15 Vegan Substitutes for a Healthier Meal

15 Vegan Substitutes for a Healthier Meal

Time to Read: 9 minutes


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Over seven million Americans are vegetarian, and one million of them are vegans. Adopting a vegan lifestyle can improve your health and body function.

The hardest part of committing to a vegan diet is giving up your favorite animal-based foods like bacon, eggs, or cheese. Try these delicious vegan substitutes to help you commit to veganism while satisfying your cravings.

1. Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

Thick, gooey, creamy nacho cheese sauce is so versatile and needs to be a staple of your vegan substitutes recipe repertoire. Use as a dipping sauce, on nachos, tacos, or even loaded potato soup.

You’re going to start with some vegetable oil and sautee onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Next, you’re going to throw in some spices to give your sauce some kick.

The secret to the thick and creamy texture is to add potatoes and cashews. Be sure to roast both of them well to bring out the rich flavor. Simmer the mixture of ingredients you have added to the pad with almond milk.

After simmering for about ten minutes throw the whole mixture in a high powered blender. Keep in the fridge and reheat in a pot on the stove when you go to use it.

If you have a regular blender it may take longer to achieve the smooth texture of cheese sauce. Start low and work your way up to high making sure everything becomes smooth.

2. Seitan

If tofu isn’t your thing another option to meat is seitan. It’s made from wheat gluten and has a more meat-like texture than tofu.

It has just as much protein per volume as ground beef with the benefit of less fat. Use it to replace ground beef or shredded chicken in a recipe at a one to one ratio.

Wheat gluten is the protein from wheat. Wheat flour is washed with water until all of the starch is removed. What is left is a sticky insoluble mass known as seitan.

3. Apple Sauce

Baking recipes almost always call for eggs, but you can replace them with unsweetened applesauce. The benefit is a reduction in cholesterol in your recipe with the same level of moisture.

Replace each egg your recipe calls for with a quarter cup of applesauce. Be sure to pick unflavored and unsweetened as these will add extra elements to your recipe.

4. Vegan Alfredo Sauce

Traditional alfredo sauce is loaded with cream and cheese. You can achieve the same thick and creamy texture with cauliflower and cashews.

You’ll want to steam your cauliflower in nut milk or broth. Save the broth you boiled the cauliflower in to thin your sauce if it becomes too thick.

Roast the cashews before adding them to add a richer flavor to your sauce. Once the cauliflower is soft and cooled throw it in a blender with the cashews, garlic, and Italian seasoning.

The cauliflower will blend to be super smooth just like regular alfredo sauce. Both the cashews an cauliflower will take on the seasoning’s flavor to taste just like alfredo sauce. Also try out our mie noodles with green beans, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and alfredo sauce.

6. Rice Milk

For an alternative to cow milk try the lesser known option of rice milk. Made from the liquid squeezed from ground rice.

It can have the same amount of calcium as cow milk or even more, if you choose to buy the fortified option. You can drink it straight, put it in cereal, or even make vegan ice cream with it.

6. Agar Flakes

If you want to make jelly or are baking and your recipe calls for gelatin, use agar flakes instead. They dissolve in liquid and will thicken it as they are heated.

Agar flakes are a vegetable gelatin that is made from sea vegetables such as seaweed. The seaweed is boiled until it gels, then pressed, dried, and crushed into flakes.

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are one of the most highly adaptable vegan substitutes and capable of being used to replace meat, eggs, and tuna. They are high in both protein and folate.

Folate is also known as B9, or the synthetic version, folic acid. Consuming folate helps aid in DNA synthesis and repair by encouraging call and tissue growth.

Folate assists in healthy brain function and red cell production. Blend them smooth as an emulsifier or mold them into patties.

8. Vegan Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is made with eggs, and lots of them. With some clever vegan substitutes, you can have a healthier version.

The first thing you are going to need is a can of chickpeas. You are going to use the aquafaba, which is the protein-rich liquid that chickpeas come canned in.

This liquid is remarkably similar to eggs in that you can whip it up like a meringue into stiff peaks. You can also add it to pancakes or waffles to leaven them.

Now, most recipes are going to take a traditional mayonnaise recipe and replace the eggs with three tablespoons of aquafaba. This will give you a greasy and loose version of mayo.

The end result is ok, but not really mayonnaise and much more unstable than the egg version. The reasoning is eggs emulsify physically and chemically.

The problem with this is the aquafaba doesn’t emulsify the mixture totally. You risk having your mayo break and separate.

To make your mayo more stable toss in a dozen chickpeas that have been blended with some lemon juice, mustard, and garlic. The chickpeas will be your chemical emulsifier to give you light and creamy mayo. Also try out our vegan avocado aioli.

9. Vegan Sour Cream

If your making tacos or a dip you may need to use sour cream. You can whip up some tofu vegan substitutes by using silken tofu.

Combine the silken tofu with rice milk, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or with an immersion blender. That’s it, you’re done, store the mixture in the fridge in an airtight container.

10. Mashed Banana

Bananas are very similar to eggs in that they both act as binding agents. Binding agents are going to hold ingredients together that would naturally want to repel each other.

Use one medium-sized banana for each egg your recipe calls for. If you struggle with what a medium sized banana is, aim for about one-quarter cup of mashed banana per egg required.

11. Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, yes marijuana’s cousin, but there’s no high involved here. Hemp seeds have lots of omega-3 fatty acids that you would find in fish.

Drinking hemp milk can help reduce inflammation in the body and improve brain function.

12. Smoked-Mushroom “Bacon”

Bacon is one of the hardest meats to give up for those who want to go vegan and the vegan substitutes never quite get it right. We are going to take mushrooms and roast them and turn them into crispy, smokey, and a little bit greasy bacon pieces.

You can use portobellos, shiitake, cremini, or even just regular button mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms are going to give you the best crispy and chewy texture similar to bacon.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the mushroom in a single layer. Bake them at 350 degrees until they are browned and crisp.

Look for a deep brown color and some slight bubbling when you go to take them out. Toss them with some salt, pepper, and a little bit of sugar when they come out of the oven.

You have two options for the smokiness flavor that bacon has, liquid smoke, or real smoke. For more realistic flavor take an applewood chunk and ignite it.

Put the flame out and put the smoking wood chunk in a pot with the mushrooms over it in a steamer tray. Close the lid quickly and let it all sit for about ten minutes. The longer your mushrooms sit, the smokier their flavor will get.

13. Soy Cheese

It melts and tastes just like real cheese. Soy cheese is significantly lower in saturated fat and one of the most popular vegan substitutes.

Simply replace the cheese in your recipe with soy cheese on a one to one ratio. Remember to get your calcium from other sources since soy cheese lacks in this, unless you choose a fortified one.

14. Coconut Milk

Another great of the vegan substitutes is coconut milk as it is high in protein. You’ll also get the benefit of it being loaded with vitamins and minerals.

It makes a great replacement for cow milk in creamy sauces and soups.

Coconut has the benefit of being rich in magnesium. This supports a healthy immune system, helps keeps your bones strong, aids in normal muscles and nerve function, and heart health.

15. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds make surprising yet perfect vegan substitutes for eggs when baking. Be sure to buy the ground kind or flax flour to preserve the texture of your baked item.

Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fats and fiber. The Omega- 3 fatty acids will lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. The fiber aids in healthy digestion.

Try making some tasty vegan burgers that use “flax egg” as the binder. Flax seeds are ground to a powder an mixed with water to create the same emulsifying effect as an egg. Test Out Some Vegan Substitutes

Whether you are vegan or just trying to eat healthier try incorporating some of these substitutions into your cooking.

The most creative of these substitutes are applesauce, bananas, and flax seeds for eggs. Definitely try the mushrooms as a substitute for bacon.

Use these tips to help you create a vegan-friendly shopping list for your next grocery shopping trip.

About the author

Julia Ott
Hi! I'm Julia and I'm a junior developer, vegan recipe inventor, furniture collector and mum to a little boy. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, and a vegan for 3. I spend all of my spare time visiting farmers markets, searching for antiques at flea markets and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! I co-founded Vegan.io to make the world a better place.

Want to try a vegan diet?

We created a meal planner app to help you! Get your fresh customized meal plan full of delicious, quick, budget friendly, healthy recipes.

GET YOUR MEAL PLAN!