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3 Vegan-Friendly Cooking Substitutes That Changed My Life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since switching to a plant-based diet, it’s that there is a vegan substitute for just about everything. Hand me any recipe out of any cookbook, and chances are I can make a vegan version with a few tweaks.

I want to talk about my 3 very favorite substitutes for non-vegan ingredients because these three things have changed my life. You already know the obvious ones—use nut milk instead of cow’s milk, vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth, margarine, vegan butter or vegetable oil instead of butter. I won’t waste your time with all those. These three, though? They just might change your life.


If you don’t already love avocados, I’m not sure we can be friends. (Okay, we can be friends, but I’ll never fully understand you.) Avocados are wonderful for keeping your heart healthy, lowering blood sugar, curbing your appetite… the list goes on! Not only are they healthy and deeply satisfying, but they have that creamy texture you might be missing from dairy products. They have a rich and buttery flavor, but they also have a sweetness to them that you can bring out in certain recipes. I have used these miracle fruits to replace everything from butter and cheese to milk, eggs, cream, and yogurt. Craving a smoothie? Avocados are a great replacement for yogurt. They give you that smooth texture without overloading your smoothie with sweetness. Searching for a salad dressing? Blend some avocado with lemon juice, herbs and maybe even some hot sauce or mustard for an extra kick. So good. Feel like baking? Use about ¼ cup of avocado in place of each egg. I personally love baking cupcakes this way. They turn out so rich and delicious! Don’t believe me? You’ll always wonder until you try it!

Nutritional Yeast

This long-time vegan favorite also referred to as “Nooch,” is the OG vegan “cheese”. But it’s so much more than that. If you haven’t discovered the wonders of nutritional yeast yet, stop what you’re doing right now and head to the grocery store. Buy it in bulk! You can use it for pretty much everything.
It looks like little yellow flakes and tastes like cheesy, salty, nutty deliciousness. The simplest way to use nutritional yeast is to put it in a shaker for all your sprinkling needs! Think of it as a dairy-free parmesan. Use it to take your salad to the next level, or add it to some pizza, pasta or popcorn for an extra kick of flavor. A little goes a long way! Nutritional yeast also acts as a thickening agent, so it’s ideal for adding some texture to your favorite vegan soups, casseroles, mashes and mixes of any kind. Please make some mac-and-cheese with nutritional yeast. Seriously. I’ll even share this recipe with you from Minimalist Baker. Now you have no excuse! Besides the fact that nutritional yeast has pretty much unlimited uses (you can even sprinkle it on your fruit!), it’s also an excellent source of fiber, protein and B vitamins. What a great way to make sure you’re getting enough B12 in your diet!

Vegan Mayo

This. For the most part, I try to stay away from processed vegan foods as staples, but this is my one (huge) exception. I always keep a jar or two of both Vegenaise and Just Mayo in my fridge, and it never lasts long.Both products are egg-free dairy-free mayonnaise substitutes, and they far exceeded my expectations. Vegenaise is slightly sweeter and thicker than Just Mayo, so I alternate depending on what I’m using them for. I have made everything from vegan ranch sauce to potato salad to pasta sauce with vegan mayo. I’ve used it as a substitute for sour cream, butter, heavy cream, milk, yogurt, salad dressing, even frosting. I prefer the Just Mayo as traditional mayonnaise and for the more savory dishes. The Vegenaise is perfect to sub for cream in just about anything, sweet or otherwise! Here’s a tip for when you’re starving and don’t have time to make anything at home: Drive through Wendy’s. Order a plain baked potato. Add Vegenaise or Just Mayo instead of sour cream and butter. Amazing.

All of this to say: if you’re thinking of making the switch to a vegan lifestyle, do it. In fact, you might even be surprised at the things you can still eat!