Baking is a science that takes precision. If you overmix a batter, you’ll be left with unpleasantly chewy cake. If you accidentally use baking soda instead of baking powder, then you’re probably going to get a sad, bitter baked good that hasn’t risen properly. Many kitchen failures have taught me that it’s critical to have the right pantry ingredients before you begin baking. There’s a little misconception that vegan baking is tricky. But like with traditional baking, it all comes down to using the right ingredients, and when it comes to vegan baking, using the right plant-based swaps is key. Here are some of our favorite vegan baking substitutes.
1. Nature’s Charm
There are so many options to choose when it comes to replacing eggs, milk, and butter in vegan baking (even egg whites—thanks, aquafaba!). But some ingredients have been more elusive, like sweetened condensed milk, a key ingredient in tres leches cake, magic cookie bars, and fudge.
Nature’s Charm, a Thailand-based brand run by sisters Sonya and Marisa Osonphasop, changed the vegan baking game by making it easy to recreate family recipes. They launched the world’s first canned Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk in 2014 and followed it up with another first: Evaporated Coconut Milk, which can be used to make homemade dairy-free ice cream and a vegan pumpkin pie. It’s also great in coffee and tea.
And if you need to enhance your desserts, try the Coconut Whipping Cream. It works like traditional whipping cream: chill the can, pour it into a cold metal bowl, and whip it good. How you use it is between you and your kitchen (we suggest having it on ice cream, on brownies, by the spoonful…). Now is a good time to also mention Nature’s Charm Dessert Toppings—sweet, gooey, dairy-free sauces that come in flavors including Caramel, Salted Caramel, Butter Scotch, Chocolate Fudge, and Matcha. Each flavor is made to give desserts that finishing touch that takes it from good to unforgettable.
The Osonphasop family has been working with coconuts for decades, from trading coconuts in the 1930s to opening Thailand’s first coconut milk factory in 1976. To learn more about Nature’s Charm and its products, see here.
2. Nutiva Buttery Coconut Oil
Butter gives baked goods a rich flavor and tender texture, which is why some cookies melt in your mouth. It also helps leaven some baked goods, like puff pastry. Coconut oil, which like butter, is solid at room temperature, is a reliable butter substitute (see here for more options), but it misses the mark on flavor. Nutiva’s organic Buttery Coconut Oil adds that buttery flavor thanks to extracts of sunflower seeds, coconut, and mint. It also contains high concentrations of MCTs and lauric acid.
3. Egg Replacer
Most baked goods call for eggs, playing the critical role of providing shape, structure, and moisture. But they’re not necessary: eggs can be replaced with whole plant foods like flax and chia seeds or even mashed banana. There are also direct replacements, like the Ener-G Egg Replacer, which contains the equivalent of 100 eggs per box. This powdered egg substitute has been a go-to staple of home bakers for years. Check out our guide on replacing eggs in baking for more options.
A lot of recipes call for egg whites, from your meringues and macarons to Swiss buttercream and angel food cake. Whipping egg whites forces air into them, which in turn stretches out the proteins and exposes hydrophobic (water-repelling) amino acids that were hidden inside and eventually leaves you with the coveted stiff peaks needed to bake. Aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, can do egg whites’ job. It reacts similarly to egg whites when whipped and can replace them in recipes (I highly recommend joining the group Aquafaba (Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses!) to see what people can do with aquafaba). If you’re not planning on making anything with chickpeas, try Haden’s Aquafaba, which comes prepackaged so you can use it whenever you’re ready to bake.
5. Unsweetened Soymilk
When it comes down to the wire, any plant milk will do. But unsweetened soymilk gets bonus points for its versatility. It has a high protein content, so it helps you achieve those baked goods with that oh-so-desirable browning. The protein is also why it makes such a great substitute for buttermilk (just mix 1 cup of soy milk with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and let it sit for around 10 minutes). For rich desserts like pies and custards, you can’t go wrong with soymilk. Its flavor is also hard to detect, which can be the case with hemp or coconut milk. Try any unsweetened soymilk—my personal favorites are the 365 by Whole Foods Unsweetened Soymilk and Trader Joe’s organic shelf-stable soymilk.
6. Vegan Chocolate Chips
Chocolate is beloved by many for so many reasons. But it’s important to ensure that you’re buying ethically-sourced cacao. Hu’s Gems Snacking & Baking Chocolates are free from dairy, palm oil, emulsifiers, and refined sugar. They’re versatile, too; you can use them for chocolate chip cookies, melt them down for butter cups and chocolate cakes, bake them into brownies, and more.
7. Organic Sugar
Not all sugar is vegan. In the U.S., most white cane sugar is processed with bone char, which gives it its pristine white color. The same goes for powdered sugar, a key ingredient in making buttercream, glazes, fudge, and candy. While not everyone avoids white sugar for this reason, some choose not to, as the refining process involves animal ingredients. Organic sugar is processed without bone char, making it suitable for anyone who wants to avoid bone char. Try Anthony’s Organic Cane Sugar and Wholesome Organic Powdered Sugar for all of your baking needs.
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