Finding substitutes for animal products is perhaps the trickiest part of vegan cooking, both for a new conscious eater, and for someone who's been doing this a while. But it can also be a lot of fun to upend some long-held traditions on cooking and baking by using cruelty-free products and getting results that are just as good and usually healthier than their animal-infested versions.Here is a list of vegan substitutes that always work for me. I've tried to group them by the animal product they replace. I will add to this list as I experiment with new substitutes, but meanwhile rest assured that I've tried and tested them for years now in my vegan kitchen. They work! If you don't find something here and have a question about what to substitute in a particular recipe, feel free to leave a comment below.
(To replace more than one, just multiply)
1 tablespoon of ground flax meal + 3 tablespoon of water
I use this most often for baked bread-cakes, like my Vegan Banana Bread and Vegan Zucchini Bread, and in Vegan Banana Cookies and Vegan Banana Muffins.
¼ cup tofu
(I usually blend my tofu so it is smooth before using it. If you add it as is to a recipe, you might never be able to break the lumps. Tofu works especially well in quiches and pancakes and pastas. It is also a great replacement in vegan scrambled eggs).
3 tablespoon aquafaba
I've subbed aquafaba in breads like this vegan olive oil brioche and vegan donuts and other vegan recipes that call for eggs, with great results. With patience, it also whips up into a great meringue.
(I usually don't use banana unless I want the recipe to be banana-flavored, as in my Vegan Banana Cake.)
¼ cup applesauce
(Applesauce also makes a baked good really moist, so it allows you to cut down on fat in the recipe. It works great in my Vegan Carrot Cake.)
Commercial powder substitutes like EnerG
(I don't use these a lot, but they are handy at times, especially in lighter cookies, like these vegan amaretti cookies. Read package instructions for measures.)
1 CUP MILK
(With all the alternatives available, there is really no excuse to use dairy milk. Use oat milk or coconut milk as a swap for milk in many Indian vegan sweets).
Substitute with an equal quantity of any non-dairy milk of choice, including oat milk, soymilk, almond milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk and coconut milk.
1 CUP YOGURT(Yogurt substitutes work great in vegan raita and other Indian foods like vegetable biryani, which call for yogurt Commercial soy yogurts are also available in the United States and other parts of the world.)
1 cup silken tofu blended with 2 tablespoon lemon juice + ¼ teaspoon salt (use more or less lemon juice if you don't want your yogurt to be too acidic.)
1 cup commercial soy yogurt. Soy yogurts are available everywhere now. Look in the regular refrigerator aisle alongside regular yogurt.
Quick 1 cup cashew yogurt: Make by soaking ½ cup raw cashews in ¾ cup of water for at least 30 minutes, then blending to a smooth paste with juice of 1 lemon and a pinch of salt.
1 CUP BUTTERMILK
(Buttermilk substitutes can be used in any recipe that calls for it, including cupcakes, pancakes, and vegan southern-style biscuits)
1 cup soymilk or almond milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar (I use any I have on hand, from plain vinegar to balsamic to apple cider. Mix and set aside for a couple of minutes to curdle.)
1 tablespoon BUTTER
(Butter substitutes, like milk and yogurt substitutes, replace all the cholesterol with healthy fats that are better for you. Of course, vegan fats also contain the same number of calories as animal fats, so don't overdo the use of fats of any kind.)
1 tablespoon vegan butter or margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil or any vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon coconut oil. Coconut does have a strong flavor, so think about whether that flavor would suit your recipe before you substitute)
1 tablespoon CHEESE
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
(This is most commonly used in pestos, pastas etc. as a cheese substitute and it adds a wonderfully cheesy flavor. It has all the yumminess of cheese minus the bad fats, and, cherry on the icing, it is packed with healthy B vitamins.)
1 teaspoon miso
(I am a die-hard fan of this Japanese seasoning and use it all the time instead of salt and in place of cheese in a vegan basil pesto and soups. I even add it to quiches, sauces, etc. Always add miso at the end of cooking, since heating miso can kill the wonderful enzymes it has that regulate your digestion).
1 tablespoon CREAM
1 tablespoon cashew cream (blend cashews with enough water to keep blender blades running)
1 tablespoon almond cream (blend blanched almonds with enough water to keep blades running)
OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
There are commercial brands of vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream (like Tofutti) that taste and act like the originals. But there also are nifty ways you can create your own "cheesy" flavors without buying overprocessed, over-the-shelf foods.
1 tablespoon GELATIN: 1 tablespoon agar agar flakes or powder
1 tablespoon HONEY:
1 tablespoon maple syrup (Maple Syrup can be a great flavor-enhancer in some treats like oatmeal cookies and even nut breads.)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (I love the caramelly taste of agave nectar, and it can be delicious in almost any baked good. Agave nectar also has a low glycemic index and makes a healthy sugar substitute)
SUGAR: Gee, you might say (especially if you're a new vegan)-- are you kidding me?
The truth is, most sugar is refined with an animal ingredient called bone char, which is made from the bones of cows. So sorry to rain on your dessert, but no, sugar is not usually a vegan product.
The good news is, there are more delicious alternatives out there. When you shop for sugar, look for turbinado sugar, which is not refined. It is also tastier, in my opinion, and it's better for you than regular sugar.
Another great alternative is vegan cane sugar that is increasingly available here in the United States. Then there are so many unrefined sweeteners like jaggery or gur used in Indian kitchens, piloncillo in Latino cuisine, and maple syrup, of course. The last three have distinctive flavors, but they are wonderful flavors, so what's stopping you?
CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR OR POWDERED SUGAR: This is one I often get questions on because vegan powdered sugar is much harder to find in stores that regular vegan sugar is, and it is an essential ingredient in any avid baker's pantry. I usually powder my own sugar in a spice grinder-- adding a tablespoon of cornflour to a cupful of sugar really helps. If you have a powerful blender, that would work too. But the good news is, there are some brands of powdered sugar that are now out there, like this one, that you can order online.
1 tablespoon WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE: 1 tablespoon soy sauce with a smidgen of vinegar to add a slightly tangy note. Vegan versions of Worcestershire sauce are also on the market, but be sure to read labels carefully.
THAI CURRY PASTES: Thai curry pastes are great to have on hand for quick curries, but vegans need to watch out because most off-the-shelf products contain animal ingredients. The pastes are super-easy to make at home, and you can't beat the flavor. Get my vegan, homemade version of the red, yellow and green Thai curry pastes on my DIY spice mixes page. They store forever in the freezer.
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Thanks a mill. for these substitutes, especially for yogurt/buttermilk. I give Indian cooking lessons and cook Indian (am Indo-Canadian born in a veggie family in India) and dairy substitutes for Indian food are so important to have.
Soya based yogurt is a bit more expensive and sometimes has vanilla etc even the natural flavour (here in Canada)
I am experimenting with homemade vegan yogurt and will get there eventually in terms of thickness/texture I think.
I have cooked some of your recipes. They are great. Thanks a lot of your hard work and effervescence!
I love your site, and thank you for all the great tips making my vegan switch easy & fun.
I’d love to know if you have a substitute vegan option for ghee in cooking Indian food?
I'm a north Indian, living in Ahmedabad, India. My 6 year old daughter has been recently diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, she was already milk intolerant since last 4 months.
It's reassuring to read some of your recipes like arbi parantha, since your cooking style matches mine.
Would be reading your blogs frequently to gather tips from your cooking. Would like to know your almond milk recipe for now.
Hi Chetna, welcome to the blog! My recipe for almond milk is really simple-- one cup of almonds to four cups of water (use filtered), blend, and strain. You might want to soak the almonds in the water for a few hours, if you don't have a high-powered blender. You can also add some dates to the blender, if you want the milk lightly sweetened.
I post tons of gluten-free recipes, and especially cookies, which your daughter might enjoy.
Is raw sugar a vegan option?
Thank you so much for this list, Vaishali!
Just a question, if sugar isn't vegan, then how about store bought products such as jam or bread?
Hi Thrisha, sugar can be a very tricky issue for vegans. While some manufacturers use bone char to refine sugar, others don't, and it's virtually impossible to track what sugar on the market is vegan and what is not, unless you are using unrefined sugars like turbinado. The same extends to jams and breads which list sugar as an ingredient. You might find artisanal breads and jams that are clearly labeled vegan. Or make your own.
hello Vaishali, I am glad to find a Indian vegan. As you know Indian dishes includes a lot of dairy products. Diwali is here and I need your help. I love gujhiya which is also called as kalanjali. what alternative can i use for khoya? and for gulab jamun? Is vanaspati a good replacement for ghee, because I am gonna make besan ki laddu which require a lot of ghee but i just don't know if it will do great with vanaspati ghee. please let me know what can I use.
Hi Shristi, I just posted a recipe for karanji, which is the same as gujiya, but with a slightly different filling. You can do what I did and use a mix of cashew powder and coconut to substitute for the mava filling in the gujiya.
I have a recipe for vegan gulab jamun on the blog. Check it out. And for besan laddu, use oil instead of ghee. It won't make a huge difference. Don't use vanaspati unless you are sure it's trans-fat-free.
Is there a sub for khola
Is there a reason you don't list coconut milk as an all purpose milk substitute? This is by far the most widely available and least expensive where I live. I'd like to avoid almond milk given what I've read about the excessive water resources used to produce almonds, and the other milks listed are good but a little harder to find. ( Although rice milk is also pretty easy to get )
Hi Pam, you can substitute with coconut milk, that's fine. I have to update this list, and I will add it. One reason I personally tend not to use coconut milk much in recipes is because of the strong coconut flavor that any coconut product inevitably has. I am not crazy about it in sweet recipes except those that are specifically meant to have coconut in them.
What substitutes do you have for a WFPB diet that cut out Oil, Salt, & Sugar? At Least the Best Minimally Processed
I'm in Australia, and trying to make an Idli recipe, they call for sour curd, would you suggest using a soy yoghurt for this?
Thanks so much! Bec
Idli doesn't need sour curd. But you would have to lentils (moong dal I think) and rice are soaked in water and ground together and fermented. The bacteria needed for fermentation is naturally occurring in the lentils. Sorry, I don't know the exact recipe but you can look up for another recipe that kind of goes like what I mentioned.
Hi Vaishali,Thank you for all the lovely recipes.I was wondering if you have any suggestions for paneer substitution.Thank you in advance.
Hi Vaishali, greetings from Gibraltar! Have you a subsitute to use instead of yogurt to create a cucumber cold soup? The soup requires onion, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh mint. Need to substitue the yogurt to low fat vegan option if possible. Thanks 🙂
Hi Roseanne, Try blending some tofu with lemon juice as a replacement for yogurt. It works in most dishes. Cheers.
Hi Vaishali, I happened to stumble upon your blog while hunting for a vegan curd recipe. I have tried making curd with peanuts, rice but was never able to get over the curd craving . Being a tamilian, curd rice with pickles was the one single item I was missing. I also tried grinding cashews, tofu and adding a tbsp of lemon juice and salt. Can I use this concoction as curd or for some other recipe. Pls suggest. I didn't try it with rice.
I love the recipes and options, I have been vegetarian for many years, organic and cruelty free options as I am aware, but to be too cruelty free, for the love and respect of all animals I am making the transition to vegan. As a person who does not care to cook, I am happy to eat limited and even raw, and seeking protein based options and dairy options such as coconut yogurt. I Iook forward to following your recipes and love Indian recipes. Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness, Long for the day when all animals are free to live the live they deserve and at the same time leaving more than enough food to feed the worlds population, Namaste, Andrea
Thanks a lot for the helpful info. Non-dairy yogurts and tofu are not available where I live. Do you know of any other possible substitutes for greek yogurt? There is a blueberry muffin recipe that I really want to try, but it includes greek yogurt. I was wondering what I can substitute it with.
Hi Vaishali, super excited to have stumbled upon your website..loved reading all this info..I really want to drop dairy out of my life but alternatives might not work as well is making me worrisome..indian chai being one, boiled milk before sleep with family, making kheers, samiaan, dahi..what to do??
Hi Ruvana, I make chai with vanilla soymilk and it's fabulous. I'd never go back to the dairy version. You can also make kheers, semiya payasam and lots of sweets with nut milks or soymilk. Check out my Indian vegan sweets page for inspiration. Also if you miss dahi rice, you'll fall in love with this vegan version: https://holycowvegan.net/vegan-curd-rice-dahi-annam/
I LOVE the vegan twist on Indian comfort food. I am new to the vegan life (was a vegetarian), but the array of recipes are amazing. You have inspired me!
I wanted to make some zucchini bread that calls for Greek yogurt. Could I use tofu instead?