by Cathe Olson
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t make luscious cakes, pies, and cookies. Eggs? Who needs them! Butter? Ha! If you want to make the sweets you enjoyed as a child, it’s easy enough to veganize them. Here’s a quick overview of vegan baking substitutions.
Eggs are probably the trickiest ingredient to replace in baking. Eggs are used in baking for binding, leavening, as well as to add moisture and richness?but there are several vegan options for replacing eggs in a recipe.
Applesauce: Applesauce is a great binder and probably the easiest of all the egg substitutions, and the mild apple flavor won’t change your recipe too much. Use this in recipes where you want the moistness such as quick breads, cakes, and brownies.
Bananas: Bananas work pretty much like applesauce, however, they do have a strong flavor so use them in recipes where banana flavor would taste good, like in muffins or quick breads. Mash, blend, or whip the bananas so they’re light and fluffy.
Tofu: Silken tofu works wonderfully in puddings and mousses but also makes a fine egg substitute in baked goods. Blend or puree the tofu well so it’s smooth and creamy and use in recipes where a rich, chewy product is desired. They’re great for pumpkin and custard pies.
Flaxseed: When mixed with water, ground flaxseeds become gelatinous and make a wonderful binder. I like these in everything from veggie burgers to pancakes to quick breads. Flaxseed has a slight nutty flavor.
Commercial Egg Replacers: The two commercial egg replacers I know of are Ener-G and Bob’s Red Mills. I love them because they have an incredibly long shelf life and work really well in almost any recipe. I especially like them in recipes that I want a crisper texture like cookies.
1 Egg =
- Applesauce: 3 tablespooons
- Bananas: 1/2 banana mashed or blended
- Tofu: 1/4 cup soft or silken tofu blended or mashed
- Flaxseed: 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- Egg replacer: follow manufacturer’s instructions
Milk is probably the easiest ingredient to substitute in baking. Soy, rice, almond, oat, coconut, or banana milks all substitute one for one with dairy milk.
Butter is also fairly easy to replace. For the most similar results, use a nonhydrogenated margarine. Coconut oil also works really well but adds a coconut taste. Vegetable oils also work fine?especially in breads and cakes. They will alter the texture somewhat in things like a pie crust?it won’t be as flaky and tender as a fat that’s hard at room temperature.
The sourness of buttermilk activates the baking soda in a recipe and also makes the baked good more tender. The most accurate substitution is to put 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice (per cup of buttermilk) in the measuring cup and then fill the rest of the measure with nondairy milk. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to curdle. You can also use plain nondairy yogurt thinned with nondairy milk.
Soy and rice yogurt alternatives are available about health food stores and some supermarkets.
Use plain nondairy yogurt.
Use a commercial soy creamer or make cashew cream by blending cashews with water (1 1/2 cups cashews to 4 cups water).
Agave nectar and maple syrup substitute one for one with honey. Brown rice syrup also works well but is slightly less sweet than honey so you will need to use a little more.
Vegan Baking Cookbooks
There are several excellent vegan baking books on the market that are great for your holiday baking and also make wonderful gifts. Here are a few I like:
The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky
Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Also, just about all vegetarian and vegan cookbooks include sections on desserts and baked good as well. Below are a few of our favorite holiday treats.
These scrumptious bars are full of fiber and nutrients.
- 2 cups pitted dates
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- Boiling water
- 1 cup almonds or walnuts
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat, barley, or brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup flavorless oil (grapeseed, safflower, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons maple, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar
- 1/4 cup water
Place dates and cranberries in heatproof bowl. Pour over just enough boiling water to cover. Let sit 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place nuts and oats in food processor and grind to a coarse meal. Add flour and pulse to mix. Drizzle oil, sweetener, and water over top. Mix until combined. Dough should be slightly crumbly but hold together when pressed in your hand. Add more water if too dry. Add flour if too sticky.
Press 2/3 of dough into bottom of prepared pan to form a crust about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer remaining dough to a bowl and reserve for topping. Place date/cranberry mixture with water into food processor and puree. Spread date filling over bottom crust. Sprinkle remaining dough over top and press into date filling. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until edges are golden. Cool before cutting into squares.
Makes 24 bars
This vegan cake is wonderfully moist and delicious.
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Oil a 10-inch round cake pan or 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Beat oil, maple syrup, and vanilla together until smooth. Stir in applesauce, raisins, and walnuts. In separate bowl, sift remaining ingredients together. Dough will be stiff. Spread into prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes, or until cake pulls away from edges of pan and knife inserted in center comes out dry. Cool on rack. Serve cake plain or with whipped tofu topping. It’s also delicious frosted.
Makes 12 servings
Coconut Sweet Potato Pie
Tofu works perfectly here in place of eggs.
- 1 (8- or 9-inch) Basic Pie Crust, partially prebaked
- 3 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
- 1/2 cup silken tofu
- 1/3 cup light coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare and partially prebake pie crust. Place sweet potatoes, tofu, coconut milk, and sweetener in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Bake about 45 minutes, or until edges are golden. Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or cold.
Makes 8 servings
Recipes from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson