You may have tried to create a vegan version of your grandmother’s exquisite cream puff recipe, just to find that half of the ingredients are almost impossible to substitute. How do you replace that luscious heavy cream, or the eggs, or the butter that creates that amazing flakiness in all of her pastries? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve created an in-depth vegan baking guide for you and your deepest plant-based sweet-tooth desires.
What Does Each Ingredient Do?
The ingredients we use for cooking each have a specific, and scientific, purpose. Depending on the proportions of your ingredients, we can achieve different textures, flavours, shapes, and more. Below, you’ll find a list of roles your ingredients play throughout the baking process.
- Leavening agent: agent that helps your dough rise and expand.
- Binding agent: helps thicken and keep your final product from crumbling apart.
- Stabilizing agent: helps your baked goods hold their shape and quality.
- Sweetening agent: provides sweetness and flavor, provides tenderness, and retains moisture.
- For emulsifying: helps mix ingredients that don’t mix, such as oil and water.
- For foaming: creates a foamy texture in certain baked goods, such as merengues.
- For creaming: makes cream become light and airy when whipping.
- For browning: gives your cake or pastry its golden brown color.
- For glazing: gives your baked goods a shiny finish.
- For softening: helps keep your final product tender.
- For flaking: provides a flaky, layered texture in your treats.
- For thickening: gives the final product a denser texture and adds moisture.
Functions Of Traditional Ingredients And How To Replace Them
Vegan Egg Replacer
In baking, eggs serve many purposes. However, in most cases, they aid in leavening, binding, stabilizing, thickening, and emulsifying. They are also used for finishing touches such as glazing. This means it’s impossible to use just one plant-based alternative as a substitute for all of the egg’s roles. Therefore, we’ve decided it’s best to simply provide you with a replacement for each function.
Most baking recipes call for baking soda or baking powder. This means, in combination with vinegar, it would create the exact reaction needed to give your dough or batter a lift. That’s why vinegar is an amazing leavening agent in baking. To replace one egg, add 1 tbsp of vinegar to your wet ingredients, and 1 tsp baking soda to your dry ingredients. This is an ideal substitute for cakes, soft cookies, and pancakes.
If you’ve recently purchased a can of chickpeas, this recipe is just one can opener away. Save the liquid for a wonderful vegan leavening agent. This egg replacer is so effective, it’ll even make vegan merengues! Use 3 tbsp of aquafaba to replace one egg, in recipes like casserole, banana bread, brownies, donuts, and more! This ingredient will also work as a binding agent in certain recipes.
Potato starch/instant mashed potatoes
These two ingredients are perfect for creating light, fluffy bread and as a binding agent for your vegan loafs. The starch in potatoes is actually an excellent leavening agent, and it’s very easy to use! You can even use your leftover mashed potatoes from yesterday’s dinner (1/4 cup mashed potatoes = 1 egg). As for the potato starch or instant mashed potatoes, use 2 tbsp of either to replace one egg.
Chia seeds/ground flax seeds
These seeds have astonishing thickening properties when in contact with liquids. So, to replace one egg, combine 3 tbsp of water with 1 tbsp of either seed, and use in recipes like bread, muffins, chewy cookies, etc.
You may have spotted this ingredient on the back of a tub of commercial ice cream, sauces, or dressings, but have no fear! Unlike half of the ingredients found on some highly processed products, xanthan gum is a generally safe (under 15g a day, and not for diabetics), plant-based ingredient. Still, make sure it’s certified vegan, as animal-derived ingredients are sometimes used in the manufacturing process. This fine powder will also keep your baked goods from crumbling apart in gluten-free baking, and serve as a stabilizing agent. To replace one egg, use 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum dissolved in 1/4 cup water. However, keep in mind that it will not help your dough or batter rise, so avoid using in light, fluffy bread or cake recipes. Instead, try using xanthan gum in dense desserts such as brownies, fudge, soft chewy cookies, fruity bars, pie filling, etc.
For a simple, low-cost binding agent, try vegetable oil! Mix 1 tbsp of oil with 1 tbsp of water and 1/2 tsp baking powder. This method is specially effective in rich cakes, such as chocolate cake or rum cake. Another solution is to use 1/4 cup vegetable oil to replace each egg. However, if the recipe calls for too many eggs, avoid vegetable oil as a substitute, as the final product may be too oily.
Its flexibility, gelling abilities, and neutral flavor make it perfect for gluten-free baking. These features also make it an excellent binder. To replace one egg, combine 1 tsp psyllium husk with 3 tbsp water. A little goes a long way with this one, as these husks can expand to almost 40 times their weight when submerged in water or other liquids. This ingredient is commonly used in bread, flatbread, and buns.
Use one ripe mashed banana per egg in your baking recipes. This go-to vegan egg replacement will add moisture and help keep your baked goods soft and tender. This is one of the reasons banana bread is so easy to veganize! This technique can also be used in muffins, pancakes, and cakes.
Agar agar flakes
There’s no need for gelatin if you can get your hands on this amazing Japanese ingredient. It’s made from red algae, and it’s most useful in puddings, jellies, and other gelatinous treats. However, it can also be used in cheesecake and flan recipes, and it’s a helpful binding agent. To replace one egg white, mix 1 tbsp agar agar with 3 tbsp water.
About 1/4 cup of soy yogurt replaces one egg, and creates denser, moist cakes or cupcakes. On top of helping your cake hold its shape and maintain its quality, it’ll up the amount of protein!
This light powder is perfect for thickening sauce and for breading your tofu! However, in baking, it helps keep your cookies, bread, and cakes moist. Whisk 2 tbsp cornstarch with 3 tbsp warm water to replace one egg in your recipe.
Soy protein powder
Create this egg substitute by mixing 1 tbsp of soy protein with 3 tbsp of water. It best replaces egg whites, and yields very similar firmness and moisture in the final product.
This egg replacer is mainly a thickener; however, it’s one of the few plant-based ingredients that will also give your pies, buns, and cakes a glossy sheen. Whisk 1 1/2 tbsp tapioca starch with 3 tbsp coconut milk for a simple egg wash replacer.
The sugars in maple syrup will help give your pastries a beautiful golden brown color, and enhance the sweetness in your recipe. Simply brush the syrup over your pre-shaped dough, and let ‘em bake!
Replacing Milk and Cream
Milk has a very important role in baking, as it provides moisture and tenderness to your dough. It’s usually the liquid that helps transport the flavors throughout your cakes and pastries, and also acts as a leavening agent. Cream, however, has a high-fat content and can be whipped into a lovely whipped cream and used in frosting. Here’s how you can substitute your dairy milk and cream for cleaner plant based options when baking.
Soy milk is very similar in consistency to dairy milk, as opposed to alternatives such as almond milk and coconut beverage, which tend to be more watery. That’s why high protein soy milk is one of the best alternatives to use in your baking. Replace 1:1 with dairy milk, and use in any recipe that calls for milk.
When subbing out dairy milk, we typically look for similar taste and texture. Almond milk has a similar taste, however, the texture is much more watery than milk. A solution is to make your own homemade almond milk and adjust the amount of water you add accordingly (less water means it’ll be creamier), or to add 1 tsp of cornstarch to 1 cup cold almond milk and microwave for about a minute. Then, let cool and use normally, replacing 1:1 with dairy milk. Almond milk works best in baking, and does especially well with muffins, cakes, and bread. Just keep in mind that using almond milk may mean less baking time, so you’ll want to check on your baked goods bit earlier.
Any plant based liquid
The steam in your liquid will help your dough rise. That’s why any liquid at all will act as a leavening agent in your dough.
High-protein vegan milk + acid (lemon or vinegar)
This combination will act as a leavening agent. Try 1 cup soy milk + 1 tbsp vinegar to create soured plant based milk. This is also a fantastic substitute for buttermilk.
Canned coconut milk or coconut cream
Full-fat canned coconut milk will act similar to heavy cream. It will help keep your cake moist and tender, and works great in icing (when you leave the clear liquid behind, creating coconut cream). To substitute dairy cream, replace 1:1. It will also whip well, so you can use the solid part of the coconut milk as a replacement for whipped cream.
Silken tofu and soy milk
Simply blend up 1/2 cup silken tofu with 1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy milk and replace with a 1:1 ratio to dairy cream. However, keep in mind that it will not whip well, so avoid using as a replacement for whipped cream.
This viscous liquid has many uses in vegan baking, but when beaten, it turns into the perfect base for whipped cream! Once the aquafaba from 1 can of chickpeas is foamy, keeping your mixer on, add 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar, about 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract, then mix slowly for a few seconds with 2 tbsp canola oil.
Vegan Substitutes For Butter
Butter is a baking essential, as it’s what makes things like cookies “melt in your mouth”. It gives flakiness to pastries and moisture to bread and cakes. Butter also serves as a leavening agent and adds flavor. So, depending on what texture, flavor, and consistency your treats need, you’ll need to sub out your butter accordingly. Here’s how:
This natural butter substitute should be used just as regular butter would be used in a puff pastry, for example. It needs to be chilled, but still pliable. If too liquidy, your dough will be too difficult to work with. In terms of ratio when subbing dairy butter, replace 1:1. Coconut oil is a great butter replacement in treats such as pastries, cakes, and cookies. Keep in mind that coconut oil is very high in saturated fats so please use it in moderation.
When seeking convenience, try vegan butter/margarine, which is designed to replace dairy butter perfectly in any recipe. However, careful about hydrogenated oils! They are used in many vegan butters, and should be consumed sparingly, as their effect is similar to that of cholesterol.
When baking, you can replace 1 cup butter with 3/4 cup vegetable oil. This is an effective sub only in recipes that use a batter, like cake, muffins, and cupcakes. Avoid using as a replacement in dough. Please keep in mind that vegetable oil is not very healthy so use it in moderation.
If you’re looking to reduce your fat intake, this one’s for you. Keep in mind, this substitute works as a butter substitute just as oil does: good for batter, not good for dough. You can also sub using the same ratio as you would vegetable oil. 1 cup butter = 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce.
Replacing Refined Sugar
Some vegans avoid refined sugar because it’s sometimes refined using bone charr. While we’re not about to debate whether refined sugar is vegan or not, because of the controversy and how unhealthy it is, we’ve decided to give you some options for replacing this iffy ingredient as well. In baking, sugar is another essential. It provides flavor (sweetening agent), softens (by breaking down proteins), and locks in moisture.
If you’re looking for a natural low-carb sweetener, try stevia. This sweetener has zero carbs, and comes from stevia leaves, making it a perfectly natural alternative. It’s also 200x sweeter than sugar, which means much less is necessary to achieve your desired flavor. Just 1/2 tsp of undiluted stevia powder can replace a whole cup of sugar! However, because of the reduction in volume for your dough or batter, the rest of the ingredients will need to be modified accordingly, to fit the original recipe’s proportions. If baking soft treats such as soft or chewy cookies, bars, or muffins, make sure to make up for the lost tenderness by using ingredients like applesauce, pureed pumpkin/sweet potato, or other replacements that could add volume and texture. However, stevia will work fine in crumbly baked goods and pastries, such as harder cookies (shortbread, almond flour cookies) and scones. When using stevia in vegan cakes, be sure to use whipped aquafaba in your recipe as an egg replacement, and also use an additional moist ingredient to bulk up your recipe.
These sweetening agents can be used to replace sugar in any batter, but keep in mind they will make your dough stickier and a bit more difficult to work with. Just 3/4 cup of maple syrup/molasses is needed to replace 1 cup of refined sugar. Use these vegan refined sugar replacement in recipes like cakes, muffins, and cupcakes.
Dates are a very sweet fruit, which, when completely dehydrated, can then be ground up and turned into an instant vegan sugar! Use in simple baking recipes, such as granola, bars, and pies.
Tenderness and moisture
The ratio for coconut sugar vs. refined sugar is usually 1:1. Coconut sugar is a perfect sugar substitute, as it sweetens, softens, and locks in moisture. This natural vegan substitute is perfect for sweets that start out with a dough, like cookies, sweet breads, pastries, etc. However, it will work fine in just about any recipe (unless a very fine sugar is required to achieve an ideal texture).
Raw cane sugar
This sugar can be used to promote yeast growth, so it’s the ideal choice when baking vegan breads and biscuits. Replace 1:1 with regular refined sugar, and pulverize 1 cup raw cane sugar with 1/4 tsp cornstarch for the perfect vegan powdered/confectioner’s sugar replacement.
As demonstrated, there are vegan substitutes for essentially every ingredient used in traditional baking. Now, dust off your favorite recipe and get to swapping! Which ingredients would you add to our list? Comment below to let us know. Remember, I am rooting for you. To your vegan success!