The New Year often brings with it many new intentions: to eat better, to be healthier, to be more considerate, and even just to be a better individual.
January is always the month dedicated to resolution and change. In the last few years, after a month of festive splurging, two challenges have increased in popularity:
- Dry January – in which you abstain from alcohol for the month and
- Veganuary – where you switch to a vegan lifestyle and ditch the animal and dairy products in your diet. Plant-based alternatives become your new modus operandi.
In 2019, a record-breaking quarter of a million people signed up for Veganuary, and more individuals are expected to join in this year.
We all know that going vegan – when done properly – is good for our health, the animals and our environment. However it takes time to start new habits.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive plant-based ingredients or ready-made meals – you can go vegan on a budget.
Nor do you need to eat junk food – you can easily have a healthy diet and embrace fresh, real ingredients, cooking your vegan dishes at home.
It’s also much easier than you think to adapt old recipes to vegan recipes. From butter and milk to vegan substitutes for meat and even dessert ides, we show you just how easy it is to ace the Veganuary challenge with our favourite vegan substitutes for a great start to the New Year.
Let’s begin with vegan substitutes to the obvious: meat. Truth be told, you don’t need meat to have a healthy, nutritious and balanced meal.
The secret is in the seasoning
You might find that it is often the flavours that are associated with meat that you miss. A good smattering of smoked paprika can change all that.
Or you might want to make a poultry seasoning using classic flavours such as black pepper, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary and celery seed. Or why not marinade some vegetables in Dijon mustard, coriander and chilli? A touch of the right spice can make any meal heavenly, we promise.
Meaty flavours can easily be achieved with some delicious Portobello or chestnut mushrooms. Minced mushrooms that are cooked in port and mustard with some crispy leeks on the side, and you’ll wonder why you ever ate meat.
Pulses and nuts
You can get protein from a wide range of pulses and nuts into your mealtime routines, such as a veggie chilli teeming with beans and fresh vegetables. Become friends with red kidney beans, aduki beans, cannellini beans, haricot beans and pinto beans.
Aduki beans are a great plant-based alternative to any dishes that call for minced meat.
Jackfruit has become a popular vegan alternatives in steak sandwiches or pulled pork fajitas, and is similarly fantastic in Indian and Thai curries.
Jackfruit grows naturally in droves in India and Malaysia, and has a meaty consistency. The secret to cooking with jackfruit is in seasoning and cooking it well so it doesn’t come across as too sweet.
Sure, with these options you might still find yourself initially missing the textures and flavours of meat. Well worry not, there are plenty of vegan alternative meat textures to choose from too!
Tofu is an easy meat-free vegan substitute that gained popularity initially in Asia.
Tofu is made from soyabean and is a great protein and is ideal for stir-fries and curries.
You can get an array of smoked tofu that’s great for barbecues, or you might want to slice it up and add it to lettuce and croutons to make your own Caesar salad.
Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. The difference is that tempeh uses fermented soybeans, which binds into a fibre-laden, pressed cake that has a texture and that you can chop or slice it just like a piece of meat. You can use tempeh just like you would poultry.
With its origins in traditional Indonesian cooking, the fermentation process tempeh undergoes means it has extra probiotic benefits. Despite its underdog status compared with tofu, tempeh is actually deemed a more nutritious option and has twice as much protein.
You can get a variety of readymade tempeh products that have already been prepared and seasoned to taste just like bacon or turkey fillet.
TVP, or Textured Vegetable Protein, is also derived from the soybean and, as its name suggests, has the texture and protein qualities of meat – and is easy to cook.
TVP is highly processed and not as nutritious as tofu, but it is popular for mince-meat and burger making.
Many of the commercially readymade plant-based meats feature this ingredient.
You can easily make seitan at home, by mixing water to a packed of organic dried vital wheat gluten flour. Yet it comes out looking and tasting nothing like flour. It has the look and texture of meat – all you need to do is add your own flavours! Perhaps cook it in lemon juice or marinade it in your favourite nut butter.
Despite its devilish name, don’t be afraid: try our simple recipe here, its really very easy and not scary at all!
Are you needing to make dumplings, pastries and dumplings? Don’t worry, vegan suet in a ready-made form also exists so you can get baking!
Whether you can’t have your morning slice of toast without butter, or you like to make delicious buttery baked goods there are many vegan butter alternatives available.
In moderation, these are really good for your health, as they provide the healthy monounsaturated fats that our bodies need that in turn lower our risk of heart disease.
Made from the plentiful yellow rape fields of the UK, you could choose the more local option of rapeseed oil, which is excellent for most cookery as it has a fairly neutral flavour.
You might also like to try cocoa butter in your baking.
Margarines and spreads
Alternatively, there are plenty of vegan margarines and spreads that you can cook with. You can make a simple shortcrust pastry in lieu of butter with these.
Pumpkin seed spread is one of the Real Foods team favourite spread for a fresh slice of sourdough, and is a fantastic source of magnesium and zinc, which is important for maintaining strong muscles and healthy bones.
When your usual recipes call for eggs, you will be surprised by the number of vegan substitutes available to you.
You could use a no-egg egg replacer, but there are also many egg-replacer ingredients already in your larder. Egg is used to bind ingredients together in a recipe, and the following items do the job just as well.
Try using aquafaba, which is basically chickpea water or any starchy water that legumes have been cooked in, and it acts as a great binder in cakes. Just three tablespoons of aquafaba is the equivalent of one whole egg. Aquafaba can be a direct replacement for egg whites when making meringues and marshmallows. If your aquafaba is a bit thin for the recipe you are using then you can boil it down.
Grind up one tablespoon of flaxseeds and whisk them into three tablespoons of water and leave it to settle until it becomes gelatinous. This amount will replace one egg, so a bit of simply math will get you the right quantity.
One ripe mashed banana for every egg in a recipe is a perfect alternative for baking sweet, chewy items.
Avocado is both a good egg and butter alternative, especially when recipes call you to cream these two ingredients. It’s ideal if you are making cake and bread, as it creates a soft and less crumbly alternative to the dairy norms. Use about two tablespoons of mashed avocado for every egg your recipe calls for.
Applesauce is another egg substitute for baking almost anything. One tablespoon of applesauce will be about the same as one whole egg
If you require eggs for savoury baked dishes, then why not use silken tofu? It is a much softer consistency than other tofu, and is very crumbly. Simply blend three tablespoons of it with a pinch of baking powder so that it has some leavening properties.
Vegan mayonnaise IS a thing, and if you don’t usually make your own deliciously rich mayonnaise and opt for commercial versions, then you might not even notice the difference.
There are so many dairy milk substitutes nowadays, which we’ve written an in-depth article about before. Soya milk is the most popular alternative as it is generally thicker than other vegan substitutes like rice drinks and almond milk and has a neutral flavour, ideal for adding to your usual morning cup of tea or coffee.
White sauce / cheese sauce
If your recipe calls for buttermilk, then you can make this like yourself – simply mix one cup of soya milk with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and, with a little time, it will separate.
If you love cheese, then this might be one of the hardest things for you to give up completely during Veganuary.
Or you could choose a plant-based cream cheese for making your favourite lunchbox snack or vegan cheesecake.
Vegan cheese alternatives shown above are only available to buy from our Edinburgh shops at present.
Sorry sweeties, honey isn’t vegan. Honey is a source of energy for bees, and a hive is a collective to ensure all bees equally receive the adequate amount of energy they need.
Therefore, the health of bees can be sacrificed when it is harvested purely for human consumption, and is considered exploitation by the definition of veganism.
We love maple syrup, it’s great for on toast and pancakes and for any recipes calling for honey. It’s also delicious to add a bit of sweetness to tart fruits.
Real maple syrup is harvested by tapping the maple tree and collecting its sap. Watch out for pancake syrups that are not made from nature, and instead use cheap and especially unhealthy corn sugar.
You can make sugar syrup by diluting natural coconut sugar in warm water, adding as much as you need to get the required thickness. This is a healthier alternative to sugar syrup made from caster sugar.
Agave syrup is a naturally-derived sweetener that is like honey but slightly thinner. It is extracted from the agave plant, which is often grown in South and Central America and also South Africa. Mexican agave syrup is especially popular here at Real Foods.
Rice syrup is another vegan substitute to honey and is especially popular within Asian cooking.
You can make your own cream from grinding raw cashew nuts in water, and straining it to the desired consistency. This leaves a delicious, nutty cream that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
For ease-free dairy-free ice cream, it would be rude not to mention the delicious vegan ice cream from our friends at Booja Booja – do try the wonderful range of flavours, which we absolutely love in summer.
Are you ready to take on Veganuary? Stock up your larder today. Choose from a range of delicious vegan substitutes and plant-based ingredients at the Real Foods online store, or pop into one of our wholefood shops in Edinburgh!