Vegan Substitutions

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Though there are many delicious and healthy vegan recipes that don’t seek to approximate an omnivore original, sometimes you just want a vegan version of a mainstream food!

Veganizing your omnivore food is much easier than you might think. You can successfully modify almost any omnivore dish to fit your vegan diet. Here is a quick list of substitutions I’ve found successful.

If after reading this list, you have the distinct impression that I am a big fan of tofu, you’d be right. I’m not trying to push tofu on anyone; it’s just amazingly versatile and effective!


Vegan Substitutions for EGGS

From Jessica in the Kitchen

Flax “Eggs” (for baking)

  • Mix 1 tbs flax meal with 3 tbs warm water per each egg.
  • Allow to sit several minutes, then whisk vigorously.
  • “Eggs” are set once the mixture is slightly elastic and thickly mixed.


  • Firm, medium, or soft tofu can be blended into other ingredients (such as non-dairy milk and flour) to be baked as an egg substitute (like in quiche).
  • Firm, medium, or soft tofu can be mashed and sautéed like eggs to make scrambled egg-like dishes or omelettes. For softer “eggs,” use medium or soft tofu, drain, but do not squeeze out extra moisture. For firmer “eggs,” use firm tofu and press out extra liquid before cooking.

Apple Sauce (for baking)

  • For vegan baking recipes that call for eggs, apple sauce is an effective alternative in terms of binding ingredients.
  • Use a 1/4 cup of apple sauce for every egg the recipe calls for.
  • Alternatively, a mix of flax eggs and apple sauce is very effective.


  • Banana, mashed, can be used in place of egg in most baked recipes (and is particularly effective in pancakes), or in ice cream recipes.
  • Use a 1/4 cup of mashed banana for every egg the recipe calls for.
Banana Mash

Vegan Substitutes for CHEESE

Vegan Cheese Substitutes

  • Several vegetarian/vegan brands make various different kinds of non-dairy cheeses. Most of these brands use various oils, vegetable proteins, and starches to make cheese-like products.
  • You can find them in most health food stores, and some grocery stores. Look for brands such as Daiya, Yoso, Yves, Chao, Earth Island, and others.

Nut Cheeses

  • Most commonly, nut cheese alternatives are made from cashews. There are commercial brands that make tree nut cheeses, but you can also make your own.
  • Typically, cashews (or another nut like macadamia or almond) are soaked to soften and then blended with seasonings, oils, and other ingredients. Recipes vary greatly, so do a bit of research on this one.
  • Soaked and blended cashews are often integrated into cheese cake recipes in place of cream cheese.

Nutritional Yeast

  • Nutritional yeast is a miracle food. It is used in a great many vegan recipes to provide a cheesy taste, and is also overloaded with B vitamins such that you’ll never have to worry about your B12 deficiency if you add this to your kitchen staples.
  • Nutritional yeast can be used simply as a seasoning (shake it onto food and eat), or used in cooking or baking by the measurement. Imagine it as a more versatile, healthier parmesan cheese.


  • Tofu is used in many vegan recipes as a thickener or binder in the same way egg or cheese would.
  • Tofu is also marinated or blended and seasoned to mimic various cheeses (think feta or ricotta) and can be used to thicken sauces or cakes.
  • Tofu doesn’t have much flavour without seasoning, so this substitution is more about the consistency than flavour. Mix with nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon juice to get a cheesier flavour tofu.

Vegan Substitutions for BUTTER

Vegan Butter Spread

  • There are a few different kinds of non-dairy butters available in stores that are very effective alternatives. This products are almost exclusively emulsified oil blends, so take care to read the label if you are avoiding certain oils.
  • Becel makes a vegan margarine that is usually available in most grocery stores.
  • Earth Balance makes different kinds of “butter spreads” and “butter sticks” for baking that are very comparable to dairy butter. They are harder to find, but more palatable alternatives.

Coconut Oil

  • A healthier version of butter that many vegans embrace is coconut oil.
  • Typically, coconut oil is made from healthier ingredients and is less processed than non-dairy commercial products.
  • Coconut oil is best used in baking, as it does not taste much like dairy butter, but has the same consistency.

Vegan Substitutes for GROUND BEEF

Ground Beef Substitutes

ground round
  • Vegetarianism has been popular for much longer than Veganism has, so there are a great many non-meat alternatives on the market.
  • Most ground beef alternatives are made either from soy or from wheat gluten or some combination.
  • Look for Tofurky, Yves, Gardein, Beyond Meat brands for the tastiest processed alternative meats.


  • For recipes that call for ground beef in stews or sauces, lentils or other beans make a very flavourful and satisfying substitution.
  • Use lentils in place of ground beef for tomato sauces (and in lasagna), “meat” pie filling, or even in meatloaf and burger patties.
  • The taste of lentils is not much like beef, but it absorbs flavours in a similar and complimentary way that make lentils a good beef alternative.


  • Diced mushrooms have a similar texture and consistency to ground beef. The flavour is slightly different but complimentary.
  • Mushrooms can be used in place of beef for burger patties, “meat pie” fillings, sauces, “meatballs,” etc.
  • If sautéing mushrooms, make sure to drain excess liquid before using in recipes.


  • Tofu can be used in place of ground beef in burger patties, mostly. The texture and consistency of firm tofu is very similar to ground beef.

Walnuts (limited)

  • Walnuts can be used in place of ground beef wherever desired. It is not a very similar alternative, but works well in beef recipes and can add a bit of zest and creativity to any recipe.
  • Best results come from toasting chopped walnuts before incorporating them into recipes.

Vegan Substitutes for Chicken

Chicken Substitutes

  • Vegetarianism has been popular for much longer than Veganism has, so there are a great many non-meat alternatives on the market.
  • Most chicken alternatives are made either from soy or from wheat gluten or some combination.
  • Look for Tofurky, Yves, Gardein, Beyond Meat brands for the tastiest processed alternative meats.


  • Tofu, like chicken, gets most of its flavour from seasoning and has a chewy texture when in blocks.
  • Tofu can be used in place of chicken mostly in fried or breaded form.
  • Cut firm tofu in sticks, and bread and prepare like chicken tenders.
  • Cut tofu into cubes to marinate and bake or fry and integrate in stir-fry or taco recipes.

Cauliflower (limited)

  • Cauliflower provides a flavourful alternative to chicken. Though it’s not the most convincing substitute, it works well in most chicken recipes.
  • Cut cauliflower into florets, bread, and prepare like chicken bites.

Vegan Substitutes for Roasts


  • I can think of only one meat roast alternative and that’s seitan – vital wheat gluten, made into a “meat-like” dough, refrigerated, and cooked.
  • Seitan is used for loaf-style meats and can be given any flavour with sauce or seasoning.
  • Not gluten-free.

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