulsify and add body to the recipe.
The foaming ability of egg whites aerates foods to make them light and fluffy. When making mousses and terrines, replace egg whites with whippable non-dairy creams especially formulated for this purpose. In baked goods, you can replace eggs by increasing the amount of baking powder/baking soda and adding a teaspoon of vinegar/lemon juice for taste.
Instead of relying on eggs for browning, use a pinch of turmeric to add a light golden touch. Be careful not to overdo it, as turmeric could also impart its flavour.
Eggs are also used for binding, or holding ingredients together. To bind savoury dishes without eggs, try adding mashed potatoes, rice flour, or wheat or corn starch to thicken the recipe. In cake batters, mashed banana, apple puree, and a pinch of gum or corn starch will give a nice thick texture to the batter. In gluten- free recipes, create a slurry of 1 tbsp flax seed dissolved in 3 tbsp water and set it aside until sticky, then use this in place of egg.
Eggs add a richness to the flavour of baked goods, desserts, sauces, and dressings. Add a teaspoon of nut, sunflower, or olive oil to compensate for every egg removed in these recipes.
Vegan Milk Alternatives
Like eggs, milk has several functions in food, so there are no universally fail-proof vegan substitutes.
In beverages and pourable applications (like dressings and sauces), you can typically use a 1:1 substitution with plant-based dairy alternatives, vegetable broths, fruit juices, or water, depending on the recipe.
In more complex recipes, milk’s protein, fats, carbohydrates, salts, and minerals may affect the dish’s functionality. Several plant-based dairy alternatives for milk, cream, and yogurt, each with its own formulation and functionality, are commercially available, but finding the most suitable vegan alternative for each recipe involves trial and error. You may need to adjust the flavour by adding a pinch of salt, sugar, or a squeeze of lemon to balance sweetness, saltiness, and acidity. For baked custards, batters, and egg & milk emulsions, add 1 g of additional salt per 250 mL of milk alternative.
Vegan Alternatives to Gelatin
Bovine gelatin is used to set gels, moulded desserts, and candies, and sometimes to add a transparent coating or glaze to appetizers or fruit desserts. To replicate its setting ability, substitute the same amount of powdered agar (derived from seaweed) or carrageenan. Approximately 2 g of agar will set 250 mL of liquid. Alternatively, gums (from guar, xanthan, or locust bean) can also be used. One gram of gum will provide the same functionality as 3 g of gelatin or 2 g of agar.
Vegan Honey Substitutes
Honey’s primary function is to add sweetness or flavour to recipes. While the flavour is unique and can’t be replicated by plant-based ingredients, you can substitute maple syrup, agave syrup, or brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio to provide sweetness.
Every day more of us are relying on plants for the nutrition and flavour we crave. While this shift is inevitable if we want to feed the world, it’s also an exciting opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire. From grains to fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices, the world of plant-based ingredients is full of colours, flavours, textures, and nutrients, all ripe and ready for you to satisfy your customers.
If you’re looking for refresher on the different types of plant-based diets, our article offers a quick run-through. And if you need to make sure your vegan menu is free of hidden animal-based ingredients, here is a useful summary of what to look out for.