Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eat This, Not That: A few of my favorite vegan substitutions

It has taken several years to sort through and find my favorite substitutes for commonly used animal products, so I hope that by throwing these out there, I might save one of you a little time, frustration, and money. This is also a great guide if you have a vegan guest or are cooking for someone with food allergies.

Turbinado Sugar as a substitute for White and Brown Sugar
Sugar isn't vegan?! I have been really surprised at how many people seem offended by the fact that I don't eat meat - especially since I am careful not to bring it up unless I'm asked - so when someone first told me that white sugar is not a vegan product, I almost assumed they were just giving me a hard time :P Then I looked into it and found that most cane sugar is processed using bone char. Bone char is made from ground up animal bones (mostly pigs and cows) and used to pass sugar through to whiten it. Newer technology is starting to replace the use of bone char, but bone char is cheap and many major sugar manufacturers still use it. Generic brands of sugar are hit and miss since they get their sugar from multiple suppliers. They also use bone char when they process brown sugar because, despite what most of us probably grew up thinking, brown sugar is not less processed than white. They process it all the way through to white sugar and then add molasses at the end. Some people use sucanat sugar in place of brown sugar, but I find that the flavor is too strong for my taste. Additionally, sucanat and brown sugar do not have comparable moisture levels, so baked goods can turn out dry when sucanat is used as a substitute. That being said, when my recipe's call for brown sugar, I add 2 Tbs. unsulphured molasses for every 1 Cup of turbinado that I use to replace the brown sugar.
Turbinado sugar is less processed than white sugar - never making it to the bleaching stage. It is slightly coarser than white sugar and is off-white to tan in color. It cooks/bakes just like white sugar but in addition to being vegan, it also has a higher mineral content and is slightly lower in calories (turbinado sugar = 11 calories per teaspoon, white sugar = 16 calories per teaspoon). Take a look at THIS awesome guide (love it!) for more information on sweeteners.

Earth's Balance Buttery Sticks as a substitute for Butter
This is a great brand of vegan "butter"! I love to bake and this "butter" bakes and cooks just like dairy butter. There are no hydrogenated oils or artificial anything. You can buy it in tubs or in a box of four (1/2 Cup) sticks. It's GREAT! HERE is a link to their website if you want to check it out.

Powdered Egg Replacer
This is not a great egg substitute for recipe's that really depend on egg's emulsifying qualities (like in cakes and brownie mixes - for those I'd recommend a liquid egg replacer), but it's great for cookies, breads, and anything else that just needs the extra moisture that an egg would normally provide.
If you are making a hearty recipe, like a whole grain bread or oatmeal cookies, you can also substitute 1 Tbs. ground flaxseed and 3 Tbs. water for each egg you are replacing in your recipe instead of using a commercial egg replacer. But be careful because flaxseed is too heavy for a lot of recipe's. If you're in a pinch (and you're a weirdi like me and actually keep these kinds of foods in your house) you can also use 1 Tbs. soy flour and 3 Tbs. water to replace an egg.
If you're looking for more options, I've heard great things about Ener-G Egg replacer. I've never tried it because I really haven't missed eggs in my recipe's enough to go looking...

Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream as a substitute for Sour Cream

This is, by far, the best sour cream substitute that I've found. It has a nice texture and a mild flavor. Unless someone intends to eat this by itself, I don't imagine most people would notice much of a difference from dairy sour cream. It doesn't cook up (ex. casseroles) as creamy as dairy sour cream does, but it
does the best job of all the brands I've tried. Tofutti manufactures another sour cream substitute (Tofutti Sour Supreme) but it has hydrogenated oils in it so I haven't ever tried it.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE agave! I put it on my pancakes. :) Great tips!

P.S. Now I feel bad for giving you those cookies...

Tara said...

Have you tried pure maple syrup? is SO good! Once you taste it, you'll never be able to go back to a "fake" syrup like Smuckers or Mrs. Butterworths. It's pretty pricey, but I think it's totally worth it.

Amii said...

My favorite on pancakes is applesauce! it sounds a little wierd but its a great way to add a fruit serving to your day