Meat isn’t the only food product that vegans shy away from. Dairy, egg and basically anything derived from animals are considered no-go, and being organic or served from farm-to-table won’t change that. This is admittedly challenging for vegan bakers, as most desserts and pastries have eggs and dairy as ingredients.
But worry not, because we prepared a list of alternatives for common non-vegan baking ingredients in case you need to treat yourself to a homemade batch of cookies, cupcakes or cheesecakes.
Flax or chia seeds instead of egg
If we have to pick a baking ingredient that’s the most challenging to find an alternative for, it’s probably egg. Eggs play an important role in giving desserts and pastries their needed moisture, binding, structure and leavening. That’s why finding a substitute for eggs may require you to identify exactly what you need it for.
Flax and chia seeds work in binding ingredients together so that your dish doesn’t fall apart. This makes it our most recommended egg substitute. But if you only need your pastry to rise, you can just use a combination of baking soda and vinegar.
Plant-based milk instead of dairy milk
This one’s a no-brainer, but we thought we’d list down the different options for you. Soy milk is the most popular among plant-based milk, and it’s widely available in grocery stores and supermarkets as well. But if you like milk with an added subtle flavor of nuts, you can try almond, cashew or hazelnut milk. You might want to use these if the dessert or pastry that you’re making contains nuts to make its flavor even richer. Hazelnut milk might also be a good idea for Nutella-flavored treats.
If nut- or bean-based milk isn’t your thing, rice milk also exists—and it’s even said to be sweeter than other non-dairy milk. In general, you can expect fewer fat and calories in plant-based milk, which is definitely good news for those who pay extra attention to the “healthy” aspect of being vegan.
Agar-agar instead of gelatin
Yes, gelatin isn’t vegan. This translucent and gummy ingredient is commonly made using animal collagen, especially from pigs, horses and cattle. Luckily, your panna cotta and mousse can survive without it, all thanks to agar-agar. Made from seaweed, agar-agar is usually available in powder form at supermarkets and grocery stores and can easily suffice for gelatin’s thickening properties.
Mashed or puréed banana or avocado instead of butter
These two fruits work well in replacing butter, especially if the texture that it gives to your baked goods are what you’re mainly after. Both work well with cookies and cakes, while mashed banana is also great for muffins and bread. Using mashed or puréed banana and avocado instead of butter will also give your dishes a vitamin and mineral boost, which is always a good thing.
Cashew cream instead of dairy cream
Cashew cream can serve as a good, all-purpose substitute ingredient for dairy cream, and you can even make your own simple version at home. You only need water, salt or lemon juice and raw cashew nuts soaked overnight—or even just a few hours, if you have a high-speed blender you can use for making the cashew cream mixture.
You can even use cashew cream together with a few other ingredients like coconut oil and coconut milk to make a no-bake cheesecake base.
Soy milk + lemon juice instead of buttermilk
Those who prefer their bread and pancakes tender may be familiar with buttermilk, which is originally the leftover liquid from churned butter. Although most commercially-available buttermilk nowadays are made by culturing pasteurized milk, it’s still dairy. An alternative you can use is a simple combination of soy milk and lemon juice, which will still give your baked goods the same texture.
While soy milk is highly recommended, you can also use any other kind of plant-based milk—including the ones we previously listed. You can also replace lemon juice with white or apple cider vinegar, depending on your preference.