10 Healthy Plant-Based Substitutes for Common Foods

Ready to add more plant based foods to your diet? Whether baking or snacking, this list can help you make the appropriate substitutions.

You don’t have to become a strict vegan to want to add more plant-based foods to your diet. Whether you are making changes for your health, you’re experimenting and expanding your food choices, or you simply need alternatives, there are more options available to consumers than ever before. Here is a list of some plant-based substitutes for traditional animal-based foods.

Meat Substitutes

Indonesian style tempeh

Tempeh – Tempeh is a soy-based product that is traditionally made with soybeans, but can also be made with any type of bean, such as white beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, or chickpeas. Some types of tempeh also include grains, such as brown rice, barley, millet, or seeds. With its nuttier, almost chunky, texture, tempeh works well in chilis and spaghetti in place of ground beef. It is a great way to make “crab” cakes, sans the crab. Tempeh is a good source of not only protein, but manganese, iron, and other trace minerals, and you can usually find it sold in various flavors or plain varieties.

Tofu – Sometimes known as bean curd, tofu is a soybean product made from the curds of soymilk. These curds are pressed into blocks and are made into different textures—soft, firm, extra-firm. High in protein and calcium, this versatile soy product takes on the flavor of whatever you put with it. Press it to create a more meat-like texture, and season it to use in everything from salads to grilled sandwiches.

Portobello Mushrooms – The substantial portobello mushrooms add a hearty and earthy flavor to meatless dishes. It can be sliced or used whole as a meat stand-in for sandwiches; or, you can add them to pastas or rice dishes for a hearty entree rich in riboflavin, niacin, and B vitamins.

Butter Substitutes

Butter is the basis for a lot of baking, as well as for spreading on fresh toast or a stack of pancakes. While one butter might not work for every purpose, there are a number of options out there.

Avocado – Avocado makes for a great choice if you’re looking for a good fat replacement. Although avocado does not contain as much fat as dairy butter, it has no cholesterol, contains less calories, and can be used in a 1 to 1 ratio in your baked goods (1 cup avocado equals 1 cup butter). It does not have the sweetness of applesauce, but maintains a moist, rich texture.

Applesauce – For baking, especially cakes, applesauce is a terrific substitute for butter, as it creates a moist and delicious dessert with far fewer calories. Use it in a 1 to 1 ratio.

Vegan Butter – Mixing fats from cocoa butter, olive oil, or even cashews, vegan butters are made to be spreadable. Their one drawback is that they typically do not melt quite as well as regular dairy-based butter or margarine.

Cheese Substitutes

For those who are switching to a plant-based diet, dairy cheese is often the most difficult food to replace. But with exceptional commercial preparations, along with simple home creations, you won’t miss it a bit.

CashewsCashews have an almost buttery quality, so when combined with vinegar, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and seasonings, it not only provides a powerful dose of vitamin B, but it also makes for a delicious cheese-like spread. You can also make a firmer cheese as a solid parmesan replacement.

Cashew cheese

Potato Provolone: Using a potato starch base, this sliced cheese is perfect for sandwiches, including grilled cheese where you want that scrumptious melt. You can also use it to make a delicious au gratin potato dish with plenty of stringy cheese.

Aquafaba Mozzarella – Aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas that we usually pour down the drain, works as a fantastic binding agent, along with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt to create your own vegan mozzarella.

Egg Substitutes

A staple in the kitchen and on breakfast menus everywhere, people love their eggs. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to replace eggs in baking, as well as in a main course.

Silken Tofu – You can use tofu as an easy, protein-packed replacement for eggs in baking, as long as you’re making a cake or dessert that requires baking powder and baking soda so that they leaven properly. Replace the egg with 1/4 cup silken tofu, and be sure to whip it up before mixing it into the batter.

Organic Raw Soy Tofu on a Background

Arrowroot – Part of what eggs do in baking is bind ingredients together. A plant-based alternative is to mix 2 tablespoons of arrowroot with 3 tablespoons of water.

Chickpea Flour – Also called gram or besan flour, this pea-based flour creates a fantastic scrambled egg substitute when combined with nutritional yeast and kalanamak, a special salt that imparts an egg-like flavor. Cooked up on its own or with an array of vegetables, you have a hearty breakfast.

Applesauce –Substitute ¼ cup of applesauce for 1 egg in baked goods. It helps binds, adds moisture and doesn’t add any cholesterol.

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Deborah Tukua

Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.

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