Vegan tacos. Vegan food substitutions.

Best Food Substitutions for a Vegan Diet

In a world where nearly every form of agriculture and every aspect of life displaces animals or insects in some fashion being a true vegan can seem impossible. However, the goal of living a vegan lifestyle is to minimize harm as much as possible. One way to do that is find alternative foods that don’t require the lives of animals. Here’s a look at some favorite vegan substitutions. 

Protein

A big concern of vegans is getting sufficient protein. Not having enough can eventually lead to insufficient iron levels, which is dangerous. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate protein into your meal, there are several different plant-based options. Beans are an obvious choice; not only are they a tasty side dish but you can make burritos, dips, and even black bean burgers. 

Other good places to find protein include leafy greens, whole wheats, lentils, brown rice, nuts and nut-butters, seeds, and tofu. You can also find meat alternatives in your grocery store, and many of these are fortified not only with protein but other vitamins found in meat.

Calcium

Although there is no evidence that vegans wind up with broken bones more often than meat eaters, not enough calcium is still a concern for anyone who avoids dairy products. While many experts recommend a calcium supplement for vegans, you can still include calcium through vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, bok choy, okra, or mustard greens. Soy milk often comes fortified so that you can still get your calcium with your cereal.

Dairy Products

If you can’t live without your ice cream, yogurt, and sour cream, you can still be a vegan. Many companies offer vegan alternatives; look for “nondairy” labels. Crumble tofu to replace ricotta cheese, and find a vegan cheese that tastes right to you. Coconut yogurts come in all different flavors, perfect for eating or baking, and soy yogurt can take the place of sour cream. 

Coconut cream, cashew cream, and silken tofu can all be used in place of whipping cream -- but you may not get that same light and creamy texture. Additionally, there are a variety of vegan butter brands available, but if you’re looking for a different taste or texture you can make your own. Recipes vary, but usually center around alternative oils. 

Eggs

It may be easy enough to knock scrambled eggs off your breakfast menu, but we use eggs for much more than just themselves. Bread, cookies, cake -- all kinds of baked goods require eggs for substance and glue. While a tofu scramble might go well with your faux-con, it won’t hold a chocolate cake together. Many recipes that call for eggs work just as well, sometimes even better, with applesauce or mashed bananas (although you may not want to add as much sugar). 

Other substitutes for eggs in baking include pureed tofu, specially designed egg substitute, or VegKitchen’s flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons liquid). Use soymilk to brush the edges of your pie crust, and instant potato flakes or tomato paste to hold a vegan meatloaf together.