Vegan Substitutes for popular meat and dairy products
I have written it, voiced it, advocated it many times before; being vegan is not just a “trendy” diet or fad. The vegan diet is a collection of conscious decisions every single day, which positively affect animal treatment, the environment and physical health. In fact, the vegan diet has increased in popularity by 987% since 2017 because it has the ability to ward off disease and cancer, improve gut health and digestion, enhance your physical performance and balance out your hormones and those are just the health benefits. So let us jump into some vegan substitutes for some dairy and milk products.
There is a plethora of options to explore when it comes to milk substitutes. Almond milk, oat milk, soymilk, macadamia milk, rice milk, cashew milk, coconut milk. Seriously so very many. I have consumed my fair share of milk substitutes, and you should too to pick your preference. For me, almond milk is the winner as it has a texture, most similar to dairy milk and has a natural flavour, (provided that you select an unsweetened version). This is an opinion from someone who long ago consumed roughly 1 litre of milk per day. I use almond milk in my morning cereal, in baking, soups, pies, creamy pastas, mash potato, baked dishes and my coffee. Essentially, any dish that requires a portion of dairy milk, I will replace with almond.
Around the time I went vegan, was around the time the ‘coffee boom’ presented itself. Dozens of cafes popped up in city walls, malls, suburban retail complexes and all with a new agenda; to offer sustainable, ethical, alternate, organic choices, compostable coffee cups and lids and waste reduction. This is where I first discovered almond milk.
Before café owners started stocking almond milk, soy milk was the only option, which for me was unfortunate as I’m not the biggest fan of the taste and I have a slight intolerance to it if I drink it regularly. My top picks for almond milk are So Good Almond Milk and Almond Breeze; they are less sweet than other almond milk brands I have tried. These are stocked in Australia supermarkets, but can also be found online.
Although, I have found that if you want a “creamier base” for pastas, and dishes that require a fuller cream consistency, I would recommend using coconut milk as it is much thicker. It’s also a great option for those who also have nut allergies. Keep in mind the coconut flavour does permeate the general flavour of the dish, so if you are not fond of coconut, perhaps stick to your nut milks and if you have that allergy, continue using soymilk.
Vegan cheese is mostly made of the above substitutes, cholesterol-free, and packed with protein. The vegan cheese market has skyrocketed over the last 6 years due to consumer demand for lactose free products and healthier food options. By 2024, vegan cheese has an estimated market value of US $4 billion.
If you have not tried my absolute favourite cheese in the world, Bio Cheese, then you need to hunt down your closest grocer that supplies this incredible food product and try it for yourself. The original Bio cheese is made from predominantly coconut oil and I genuienly prefer it to actual cheese. It’s the type of cheese I would grate and have on a wrap, on a sandwich, or melted over a baked dish. Tofutti ‘Better than cream cheese’ is a great substitute for Philadelphia cream cheese and awesome on grain bread with avocado and tomato for a quick morning breakfast. When it comes to soft cheese, I would do your research on what’s available in your location. Generally soft vegan cheese companies are smaller, but recreate favourites like brie, camembert and cheddar cheese. Try looking for ‘vegan cheese’ in a Google search, or follow popular hashtags like #dairyfreecheese and #vegancheese to find brands close to you, or that ship to your location.
Not having eaten meat for years now, I do not crave the taste of meat. With that said, in the past, I certainly did and for many of my vegetarian and vegan friends, it is much the same. Just because you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet does not mean you don’t like the taste of meat. Your choices for no longer consuming meat could be animal related, environmentally related, health related or all of the above. I am sure you have likely seen veggie patties, or even mock meat mince in grocery stores that replace your generic beef products. These products are generally made up of wheat products, soy products, corn starch, vegetables, legumes and spices. The consistency is slightly different, as is the taste but these products can actually be quite delicious and healthy; packed with protein, B12, iron and zinc to name a few. You’ll find that you’ll hate some products and love others. I have tested this on family members and friends and they didn’t even know that some of them weren’t meat!
A US market overview reported that the sales of plant-based meats grew over 23% in 2018, exceeding $760 million. Many people say that mock meat just is not the same as actual meat but now with research and technology, plant-based products are becoming more and more like the real thing than we ever thought possible. For example, a new vegan burger where the meat “bleeds” is set to have a place in grocery shelves this year. Lightlife Foods, a US$2.6 billion meat company has just launched their high-protein burger, made from pea protein, which is free from soy and gluten and tastes and looks like the real thing.
The consistency and taste of beef seems much easier to replicate than deli meats like prosciutto or even the classic breakfast bacon. So is there an alternative to one of the most popular meats?
The answer is yes, and there are actually several ways to achieve it. First option is using tempeh. Tempeh is a traditional Southeast Asian dish made by deep-frying fermented soybeans. Some very clever human(s) discovered that combining this process with maple syrup, soy sauce and spices, you will in return get tempeh “bacon.” For someone like me, who as I mentioned does not like the taste of meat anymore, it is uncomfortably similar to actual bacon…former meat lovers, rejoice! You can also make “bacon” from seitan, tofu, mushroom or a combination of vegetables. There are hundreds of recipes online and it is surprisingly very easy to recreate this meat product.
What’s your favourite dairy or meat alternative?