I know. You have a favorite recipe that calls for eggs, or sour cream, or butter, or mayo, or milk, or cheese, or... These dairy items are actually very easy to substitute! (Side note, are eggs dairy? Oh well, they are for the purposes of this post.) Most non-vegan recipes (quiche included!) can be veganized without too much effort and just a little knowledge. My lovely sister-in-law asked a while ago if I would write a post about my favorite substitutions for non-vegan items, so although it's taken me a while to get to this post, here it is for all those wondering!
I'm only going to focus on dairy items right now (we'll get to meat replacements later). Let's start with the easy stuff and go from there!
There are SO many non-dairy milks available that you could drink a new one every day and still not get through them all. This is all really a trial and error thing until you find one that you like best. Clearly, the one that has been around the longest is soy milk. This is my preference and go to, as it has about the same viscosity as cow milk, bakes up beautifully, and has more calcium than cow milk. You can even add lemon juice to soy milk and it will make vegan buttermilk (and great pancakes!). You do have to be a bit careful cooking with soy milk, as it will scorch, but keep an eye on it and you'll be fine. If soy milk isn't your thing, you could try any of the following:
- Rice milk: tends to be the thinnest, some varieties taste "ricey" others have no taste at all
- Almond milk: does have a subtle almond flavor, but really great for baked goods
- Oat milk: often a "love it or hate it" variety, good ones are like a really subtle oatmeal
- Hemp milk: a relative newcomer and another "love it or hate it" variety
- Coconut milk: often thickest (think 2% or thicker), tastes of coconut
- Nut blends: sometimes available, often nutty in flavor
Keep in mind that all of these milks have slightly different nutrition profiles in addition to their differentiated tastes, but all are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat.
My go to on this one is Earth Balance. Originally with just a tub style margarine, there are now multiple varieties of tubs and sticks, including a soy-free variety. This stuff bakes and tastes like butter and is available in almost all major grocery stores.
Like milk, there are a multiple varieties of non-dairy yogurt available, although your grocery store may only carry one or two. Silk was the first company to come out with a widely available soy yogurt; it is also the easiest to find. However, there are other varieties of soy yogurt, as well as almond and coconut. I've not tried the almond, but the coconut one tastes strongly of coconut. It's not my thing, but it might be yours.
There are two main brands available for sour cream. My favorite is the Tofutti brand as I think it behaves more like dairy sour cream does in recipes. However, you can also try the Follow Your Heart brand.
The same two brands that make sour cream also make cream cheese. I'm less partial on this one, but generally buy the Tofutti since that's what is in my stores. Tofutti also makes multiple flavors of cream cheese, but they can be hard to find. The Follow Your Heart brand of cream cheese is also good.
I never really liked mayo as as a non-vegan, but Vegenaise is good (though I don't eat it often). Shana says it tastes a TON like dairy mayo, but you'll have to take her word for it. They have also come out with a number of flavor varieties, in case you want to spice up your mayo. Another standard option in the vegan mayo scene is made by a food tech company (apparently that's a thing) and is called Just Mayo. This is my preferred brand to use when I make vegan ranch, as it is thicker than Vegenaise. Another plus is that Just Mayo is more commonly found in major national grocery store chains. However, even Hellman's is making a vegan mayo!
Depending on what you want to do, there are a large number of ways to replace eggs in recipes. My go to replacement is Ener-G Egg Replacer. It's a dry powder you mix with water. Awesome and easy. However, there are a ton of other options (depending on what you need the egg to do: bind or provide structure/leavening).
- Applesauce or bananas: will give flavor, but work well to bind
- Tofu: great for quiche (seriously) or in smaller amounts for individual eggs
- Pureed pumpkin: also will add a bit of flavor, but works well
- Ground flax seed and water: whisk together, make a frothy egg substitute
- Soy yogurt: generally for moisture
Here's a great website for ideas about amounts and processes for using these egg replacers (no idea who made it, but this page has great info).
Cheese. It's the hardest. If I had a nickle for every time someone said "I could never be vegan, I like cheese too much," I would certainly have close to $1,000 by now... (do the math, that's a lot of the same conversation). If you think you are addicted to cheese, you might be. Cheese (more technically casomorphin, which is in cheese) acts as a low-level opiate in the brain.
Vegan cheese has come a long way in the 11 1/2 years I've been vegan. The first vegan cheeses had a taste and texture that eerily resembled slightly melty crayon. They were awful. However, more and more varieties are on the market every day.
Depending on what you need to make cheesy, you can use either nutritional yeast (think dips and sauces) or a commercially available alternative (think pizza). In all honesty, there is only one decent vegan cheese out there right now (though I've not tried them all), and it's Daiya. Don't go in to this expecting cheese. Shana says (and she still eats cheese) that the taste is pretty close but the mouth feel isn't right. I think that Daiya isn't as "rubbery" as animal cheeses. However, it tastes good, melts, and makes an awesome pizza! As long as you don't go in expecting an exact replicate of animal cheese, Daiya does an excellent job!
Happy cooking and baking!