13 vegan substitutes you need to know about when you first go vegan

Read Time:   |  4th November 2021

Don't know where to start on your vegan journey? Here are 13 vegan substitutes for baking and cooking that will make going vegan simple.

Going vegan can seem daunting at first, partly due to the sheer amount of plant-based substitutes on the market.

But to help you with your transition to veganism, we’ve featured 13 vegan substitutes that will make it that much easier.

Including everything from vegan cheese to tofu, we’ve got you covered!

1. Tofu

tofu and soy beans - vegan substitutes

Tofu is one of the most versatile vegan substitutes on the market as it can be used in so many different cuisines, dishes, and formats.

What’s more, it is also the most accessible meat replacement and can be found in all major supermarkets across the UK.

It’s high in protein, soaks up the flavours of your dish, and provides minerals and vitamins including calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Firstly, it comes in two main varieties: firm or silken. For the majority of dishes, you will be looking for firm tofu (or extra firm if you can find it!) as this is the variety used most widely.

Firm tofu holds its shape well while frying or baking it, making it the perfect choice for stir-fries, curries and salads.

On the other hand, silken tofu has a whole host of different uses.

While it is primarily used for making a vegan version of scrambled eggs, it can also be blended into recipes to create high protein desserts, pasta sauces.

Silken tofu is so versatile in fact that it can even mimic ricotta cheese.

There is so much you can do with tofu, so it is the perfect vegan substitute to experiment with!

2. Aquafaba

aquafaba - vegan substitutes

Aquafaba is the liquid found in a tin of cooked pulses or legumes. Believe it or not, this unusual vegan ingredient makes a great vegan egg substitute!

Although you can use the liquid from any canned beans, (with the exception of baked beans of course!), chickpeas are typically used thanks to their natural flavour.

Its combination of proteins, soluble plant solids and starches can be used for a variety of cooking processes including thickening, binding, gelatinising, and emulsifying.

While it can simply be obtained from a can of chickpeas, you can also buy a carton of aquafaba from the brand OGGS. This is perfect if you need a higher quantity of aquafaba that is ready to use for batch baking.

The versatile liquid can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and can even be whipped up into a simple vegan mayonnaise. Who knew?

From chocolate mousse to pavlova to quiche, there are countless recipes for aquafaba, but we narrowed it down to the 26 best ones. Let’s get baking!

3. Jackfruit

jackfruit - vegan substitutes

Set to become one of the hottest vegan food trends of 2022, jackfruit is one of the most popular and best vegan meat substitutes.

Jackfruit can replicate a vast number of animal products from chicken to pork thanks to its meaty texture and neutral taste that allows it to absorb marinades beautifully.

Jackfruit even makes a great vegan fish substitute which you can use to make recipes like ‘crab’ cakes.

One of our favourite ways to use jackfruit is to marinate and bake it in BBQ sauce and pile it on a burger as ‘pulled pork’.

But if that isn’t your vibe, we have plenty of healthy jackfruit recipes on our website to inspire you.

Want more tips and advice on how to go vegan? Read these articles next: 

4. Tempeh

tempeh - vegan substitutes for meat

Tofu’s soya-based cousin tempeh is another versatile meat substitute that can be used in a multitude of ways.

While tofu often needs to be pressed to release excess water, tempeh is much firmer and can be used straight from the packet.

Similarly, it works extremely well in stir-fries and curries, and it also makes a delicious bacon alternative.

Simply marinate it in smoky flavours and cut it into thin strips before frying until crisp.

Tempeh also brings additional health benefits to tofu as it is a fermented product.

This means that it contains gut-friendly probiotic bacteria for improving digestion, balancing the gut flora, and boosting the immune system.

While less accessible than tofu, tempeh is stocked in a few major supermarket retailers, so you should be able to find it wherever you are in the UK.

5. Seitan

Seitan

If you want to go vegan but have an intolerance or allergy to soy, seitan may be the best meat alternative for you.

The wheat-based, high protein replacement comes from gluten and is simple to make at home.

You might have seen the viral videos on TikTok recently where influencers made ‘chicken’ from flour – that’s seitan!

Aside from being simple to make and great for soy-free vegans, seitan is also incredibly versatile.

Similar to tofu, it is pretty flavourless on its own which means it happily soaks up whatever flavours you add to it.

Seitan is most commonly used to replicate chicken because of its texture, but it can also replace sausages, ribs, and even steak!

But if you’re unsure what to do with it, check out these 21 vegan seitan recipes even meat-eaters will love.

6. Vegan egg substitutes

woman baking a cake using olive oil and milk

Want to do some vegan baking but unsure what to use in replacement of those pesky eggs? There are plenty of egg substitutes for vegans available, that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

While you can buy specific egg replacers, vegan baking can be as simple as mashing a ripe banana to replace eggs in a sweet recipe.

Other great egg replacements include chia seeds or ground flaxseeds mixed with a little water to gelatinise, unsweetened applesauce, and aquafaba.

However, if you want to replicate eggs in dishes such as scrambles, omelettes or frittatas, these won’t work.

Instead, you will need a product such as Crack’d, Follow Your Heart or JUST Egg as these will all create ‘eggs’ in their more well-known eggy form.

7. Mock meat

Man eating vegan burger in colourful bun - vegan substitutes for meat

A few years ago, you would struggle to find many vegan mock meats in specialised food shops, let alone major supermarkets. But in 2021, we are spoilt for choice with vegan meat substitutes!

Now, you can find vegan versions of chicken, beef burgers, sausages, ham, mince and even bacon.

There are dozens of innovative brands using everything from wheat to soy to pea protein to replicate meat.

The only problem you have now is choosing which one to try first!

Richmond Meat Free sausages are a winner with omnis and vegans alike, as are Beyond Meat burgers. For chicken, we love Squeaky Bean pieces and chargrills, and Quorn nuggets for a cheeky kids tea!

8. Plant milk

Plant milks in glass bottles

When it comes to ditching dairy, there are plenty of options to replace it with, all with subtly different tastes and health benefits.

The most common plant milks that you will come across are soya, oat, almond and coconut, but there are dozens more!

If you don’t like all four of those, you can try cashew, macadamia, hemp, hazelnut, pea, rice and even potato milk. The options truly are endless when it comes to vegan milk substitutes!

Our favourites include Alpro Coconut for a creamy hot chocolate or Oatly Barista for the perfect coffee.

9. Vegan butter

Flora Plant Butter - vegan substitutes

In some cases, finding vegan butter can be as simple as swapping from dairy butter to plant-based margarine.

For example, Flora is a household name and popular margarine, but did you know it’s vegan?

Similarly, supermarket giant Tesco’s own brand Sunflower Spread and Light Olive Spread are accidentally vegan.

However, if you prefer the richness of dairy butter, some brands aim to replicate this so you can enjoy it slathered on toast.

Our favourite vegan butter substitutes are Naturli Organic Vegan Spreadable and Mouse’s Favourite. Furthermore, both of these are also palm oil-free!

With so many vegan-friendly spread options now, you can easily try as many as you need to find one that you like.

10. Vegan cheese

woman buying cheese at grocery store

“I wish I could go vegan, but I just can’t live without cheese!” If I had a pound for every time someone had said this to me, I’d be a very rich woman. 

While vegan cheese alternatives aren’t quite there yet, there are some amazing replacements that do the job.

Supermarket options include brands like Violife, Sheese, and Applewood Vegan, but you’ll also find own-brand versions of everything from cheddar to mozzarella to parmesan substitutes for vegans.

If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, there are small businesses creating indulgent artisanal vegan cheeses at a higher price tag.

Some of our favourites include I Am Nut Ok, Mouse’s Favourite, and Tyne Chease. They’re a real treat!

Alternatively, it is pretty simple to make your own vegan cheese. In fact, we’ve put together the 23 best ever vegan cheese recipes for you to try at home.

You can make vegan cheese using cashew, almond, and macadamia nuts, or even tofu! The possibilities truly are endless. Give our recipe guide a read and get inspired!

And if all else fails, you can never go wrong with our beloved nooch (aka nutritional yeast). The cheesy, nutty flakes make the perfect addition to ‘cheese’ sauces and homemade parmesan, plus it’s packed with essential vitamin B12. What’s not to love?

11. Vegan honey alternatives

Plant-based syrups such as maple syrup, agave and coconut nectar make great vegan substitutes for honey.

Plant-based syrups such as maple syrup, agave and coconut nectar make great vegan substitutes for honey.

While some plant-based dieters consider honey to be a grey area, in our eyes honey isn’t vegan.

But don’t fear! There are plenty of other sweeteners on the market to replace it.

Maple syrup and agave are probably the most common alternatives to honey, offering a delicious sweetness with the same benefit of being natural products.

However, you can also try date syrup, rice syrup, and even coconut nectar.

If you’d prefer something that tastes close to bee honey, there are direct vegan honey alternatives you can buy.

Instead of exploiting bees, try Bee Approved vegan honey, or Vegan Honea from Plant-Based Artisan.

Whatever you choose, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth on a vegan diet!

12. Gelatine

pick n mix sweets made with gelatine

Something which can be easily missed by new vegans when ingredient-checking is gelatine. It’s not a common allergen so it doesn’t stand out in bold on ingredient lists.

Gelatine is usually made from pork or beef, but there are vegan-friendly ways of creating gelling agents.

For example, vegetarian sweets use pectin (from fruit) to hold them together instead of animal products.

In baking and cooking, agar-agar is a great replacement for gelatine. It is extremely versatile and is used in a range of great vegan recipes, including fruit and vegetable purees, custards, creams, and sweets.

Agar can be used in a range of dishes from basic clear jelly to enrobe a vegan pork-less pie or line a fruit-flan sponge, to more complex coconut crèmes and panna cotta, ice creams, and light mousse desserts.

Another great alternative is xanthan gum which comes in a white powder and has a similar consistency to cornflour.

Unlike agar-agar, it’s not the best gelling agent for very sweet recipes. However, it can work well in baked recipes such as lemon pies, baked cheesecakes, and key lime pie.

13. Vegan ice cream

Ben & Jerry's non-dairy vegan ice cream range

Thought you couldn’t live without ice cream? Think again!

The global vegan ice cream market is set to be worth a staggering $2.45 billion by 2027, and there’s never been so much choice available to vegans in supermarket freezers.

There are now dozens of vegan alternatives to traditional dairy ice cream, using soy, nut milk, and coconut instead.

In fact, even dairy giant Ben and Jerry’s has brought out a range of vegan ice creams in their iconic flavours such as Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cookie Dough, and Salted Caramel Brownie.

Other great vegan ice creams include Northern Bloc, Roar, Swedish Glace, and Booja Booja. There’s almost too much choice!

We hope you enjoyed reading about these 13 vegan substitutes, and good luck with your vegan transition!

Do you love discovering new vegan products you’ve never tried before?

Don’t miss our guide to all the accidentally vegan products you can find in supermarkets

Written by

Victoria Smith

Victoria Smith

Vic is a freelance writer and content creator, passionate about ethical and environmental issues. When she’s not busy scribbling away she can be found visiting the best vegan restaurants in the UK and making delicious dairy-free coffees at a café in Essex. Her favourite animals are dogs, cows and pigs and her lifelong dream is to open an animal sanctuary with an onsite vegan café. You can find Vic on Instagram @vicsveganeats

victoriasmith.journoportfolio.com/

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