How to Veganize Any Recipe: Savory Edition

Dying to revamp a favorite family recipe, but don’t know where to start? These expert tips will help you convert any recipe vegan.


The cooking geniuses behind The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions and Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites, Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen, know a thing or two about taking traditionally meat and egg-heavy dishes and transforming them into veg-friendly wonders such as a Denver Quiche and Western Bacon Cheeseburgers. Naturally, Newman and Steen were our go-to expert chefs when we wanted to figure out how to take a classic non-vegan recipe and revamp it. Here are their top substitution tips for savory dishes.

Cheese Change
There are a ton of vegan cheeses out including shreds, wedges, artisan blocks, and slices, but to achieve a cheesy flavor, nutritional yeast is the way to go. For a little more dimension, Newman and Steen add a little maca powder to the “nooch.” Maca powder is pricey so reserve this method for a special-occasion dish. Coconut milk or cream is great at mimicking a buttery, cheesy flavor when combined with nooch. Cashews are stellar for replicating cheese sauces. Crumbled tofu, flavored with spices and vinegar, are great ways to replace feta, ricotta, and cottage cheese, or make your own Parmesan by pulverizing walnuts and nooch together. To go gourmet with DIY cheeses, Newman and Steen highly recommend Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner.
Try This: VegNews Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Egg Exchange
Tofu is a great replacement for egg-heavy dishes that call for at least six eggs such as quiches or fritattas. Newman suggests adding garbanzo bean flour to blended tofu to make a sturdy omelette. A pinch or two of black salt creates a sulfuric, egg-like taste.
Try This: Vegan Eggs Benedict

Fish Fake Out
Seaweed is a great addition to achieve a fishy flavor—marinating mushroom stems or tofu pieces in a nori broth is an easy way to infuse a briny taste and mimic seafood.
Try This: (Save the) Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Meat-Free Magic
There are plenty of faux meats in the market—even a vegan haggis—so you can easily substitute any meat with vegan chicken cutlets, shrimp, or “beef” burgers. If you’d rather steer clear of fake meat, Steen and Newman suggest mushrooms, chickpeas, or tofu flavored the way that you would prepare any other meat substitute. Marinating and pressing tofu overnight soaks up maximum flavor.
Try This: Vegan Ground Beef

Pantry Pointers
When transforming savory dishes, Steen and Newman recommend keeping the following ingredients on hand: reduced-sodium soy sauce, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, tomato paste, silken tofu, veggie broth powder or bouillon, unsweetened plain vegan yogurt, milk alternatives (unsweetened almond milk is a favorite of theirs), applesauce, liquid smoke, beans and legumes, black salt, textured vegetable protein, and vital wheat gluten flour.
Try This: Vegan Pantry Makeover

Better Broth
While vegetable broth can substitute for a meat-based broth, you can season your veggie base to replicate a beef broth by adding soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, or steak sauce. Toss in a bay leaf, fresh thyme, onion powder, and a little nutritional yeast for a chicken-like flavor.
Try This: Vegan Vietnamese Noodle Soup

While these master veganizers are still hard at work—Newman is diligently trying to perfect a strip-style vegan bacon, while Steen cracked the code to baking a brioche—they turn to several blogs for inspiration.,,, and are some of their go-to resources. Now that you’ve learned some secret tricks to substituting meat and dairy in savory dishes, it’s time to get in the kitchen. Peruse the VegNews Vegan Food Galore Pinterest board for even more drool-worthy recipes. Happy cooking!

Want the recipe for the gorgeous dish pictured above? Enjoy the Double Cheese Lasagna!

More substitution guides:
Vegan Baking Substitution Guide
9 Simple Substitutions for Common Food Allergies
9 Faux Meats That You Have to Try to Believe

Photo: Hannah Kaminsky

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