Vegan Baking Tips
Baking Without Eggs
Eggs perform various functions, from binding and leavening to adding moisture and richness, all of which can be easily replicated—if not surpassed—with healthful, plant-based ingredients.
Below is a brief overview of which ingredients work best when, and in what quantities.
Ground Flaxseed or Chia Seeds
For each egg you replace, whisk 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water until the mixture is thick and creamy. (Vigorously whisk into a nice froth for best results.) Works best in: waffles, pancakes, bran muffins, breads, cornbread, oatmeal cookies.
Consider half a mashed or puréed banana as a replacement for one or two eggs. Works best in: breads, muffins, cakes, and pancakes.
¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce equals one egg. Works best in: moist cakes, breads, and brownies.
Whip ¼ cup in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. This equals one egg. Works best in: rich, dense, moist cakes and brownies.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
A ratio that works well is 1 teaspoon of baking soda along with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar are good choices. Works best in: cakes, cupcakes, and quick breads.
Commercial Egg Replacer Powder
The most common brand in the U.S. and Canada is Ener-G Egg Replacer. Bob’s Red Mill is good, too. Orgran is a popular egg replacer sold in many parts of the world, including Australia and a number of countries in Europe and Asia. Egg replacer powder is economical and lasts for a long time if sealed tightly. Follow the instructions on the box. In general, for best results, whip into a froth. Works best in: cookies, but it is also a handy all-around egg substitute in a pinch.
Also: Search online for “recipe vegan” (without the quotes) followed by whatever it is you want to make. You will find thousands of delicious egg-free recipes.
Note: Products such as Egg Beaters and Better ‘N Eggs® are NOT listed as their main ingredient is eggs.
Baking Without Dairy
Nondairy milks that work well in baking include soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk, and hemp milk.
In addition, you can buy light, vanilla, chocolate, unsweetened, and other varieties of nondairy milk—lots of choices, lots of possibilities.
Some types of nondairy milk, such as coconut milk and soymilk, are relatively thick; others, like rice milk, are more on the thin side. Moreover, low-fat and sugar-free versions of any nondairy milk may make the milk thinner.
Coconut milk may impart a subtle coconut taste to dishes—which can be a great thing in the right circumstances. Rice milk tends to work well in vegan milk chocolate recipes. All in all, there is a wide variety of nondairy milks that do an excellent job as the “milk” component in baked goods. Whenever a recipe calls for milk, feel free to use your favorite nondairy milk—or experiment with new flavors.
Here’s a non-dairy milk guide from One Green Planet.
Most of the modern, commercially available “buttermilk” is cow’s milk to which souring agents have been added, but any baker will tell you how to do this yourself. For every cup (235 ml) of nondairy milk, just add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar, and allow the soured milk to stand for 10 minutes before adding to recipes. Voilà—you have “buttermilk.”
When first starting out, it can help to have a list of non-vegan ingredients that are not so well-known but often show up in products used for baking.
Most margarine and butter substitutes have whey, which is a dairy product. At least one has fish oil, and one is made with gelatin. Fortunately there are many vegan choices for margarine or “buttery spreads.” All varieties of Earth Balance are vegan. Soy Garden, Willow Run, and Spectrum are also vegan. Most varieties of Smart Balance have whey, but Smart Balance Light is vegan. The same goes for Blue Bonnet and Blue Bonnet Light. You may occasionally find other varieties of Smart Balance that are vegan. note that the formulations may change from time to time. Earth Balance seems to be the favorite, but everyone has different tastes. Note that palm oil is also a concern in some of these brands.
Margarine in the UK, here are the recommendations from Viva!: “Most supermarkets stock at least one suitable own brand margarine or look for Pure’s Dairy Free Soya Spread or Dairy Free Sunflower Spread. Health food shops will also stock a selection of vegan margarines including: Granose’s Vegetable margarine; Suma’s Sunflower Spread, Organic Reduced Fat Sunflower Spread, or their Soya Spread; Biona Organic Vegetable Margarine and Organic Olive Extra Margarine—made with olive oil; Vitaquell Extra Dairy Free or Bio Organic margarine. If you like a block of ‘butter-style’ margarine for baking, try Rakusen’s Tomor, available from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and many health food shops.” A popular vegan margarine in Australia is Nuttelex. In New Zealand, Olivani is the most commonly-available vegan margarine.
Make your own margarine: For a number of reasons (e.g., cost, flavor, sustainability), you may want to make your own vegan butter. It’s easier than you think.
Non-dairy whipped toppings usually contain casein (often in the form of sodium caseinate), which comes from cow’s milk. You can, however, buy vegan whipped cream: Soyatoo offers both soy-based and non-soy-based options.
You can also make homemade vegan whipped cream with just a few ingredients; recipes, such as this one and this one, are on the web. If you want to get a little more involved, you can make a rich whipped topping from cashews.
Gelatin is made from animals’ skin, bones, and connective tissue. It shows up in some candies, such as jelly beans and candy corn. Gelatin is also in most marshmallows. (Marshmallow creme and similar “gooey” marshmallow products usually contain egg whites.) Sweet & Sara and Dandies are two vegan marshmallow brands; Sweet & Sara has quite a few varieties. Ricemellow is a vegan marshmallow creme.
Honey is basically stolen from bees, who work for months and visit up to two million flowers to make a pound of honey, which they use as food. Easy-to-find alternatives for honey in baking include agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup.
Reminder: Egg Beaters, Better ‘N Eggs®, and similar liquid egg “substitutes” are made from eggs. (See the Baking Without Eggs section for vegan egg substitutes.)
When in doubt, read the ingredients on the packaging, especially with product lines that have a mix of vegan and non-vegan items. Some products make it easy for you by clearly indicating on the packaging that they are vegan.
- If you’re looking to buy the most ethically-sourced chocolate, the Food Empowerment Project has a guide to vegan chocolate.
- If you’re trying to avoid palm oil, you can make surprisingly easy and delicious homemade vegan butter (although it does require a food processor). VeganBaking.net has a great article on the whys and hows of making your own vegan butter and shortening. In fact they have recipes for a variety of vegan butters, incuding banana and white chocolate.