Plant-Based Baking: Creative Plant-Based Substitutes for Six Major Ingredients

If you’ve been considering going to a plant-based food preparation and baking lifestyle, you’re coming into it at a good time. In this day and age, plant-based cooking has really taken off with a wider variety of dairy alternatives available.

With certain diet restrictions, such as not being able to digest lactose, finding a cow’s milk substitute is critical. Meanwhile, those who live a vegan lifestyle and those who are concerned with the impact of the dairy industry on our environment require a dairy replacement due more to moral reasons.

Sometimes however, going dairy-free can be good for you even if you don’t have a moral opposition or a vegan lifestyle. According to research, people who have stopped eating foods made from cow’s milk have said they have more energy and that their digestive system works better.

So to make your foray into plant-based food prep, we’ve gathered a list of six ingredients that can be substituted with dairy-free options, just in time for the holidays. Imagine all those delicious recipes that you might not have been able to fully enjoy before either due to digestive or moral reasons made healthier with these plant-based substitutions!

Cow’s Milk Substitutes

Soy milk comes highly recommended by dieticians as opposed to cow’s milk due to the protein content being close to what cow’s milk contains, and most soy milks are infused with calcium and vitamins. Organic, unsweetened soy milk makes a great addition to savory and sweet recipes alike.

Milks made from almonds, cashews, flax, rice, and hemp are great substitutes as well, but it’s important to pay attention to the labels because some of these milks can be loaded with sugar and have next to no protein. Making your own dairy-free milk is great for avoiding sugar and extras you don’t need.

Rice milk is the best alternative for those with nut and soy allergies, although it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value. However, it may be too thin for creamy dishes as each milk substitute will react differently in different recipes. Another example is hemp milk; it has a strong flavor that may take over certain dishes. Finding the right milk substitute for your dishes may be an on-going experiment.

Egg Substitutes

Replacing eggs in recipes can be a little harder, and it depends entirely on the recipe which substitute is best to use, but we have a few tried and true options that are worth experimenting with.

For an egg substitute you can mix into a recipe, combine a tablespoon of flaxseed with three tablespoons of water and blend in a food processor until it becomes gelatinous. For binding use in recipes, thoroughly mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with two tablespoons of water. For baked goods such as muffins, use two to three tablespoons of a mashed banana in place of an egg.

Aquafaba, the liquid from canned or freshly cooked chickpeas, can also be used to replace eggs by using three tablespoons to replace each egg, and don’t forget that you can purchase powdered egg substitutes from most health-food stores.

Butter Substitutes

When baking, coconut oil can be used instead of butter. While coconut oil has a slightly higher caloric content and more saturated fat than butter, it won’t negatively affect how your baked goods turn out. Mashed avocado is also a great butter substitute, but when using avocado other wet ingredients need to be increased to make up for avocado not melting. Bean purees can also be used in place of butter. For example, in a yellow cake, use cannellini beans, and you can use black beans in a chocolate cake or even brownies. The beans won’t alter the flavor and will provide more protein and fiber while cutting back on fats.

Vegetable shortening can be used in place of butter when making a pie crust because it will still give a buttery flavor and a mouth-watering texture. Olive oil is also a great substitute in more savory dishes such as bread, certain kinds of muffins, pie crusts for pot pies and meat pies, and biscuits.

Don’t forget that you can also purchase vegan butter as a dairy butter substitute.

Oil Substitutes

Applesauce is a great substitute in baking recipes that call for vegetable oil by replacing 1/3 cup of applesauce for every 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Aquafaba, the liquid in cooked or canned chickpeas, comes up again on our list, this time as a great oil alternative by using an equal amount to replace oil. Avocado oil, although pricey, is a great oil substitute, as well as ride-bran oil and canola oil.

Pureed pumpkin and banana can also work well in some recipes, but again, plant-based substitutions are all about experimentation.

White Flour Substitutes

While white flour is vegan, it is also not healthy due to being highly processed and stripped of its nutritional value. Instead, use whole grain flour substitutes such as wheat and oat among others. For those with gluten sensitivities, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and chickpea flours make great substitutes.

Sugar Substitutes

If you’re looking for a plant-based, healthy alternative to regular refined white sugar to sweeten your baked goods, honey is one of the best substitutes you can use. A cup of white sugar can be replaced with 3/4 cups of honey. 3/4 of a cup of maple syrup can also replace a cup of white sugar.

Remember that when you are using these substitutes in your baked recipes, it’s all about experimentation. Some ingredient replacements will work better in certain baked goods than they will in others; you just have to find the right replacement for the right recipe. The experimentation will be worth it when you find the right balance and you’re able to enjoy your favorite baked goods without guilt or indigestion, and you’ll be able to bake for friends and family and show them just how delicious plant-based eating really can be.