By Suzanne Boothby
Butter, eggs and flour might feel like the quintessential baking items, but people with allergies or looking to avoid these ingredients for a variety of reason have found workarounds.
Many times, after completing a Reboot, a period of time where you commit to drinking and eating only fruits and vegetables, you reset your palate. Sweet treats that you once craved don’t have the same appeal or just taste too sugary.
Enter the world of smarter sweets. If you’ve got a birthday or celebration coming up, you can learn to bake treats with a healthier twist. Vegan desserts skip the heavy cream, milk, cheese, eggs, honey and more. They also work great for people who might be allergic to eggs or dairy.
Here are a few great tips to become a better at-home vegan baker using whole-food ingredients.
You can easily buy egg replacer at many health food stores, but there are other ways to swap out eggs and still have fluffy baked goods that won’t crumble upon first bite.
Make a flax or chia egg. Finely ground flax or chia seeds can act as great binders when baking. Mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed or 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of warm water to replace 1 egg. Let the mixture stand for at least a minute before using. Both flax and chia are great sources of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Put those bruised bananas you are about to toss to good work and cut down on food waste. Ripe bananas add more moisture and a little extra sweetness to cakes and muffins. Use about ½ a banana as a replacement for 1 egg in a recipe.
Applesauce is another great substitute for eggs when you are baking. A 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce can replace 1 egg in most baking recipes. If you happen to have sweetened applesauce, then simply reduce the amount of sweetener in your recipe. Bonus tip: applesauce also works as an oil replacement in baked goods, if you are looking to reduce calories or are sensitive to certain oils.
Baking soda and apple cider vinegar work too. When chef Candace Kumai made her decadent match chocolate cake on the Today Show, she shared her recipe for a good leavening agent to replace eggs and make a fluffy cake. Use 1 tablespoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to replace two eggs in a recipe.
It might seem like losing the butter in a baked good means less of that rich flavor and spongy texture but plenty of options will work surprisingly well.
First, try an avocado puree, as ripe avocado makes a great replacement for butter. Simply, mash it completely and add it to the wet ingredients of your baking recipe. One helpful note is that the avo can give baked goods a green or brownish color so try it in chocolaty recipes such as brownies or in this Raw “Key Lime” Mousse.
Another idea is cooked sweet potato, like in this recipe for Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies, where 1 medium sweet potato combined with ½ cup of nut butter adds all the creaminess you could ever desire.
Coconut oil is a great option too. You would never know that these Lemon Matcha Shortbread Cookies contain no butter. Instead, 3/4 cup of warm coconut oil mixed with a gluten-free flour make these cookies both dairy free and gluten free.
With so many non-dairy milk options out there, it’s easy to replace milk when baking muffins or cakes. When using them in a recipe, remember that oat, cashew and coconut milk are creamier and richer than almond or rice milk, which can be a thinner consistency. Be sure to read your labels and use unsweetened non-dairy milks or reduce the amount of sweetener in your recipe to keep a similar flavor profile. You can generally replace non-dairy milks 1 to 1 for cow milk.
If you recipe calls for buttermilk, simply use the same amount of non-dairy milk and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to add that buttermilk tangy flavor.
Full fat coconut milk or coconut cream makes a great replacement for creams. You can also try a vegan yogurt, which is thicker than non-dairy milk.
While honey is out for vegan baking, you can easily swap pure maple syrup in an equal amount.
Refined white sugar is not considered vegan because many times it’s filtered using an animal-based charcoal. Other great vegan-friendly sweeteners include dates, bananas, stevia, molasses or coconut sugar. Just be mindful of when a recipe calls for a liquid sweetener or a course sweetener. Sometimes the texture will matter!