How the fuck do I do substitutions?!
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
You want to eat more plant-based but you’re confused as fuck about what to eat, right? You picture your normal meal and just remove the meat and think that’s it, right?
This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people for sure, and something that can make a lot of people think that they’ll never get to enjoy the food they’ve always loved. Well, for starers, hopefully you want to eat healthier anyway - so some of that food is just going to naturally go by way of the dodo for you. But in the meantime there’s no reason why you can’t make plant-based versions of all the foods that you fucking LOVE! Now keep in mind that eating plant-based should mean that you’re eating whole foods - so while I’ll mention some below - keep the overly processed animal-alternatives to a minimal. They aren’t as bad as animal products, but they aren’t super healthy either - they’re often high in not-great-fats. But they’ll do for a treat and while you transition. Baby steps.
So here’s all I could think of - if there’s something you think I missed let me know and I’ll update this bad boy!
So, obviously, this is the big one. But if you’ve been near the internet in the last few months you know that A LOT has changed in the plant-based protein industry recently including a lot of fast-food restaurants realizing they can make money off of it. As such there’s lots of companies like Beyond Meat and Yves putting products into the grocery stores that simulate the look, flavour, and protein profile of meat. THAT SAID - this shit is processed and it shouldn’t be an every day food. If you’re doing this full time and for real you’re going to want to eat REAL fucking food.
A healthier replacement that’s less processed are soy-based alternatives. I’m talking about tofu, tempeh, and seitan. These are the OG of faux-meat replacers. Every time I go onto a group about people starting to transition and I see someone write “I tried tofu and I don’t like it” I just have to roll my fucking eyes.
There’s a million fucking ways to season and cook tofu that it’s im-fucking-possible for someone to make such a statement after “trying it”. You can use firm tofu for stir-frys, you can take silken tofu and blend it into desserts and smoothies, marinate it any-which-way you want since it takes on pretty much any flavour. You can scramble it up like eggs, make sauces from it, sandwiches, the list goes on. Here’s a website that did a really great job at showing some options of all that I’ve mentioned above.
I recommend doing a google search for how to use tempeh and seitan. Seriously, tempeh bacon is the fucking real deal. Most grocery stores will sell it already smoked or marinated. When I first stopped eating meat a decade ago I tried tempeh and thought I didn’t like it. I LOVE IT now.
Now the BEST and healthiest meat substitutes are beans and legumes. Lentils work well as ground beef. Chickpeas are ideal as replacements for chicken or turkey. Beans in general are great for meat substitutes in chilis, etc… You can mix and mash them into burgers too. Mash them up into spreads for sandwiches or just to enjoy with vegetables. Hell - oven roast some for bacon bits!
Beans are cheap as fuck too. Buy them dry and in bulk - but keep a few canned ones on hand for last minute purposes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot I highly recommend investing in one. You can make dry beans into ready-to-eat ones in under an hour.
Here’s one I get asked a lot: what can I put in my coffee?! I drink mine black, so I never worried about that. But the truth is, your average grocery store has SO MANY OPTIONS. Here’s the general list of plant-based milks you could buy: Oat, Hazelnut, Cashew, Macadamia, Almond, Coconut, Rice, Hemp, Soy, Pea, Flax, and Walnut milk. Am I missing any? Probably! Let me know.
Now I know what you’re saying - that’s confusing and overwhelming - just tell me what to fucking buy! It’s complicated. I like almond milk for use in my cereal and smoothies because it’s low in calories, but I would never drink it by the glass. If you want something with a lot of protein then soy is probably your best bet. For coffee a lot of people like oat or cashew milk because it’s thicker like cream - but it’s also higher in calories. It really comes down to a personal preference - so think of the thing that you want to use milk for and google it - I promise you some food-nerd will walk you through it. Maybe I’ll even get off my ass and write a more comprehensive guide to that at some point. But I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried all that are available including oat or cashew - both of which I want to make an excuse to take for a spin.
If you’ve got a nut bag you can make your own milk from a lot of these sources. I was making my own almond milk for a while, and oat milk looks easy as fuck to make. If you are buying store bought go for the unsweetened variety, and make sure it’s not full of extra shit it doesn’t need. Read the ingredients - there shouldn’t be much more than what it’s made of plus water. Sometimes they add B12, which is fine, but if it’s full of a bunch of shit that doesn’t sound like food look for another brand.
If you’re curious about the nutritional info on various milks, Earth911 has a handy guide below for your viewing pleasure:
Here’s another one. “I want to go plant-based but I could never give up cheeeeeeeeeeeese!” Yeah, yeah. I thought the same thing. Guess what - the world is fucking lousy with dairy-free cheese alternatives. It’s INSANE.
But as with most non-animal products there’s no one-size fits all. What you want the cheese for changes which kind you should buy - you can get ones that are best for pizza, pasta, cheeseboards, cheddars, cheese sauces, cheesecakes and spreadables.
Vegan Food and Living did a pretty solid breakdown here that I recommend checking out right here.
As with the meat stuff keep in mind that a lot of this is processed and not super healthy. Just like regular cheese this is a treat.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can also make your own vegan cheese at home. I have a recipe I’ll be posting soon - along with a video to show you how I did it. It’s a nice cheddar.
We make our own cheese queso at home and have other cheese sauces we make using nuts - but there’s also nut free recipes out there using stuff like carrots and potatoes. Google is your friend.
Nutritional yeast is a healthy and tasty thing you can sprinkle on meals like it’s parmesan cheese - pretty much any bulk store carries it and most grocery stores as well.
I fucking love ice cream and even when I went plant-based I told myself that I would let myself have REAL ice cream every now and then for a treat - but I stopped after awhile - there’s so many alternatives out there - and major companies are making them such as Ben & Jerry’s are even making them. Most dairy freezers in grocery stores will have numerous options - again just read the ingredients and get the one that looks like it has the least amount of weird added shit to it. If you can find plant based ice cream made with Tiger Nuts then THAT is the gold standard, IMO. It’s amazing.
Alternatively if you’ve got a high-speed blender at home you can make your own delicious (and even nutritious) plant-based ice cream. Here’s a recipe I’ve made at home a LOT.
Most homemade ice creams call for frozen fruit - bananas being the most popular, some use nuts, coconut milk/cream, etc… again - google is your friend here - the internet is loaded with plant-based ice cream recipes!
If you’re looking for a replacement for eggs for breakfast a lot of people just love sliced or mashed avocado on toast. Alternatively there’s tons of scrambled tofu recipes out there for making a lovely decent scrambled egg variation. Here’s the one that I used as a basis (and then load up with veggies!)
But what about recipes for baking? NO FEAR! Seriously, this is easy-as-fuck. Here’s a bunch of ways that you can swap out eggs for baking in any recipe. The following are for 1 egg:
Mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 2 ½ tablespoons of water and let sit 10 minutes before using.
Mix 1 Tbsp chia seed with 3 tablespoons water and let sit for 15 minutes before using
Use ¼ cup applesauce
Use ½ of a mashed banana
Use ¼ cup of silken tofu
Mix 3 Tbsp of chickpea flour with 3 Tbsp water
Mix 2 Tbsp of cornstarch with 3 Tbsp water
Mix 1 Tbsp soy protein powder with 3 Tbsp water
Mix 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder with 3 Tbsp water
3 Tablespoons unwhipped aquafaba (juice from a can of chickpeas)
Two tablespoons aquafaba for egg yolks
One tablespoon aquafaba for egg whites.
BUTTER & OIL
So this one is controversial - particularly in terms of oil since a lot of people be-all-like “Avocado and Olive oil are healthy, yo!” No. They aren’t. Oil is oil. It’s 100 empty low nutrient-dense calories that you just don’t fucking need. There are healthier, natural ways to replace oil and butter when you’re cooking or baking anything.
Sautéing vegetables? If you don’t have a non-stick pan you can simply use water or vegetable broth. Most veggies create their own water after a few seconds, so you don’t need much. Start with a little and add some more if needed. Save yourself that 100 calories of oil per tbsp and add more fucking vegetables or beans!
You use oil for salad dressing? Stop! Why use that when you could use something like a vinegar - either balsamic or apple cider - which only has a fraction of the calories? OR use a nut or seed butter, tahini, or avocado to make it fattier and denser and more filling. If you’re going to eat those calories you should feel them! Go to the course of the actual food!
Baking? Easy fucking peasy. Super ripe bananas are a great replacement for things like cookies, quick breads, or pancakes. Apple sauce is great in baking for things like cakes and muffins. Prune puree and nut-butters are another option with the nut-butter helping give it that fatty taste you want from butter in some baking. Sure, there are loads of plant-based butters - but they’re also filled with oils. Why not try these replacements that are real food first?
Yes. Honey isn’t plant-based. A lot of people let it slide - and it’s totally fine. Make your own fucking choice on this one.
But for our money we often prefer to use maple syrup.
We also make our own date syrup - super easy (google that shit - all you need is a blender or food processor, dates and some warm water). Molasses is also a great natural sweetener, though it’s a bit intense for most things.
That’s right - you can’t technically eat jello when you’re fully plant-based ‘cause it’s made from fucking horse bones and stuff. I recommend Agar - it makes things nice and jiggly. It’s a solid thickener and it’s made from stuff from the sea! I’ve used it to make vegan jello and to thicken my homemade vegan cheese. Most bulk stores carry it!
So that’s a lot to get you started! Enjoy this world and explore! And if I missed a category let me know and I’ll add it! Or if you’ve got something you think I should include in one of these categories give me a holler!