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Vegan baking: tips, recipes and best substitutes

Banana Everything Cookies, Fudgy Brownies and Lower-Fat Banana Bread ... all vegan, all delicious.
Banana Everything Cookies, Fudgy Brownies and Lower-Fat Banana Bread ... all vegan, all delicious.
Published May 25, 2015

Most people won't turn down a baked good. But tell them it's vegan and you'll hear something like: "No butter?! What's a life without butter?"

But you can have delicious treats without dairy products. I promise. If you invest in high-quality flours, oils, chocolate and spices, you won't miss the flavor that butter and eggs add to the mix. (Baker's tip: Buy real vanilla extract. You'll taste the difference.)

An experienced baker is familiar with substitutes, and baking vegan goodies is all about trial and error. Flaxseeds, oils, syrups and starches can create chewy and crispy textures, but my favorite dairy substitute is the banana. Applesauce and nut milks are also staples in vegan baking.

Let's start with some banana bread. Molasses and applesauce are the glue that holds this Lower-Fat Banana Bread loaf together. Chocolate chips and nuts would be great additions to this simple recipe.

If your pantry needs some emptying out, make these Banana Everything Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. My favorite nonvegan cookie is Martha Stewart's Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookie, and luckily this recipe from vegan rock star Isa Chandra Moskowitz is just as satisfying (and has fewer ingredients).

When you're craving chocolate, these Fudgy Brownies from The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon hit the spot. And, boy, are they fudgy. The oil, soy yogurt and nondairy milk make this brownie gooey and dense, so be careful when taking it out of the oven. The pan will be heavy.

These three easy recipes don't require a run to a special health food store. In fact, you probably have most of the ingredients already. That said, don't be limited to the ingredients listed. It's fun to make these recipes over and over again and find new flavors with different ingredients. Don't like nuts? Add more spices or chocolate. Use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose white flour to add fiber, and a nutty flavor.

Vegan baking is all about experimentation and creativity. Plus, these desserts are lower in fat and cholesterol. So, eat your heart out — there's less to feel guilty about.

Contact Brittany Volk at bvolk@tampabay.com. Follow @bevolk.