When starting out vegan, there are so many different things you have to find substitutes for, and some things you just simply forget isn’t vegan. Having a good idea what the best alternatives are for each food is always good, but some things have more than one kind of alternative and so it can get a little confusing.
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If you’re new to being vegan or you’ve been doing it for a little while but aren’t the most creative in the kitchen, then hopefully this can help give you some sort of ideas of what to use when veganising your favourite meals!
Most of the store-bought alternatives I mention here are based around what you can get in the UK, but I have also added in a few different ones available in the US too.
The main vegan substitutes to look out for
When cutting out animal based foods, it’s hard to know where to start and what to cut out first. I suggest going slowly and doing things you’ll miss less first – that way the bigger swaps won’t feel so daunting. Going a step at a time also means you’ll be looking after yourself the best too.
Here are some alternatives to different products, as well as US products too!
There are many different substitutes for eggs – unlike the egg itself which can be used in anything from a simple scramble to baking a cake, different substitutes work for different things.
If you’re looking to make something savoury like a scramble, then you can try out either crumbled tofu or you can get products from Crackd or Oggs which work in a similar way to scrambled eggs. You can also make hardboiled eggs out of silken tofu too.
If you’re in the mood for baking, there’s a few different options to try depending on what you’re making. Silken tofu is great for cheesecakes, chia or flax eggs (a mix of the seeds with water) are good for brownies or cake, and mashed bananas are ideal for fluffy pancakes.
You can also try out plain dairy-free yogurt, aquafaba (chickpea water), and apple sauce, which can work for a variety of different baked goods too.
If you’re in the US, look out for JUST Egg.
If you used to be a huge meat eater, it might be a little weird seeing not only all the meat subs but also things like seitan and tvp.
Going down the more ‘whole foods’ and less ‘processed’ route, you’ll want to look more at things like tofu (which is made from soy beans) and lentils. Tofu is great for replacing things like chicken in curry dishes as well as just enjoying it as it is, as well as using soy curls or tofu knots. TVP or textured vegetable protein is similar as it’s made from soy flour and is high in protein – this usually has a more chicken like texture too.
Similar to tvp is seitan which is made from vital wheat gluten, and is great for replicating pretty much every meat – from steaks to chicken burgers, pulled pork and doner kebab meat. If you’re looking to replace minced beef in bolognese sauce, lentils and walnuts are great because they hold their texture as well as being good protein sources. You can also check out tempeh which is made from fermented soybeans and is great for stir fries.
Alternatively, you could go for pre-made meat substitutes that are made to directly replace the animal counterpart. There are so many different ones to chose from and they can sometimes take a little more getting used to compared to real meat.
If you’re in the UK like me, I recommend trying out Beyond Burgers for beef burgers – these are what McDonalds use for the McPlant, The Vegetarian Butcher for chicken like pieces (some of their products are veggie rather than vegan so make sure you check first), and This Isn’t Bacon for, well, bacon obviously! They now have both regular bacon and streaky bacon (as well as sausages and chicken pieces) and it’s genuinely my favourite! You can also try out Quorn – though many of their products are veggie and contain egg, and Vivera which do amazing shawarma and salmon subs.
Cheese can be a hard one, especially if you’re a huge fan of cheese. One thing to know before going head deep into vegan cheese alternatives is that a lot of them don’t melt, and they can sometimes smell like feet – just a warning.
There can be many different cheese alternatives that work for what you want, and like with egg substitutes a lot are designed for specific things. It’s quite often that you may see some of the cheese packing saying “great for melting” or that they’re designed to be like specific cheeses – you can now get all sorts of different cream cheeses, parmesans, mozzarellas and blue style cheese.
In supermarkets you can now find a huge range of different brands of cheese. If you’re in the UK I’d recommend trying the vegan Babybels, the Plant Based Cathedral City – my favourite cheddar sub, and Applewood Vegan smokey cheese which you can get in block or grated form. Make sure you also look out for Violife, Sheese, Vitalite, and La Fauxmagerie.
Many vegan cheeses are made with coconut oil, so do bear this in mind if you have an allergy!
If you’re looking to have more of a “cheesy” taste rather than a cheese alternative itself, make sure you try out Nutritional Yeast. It’s great for adding to sauces and as a topping, and has a super cheesy but nutty taste to it.
Although it can easily be forgotten and missed out when looking at labels for non-vegan ingredients (as it isn’t listed at an allergen), honey is in fact made from and for bees to nourish their colonies.
There is actually loads of plant based sweeteners that have a similar taste or consistency to honey. Of course depending on what you need the sweetener for helps to know which one to use – as with any vegan alternative!
Maple syrup is my favourite as it’s a similar sweetness to honey but is a lot more runny in consistency. Golden syrup is also a good shout as it’s very sweet and is thick like honey, but you can notice the taste if you use large quantities.
Agave syrup (or also known as agave nectar) is also great as it’s got almost the exact same texture as honey and can be a pretty neutral in flavour – you can get different ranges from light to dark where light is the most neutral flavour while dark is more caramel flavour. You can also get other substitutes like corn syrup or date syrup, and Vegan Honea also exists too – which is a alternative made from sugar and apple juice.
In the US you can get Bee Free Honey from BlenditUp.
Much like cheese, chocolate can be one of those really hard thing to give up, especially if you REALLY love chocolate. Vegan chocolate is relatively easy to find these days as many big dairy chocolate brands are brining out vegan ranges – the only downside to this is that sometimes they may change their recipes or not be certified vegan as they may have traces of milk (I’m looking at you Cadbury and Frys for adding milk into your dark chocolate!).
Most dark chocolate is vegan, although some do contain milk so keep an eye out. Many of Green and Black’s dark chocolate is vegan – including their ginger chocolate which is my favourite, as well as Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Almond Sea Salt bar.
Many bigger companies are starting to make vegan chocolate bars now – including Lindt who have their Vegan Classic, Hazelnut, and Caramel Sea Salt bars, Cadbury who have their Plant Bar in Original and Salted Caramel, KitKat who have their Vegan bar, and Galaxy who have a few different flavours including Smooth Orange and Mint.
There are also loads of different vegan brands that you can look out for too (if you don’t want to support big brands as much!) – more often than not, these smaller brands make a vegan alternative to many loved dairy chocolates. Make sure you check out LoveRaw for their Cre&m wafer bars (vegan kinder buenos) and their Nutty choc balls (which are like ferrero rocher), and Doisy & Dam for their chocolate drops and dark chocolate peanuts (which are like smarties and peanuts m&ms).
Other vegan chocolate brands you’ll be able to find are Nomo, H!P Oat Milk Chocolate, Happi, Butterm!lk, Vego and Ritter Sport Marzipan bars.
Other vegan alternatives to check out
If you’re interested in finding ingredients to stock up your pantry with that are vegan, make sure you check out my vegan pantry essentials post!
If you like baking a lot, then you may be stuck for ideas when it comes to gelatine alternatives.
One of the options is Agar Agar, which comes in a powered form and is often used in many kinda of desserts like custards and jellies. It can be a little firmer than gelatine and so won’t be a “jiggly” or wobbly, so keep this in mind.
You can also try out pectin, which is often used to make jam, so may be a little more runny than gelatine but that may not be an issue depending on what you’re using it for.
I don’t often make jelly or gelatine recipes, but I have tried out the Vege-Gel from Dr. Oetker to make a trifle jelly which was perfect. It sets the same way jelly would and is still pretty wobbly too!
There are tons of different cream alternatives available these days, many of them made for different kinds like double, single, whippable, and sour cream.
One of my favourite brands for vegan cream substitutes is Oatly. They do multiple different cream alternatives including their Creamy Oat which is to sub single cream, their Whippable Creamy Oat to sub double cream (aka heavy cream), and their Creamy Oat Fraiche – which you might be able to guess is an alternative to Creme Fraiche or sour cream.
Alpro also do a great single cream alternative, as well as Elmlea make a plant double cream, The Coconut Collab make double cream (and brandy butter at Christmas), and Food Heaven make Whipped / Squirty cream which is great in hot chocolates!
We all have those days when we really just need to have a tub of ice cream, or it’s the middle of summer and it’s the only thing to cool you down, I get it.
Thankfully, vegan ice cream is a thing and is becoming vastly available too. There’s a few different vegan brands that have ice cream, but there are now more dairy brands that sell vegan ice cream too.
Some vegan brands to check out are Oatly, Swedish Glace, Mighty, Wicked Kitchen (at Tesco), and Booja-Booja. But there are loads of other vegan options from Ben and Jerry’s, Jude’s, Magnum, Cornetto, and Halo Top. Many supermarkets make their own brand ice cream too so look out for those.
Ice cream mochi is also a thing, so make sure you check out Little Moons as they have a few different flavours that are vegan.
These are just a few different swaps you can look out for, but hopefully they give you a good idea where to look! What are some of your favourite brands for vegan alternatives?
Getting started with veganism? Here’s my go-to posts!
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