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The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Baking

by Katie Brozen about a year ago in vegan
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The secrets to delicious plant-based baked goods, with everything you need to make amazing vegan desserts.

If you think a vegan diet is all twigs, berries, and leaves; you have no idea what you're missing.

A plant-based diet is bursting with exciting flavors and textures that often go ignored in the traditional cooking and baking world.

If you're new to vegan baking or baking altogether, this guide is designed to teach you the secrets to delicious vegan, plant-based baked goods.

Maybe, inspired by the recent news of Michelin going meatless, you've adopted a plant-based diet in the fight against climate change.

Or the sudden return to maskless life has made you a little self-conscious. All the comfort eating, hidden beneath the safety of life at home, now exposed to the normal world.

Whether it’s a diet change for weight loss or ethical reasons, you've decided dessert is off the menu.

But if you’re like me, and you have a wicked sweet tooth, making lasting change won't happen if you're carrying the heavy weight of deprivation.

It doesn't matter if you aren't vegan, have never baked, or you're just here for the recipes at the end. This will show you how to have your (vegan) cake and eat it too.

Vegan Baking 101

When I think of dessert, I think of rich, decadent chocolate cake. Filled with butter, sugar, and eggs All whipped to perfection, topped with a fluffy frosting to create the mouthwatering delight that feeds my soul.

Does that mean without animal products, you're destined for dry, bland, flavorless confections for as long as your lifestyle change lasts?

No. Definitely, not.

Yes, the foundation of a classic baked good is butter and eggs. It’s not just the rich flavor these ingredients add, making them staples in most great baked goods. Both add layers, texture, and structure to the various comfort treats you know and love.

Just because you're giving up that stick of creamy butter or the bright golden yolk from farm fresh eggs doesn’t mean you have to give up your sweet tooth.

Let’s break down the endless alternatives available in your vegan baking.

Baking with vegan egg substitutes

Eggs add structure, giving cakes and quick bread their height.

Think of stiff, whipped egg whites folded into the batter of the devilish-angel food cake. The light, airy structure that holds your cake high in the center.

The yolks give a rich, custard-thick layer, like my favorite decadent chocolate brownies found here. Note: these recipes are NOT vegan.

It’s hard to replace the flavor, but there are many ways to bind your baked goods without eggs.

A flax egg is one of the most common ways to replace eggs in baked goods. A simple mix of ground flaxseed and water binds together your batter while providing a nutty, layered taste. A formula of 1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons water is equal to one egg. It’s best to buy whole flaxseed and grind it yourself in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender, then store the remainder in the freezer to preserve freshness.

Chia seeds are used just like flax. Chia’s gel-like consistency becomes the base holding your baking from crumbling apart. Use the same ratio of chia seeds to water as flax. Chia also delivers a healthy dose of omega-3’s and fiber to your feel-good treat.

Applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree provide the moist mouth feel without eggs, milk, and other animal products. If you don’t want your cake to have a hint of banana, stick with the applesauce or pumpkin puree, which have a milder flavor. 1/4 cup replaces one egg. The natural sweetness in these ingredients can help reduce the amount of added sugar and give a slight boost in fiber, meaning you can feel less guilty for eating that extra slice.

Aquafaba is a game-changer in the vegan baking world. An amazing alternative to egg whites, Aquafaba is the reserved liquid from a can of garbanzo beans or chickpeas.

You take the liquid, add about 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar and whip it with a hand or standing mixer for around five minutes.

As air is incorporated into the bean juice, it creates fluffy, stiff peaks similar to egg whites. Flavorless, it acts the same in baked goods, giving the airy, light texture of a traditional cake or bread.

Butter and other dairy alternatives

The milk fat in butter, milk, yogurt, and sour cream, are essential to achieve the flakey feel in a traditional dessert recipe. But there are so many options to mimic this without straying from your plant-based goals.

Vegan butter is widely available from brands like Earth Balance. Often, they are filled with hydrogenated oils and highly processed ingredients, meaning you’re better off with the real deal.

Now, more brands are popping up offering alternative vegan butter that use wholesome, real ingredients. This brand is a great option if you’re conscious of ingredients.

Refined coconut oil gives you rich saturated fats similar to butter, without the flavor of coconut. Great for high-heat cooking, these neutral oils are the perfect, easy swap to replace butter. As a saturated fat, it will be solid at room temp, so depending on what you are baking, you may have to melt it for your recipe.

Nut and seed butter like almond butter or tahini will bring baked goods to a new level. The toasted nuttiness adds a dimension far beyond butter.

Silken tofu does double-duty as a replacement for both egg and butter. When pureed smooth, it provides the structure of eggs while giving your baked goods a rich, gooey flavor from the butter you have removed.

Easily replace milk with non-dairy milk. Homemade or store-bought, coconut, almond, oat, or soy all make great stand-ins.

A note about sweeteners

It’s important to note that while regular sugar does not contain animal products, popular brands tend to process the granules through bone char. Depending on your definition, this would disqualify it from being vegan.

Consider the source of your sugar. Check out brands like the following that commit to producing ethical processes and don’t use animal products during processing.

If you’re looking to step even further outside your carnivore comfort zone, you could also try an alternative sweetener in place of sugar.

Maple syrup makes a delicious sub for regular sugar by adding depth and a more complex layer of flavor to your vegan baked goods.

Coconut sugar is another sugar substitute you can swap white or brown sugar. With a smokey undertone, it adds a caramelized flavor that resembles nothing of the actual coconut.

Date sugar is similar to coconut sugar with its caramel, earthy taste. Made from the date fruit, it comes both in powder and liquid form. Dates are high in sugar but don’t feel as cloyingly sweet as regular sugar.

It’s important to remember, while these sugars are praised as natural and unrefined, sugar is sugar. There may be slightly higher in some nutrients, but don’t misinterpret natural with sugar-free. They still contain calories, carbs, and nutritional breakdown as regular white sugar.

For those who wish to test out a sugar-free option, ChocZero makes a sugar-free syrup. Made from monk fruit, it's surprisingly close to the real deal, with very few net carbs.

A side note about chocolate.

Most chocolate on the shelf is processed with some form of milk fat. The darker the chocolate, the more likely it is made without dairy. When buying chocolate, make sure to read the label and ingredients to ensure it doesn't contain dairy. Or look for brands labeled as vegan.

Vegan baking is anything but boring

As you can see, the options are endless when it comes to vegan baking. There are so many different choices to experiment with you may find yourself in a new love affair with vegan desserts.

Most say baking is a science, but I like to think of it as an art. Crafting the perfect ingredients to make a delicious recipe for Vegan cakes, pies, and other treats.

Instead of just following a simple recipe on the box, vegan baking lets you explore a new world beyond the tollhouse.

My favorite plant-based baked good recipes

I have to admit, I'm not much of a master baker. Instead, I've included my favorite recipes that are simple to make and you'll never know there were no animal products used.

Inspired by the OG vegan queen, Dreena Burton, who first inspired me to bake anything. These cookies are on heavy rotation in my house. Simple, quick, and healthy. Easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand.

Perfect for breakfast or a late night snack. These have the perfect amount of natural sweetness to satisfy any craving.

The Blonde Files has the best quick and easy recipes that focus on high-quality ingredients and never sacrifice on flavor.

Balance with B melts my chocolate-covered soul with her dairy and gluten-free dessert recipes. This one you don't even have to turn the oven on and can still have a decadent dessert ready in minutes.

The Minimalist Baker is an encyclopedia for cooking tips and tricks if you're new to plant-based eating. This incredibly easy peanut butter cookie is my go-to when I can't eat any more chocolate, which is very rare.

Rachl Mansfield is a genius alternative baker and brings just the good stuff to her drool-wrothy Instagram page. Simple, allergen-friendly, and everybody approved, her recipes set the standard that vegan baking is anything but boring.

It's ok to play with your food

Baking without animal products may seem as insane as using a boxed mix to a classic pastry chef.

But there are so many options available, even if you aren't vegan or plant-based. Why would you limit yourself to a conventional recipe when there is a world of ingredients to explore.

Break from the norm and try to swap some of these ingredients in your favorite recipes.

Discover a new way of baking that may be better for your health and the planet.


About the author

Katie Brozen

Professional chef. Sharing stories, secrets, and recipes from behind the line of a professional kitchen.

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