How to Bake VEGAN

It’s no secret that I like to bake. More often than not, when someone asks what I did the past weekend, my answer will be somewhere along the lines of, I made an apple pie! or I baked a cheesecake! or I spent hours taking photos of my food!

So when people discover that I am vegan, their questions usually revolve around how I get around baking without the standard animal products. I’m usually at a loss.

What do you mean “get around” baking? Why does everyone perceive veganism as an obstacle??

The truth is, baking vegan is so EASY! Especially when so many people are devoted to helping people learn the values of a plant-based whole-foods diet. All you need is a recipe.

The challenge that I think these people are referring to is not a challenge limited to vegan eating. In fact, it is not a challenge limited by any type of diet or diet at all! The challenge is in the nature of baking itself – to create a product that meets the standards of flavor, texture, and nutrition that you have set for yourself. If you have a recipe that doesn’t meet these standards, you change it. It doesn’t matter if you change the amount of sugar you add, whether or not butter is involved, or the hydration of your dough, you are changing your recipe to find what you love.

And this is the essence of vegan baking.

So, to help you on your way to discovering new ways make things that meet your standards, I’ve compiled a list of vegan alternatives. Each of these acts in a different way and can change the outcome of your product. Get familiar with the different methods and how they react in your baked goods. Soon, you’ll be a pro at making traditional recipes animal friendly! Remember – vegan baking is FUN!

Egg Replacers

There is a wide variety of options for replacing egg. Some are used for binding purposes, some for moisture, some for leavening, and some for a combination of all three. Here I’ve listed the ones I’ve had the best experience with. There are others out there, but I wanted to keep it simple.

1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water (let sit 5-10 minutes to thicken)
1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water (let sit 5-10 minutes to thicken)
1 tsp Ener-G egg replacer + 3 tbsp water (combine before adding to recipe)
1/4 cup applesauce or other fruit puree
1/4 cup silken tofu (use only in recipes that get pureed)
2 tsp baking soda + 2 tbsp water (combine before adding to recipe)
2 tbsp corn starch + 1 tbsp water (combine before adding to recipe)

Milk Replacers

Soy, almond, and rice milk all work very well. Try them all and find a flavor you like. BUT! Don’t go into drinking these thinking that they will taste like milk – they won’t. The texture is similar, they look the same… but it’s not milk. Not that that’s a bad thing! Not at all. Think of it this way – if you closed your eyes and expected to eat cake, but got soup instead, it would probably taste really gross, right? Not that the soup is gross – it might be the best you’ve ever had. But you expected cake, and soup is definitely not cake.

For me, I very much prefer the flavor of soy milk to regular milk. It is sweeter and lighter – and doesn’t involve any cows!

Butter Replacers

I don’t really have too much to say here… I use Earth Balance 100% of the time. It looks, acts, and tastes just like butter.* Just to be clear, just because it is vegan butter doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Earth Balance is simply fatty oils, through and through. Yes, it’s cholesterol free and animal friendly, but should still be used in moderation. You can substitute applesauce or yogurt for some of the butter or oil used in a recipe, but I don’t normally recommend substituting the entire measure.

*The Earth Balance “Whipped” style is not appropriate for baking. It is whipped more as it cools to incorporate extra air into the butter to make it more spreadable and less dense. While this is great for spreading on toast, air = nothing in baked goods, so it won’t turn out the same. Always use the “original” formula.

Other Alternatives

Yogurt – More difficult to find, but many grocery stores carry soy or coconut milk yogurts. Try them; they’re good!

Sour Cream – Tofutti makes a great tofu-based sour cream. No, it is nothing like tofu, and no, I don’t know if it really tastes like sour cream. I never liked sour cream growing up. But, I have tried this and I think it is fantastic – both as a topping and used in baked goods (such as a sour cream coffee cake!)

Cream Cheese – Again, Tofutti makes a wonderful tofu-based cream cheese. I’ve used it in awesome cheesecakes and just by itself, and I’m always impressed.

Note: None of the items above are found where you would expect them to be in the grocery store. For some reason, the employees there feel that alternatives need to be in their own sections (aka, hidden). My yogurts are found with the tofu (that is next to the beer), and the sour cream and cream cheese are found tucked in between the cheese and orange juice. I don’t know why yogurts don’t go with yogurts, or sour cream doesn’t go with sour cream, but I’m just happy they carry it! Ask around if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

That’s about all I can think of for now. I’ll continue adding more as I think of them. If you’re not sure of what type of substitute to use in a recipe, just shoot me an email at ovenmittsblog (at) gmail (dot) com and ask. I’m so happy to help!