Being vegan has never been easier. The evolution of animal-free meat, cheese, milk, snacks, and desserts has made breaking up with once-loved foods simpler than ever. But sometimes our food fantasies run deeper, delving into a lox-laden sea or fluffy whipped cream clouds. Luckily, crafty companies have figured out delectable alternatives to quell even the toughest of cravings—allowing us to revisit the tastes we thought were gone forever.
Here are 10 foods we thought we’d never eat again. And might we add that these vegan renditions taste even better than the meat- and dairy-laden versions we once enjoyed.
Imagine that perfect lox bagel, with cream cheese, thinly sliced red onions, a juicy round of tomato, and tangy capers. You’ve already re-lived the cream cheese fantasy with amazing vegan copycats like Follow Your Heart and Daiya, and now it’s time to fill in the fishy gap. Slip on a little Sophie’s Kitchen’s lox—a vegan smoked salmon that gets its convincing texture from the root of konjac (a flowering plant that grows in east Asia). For a more hands-on approach, this recipe from blogger Olives for Dinner will help you create your own lox by roasting carrots with coarse salt and a smoky marinade.
Since we’re talking fish, when was the last time you had a proper tuna melt? We’ve already perfected dressing up smashed chickpeas with classic tuna salad flavors like celery, mustard, and vegan mayonnaise, but sometimes you just want to reach for a can opener and go old-school. Lucky for us, picking up a can of Caroline’s Fishless Tuna or Vegan Toona is just a supermarket trip away. The texture is so reminiscent of the tuna we grew up with that with some toasted bread and a slice of melted provolone, there’s nothing fishy about this fish-free version.
That hit of salty sea on fancy canapés can be yours again with plant-based caviars. Brands such as Cavi-art—made from seaweed alginates—are your cruelty-free ticket to throwing posh dinner parties where the vegan cheeses are smooth, the Champagne is flowing, and the caviar is aplenty. You can also hit up your local IKEA store for a jar of Tangkorn, a Swedish brand that is completely vegan but looks just like black caviar. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the cafeteria for a plate of meat-free Swedish meatballs.
In recent years, artisan vegan cheese has gone to a new level. As vegans, not only do we have cheese that melts and spreads, we can now adorn our appetizer platters with masterful nut-based wedges. But the king of them all—creamy, aged brie—remained a forbidden fruit until vegan company Kite Hill perfected a facsimile using almond milk and traditional French cheese-making techniques. Boutique creamery Miyoko’s Kitchen is rumored to be working on a commercial brie as well.
Does anyone really crave the taste of diseased liver? Now you can replace that bizarre flavor and texture with something even better. Regal Vegan’s Faux Gras is a humane version of the French “delicacy” where toasted walnuts and lentils take center stage and mingle with herbs to create a spread that’s as smooth as the animal version. Tartex, a German company with flavors like mushroom, olives, and peppers, can be found at online vegan retailers.
Eating traditional raw cookie dough has always been a big no-no, even for non-vegans. But somehow, the risk of salmonella was well-worth sneaking mouthfuls of the coveted mom-made dough growing up. Enter the vegan cookie dough granddaddy of them all: EatPastry. Egg-free and fabulous, flavors include Chocoholic Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip—and the company also makes a gluten-free line. Launched just last year is a vegan cookie dough called Just Cookies from the team behind Just Mayo (we love the Peanut Butter). Whether or not the dough actually ends up in the oven is an entirely different story.
Giving up dairy relegates vegans to the dark chocolate corner of the universe, which is a wonderful thing. But once in a while, a hankering for a creamy, milky chocolate bar may set in. Brooklyn-based Raaka created a coconut-milk chocolate that mimics that super-velvety flavor you’ve been craving. Other companies, such as Sjaak’s and Enjoy Foods, use rice milk in their milk chocolate bars to create an alternative for those times you’re in need.
What is it about caramelized sugar and fat that makes our mouths water? Whether in a dessert sauce or confection, caramel is one of those treats we thought we had to bid adieu when ditching dairy. But this is not the case, friends. Coconut-milk-based Cocomels literally melt in your mouth, with flavors like sea salt, vanilla, and espresso. For the gourmand, Feed Your Face (an Etsy shop) crafts caramels with ingredients like ginger, lemongrass, and pomegranate—while the popular online confectionery Allison’s Gourmet has perfected a chewy, salted chocolate caramel that is nothing short of heaven.
Let’s just call it what it is: coconut is a wonder food and the perfect base for so many vegan products. Our whipped cream dreams came true in late 2014 when So Delicious debuted its CocoWhip, a divine airy topping for everything from waffles to hot chocolate. If you want the spray-can experience, SoyaToo! makes both a soy and rice variety. For a quick homemade version, pop open a chilled can of full-fat coconut milk and whip in your sweetener of choice.
Who knew that one day, a vegan version of bacon grease would be available at a store near you? We can already enjoy the smoky, fatty flavor of bacon in versions made with tempeh, shitake mushrooms, and coconut. But this is all about the grease. Enter Magic Vegan Bacon Grease, made by geniuses in Canada who decided the vegan food world was missing the unique flavor that only comes from cooking with this aromatic grease. Sauté up those Southern greens, bake up a batch of flaky corn bread, and revel in how good the vegan life is in 2015.