Are you looking for easy substitutions for converting to healthy vegan recipes? It's not complicated. In fact if you live anywhere with access to a Whole Foods or Trader Joes you may not have to think much about substitutes at all. Many mainstream grocery stores have growing sections of healthy alternatives to your usual dairy, meats and grains.
But, if that's not the case for you, there are some easy substitutions. I live in Cabo San Lucas Mexico with a major grocery store only available by plane or shipped from the US, adding 30% extra cost onto the shipment! There are things that are most likely very accessible for you that are not available here at all, like raw cashews. They seems to be the go to substitute for anything cheese or saucy.
Here are some of the easy substitutes I use when I can't just run to the store.
- Dairy milk is easily subbed out with any nut milk such as soy or almond. Hemp milk is becoming very popular as well. Just Google the health benefits of any possible substitution to help make your personal choice. For buttermilk just add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
- Oil is subbed with sugar free apple sauce or apple baby food. When it's for something dark and rich like brownies, I use prune baby food. And of course you can make your own if you have the time.
- Cheese is easy and hard. If you can get the fake ones, go for it. Otherwise you have to look at what the consistency is and how you're using it. You may be able to sub tofu for cottage cheese or ricotta, or even in a cheese sauce. I sometimes combine tofu and non-dairy yogurt depending on how thick or creamy I need it. Like I said above, I miss out on a lot of recipes because of no access to raw cashews which seem to perform miracles.
- Eggs are another use for tofu. I also use banana as a sub in baking. I've also used what's called the flax egg. It's 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water. Let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.
- Sour cream and cream cheese can be subbed with either non-dairy yogurt or tofu, maybe a combo of both.
- Sugar really depends on if you need something specifically granular or just as sweetener. If it needs to look like sugar, use stevia that is pure stevia. Packaging lies so read the ingredients carefully. If it's for flavor, use maple syrup. If you're not going vegan you can use local honey as a good alternative.
- Meat is a personal choice of how to sub. When I first stopped eating meat almost 25 years ago I lived on all the fake meat substitutes. I've stopped eating any of those because I no longer feel they are healthy choices for me. I use beans, lentils, mushrooms or eggplant with a lot of success in many recipes. You'll get to know where there's something else that will work and where you just no longer make that recipe. For broth or stock, you can buy or make veggie stock. The powdered stuff isn't as good because it usually has a lot of salt. Use the liquid stock/broth. There are plenty of organic brands.
- Ice cream is a great dessert if made with nut milk. My new favorite is coconut milk. I keep a couple cans in the refrigerator so in less than 15 minutes I can have ice cream. I also freeze the most unripe bananas I can find and blend a banana with nut butter, cacao or other ingredients.
That should get you started. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask me in the comments!