It’s always the right time to make cookies, cakes, and all-things sweet, especially during the holiday season. To take the mystery out of buttery, fluffy confections, we went straight to one of the sweetest sweets experts around.
Fran Costigan, a virtual queen of vegan baking, reminds us to use quality, wholesome ingredients that, of course, are void of any animal products. “Without the butter, eggs, and white sugar,” Costigan says, “I know the ingredients taste fresher.”
An important part of substituting in vegan ingredients when baking is understanding the properties of particular ingredients, and getting a feel for how everything works together.
You do this through testing, as Costigan says. Try cutting a recipe in half and try it out, and make the changes afterward. Whether you’re planning on spending hours in the kitchen or want to just quickly whip something up, VegNews has the baking-substitution guide for you. Happy baking!
What is vegan baking?
Traditional baking, unlike vegan baking, heavily relies on animal products. Often, recipes for baked goods will call for eggs and dairy products such as butter, cream, and cow’s milk.
Vegan baking, on the other hand, omits all animal products. While baking without eggs and butter can seem daunting, it’s not impossible. All it takes is getting familiar with the right substitutions, and you’ll be whipping up cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more in no time.
Vegan baking substitutions
The next time a recipe calls for animal products, try out these vegan swaps instead.
What it does: In baking, butter adds flavor and a rich, and sometimes spongy, texture. It also helps baked goods rise evenly and adds to both the density and sweetness.
How to substitute: Butter is extremely easy to substitute in vegan baking when plant-based butter is nowhere to be found.
If you’re baking a recipe that has natural spice or flavor to it, such as spiced cookies or gingerbread, olive oil or untoasted sesame oil work well.
Unrefined coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) can add the thickness that butter would, and canola oil works in recipes with liquid sugars (think agave) or solid fats, such as groundnuts or chocolates in cakes.
Vegan shortening works well with cookies and pie crusts. And of course, there’s margarine, which creates the buttery taste so many cookies require.
Move over, milk
What it does: Milk adds flavor and richness and creates texture in baking.
How to substitute: Milk is definitely the easiest to substitute in vegan baking, as many non-dairy milks already exist.
Full-fat soy milk will help create the richness of whole milk, while rice milk is lighter. Almond milk can sometimes add a subtle almond taste, as can coconut milk, and both will contribute to the richness of a recipe.
For added vanilla oomph, try vanilla-flavored non-dairy milk.
What it does: Eggs add moisture and act as a binding agent in baking. They are also a leavening agent, helping food to rise during baking.
How to substitute: Milk might be the easiest ingredient to sub, but a close second goes to eggs.
Ground flax seeds are a popular substitute that are also nutritious—three tablespoons of water to one tablespoon of ground flax seeds equates to one egg.
Mashed banana and applesauce are other healthy alternatives that completely cut out the cholesterol eggs add to baking.
“Baking powder, baking soda, and vinegar are aces,” Costigan says. And soy yogurt is a creative way to replace eggs and can add a rich texture to your baking, as can puréed black beans.
Hit the road, honey
What it does: Honey acts as a natural sweetener. It also helps brown your baked goods, adds color, and retains moisture.
How to substitute: Simply reach for other viscous liquids, such as maple syrup, rice syrup, or agave nectar. They add the same natural sweetness and contribute to the browning effects.
Costigan recommends cooking them a little to simmer out some of the water and to create a thicker syrup.
Can it, cream
What it does: Cream creates a smooth and sometimes fluffy texture in baked goods. It adds richness, and can make for a satin-like quality.
How to substitute: The richness of coconut milk can make a good replacement for cream. For a homemade replacement, blend one-part cashews and one part water until smooth.
There are also a variety of non-dairy creams and creamers on the market.