How to Create a Successful Plant-Based Menu Plan: From Plant-Based Cooking to the Best Beverages

Monday, November 29, 2021

Substituting new ingredients in place of something as familiar as cow’s milk can pose certain challenges to even experienced chefs. For the best results when using 100% plant-based alternatives to milk in your recipes, consider the following advice.

man-pouring-milk-into-his-coffee

Function comes first with plant-based cooking

Substituting new ingredients in place of something as familiar as cow’s milk can pose certain challenges to even experienced chefs. For the best results when using 100% plant-based alternatives to milk in your recipes, consider the following advice. 

Plant-based cooking: tips for fine-tuning recipes 

Crash test products before adding them to your plant-based menu plan 

Before using a new plant-based product in your recipes, subject it to a thorough “crash test” to make sure it doesn’t split or get watery. First, bring it to a boil and check consistency. You’ll also want to add it to a tomato base to see if it handles acidity well, and blend in spices to see if it handles those flavours well. It’s also a good idea to test a sauce or soup preparation, leaving it for a few hours in a bain-marie to see if it holds up to heat and holding time. Finally, you can also test these products in a baking application like a potato/ vegetable gratin or a quiche. 

Choose the right products for savoury plant-based menu items 

  1. Unsweetened, unflavoured plant-based ingredients let the other flavours in your dish shine.  
  2. Products with little to no aroma are a good match for savoury dishes.  
  3. Vegan coconut milk blends well with curries and some Asian dishes.   

Look for plant-based products that are perfect for sweet applications  

  1. Look for plant-based alternatives to sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened whipping cream.  
  2. Try soy, which is an effective binder in baked goods due to its high protein level.  
  3. If creating a vegan recipe, remember to replace the butter with a plant-based option and find a substitute for the eggs.  
  4. Lower baking temperatures and slower cooking can help prevent splitting.  

Plan your plan-based menu budget wisely 

Due to the costs of processing, some of the ingredients for plant-based cooking may cost more than their animal milk counterparts. When adding them to a vegan or plant-based menu, look for ways to maximize your return through strategies like offering smaller portion sizes, promoting dishes clearer, making them extra appealing and indulgent, and highlighting them on the menu. 

Update your recipes with plant-based options 

REPLACE COOKING CREAM in desserts or savoury dishes like gratins, sauces, stews, and soups. 

REPLACE WHIPPING CREAM in cheesecake, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, or lemon pie, or in sweet beverages like shakes, hot chocolate, or smoothies. 

REPLACE ALFREDO SAUCE in comfort foods like pasta bakes and noodles, as a sauce for a main entrée, on pizza, with appetizers or sides, in place of butter or as a dipping sauce. 

The chef’s bottom line 

“Functionality, versatility, and predictability are key in cooking. As a chef, I don’t want to change my cooking habits or skills. I just want these ingredients to perform like cow’s milk. In other words, they should look and feel as creamy as cow’s milk and keep their smoothness instead of splitting or getting watery when bended or heated. As long as the performance and taste are right, I can trust them in my recipes without having to make more adjustments.” 

Plant-based menu items and products for baristas: a matter of taste 

plant-based-lemon-cake-on-a-plate

Cooking with plant-based alternatives is one thing but using them in coffee-based drinks is another. When it comes to meeting customers’ expectations for smooth, creamy, and delicious beverages without using cow’s milk, here are some proven ways to deliver great results with your plant-based menu items. Try these expert tips for using plant-based alternatives to milk in your café:  

  • Keep plant-based ingredients cold (3-4 °C) and shake them very well before mixing with coffee. They are less homogenized than cow’s milk.  
  • For a balanced taste profile that pairs well with coffee, choose unsweetened products with natural sweetness such as oat or pea, that will not overwhelm the flavour.  
  • When perfecting your recipes, taste both cold and after steaming. You can then ensure that sugar is available to the consumer to sweeten if desired.  
  • To avoid curdling plant-based products, warm them first, then slowly add hot coffee.  
  • If you are promoting plant-based drinks as vegan, make sure ALL ingredients are vegan. For example, since honey is made by bees, it is not vegan.  
  • To make the best microfoam, add LESS air volume in the beginning, and add it very FAST to give yourself the longest time possible for swirling the liquid. This action causes big bubbles to break down, so the longer you can swirl, the nicer the microfoam will be. 

The barista’s bottom line 

“In coffee beverages, there’s no room for off-flavours to hide, so the taste of a plant-based alternative needs to complement the coffee instead of cashing or overwhelming it. At the same time, I expect the creamy, velvety texture that cow’s milk brings to mixed coffee drinks. And of course, it needs to produce durable, fine-textured microfoam that’s worthy of my best latte art.” 

DID YOU KNOW?  

You’ve probably heard of ‘dairy substitutes’ products, which mimic the taste and texture of dairy but are usually made from vegetable fat and proteins. However, these are not the same as 100% plant- based options, which contain no animal products or by-products. 

Next, find out how to promote your plant-based menu items successfully. We’ve got top tips and insights you can start applying today!