Being a vegan cook means having a lot of tricks up your sleeve. Sure, it’s easy to cook when you can use any ingredient that exists but having to substitute for so many basic ingredients takes creativity and imagination. Luckily, vegans tend to be both those things as well as resourceful. We don’t shy away from a recipe simply because it’s filled with things like milk, butter, and eggs. No, we accept the challenge and we find new ways to make our plant-based recipes even better than the originals.
Whether you are a seasoned chef or just need to be able to have vegan sour cream in a pinch, there are some hacks that are indispensable for vegan cooking. Once you know these tidbits, you will feel confident in knowing there is no recipe you cannot make.
1. Make Your Own Honey Replacement
You don’t have to be a bee to make your own honey. Just mix 1 ¼ cups of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of water and you have one cup of vegan honey. Replace the honey in a recipe with an equal amount of your homemade sweetener.
2. You Don’t Need a Churn to Make Butter
Believe it or not, making your own butter is pretty easy. You just need some specialty ingredients like lecithin, coconut oil, and xanthan gum and a mold to shape the butter in. Vegan butter can be made with soy milk or for a soy-free version, try my cashew-based vegan butter. You can even make it fancy by adding your favorite herbs or using cocoa butter to make a heavenly chocolate-flavored butter.
3. Avocados Can be Used as Butter
There’s a trend going on right now for avocado toast. Just mash up some avocado and season it with your favorite herbs, spices, or even hot sauce and spread it on your toast as you would butter. Besides toast, avocado can substitute for butter in baking or in puddings. Just be aware that you will taste the avocado, so be sure it’s a good match for your recipe.
4. Vegan Buttermilk
Add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of any non-dairy milk. Stir and let sit until it curdles. Ta Da! You have buttermilk. Now you can make Vegan ‘Buttermilk’ Biscuits. Yum!
5. Make Your Own Sour Cream
One day, I was making a spicy black bean soup and realized I was out of my favorite brand of vegan sour cream. What to do? Luckily, I had a can of coconut milk on the shelf. I stuck it in the fridge and then whipped up my own Coconut Sour Cream.
6. Whip Up Some Whipped Cream
Whether you’re making mousse or just want a quick topping for your chocolate whipped cream pie or chocolate pudding, it’s easy to make your own whipped cream. Just whip some sugar, vanilla, tapioca starch, and arrowroot and you will have pretty peaks of light, fluffy whipped cream.
7. Worcestershire Sauce Substitute
I love the taste of Worcestershire Sauce. I put it in most of my “meaty” recipes to add depth and flavor that is out-of-this-world. Regular Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, so you have to buy a vegan version. If you’re gluten-free, you need to get a vegan and gluten-free version which can be very hard to find in stores. You can make your own, but a quick substitute for this source of umami is to use equal parts tamari and balsamic vinegar in your recipes. I use this trick a lot, for example, in my Lentil Meatballs.
8. It’s Easy to Replace Eggs
There are so many ways to replace eggs in recipes, it’s a wonder anyone cooks with them anymore. To replace one egg, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes a gel. Then add it to your recipe as you would the egg. Find other ways to replace eggs here.
9. Chickpea Flour is Magical
Chickpea flour is one of my very favorite ingredients. Yes, it’s a great gluten-free choice of flour but it is also versatile. Mix chickpea flour with milk, beer, water, or seltzer and you have a delicious soy-free batter that you can use for French toast, beer-battered “fish” fillets, chickpea omelets, and breads, or as the egg replacement for dredging and breading.
10. Nutritional Yeast is Cheesy
While you’re learning to make your own vegan cheese, nutritional yeast can step in to give you that cheesy flavor in a snap. Add to it a Béchamel sauce to make cheese sauce for your nachos or mac and cheese, sprinkle it on kale chips for a cheesy, salty topping, or use it as a swap-out for parmesan.
These are just ten tricks that you can use to make your vegan cooking easier; there are so many more out there. With a few of these tips in your arsenal, you’ll never be stumped by an ingredient again. What are your favorite vegan hacks?