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How to Convert Any Recipe to Plant-Based

Great news! You can still have your great grandma's chocolate cake! You don't have to toss our your generations-old heirloom family recipes!

I've thumbed through a lot of recipes, then moved on when I came upon copious amounts of things I no longer wanted to eat. (*Note how I say wanted to eat. Not things I don't eat or things I can't eat. We get to choose every day whatever we want to eat. And when we're in tune with our inner knowing, we'll be able to peruse our pantries and feel what items make our conscious cells sing in perfect billion-part harmony, yes, we want that! But that's probably another blog post, and possibly for another blog.)

Now that I've been cooking and baking this way for seven weeks, I feel like I can take nearly any recipe and veganize it. Granted, I'm still a noob, and I have a lot more to learn, but sharing as we go along is the whole point of this blog, so I'm going to tell you my basic substitutions.

But first:

The ELYGAS Challenge!

Send us any recipe and we'll veganize it!

We will test your recipe in our kitchens with vegan and plant-based substitutions until it's delicious, and then we'll share the results. Email or and we're off! Dream of veganification! Chili Peppers reference.

Basic Recipe Tweaking

Sometimes, simply substituting ingredients results in the recipe coming out as good or better than it would have been before.

Other times, though, I end up with a dish that's not quite right. When that happens, I immediately try again increasing or decreasing an ingredient or adding a new one or taking one away.

But the basic steps are simple. And for the purposes of this post and probably this blog: V means Vegan. PB means plant-based. WF means whole foods (not the company.)

  1. Instead of eggs, use this easy egg substitute: 1 tablespoon flax seed meal, also called ground flax seed. 3 tablespoons water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes before using, stirring 3 or 4 times. (V, WF, PB.)

  2. Instead of white sugar, use unrefined "raw" sugar such as Florida Crystals. Other sweeting options include maple syrup, maple sugar, dried pitted dates or date paste, and very ripe bananas. (All V, WF, PB) For the Florida crystals and maple syrup, you can use the same amount as the sugar called for in the recipe. For the rest, you'll have to experiment.

  3. Some people on a whole foods system try to stay away from oils, as well. If you're one of them, you can substitute an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce for the oil in a recipe. This also adds a little more sweetness, too. (Applesauce is V, WF, PB. Oils are V, PB.) *Tip 1: Sometimes the lack of oil makes baked goods sticky. So I often substitute applesauce with just one tablespoon of oil mixed in. We usually need much less oil than most recipes call for. *Tip 2: If you use 1/4 cup of almond flour in place of your other flours, it adds a natural nut oil to the recipe. *Tip 3: You can line bakeware with parchment paper instead of spraying or oiling the pan. This works better in some recipes than others.

  4. When a recipe calls for white flour, oh the fun we can have substituting exciting and different flours; whole wheat flour, oat flour, rice flour, spelt flour, almond flour, coconut flour–the options are endless! All of these flours are V, PB and WF. Tip 4.: Whole wheat flour tends to make the recipe a little denser. You might need to add extra liquid. Tip 5: I really love mixing half whole wheat and half oat flour with a little bit of almond. This has become my habit in most recipes. However, we've just added coconut flour to the mix pantry and I'm eager to see how that impacts things.

  5. Milk. This one is super easy. Sub in soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk in equal amounts. I am especially loving the oat milk as it is rather thick and creamy. And it tastes fantastic straight up, as well. Tip 6: I avoid the sweetened and flavored plant-based milks. They change the flavor of the recipe too much.

  6. Confectioners Sugar. This one's a breeze. Any sugar can be powdered with a decent blender. So scoop some raw sugar crystals, about 1/3 cup at a time, into a blender. Add 1/4 tsp or of cream of tartar or arrowroot powder to counteract any moisture. Blend for 40 seconds or so, and then stop and wait five minutes to let the sugar cool. Shake it a few time. Then repeat the blending. Tip: Don't try a food processor. They don't work for this. You need a powerful blender. I've been told a coffee or herb grinder could also work but I haven't tried it myself. Tip: Remember to cool it in between rounds. If the sugar gets too hot it start to melt, and burnt sugar will permeate the entire batch with a terrible taste. Tip: You need to get it extra fine for frosting or icing so you might want to blend more than twice, cooling off in between.

  7. Buttermilk. Take 1 cup plant milk. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice OR 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes. (*Note it's TABLEspoons lemon juice vs. TEAspoons vinegar.)

These are my basic substitution guidelines. Begin with these steps, add three scoops of experimentation and a dollop of creative thinking, and there is no recipe you can't convert.

Except maybe pot roast.

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