Being a vegan is much harder than being a vegetarian. Why? Dairy is why. It’s like they slip some sort of drug in cheese to make us crave more. Oh wait, they do, it’s called hormones. Regardless, dairy is a hard thing to give up when you’ve been eating it since birth. I know from experience. When I first became a vegan (cold-turkey may I add), I was good for about 3 months, and then I started seeing slices of pizza flying in the air! It was then that I decided to find the best dairy substitutes I could, when I got those cravings, I was prepared. Luckily for us, there are so many different lines of non-dairy substitutes out there to please just about everyone. Whether it be milk for your cereal, or cheese for your pizza, here is a guide to helping you satisfy those cravings.
MILK. Finding a non-dairy milk is not hard these days. With so many people going vegan and all of the allergies out there, you can find just about anything you need. Most non-dairy milks come in multiple flavors, such as sweetened, unsweetened, original, chocolate, and vanilla. Here are a few different kinds of non-dairy milk available.
- Soymilk – Probably the most well known of the non-dairy milks. This milk is made from soybeans and can be used in just about anything you would normally use milk in.
- Almond Milk – Quickly becoming the non-dairy milk of choice, almond milk is made from ground almonds and just like soymilk, can be used as a milk substitute in just about anything.
- Rice Milk – Made from brown rice, this milk has a thinner consistancy than soy or almond, so be careful when substituting in recipes that need fat for thickening.
- Coconut Milk – This milk is popping up in grocery stores everywhere. With the health benefits of coconut becoming more well-known, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. They even have a line of Probiotic Coconut Milk. (Note: this coconut milk, which comes in a carton, is different from the canned version)
- Oat Milk – Not as well known as the others, this milk is made from organic oats and contains less sugar than others.
- Hemp Milk – Just like oat milk, this milk is not as well known. It is made from hemp seeds, is quite pricey, but very tasty.
Some of the brands that offer non-dairy milk … Earth Balance, Silk, Almond Breeze, Pacific, Dream, Westsoy, Edensoy, and SoDelicious.
BUTTER. Just because you have become a vegan, doesn’t mean you have to give up yummy baked goods. Most baked goods require butter, and since there aren’t too many non-dairy brands, here are the ones to try.
- Earth Balance – The best brand for non-dairy butter out there! It has a smooth and creamy texture, and tastes exactly like butter! They have many varieties to choose from, such as whipped, olive oil, and even soy-free for those with soy allergies. All varieties come in a tub, but they also carry the original flavor in sticks, which come in handy for baking.
- Smart Balance Light Margarine – This may be easier to find in grocery stores than Earth Balance, and is good for cooking or baking.
SOUR CREAM. Who doesn’t love a nice big dollop of sour cream on their vegetarian chili?
- Tofutti Sour Supreme – The most well known vegan sour cream, Tofutti brand hit the nail on the head with this one. It has a slightly different texture than the original stuff, but tastes just like it. Can be used in baking, cooking, or to make some tasty dips! Try mixing with a packet of onion soup mix for a delicious french onion dip or mixing with a packet of ranch powder (Jewel brand is vegan) to make a vegan version of Ranch dressing.
- Follow Your Heart – The lesser known of the two, but still gets the job done.
CREAM CHEESE. When you’re craving a bagel with cream cheese…
- Tofutti Cream Cheese – Tastes just like the original! Tofutti satisfies multiple pallets by offering not just original, but French Onion, Herbs and Chives, and Garlic and Herbs. This can be used in baking and cooking, and works well in making a vegan cheesecake!
- Follow Your Heart – Again, the lesser known of the 2 brands, and only comes in original flavor.
- Galaxy Nutritional Foods – Never tried this brand’s cream cheese, and probably because I have never seen it in a store.
CHEESE. The most difficult of the dairy products to replicate. There are TONS of brands out there offering non-dairy cheese, but most of them fall EXTREMELY short on taste, smell, and melting properties.
- Daiya – The BEST vegan cheese on the market! This cheese is so similar to the real thing that you may even fool some people! Daiya is made with Tapioca Root instead of soy, so it’s perfect for those with allergies, or those who just want to avoid too much soy in their diets. It comes in Cheddar, Mozzarella, and the newest flavor, Pepperjack. Not one other vegan cheese that I have ever tried has come close to this one, and it actually melts!
- Follow Your Heart – This brand only comes in blocks, is soy based, and comes in Cheddar, Mozzarella, Cheddarjack, and Nacho flavors. Not as easy to find in stores.
- Galaxy Nutrional Foods – This brand’s cheese can be found in many stores, comes in slices or blocks, but doesn’t melt, AT ALL.
- Teese Vegan Cheese – Made here in Chicago by Chicago Soy Dairy, this brand has got something going for them. Their cheese comes in tubes, and does a pretty darn good job of giving things that creamy consistancy. It is sold in 4 flavors, Cheddar, Creamy Cheddar (PERFECT for macaroni and cheese!), Mozzarella, and Nacho. They even make vegan mozzarella sticks, which are nothing short of AMAZING!
MAYONNAISE. When looking for that extra topping for your sandwich, or to make some potato salad, you don’t have to worry about not getting what you’re looking for.
- Follow Your Heart – Makers of the original Veganaise, this mayo is for those who love original Mayonnaise. Comes in original, high omega 3, reduced fat and grapeseed oil.
- Nasoya – For those who like Miracle Whip, this is the one for you.
EGGS. While you can’t replicate an egg, there are ways to get around using the real thing. Eggs are used in baking to provide either leavening or binding (or both). Depending on what you’re baking will depend on what you will need to use.
- Egg Replacer – Ener-G Foods, Bob’s Red Mill, and Orgran all make a powdered egg replacer that when mixed with water create a gelatinous consistancy desired for baking.
- Ground Flax Seed – 1 TBS ground flax seed + 3 TBS water = 1 egg. Flaxseeds have no leavening effect, so some people add a small amount of egg replacer powder to the mix.
- Purees – 1/4 cup of pureed banana, applesauce, pumpkin, or squash = 1 egg. Using a puree will make the final product more soft/moist, so use wisely.
There is SO much you can make vegan by using any of the above-mentioned products. You just have to experiment a little. Stayed tuned for more articles from me containing recipes for delicious meals and desserts using many of these products! Subscribe to the Chicago Vegan Examiner (click on the link at the top of the page) to never miss an article!