Excerpted from All American Vegan
It has been said of vegans that we practice our diet with the fervor of religious conviction. And, as in any religion, we have our rituals. One of our most important observances, of equal significance to the “Grilling of the Waiter” sacrament, is the one we ceremoniously perform whenever we encounter a new or unfamiliar product at the grocery store—the “Reading of the Label.” We need to know: vegan or heretic? No ordinary experience, the “Reading of the Label” has all the gravity of a search for hanging chads: sweat pours off your brow, eyes bulge wide, and the mouth appears slightly agape, ready for the cheer or grunt that invariably follows.
At its core, this practice is one of faith in natural food companies. We take the time to interrupt our shopping with an ingredient-by-ingredient scan of a product fairly confident that in this day and age any new vegetarian food will be suitable for the booming number of vegans as well. Sometimes, however, our trust is betrayed, and these are the times that try our souls. How many vegans can relate a similarly tragic tale: from across the aisle they catch your eye—a new type of cookie. Perhaps they’ll taste like Chips Ahoy, your childhood favorite! Admonishing yourself to curb your enthusiasm until you can confirm the product’s veganocity, you approach the colorful display and pick up the box of cookies to read the ingredients. Halfway through your scan of the so-far totally vegan list, you begin to convince yourself that everything is going to work out fine, when suddenly… No way! Does that say “whey”?* “Dang,” you mutter to yourself as you dejectedly put the cookies back on the shelf.
It doesn’t have to be this way! That one party-crashing ingredient defiling an otherwise totally vegan product simply isn’t necessary. It can easily be replaced with a vegan alternative. Here’s an amazing yet little-known fact to most non-vegans: eggs, butter, milk, and their various derivatives are not required when baking cookies, cakes, pies, or pastries. These animal products can be substituted with a vegan alternative with no substantive change to the taste or texture of the treats. Yet many companies marketing vegetarian products continue to lose the vegan market share. While we wait for them to figure this out and adjust their products accordingly, we’ll content ourselves with buying the many vegan treats already available or with veganizing old favorites in our own kitchens.
Butter can be easily replaced with vegan margarine. Non-dairy milks come in many varieties such as those made from soybeans, rice or almonds, and can easily stand-in for cow’s milk when cooking and baking. And in baking, eggs generally serve two purposes—as a binder for the ingredients or as leavening, which helps the item you are preparing rise. Substitutes for each egg being replaced include:
- Powdered egg replacer that is sold in the baking aisle of natural food stores. This can be used when the recipe calls for egg whites or egg yolks as well. It works in both sweet and savory recipes.
- Vigorously mix 1 Tbs. ground flax seed (ground in coffee or spice grinder) and 3 Tbs. warm water
- 1⁄4 cup blended silken tofu
- 1⁄2 banana blended until smooth (use only if a slight banana flavor is acceptable in the recipe)
- 1⁄4 cup applesauce (use only if a slight apple flavor is acceptable in the recipe)
- 1⁄4 cup vegan mayonnaise (use this alternative only when the recipe also calls for baking powder)
- 1⁄4 cup vegan plain soy yogurt (use this alternative only when the recipe also calls for baking powder)
- Blend 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 Tbs. vegetable oil, and 2 Tbs. warm water
- Separately add 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 Tbs. apple-cider vinegar, and 1 Tbs. warm water to the batter
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*Whey is a dairy product, the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained to make cheese.