Vegan Baking Tips + Substitutes

Words: Robyn Paterson

These days, access to vegan baked goods isn’t difficult at all. In Cape Town, we are lucky enough to have entire doughnut shops dedicated to serving 100% vegan treats and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a local cafe that doesn’t have a slice (or two) of vegan cake on their menu. But what if you’re more of a home baker or live outside of the city? Is it possible to vegan-ise any bake?Vegan-ising traditional bakes is relatively simple, but equipping yourself with enough knowledge of basic baking principles will definitely help you choose the best substitutes for your bake.

There are two key ingredients you need to replace: eggs and fat. We’ll show you some handy tips on how to choose the best substitute for each of these ingredients so that you get to experience your favourite sweet treats, without harming any animals in the process.

Before you start… Understand Your Recipe

This is an important step when baking anything, vegan or not, but if you’re setting out to vegan-ise a recipe, you’ll have to choose one that is realistic enough to make vegan. For example, avoid recipes like flourless chocolate cake or a creme brulee… these are recipes that both require a lot of eggs and, as you’ll learn, eggs are a tricky one to replace as they offer a very specific texture in recipes like the ones mentioned above. That’s not to say you’ll never be able to have a flourless chocolate cake as a vegan, but it might just be a bit tricky to replicate as a home-cook.

Simpler recipes like brownies, muffins, traditional cakes and loaves are a great place to start when first learning about baking with substitutions. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand just how each substitution works in the recipe which will allow you to experiment a bit more.

Choose your Egg Replacement

The function of an egg in baking changes depending on the recipe. For example, in brownies, eggs are largely a leavening agent, while in cookies they are a binding agent. In challah and brioche, they add texture and flavour. You’ll need to use a different substitute depend on what you’re baking, for example:

Dairy-free Yoghurt: Is a great substitute for eggs in cakes, muffins, loaf cakes and cheesecakes. Basically anything that relies on a creamy foundation. If the original recipe requires fluffy eggs, then using dairy-free yoghurt like coconut or soy could help achieve the same effect.
Ratio — ¼ cup (60 ml) yoghurt to 1 egg

Flax ‘Egg’: Perfect for binding, so use this mixture for chewy cookies or crackers.
Ratio — 1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg. Whisk together and let sit for a few minutes until it coagulates.

Apple Sauce/Mashed Banana: A great way to add moisture to cakes and breads and even brownies.
Ratio — ¼ cup (60 ml) to 1 egg

Aquafaba: Aquafaba is chickpea brine and by some miracle, when whisked it behaves exactly like an egg white. A great substitute for egg whites and you can make vegan meringue! It also can be used as a substitute for egg yolks (don’t ask how, we don’t know) but try it with this Aquafaba Mayonnaise.
Ratio — 2 Tbsp (30 ml) aquafaba = 1 egg white | 1 Tbsp (15 ml) aquafaba = 1 egg yolk

Silken Tofu: Try silken tofu if you’re wanting something a bit heavier, like a cheesecake.
Ratio — ¼ cup (60 ml) to 1 egg

Starch Slurry: Corn, tapioca or arrowroot starch are essential when you need eggs as a thickening agent. Much like a cornstarch slurry will thicken a sauce, it serves a similar purpose here and is perfect for curds and custards.
Ratio — 2 Tbsp (30 ml) starch + 3 Tbsp (45 ml) water = 1 egg

Vinegar & Baking Soda: A miracle concoction when you need a strong leavening agent. This mixture will give your cake a good rise. We use it in this Vegan Chocolate Bundt Cake with Avocado Oil.
Ratio — 1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda to 1 Tbsp (15 ml) vinegar = 1 egg

Choose your Fat Replacement

There are many plant-based fat alternatives and they are all pretty readily available and cost effective. Oil-based cakes are very popular, even in non-vegan baking, as they are lighter and fluffier, so if you’re into baking cakes, your substitution for fat may already be done for you. For other fat replacements, we suggest:

Neutral Oils (Canola, Grapeseed, Avocado): These are used in many different cakes and bakes and truly work well. Olive oil can also be used, but it does have a flavour so make sure the main flavour of the bake is complemented. Try these Vegan Flapjacks with Whipped Coconut Cream & Berry Coulis.

Coconut Oil: A great substitute for butter in pastries and scones. It needs to be used like butter in these circumstances, so solid at room temperature.

Coconut Cream/Milk: A pretty much identical match to heavy cream or whole milk. Try it in this Vegan Passion Fruit & Coconut Tart.

Nut butter: This substitute obviously affects the texture and flavour of the bake, but adds a delicious nuttiness and density to the final product. It’s great in brownies and muffins and also banana bread – hot tip.

Looking for more vegan substitutes? Here’s our list of easy & tasty protein alternatives.

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