Oh hi there! It’s been a little bit since I’ve done a VBB post and I have a lot of ideas bouncing around up in my brain, so this time, let’s tackle taking a recipe from not vegan to vegan. Obviously, these rules of thumb apply to baking recipes, since savory and cooking recipes are a bit different. All of this advice is from a couple years of experience and personal preference, so if you have any tips you have found work or are a favorite, chime in!
When I first started out transitioning from the Standard American Diet to a plant based/vegan diet, one of the many fears I had was that I would never again get to enjoy a perfect chocolate chip cookies or a slice of pecan pie at Thanksgiving. I always assumed that if you are vegan, you are either eating really weird desserts (like a banana, not dessert) or not eating dessert at all. Wrong! I don’t know how I quite came about it, but I always knew there were vegan dessert recipes out there, I just wasn’t sure how great they were. You can make cheesecake without cream cheese? Or you nuts in place of cheese? This is just insane. While it might seem crazy to people who haven’t tried vegan desserts, those of you who have tasted a delectable vegan cake or two in your day know it’s completely possible. To best illustrate how I take a non-vegan recipe and make it vegan, let’s use an example!
You may remember that last week I posted these Funfetti Sugar Cookies. Filled to the brim with sprinkles and boasting the crisp exterior of a perfect sugar cookie, these seem impossible to turn vegan, right? The first thing I usually do is look to the original recipe’s ingredient list to see if there is anything that I don’t think can be replaced or replicated. The nice thing about vegan baking is that, oftentimes, anything can be replaced or substituted to yield similar results as the original. This exact reason is why converting recipes in vegan baking is usually easier than dinner recipes or meat based recipes. Let’s look at the ingredient list from Joy’s original recipe for Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies to determine what can be substituted and what it should be substituted with.
In the original recipe, the non-vegan ingredients Joy calls for are 1 stick of unsalted butter and 1 egg. Pretty simple, right? Now, you could go the route of subbing in a stick of Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or a similar vegan butter substitute, but let’s assume you don’t keep those on hand (I don’t!) or aren’t really a fan of using the processed vegan butter substitutes (not my first choice). These butter substitutes can also be costly, so in order to keep you affording to make cookies #alldayeveryday, we need to find a different substitute for the stick of butter.
Usually, I try to forgo as much oil as possible in recipes, simply because it has low nutritional value but a very high amount of calories for the proportion of the amount you are using. But, I have found that for properly crispy cookies (my mom’s favorite!), you do need a bit of fat or oil in the cookie dough. If the time is right or the recipe would fit, I sometimes use peanut butter. Obviously peanut butter has natural oils that lend themselves to creating a crispy cookie, but in this recipe, I don’t think it’s the best fit. I want to keep the idea of a sugar cookie intact. My next option for a butter substitute (and a recent favorite) is coconut oil, which seems like it would be a good fit for this recipe. Coconut oil has a fairly mild or neutral flavor and is much more cost effective than vegan butter substitutes, especially if you can find it at a good price (Trader Joe’s is my go-t0). Since this recipe doesn’t call for melted butter, we are going to use the coconut oil as a solid at room temperature and substitute it cup for cup. I usually try to cut down on the oil a little bit when making recipes and replacing butter, but for this one I kept it at the same amount as the original recipe.
Now, on to the egg substitute for this recipe. As you might remember, I wrote a post on egg substitutes and many other bloggers have as well (here’s another one of my favorites from Fork and Beans) and there are several options. Again, you can go an easy route with using Ener-G, a vegan egg replacer, but let’s assume again that you don’t keep this around or don’t want to dole out the dollars for the expensive stuff. Flax and chia eggs are also a favorite egg replacement, but for a sugar cookie, those would be hard to conceal in a fairly neutral, vanilla cookie dough. One of my favorite ways to subtly substitute an egg, while maintaining the original idea behind a recipe is to use baking soda and apple cider vinegar. When these two ingredients react, they act as a leavener for baking that doesn’t intrude on taste or texture. Since this recipe already had baking soda included, I just increased the amount orginally called for and added apple cider vinegar to the ingredients list. You may also notice that I added in a couple tablespoons of almond milk to the recipe as well. When you think about it, eggs add a decent amount of moisture to a recipe as well. By adding a few tablespoons of plant milk, we are able to keep the cookie dough from drying out, while avoiding a super puffy cookie situation (I speak from a few trails and error).
What’s left to do now? Mix up your dough and bake away! I wanted to walk through the steps of converting over a fairly simple recipe that only needs a couple tweaks, but in a later post I’ll approach how to tackle a harder recipe (one that relies more on eggs and heavy cream, etc.). If you have any questions or recipes that you are stuck on, let me know! I love converting over recipes that people think are impossible to make vegan and delicious!