Vegetarianism has become so mainstream that most people have a basic understanding that meat is not essential for a healthy diet. Mention you’re vegan, however, and it’s still not uncommon for people get really confused how you live without dairy and eggs. The cool part for those of us who have been veggies for a while is that the last few years has seen an explosion of vegan-friendly products hit the market to supplement our homemade versions. Below are some common cow juice products and their vegan equivalents (many of which are even more delicious, like Coconut Whipped Cream and fresh almond milk).
Fluid milk consumption has been falling in the US since the 1970s, leaving a wide market for non-dairy alternatives. Almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and soy milk are just a few of the options now found in mainstream supermarkets. Each milk has a different flavor and consistency (and even the sweetened ones usually have less that the 13g of sugar found in one cup of cow’s milk). I prefer the unsweetened, unflavored versions (usually “original”, not vanilla or chocolate) for most recipes. Each milk has varying amounts of protein, calories, and other nutrients (very little in almond milk, more in soy milk, for example) so check the label to see which is best for you.
Butter is also easy to replace. Coconut, olive, avocado and other plant-oils can be used while cooking. For baking and spreading on toast, I prefer vegan butters such as Earth Balance. So good!
Vegan buttermilk is a cinch to make. Just stir in 1 teaspoon. apple cider or white vinegar per 1 cup vegan milk and let sit for two minutes. That’s it! The milk will be slightly curdled and thickened and has that important tang from the vinegar. Vegan buttermilk is especially good in buttermilk pancakes.
You may have heard of a little David and Goliath battle between vegan Just Mayo and Unilever (spoiler: Unilever dropped the suit, turns out eggs aren’t want makes mayo delicious). I also love Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise with Grapeseed Oil but there are a lot of great vegan mayo options on the market now. You can also make your own at home but I like the commercial versions and haven’t tried it yet.
I can honestly say that even if dairy whipped cream was somehow magically plant-based, I would still keep making Coconut Whipped Cream because it’s simply yummier. Be sure to used canned coconut milk and not the kind that comes in the dairy case – the higher fat content is necessary for whipping.
Cream cheese gets a little harder. I love some of the commercial versions but it takes some trial and error to find one you like and the ingredient lists can get a little over long. Cashew based homemade versions have fewer ingredients and are something I plan to explore soon.
Cheese is the hardest cow dairy product to replace, partially because of it’s unique texture and melting properties and partially because it may be addictive. When you digest casein, a milk protein, protein fragments called casomorphins form. Some researchers (not all) believe that casomorphins have an opioid effect, meaning the reward center of your brain gets stimulated when you eat cheese which could lead to legitimate cheese-addiction. Whether this is true or not, cheese is found in many comfort foods in our culture, making it one of the hardest animal products to give up. While commercial vegan cheese products exist for everything from shredded cheese to slices to shaker cheese, these products are highly processed as so are best for transitioning or as an occasional treat. Nutritional yeast imparts a great cheesy flavor to everything from biscuits to pasta sauces and packs a nutritional punch. Try our Kale Rice Casserole to get a sense of the cheesy flavor. You can also make a tofu “ricotta” by combining nooch, tofu, salt, pepper, and maybe a little garlic.
What are your favorite vegan dairy products? Which cow dairy products did you find hardest to replace?