Many people on our modern society are concerned with multiple issues. Because health and the environment are two very big issues some turn to vegan cooking as their personal solution. People want to eat well and lessen their environmental impact. Threats of global warming and obesity are two of the biggest concerns.
Some people decide they want to tackle both at the same time. Making the choice to become a vegan is a decision that is made just as much for health reasons as well as environmental and ethical ones.
Vegan cooking is simply food that is prepared within the vegan specifications so that it supports that lifestyle.
SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE VEGAN. ANYWAY?
Vegan is a subset of vegetarianism. There are several different types. Some vegetarians still drink milk and/or eat eggs. Not vegans. They are the strictest form and don’t make allowance for ANY animal products in their diet.
Vegan cooking is by far the most challenging form because people take a lot of things for granted. Eggs and milk, for example, are common baking ingredients. So, substitutions need to be made if a vegan is going to be able to eat baked goods.
WHAT MAKES FOOD VEGAN OR NOT?
In order for food to be strictly vegan, it needs to adhere to certain criteria. It is important to note that there are a lot of hidden ingredients in foods. It is especially important to watch out for these if you are going to strive for a vegan diet.
• Vegans don’t eat animal products or byproducts of animal products.
• They also don’t consume things like milk and eggs.
• True vegans also don’t eat fish.
• Don’t forget that bees are an animal so vegans also can’t eat honey, royal jelly, and bee pollen supplements.
• There are also plenty of hidden ingredients to look out for that tend to make their way into food including gelatin, lard, and whey.
If you are new to vegan cooking, making all of these changes may seem overwhelming. But, after you’ve been eating and cooking the vegan way you’ll be an old pro.
TYPICAL INGREDIENTS IN VEGAN COOKING
As you know, vegan cooking is cooking that is done without meat, fish, eggs, or byproducts of any of these things. In order to support a vegan lifestyle, extra care needs to be taken to make sure that none of these ingredients makes it into the food.
We take certain things for granted, such as using eggs while baking. Well, eggs are not allowed during a vegan diet. And even though the vegan lifestyle is increasing in popularity, packaged vegan food are often hard to come by. To solve this problem, many vegans opt to do their own cooking.
This chapter will focus on several different kinds of ingredients. First, we’ll learn how to replace milk and eggs with things that are vegan friendly. We’ll also cover information on other ingredients that are used as well as animal byproducts to watch out for.
REPLACING EGGS IN VEGAN COOKING RECIPES
As much as we’d like to avoid using eggs in our vegan recipes, it can be a challenge. In fact, this is one of the most difficult ingredients to replace. However, there are many options to choose from that will get the job done.
WHAT DO EGGS DO IN THE RECIPE?
In certain recipes, eggs are almost essential. They bind ingredients together. They can be used to make baked goods rise and they also help make them light and fluffy. Another thing eggs do is to help the product form some structure and also provide extra moisture. They are especially useful while baking but are essential to certain savory dishes as well.
EGG REPLACEMENT OPTIONS
Here is a list of some of the best egg replacement options out there. You can replace the eggs in any recipe using these options.
Use Pureed Bananas
Pureed bananas are another effective egg substitute. Just place a rip banana in the blender and pulse until completely smooth and there are no lumps. A half of a regular sized banana is the equivalent of one egg.
The positive aspect of using bananas is that they are readily available. However, bananas have a distinct taste that won’t work out in every recipe. For example, if you were trying to make peanut butter cookies, the banana flavor would alter the taste.
It is best to purchase the flaxseeds whole and store them in the refrigerator. When it’s time to use them, measure out 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds for every egg that you need to replace. Then, pulverize it in a blender or coffee grinder.
Transfer the flaxseeds to a bowl and add three tablespoons of water for each egg you need to replace. Add the water slowly while whisking vigorously. Whisk until the mixture takes on a gel-like quality.
Since flaxseeds are nutty tasting, this egg replacement works best when making things like whole grain breads, muffins, and pancakes. You may want to experiment to get a feel for the types of recipes you like this to be in.
Egg Replacement Product
There are several egg replacement products out on the market that are designed to be vegan friendly. Look at the packaging to make sure that it’s vegan safe and that it doesn’t contain any meat byproducts.
These egg replacement powders get mixed reviews. Some like them a lot, others don’t. They’re definitely convenient and good to have on hand. Once you get used to cooking vegan, you’ll start to learn which foods taste best with it in it.
Since there are several brands on the market, it may take a while to find one that you’re happiest with. When using, just follow the package instructions. They usually come in powder form. If you can’t get it at the health food store, you can easily get it online.
Try Tofu as an Egg Replacement
Tofu is also another option you can try if you need to find a replacement product. You can try any form of tofu but this may take some experimentation. Silken tofu seems to yield the best results. You can also use unflavored soy yogurt in the same proportion with similar results.
The nice thing about tofu is that it blends well with most flavors. Flax seeds, for example, have that distinct nutty flavor. Tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, especially when paired with stronger ingredients. Another advantage is that it is widely available in most areas, even in the regular supermarkets.
To use, just take the tofu and blend it until smooth in the blender. Food processor also may work but it’s important to make sure that there are no lumps and the texture is as smooth as possible. To replace one large egg, use ¼ cup of the blended mixture.
You’ll need to do some experimenting to see which recipes work best with tofu as an egg substitute. It all depends on the kinds of recipes you try and your personal preferences.
Using Flour and Other Leavening Agents
You can also use pastes made from different kinds of flours and leavening agents to replace the eggs. The benefit is that most homes have these ingredients on hand. They also don’t have flavor of their own like bananas and flaxseeds do. They can blend into the batter fairly well.
It may take some experimentation to get the proportions right. Here are some options:
• 1 tablespoon flour of any kind (try wheat flour, oat flour, or soy flour) and 1 tablespoon water for each egg.
• 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 tablespoons water for each egg.
• 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water blended together also replaces one egg.
Finding the Right Egg Substitute
Again, as you try these different combinations, you’ll get a feel for which egg substitutes work best for which recipes. As a suggestion you may want to start with one of your favorite foods and try different egg substitutes until the flavor and texture you desire are reached.
For example, if you want to make a batch of blueberry muffins, you can substitute the eggs for any one of these substitution options. Make a note of how it tastes. Next time you make it, try another egg substitute. After trying several, think about which one was your favorite and stick with that. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to tell at a glance which egg replacement products work best for certain kinds of recipes.
REPLACING MILK IN VEGAN COOKING RECIPES
For a vegan, milk from any animal (sheep, cow, goat, etc) is also forbidden. It is also a very common ingredient when baking and cooking. It is also much easier to replace than eggs.
To replace milk in recipes, just substitute any of these vegan alternatives. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of milk, use one cup of soy milk instead.
Here are some alternative milk options:
• Soy milk
Soy milk comes in a variety of flavors and is readily available. Flavors include vanilla, unsweetened, chocolate, and even egg nog. Some brands are thicker and creamier than others. You may need to do some experimenting before you find the brands you like the best. Unless it has a distinct flavoring, soy milk is fairly neutral and blends well in recipes. Soy milk is also rich in protein.
• Nut milks
Nut milk beverages such as almond milk and hazelnut milk are also options. Unlike soy milk, these nut milks have a distinct flavor and may not work well in every recipe. There are sweetened and unsweetened varieties as well.
• Rice milk
Rice milk also offers a great option to replace milk in recipes. It is also very mild tasting and blends well in recipes. However, it is important to note that rice milk typically doesn’t contain a lot of protein so you may need to compensate for that during the day.
As you become familiar with the different flavors of these milk replacement products, you’ll start to get a feel for which recipes will taste best with them.
REPLACING BUTTERMILK IN VEGAN COOKING RECIPES
Buttermilk is also an important ingredient used in several different recipes. For a vegan, using traditional buttermilk is impossible since it is an animal product. Buttermilk is simply regular milk that has been cultured, which means that it has some good bacteria in it much like yogurt.
Luckily, you can easily make your own. The process is as follows. It makes one cup of vegan-friendly “buttermilk”.
1. Measure one cup of soy milk in a glass pyrex measuring cup.
2. Measure out the same amount in soy milk.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and mix.
4. Let it sit for about fifteen minutes before using it.
Soy milk works the best. Rice milk and nut milks don’t work as well. The chemistry of soy milk is better suited.
REPLACING BUTTER AND LARD IN VEGAN COOKING RECIPES
Butter is another important ingredient that a lot of recipes call for. There are several different things you can do in order to substitute it:
• Vegetable oil
If the recipe calls for melted, or even solid, butter you can consider using vegetable oil instead. This, however, may alter the texture of the recipe a little so you will probably need to experiment.
If you really need a solid fat to use in recipes you can use vegan-friendly shortening. This is a manufactured product and filled with transfats, however. So, using it in moderation is best. Shortening isn’t good for you at all! You can also find butter-flavored shortening where a butter flavor is required.
This is another option that can replace butter or other solid fats, especially if you want something with a buttery flavor. However, margarine is also high in transfatty acids. Watch for transfat-free products, but even those may contain trace amounts of transfats.
• Reducing fat
You can also reduce fat with fruit purees. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, you can try using ½ cup apple sauce and ½ cup vegan margarine or shortening. Other fruit purees you can use include plum puree and banana puree. You may be able to find fruit puree fat replacement products in the store. Just make sure they are vegan friendly and that you follow the instructions for making a proper substitution. You may also want to try replacing all the fat in the recipe with fruit. However, this may alter the texture too much.
Always make sure that the butter replacement products are used in moderation. A diet that is high in fat and trans-fats is not a healthy diet. If you absolutely need them, just use them once in a while.