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The transition to a plant-based lifestyle can be daunting without the right tools. But with some information, you can make small changes in your diet that can significantly impact you over time. With a few easy food swaps over time, you can continue your plant-based journey with more whole foods without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. While there are plenty of premade store-bought alternatives to items like meat, bacon, and chicken, I've only listed whole-food, plant-based options in this post.
Satisfying and easy food swaps for meat can be challenging when beginning a plant-based diet. Here are some whole food options:
- Tofu and Tempeh: These versatile soy products can be sliced, diced, or crumbled to replace meat in various dishes. Tofu has a soft, creamy texture, while tempeh is denser and has a nutty flavor. Try this High Protein Tofu Scramble recipe for a delicious breakfast.
- Seitan: Seitan is also known as wheat meat or wheat protein. It is made from wheat gluten and has a meat-like texture that is perfect for grilling or frying. Try this High Lupini Protein Seitan recipe.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are excellent protein sources. They can be used instead of meat in many recipes. Try Black Bean Tostadas for a delicious bean-filled meal.
- Jackfruit: This fruit has a stringy texture similar to pulled pork, making it a popular choice for vegan barbecue dishes. You can buy it in a can at Trader Joe's or Native Forest Organic Jackfruit on Amazon, which makes for easy work. Use it in these delicious Vegan Jackfruit Quesadillas.
Dairy products are hard to give up for some people, but with so many delicious plant-based alternatives, you'll find the right milk swap.
- Almond Milk: This nutty-flavored milk is low in calories and high in calcium, making it an excellent option for anyone looking to cut back on dairy.
- Coconut Milk: This creamy milk has a sweet, tropical flavor that works well in smoothies, curries, and soups like Vegan White Lasagna Soup.
- Oat Milk: Made from oats, oat milk is creamy and smooth. It is a good choice for anyone allergic to nuts or soy. Try this delicious Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese with oat milk.
- Cashew Milk: This rich and creamy milk is perfect for making cream sauces, soups, and smoothies.
Heavy Cream or Condensed Milk Alternatives
There are several food swaps for heavy cream or condensed milk that you can use in your cooking and baking. Here are some options:
- Coconut cream: Coconut cream is a rich and creamy alternative to heavy cream. Made from the flesh of the coconut, substitute heavy cream with this delicious cream.
- Cashew cream: Soaked cashews are blended with water to make cashew cream. It has a rich and creamy texture and is an excellent substitute for heavy cream in sauces, soups, and desserts.
- Soy cream: Made from soy milk, soy cream has a similar texture and taste to heavy cream. It is a good substitute in recipes that call for heavy cream.
- Almond milk cream: With a similar texture and taste to heavy cream, almond milk cream is a good substitute for heavy cream.
- Oat cream: With a creamy texture similar to heavy cream, oat milk is another good substitute in recipes that call for heavy cream.
- Coconut condensed milk: Coconut condensed milk is a vegan alternative to condensed milk. It is made from coconut milk and sugar and has a similar texture and taste to condensed milk.
Eggs are a staple ingredient in many recipes, but here are several plant-based food swaps that you can use instead:
- Flax or Chia Seeds: Mixing 1 tablespoon of flax or chia seeds with three tablespoons of water makes a great egg substitute for baking. Try it in Soft Vegan Gingerbread Cookies.
- Silken Tofu: People blend and use silken tofu to replace eggs in recipes such as frittatas, quiches, and baked goods.
- Aquafaba: You can whip the starchy liquid from a can of chickpeas into a fluffy meringue-like texture and use it in place of eggs in many recipes.
- Egg Replacer: There are many egg replacers on the market. Manufacturers make many egg replacers from potato starch, tapioca starch, leavening, and a few other ingredients. My favorite is from Bob's Red Mill, but all the brands I have used have been great.
There are so many alternatives to honey. There is no need to use a sweetener made by bees. Here are a few options:
- Agave nectar: Agave nectar is a sweet syrup similar in taste and consistency to honey. It comes from the sap of the agave plant.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup is a popular sweetener that comes from the sap of maple trees. These Vegan Chocolate Chip Energy Balls re delicious with maple syrup.
- Molasses: Molasses is a thick, dark syrup made from sugar cane. People often use it in baking because it has a strong flavor.
- Date syrup: Date syrup is a sweet syrup made from dates with a rich, caramel-like flavor. It can be a good substitute for honey in many recipes.
- Brown rice syrup: Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from brown rice. It has a mild flavor that can be used in baking.
- Coconut nectar: People make coconut nectar by collecting sap from coconut flowers. It is a sweet syrup.. It has a mild flavor and is a good substitute for honey in many recipes.
There are several food swaps you can use for chicken. Here are some options:
- Tofu: Tofu is a versatile ingredient. Use it in various dishes, including stir-fries, curries, and sandwiches. It is a soy-based product that can be made to have a texture similar to chicken. If you freeze tofu in its original container and defrost it, the texture changes and is more porous, which allows it to absorb marinades and flavors more easily. This chicken-like texture can easily taste like chicken with a marinade and a coating.
- Seitan: People make seitan by using wheat gluten. It is a protein-rich food that has a chewy texture you can use as a substitute for chicken in many recipes. Try this High Protein Lupini Seitan for a homemade version.
- Tempeh: Tempeh has a nutty flavor and chewy texture and is made by fermenting soybeans. Use tempeh instead of chicken in stir-fries and salads like Arugula and Pear Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette.
- Jackfruit: You can use jackfruit as a substitute for chicken in dishes like Vegan Jackfruit Nachos.
- Chickpeas: You can mash chickpeas and use them as a base for veggie burgers or use them instead of chicken in dishes like salads and curries. Try Roasted Chickpeas Croutons for a great snack.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms have a meaty texture. Try different kinds to find mushrooms that suit you. They are a tasty alternative to chicken in dishes like stir-fries and stews. Try Walnut Meat for a plant-based, delicious meat alternative made with mushrooms and walnuts.
There are several vegan food swaps for buttermilk that you can use in recipes. Here are some options:
- Soy milk + vinegar or lemon juice: Combine 1 cup of soy milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until it thickens and curdles. Substitute 1 cup of buttermilk in recipes like in Vegan Buttermilk Pumpkin Pancakes.
- Almond milk + vinegar or lemon juice: Like soy milk, you can combine 1 cup of almond milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to create a vegan buttermilk substitute.
- Coconut milk + vinegar or lemon juice: If you're looking for a more decadent, creamier substitute, you can use 1 cup of canned coconut milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.
- Vegan yogurt: You can also use a vegan yogurt, such as soy or coconut yogurt, as a substitute for buttermilk in recipes. Use an equal amount of yogurt in place of the buttermilk.
- Vegan sour cream: Another option is to use a vegan sour cream, such as a cashew-based or soy-based sour cream, as a substitute for buttermilk. Use an equal amount of sour cream in place of the buttermilk.
As a vegan, there are several plant-based alternatives to bacon that you can use to add a smoky, savory flavor to your dishes. Here are some options:
- Tempeh bacon: You can slice and season tempeh, a fermented soybean product, to make a bacon-like substitute. Mix the tempeh with soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup, and spices, and then bake or fry it until crispy.
- Coconut bacon: Coconut flakes can be seasoned with smoked paprika, liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple syrup to create a crunchy, smoky bacon substitute. You can use coconut bacon in sandwiches, salads, or as a topping for baked potatoes.
- Mushroom bacon: You can season sliced shiitake mushrooms with liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple syrup to create a savory and umami-rich bacon alternative. You can bake or fry the mushrooms until crispy and use them in sandwiches, salads, or as a pizza topping.
- Seitan bacon: You can season and slice seitan, a high-protein wheat-based meat alternative, to create a bacon-like substitute. You can make seitan bacon by seasoning the dough with liquid smoke, soy sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder and then cooking it in a pan or oven until crispy.
- Eggplant bacon: Season thinly sliced eggplant with liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple syrup to create a tender and smoky bacon alternative. You can bake or pan-fry the eggplant until crispy and use it in sandwiches, salads, or as a topping for burgers.
Fish Sauce Alternatives
As a vegan, you can use several alternatives to fish sauce to add umami flavor to your dishes. Here are some options:
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a fermented soybean product that is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. It has a salty and savory flavor that can substitute fish sauce in recipes like Smoky Glazed Mushrooms.
- Tamari: Tamari is a type of soy sauce that is gluten-free because it is made without wheat. It has a richer and less salty flavor than regular soy sauce, making it an excellent alternative to fish sauce.
- Miso paste: People commonly use miso, a fermented soybean paste, in Japanese cuisine. It has a rich, savory flavor that is used as a substitute for fish sauce in marinades, dressings, and soups.
- Mushroom sauce: Mushroom-based sauces, such as oyster or mushroom soy sauce, can provide a similar umami flavor to fish sauce. These sauces come from mushrooms that are fermented with salt and soy sauce.
- Seaweed-based products: Some vegan companies make seaweed-based products designed to mimic the flavor of fish sauce. Manufacturers usually make these products from seaweed extract, salt, and other seasonings. Use them as a 1:1 substitute for fish sauce in recipes.
There are several food swaps for yogurt that you can use in recipes or enjoy on your own. Here are some options:
- Soy yogurt: People make soy yogurt by fermenting soy milk with live cultures. It has a similar texture and tangy flavor to dairy-based yogurt, making it a popular alternative.
- Almond yogurt: Almond yogurt comes from almond milk fermented with live cultures. It has a slightly nutty flavor and a creamy texture.
- Coconut yogurt: Coconut yogurt comes from coconut milk fermented with live cultures. It has a rich, creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavor.
- Cashew yogurt: Cashew yogurt is made from cashew milk fermented with live cultures. It has a creamy texture and a slightly nutty flavor.
- Oat yogurt: Oat yogurt comes from oat milk fermented with live cultures. It has a slightly sweet flavor and a creamy texture.
Starting a plant-based lifestyle can be a significant change, but it can be a delicious and fulfilling journey armed with the knowledge of a few easy whole-food swaps.
Take it slow and do these food swaps as you explore throughout your plant-based journey. You don't have to sacrifice flavor or nutrition. As always, remember to pay attention to your nutrient intake with various foods, colors, and enough calories to satisfy your needs.