Adapting meals to be plant-based episode 2

Adapting meals to be plant-based episode 2

Featured Author: Alicia MacGregor

Hi everyone, my name is Alicia, and I’m excited to be here with you today to share my passion for healthy and delicious plant-based meals.

Today for the Vancouver Humane Society’s Plant University platform, we’re making a Pastel De Choclo, and it’s a traditional Chilean dish that my mom used to make when I was little and it’s very similar to a shepherd’s pie, where there’s a savoury base and instead of a mashed potato topping, it’s actually a corn meal kind of prepared topping.

Today we’re going to be using mushrooms and onions for the base. She used to actually put raisins in it, so I have eliminated the raisins all together because I don’t like them.

When I did the full switch to a plant-based diet, I really noticed a big improvement in my skin. I used to get a lot of acne, and I realized that my skin cleared up and my complexion became a lot nicer. So when you’re making a switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, you’ll notice that it’s actually quite simple to simply replace the meat option for vegetables. And you simply need to choose the vegetables with complex carbs, high in protein, high in fiber. It can actually create really original flavour profiles for you that can be even better than the original recipes were.

If you’re interested in learning more after watching this video, you can find great resources on VHS’s Plant University platform and subscribe to get involved with VHS’s work to help animals, people, and the planet.

So let’s get started.

Pastel de Choclo

Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 acorn squash

Corn topper

  • 5 cups corn (6 corn on the cob or 1 bag frozen corn)
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 bunch basil (10 leaves)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • crushed walnuts

Veggie Bottom

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 small/medium onions, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 can lentils (or equivalent soaked lentils)
  • 2.5 cups mushrooms, diced small
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • black or kalamata olives, sliced
  • cayenne (optional)

Instructions
 

Acorn squash

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice acorn squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp from the inside.
  • Slice squash in 1/4 thick rounds.
  • Lay squash on baking sheet and baste with olive oil and cayenne pepper if using.
  • Bake until squash is soft and lightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

Veggie Bottom

  • Heat a pan over medium heat and sauté half an onion.
  • Once onion is translucent, add the diced mushrooms, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar. Cook until mushrooms have reduced.
  • Once the mushrooms have reduced, add the rosemary leaves and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 4 minutes and then add the lentils (if canned rinse and drain fully) and bouillon cube dissolved in 3/4 cup water (or if using soaked/drained lentils, 1 1/4 cup water).
  • Stir in the rest of the onion, ground cumin, paprika, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Cook until lentils are fully soft and the mixture is moist.
  • Turn off heat.

Corn Topper

  • If using fresh corn, boil corn cobs until corn is al dente (not fully soft). Let the corn cool and then use a knife to slice all corn from husk.
  • In a large pot heat and cook corn until soft. Add coconut milk, basil, salt, pepper, paprika, and continue to cook, occasionally stirring for approximately 10 more minutes.
  • Blend the corn mixture with a hand mixer on pulse. Make sure to leave some chunkier parts.
  • Add cornmeal and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Consistency should be firm.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Cool and then serve. It will thicken slightly when cool.

Assembly

  • In baking dish, layer the veggie bottom as a base, filling the bottom of the dish.
  • Add a layer of acorn squash on top of the veggie mixture and olives sprinkled over the top.
  • Cover the squash layer with the corn topper.
  • Sprinkle crushed walnuts over top.
  • Bake until slightly brown.

Notes

Recipe Cost Breakdown

Ingredients
Quantity
Measure
Cost
Corn
5
Cups
3.49
Cornmeal
2
Tbsp
0.14
Basil
1
Bunch
3.29
Salt
2
Tsp
0.01
Pepper
1
Tsp
0.11
Paprika
1
Tsp
0.06
Coconut oil
1.5
Tbsp
0.69
Olive oil
2
Tsp
0.16
Onions
3
Each
3.90
Ground cumin
1
Tsp
0.18
Salt
1
Tsp
0.006
Pepper
2
Tsp
0.22
Lentils
1
Can
1.79
Mushrooms
2.5
Cups
3.49
Fresh Rosemary
1
Sprig
0.15
Apple Cider Vinegar
1
Tbsp
0.02
Balsamic Vinegar
2
Tbsp
0.30
Vegetable bouillon cube
1
Each
0.75
Paprika
1
tbsp
0.17
Total
 
 
18.93
Cost per serving
 
 
6.31
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

And there you have it. A delicious and healthy pastel de choclo. It’s filling and full of flavour and is packed with complex carbohydrates.

If this is the first time you’ve seen a plant-based recipe being made, you can check out some more options on the Vancouver Humane Society’s Plant University platform.

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Festive favourites: Holiday recipes from the staff of the Vancouver Humane Society

Festive favourites: Holiday recipes from the staff of the Vancouver Humane Society

Want to add more plant-based foods into your holidays but not sure where to start? Or maybe you want some new recipes to add to your yearly traditions? The staff of the Vancouver Humane Society share our favourite plant-based winter and holiday recipes for those chilly days and festive feasts. We hope you enjoy, and from our team to yours, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Classic tomato soup:

Chantelle: After scouring the internet for the best tomato soup recipes, I finally made my own version that is bursting with flavour and totally vegan-friendly! I love putting this recipe together on a weeknight and then using the leftovers to have with plant-based grilled cheeses for a couple days. For the grilled cheese, I prefer either Daiya cheddar flavour slices or Chao tomato cayenne. It’s the perfect recipe to warm me up on those cold winter nights.

Sugar cookies:

Emily: Sugar cookies are a staple of the holiday season for me. This sweet little treat is a real crowd pleaser!

Anamalai hot chocolate:

Ishtmeet: The holidays look different for my family every year, with us sometimes being on opposite sides of the world. One thing that has remained constant throughout the years is our Home Alone movie marathon (only the first two because we all know those are the best ones) accompanied by hot chocolate. What began as a simple premade mix when I was younger has evolved into a pursuit for making the most delicious, leveled up version of a childhood classic. Good quality cacao powder makes all the difference in this hot chocolate recipe, with some spices for added warmth and a flavour boost. We love to use oat milk and top it off with coco whip (from the can, of course) or vegan mini marshmallows.

Pro-tip: to keep the coco whip from melting right away, add a layer of vegan mini marshmallows first! 

Trifle:

Katrina: Growing up my mom would make a trifle on Christmas Eve that we would eat for breakfast on Christmas morning to kick off a sugar-fueled day of fun! This vegan version from School Night Vegan is a very similar to what my mom would make – festive and delicious!

Tourtière with Mushroom Gravy:

Brooklyn: I’ve made this tourtière for the past several years on Réveillon (December 24th) and serve with a generous portion of my spouse’s gravy recipe. The gravy works beautifully and tastes incredible.

Homemade vegan Baileys:

Sareeta: One of my favourite recipes is this homemade vegan Baileys, made with Jameson Irish whiskey. It’s delicious in coffee and hot chocolate. I drank it a lot during the height of the pandemic!

Chocolate peanut butter balls:

Amy: These chocolate peanut butter are a good replacement for peanut butter cups. They’re yummy and easy to make!

Finnish Pulla:

Heather: I love this vegan Pulla recipe from Philosophy and Cake. My background is partly Finnish so it was a tradition in my family to eat Pulla, which is a Finnish cardamom braided bread, around the holiday season each year. It was something I greatly missed after I went vegan, so I was extremely excited to find a recipe to make it myself. This recipe doesn’t disappoint and tastes just like the non-plant-based version. It uses mashed banana to bind and I loved trying to braid bread since I’d never done that before.  I’ve only made it once since it does take some time to make, but if you want a fun baking challenge (or maybe you’re already a baking pro and this is a walk in a park for you!) and want to try a traditional bread that’s soft and sweet, try it out.

Looking for more delicious plant-based recipes?

Go to our recipe library!

Check out PlantUniversity’s original recipe library for more delicious plant-based meal and snack ideas.

Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based Eating

Beginner’s guide to plant-based eating

Featured Author: Emma Levez Larocque, Plant-Based R.H.N

Have you been hearing about plant-based diets and wondering what all the fuss is about?  

In this video we’re going to explore the topic of plant-based eating—what does the term actually mean? Is this way of eating truly healthy and sustainable? And why are some people shifting their diets to eat more plant-based foods?  

If you decide a plant-based shift is something you’d like to try out as you watch this video, the second half of this video shares some great tips on easy ways to get started! You can also download the beginner’s guide to plant-based eating:

Download the plant-based beginner’s guide

What is plant-based?

Before we dive in, let’s define our terms. It may seem obvious, but “plant-based” refers to foods that come from plants—like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, and does not include animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs. 

Popularity of plant-based

Have you noticed that there are more plant-based products at your local grocery store than there used to be? According to a 2021 report by Bloomberg Intelligence the interest in plant-based foods is increasing. Their research projects that plant-based products will make up to 7.7% of the global protein market—a value of over $162 billion—by 2030! 

Why plant-based?

What’s causing this shift? Why are plant-based foods becoming so popular? 

For the planet

Many people have started changing what they eat because they’re concerned about the environment, but does a dietary shift really make a difference? Let’s take a look at what the data says.  

Our World in Data published research about the Environmental Impacts of Food Production. They showed that one quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions result from food and agriculture, and the main contributors to food’s emissions are livestock and fisheries, crop production, land use and supply chains, in that order. 

When comparing the carbon footprint of protein-rich foods, which account for the bulk of our dietary emissions, they found that the impact of plant-based foods is significantly lower than meat and dairy, across the board. Beef, lamb, farmed shrimp and cheese were the worst offenders, while plant-based protein sources, like tofu, beans, peas and nuts, had the lowest carbon footprint. 

The researchers on this project concluded that:

“Tackling what we eat, and how we produce our food, plays a key role in tackling climate change, reducing water stress and pollution, restoring lands back to forests or grasslands, and protecting the world’s wildlife.”
Our World in Data

What do you think? Would you be willing to shift your diet if it helps keep the planet healthier? 

For our health

But there are some other things to consider. Even if it’s good for the planet, is this a healthy way for humans to eat? Sometimes it can be mind-bending trying to make sense of all the information about constantly changing food trends! 

So let’s take it back to the basics. One thing a majority of doctors and scientists agree on is that eating more veggies is a good idea. But is it safe to focus your diet around plant-based foods, or eat plant-based foods exclusively?  

A growing number of studies are showing that a well-balanced plant-based diet is not just safe but can have significant health benefits.  

According to the Physician’s Guide on Plant-Based Diets, a peer-reviewed article by Registered Dietitian Julieanna Hever, plant-based diets have been associated with lowering deaths from heart disease, supporting healthy weight management, reducing medication needs, lowering the risk for most chronic diseases and more.  

And one thing we think is interesting is that this isn’t anything new! In five areas of the world now famously known as the Blue Zones you can find the longest-lived, healthiest people in the world. National Geographic and a team of researchers studying these areas found that one of the common behaviours of people living in the Blue Zones was a focus on unprocessed plant-based foods.  

As plant-based diets become more popular and are being linked with health benefits, more research is being conducted. As a result, a growing body of evidence is connecting meat consumption with a higher risk of common chronic health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer.  

And Health Canada has assessed this information. The new Canada Food Guide, revised in 2019, recommends that Canadians shift to eating plant foods – including plant proteins – more often

For the animals

Another consideration as you are thinking about the pros and cons of a plant-based diet is the animals. 

According to government-recorded statistics more than 825 million animals were raised and killed for food in Canada in 2021. We know that farmed animals like pigs, cows and chickens are as intelligent and sentient as the cats and dogs we share our homes with, but our society treats them very differently. Most farmed animals are raised in factory farms in cramped, poor conditions none of us would wish on our pets – so why do we look the other way when it comes to farmed animals? 


We’d love to hear what you think about all of this. If you’re considering shifting to a plant-based diet, what is your main motivation? Or maybe you have more questions? Tell us in the comments below. 

Learn more:

For the animals

For the planet

For our health

Tips for getting started

If you’re ready to start making a plant-based shift, you might be surprised at how easy it can be to get started. 

1. Start small and stack up successes

First up, we recommend starting small and stacking up successes. 

Moving toward a plant-based diet can be easier if it’s a gradual process. For example, you could start with one plant-based meal a day – like oatmeal loaded with berries, a veggie scramble, or avocado toast for breakfast. When you have that down, add in a second meal – like a bean burrito, a veggie soup or a great big meal salad for lunch. Then go on to dinner. This approach gives you time to try out some new foods and recipes and build the habits that lead to lasting change. 

2. Take a look at what you’re eating now

Another tip as you’re getting started is to take a look at what you’re eating now. You might find that there are already plant-based foods you are enjoying. Do you like falafel and hummus? Plant-based! Chana masala? Pasta with marinara sauce? Lentil stew? All plant-based! It’s easy to find recipes and products that can help you make plant-based versions of your favourite dishes. If you sign up for Plant University’s newsletter you’ll get weekly recipe ideas automatically delivered to your inbox.  

3. Take a cooking class or program

If eating more plant-based foods is a big switch for you and your family, you might consider taking a local cooking class or an online cooking program like Rouxbe. This is a good way to sample new foods and get inspired to start making beautiful and delicious plant-based dishes. Many people are surprised to find that it’s easy to get inspired by the colours and vibrancy of fresh plant foods!   

4. Arm yourself with knowledge

Our final tip is about arming yourself with knowledge.  

As you’re transitioning, take some time to do your research and make sure you’re providing your body with the fuel it needs to take full advantage of all the benefits of a plant-based way of eating. This will ensure that you can thrive on your plant-based journey. PlantUniversity.ca is a great place to get started. The site has a great selection of resources, including recipes, videos, blog posts, a shopping and eating guide, and a 21-day challenge to help you get started in creating healthy plant-based habits.  

Are you in the process of transitioning to a plant-based diet? We’d love to hear what’s working for you! 

Subscribe to stay updated
Download the plant-based beginner’s guide

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Top 10 Plant-Based Pantry Items

Top 10 plant-based pantry items

Featured author: Bridget Burns

Bridget Burns is a recipe and lifestyle content creator and more! Bridget shares her top 10 plant-based pantry items today. She is based in Vancouver.

Hi everyone, I am Bridget Burns, the founder of The Vegan Project. The VP began in 2009 when a few friends challenged each other to go vegan for 30 days and blog about it. From there it evolved into event hosting, catering, meal planning, and the launch of the Vancouver Vegan Festival at Creekside Park in 2019. 

When I began my vegan journey, meat and dairy substitutes were not nearly as readily available as they are today. I’ve learned so much over the past 12 years through many successes, and failures. Today, for the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform, I’m going to share my top 10 plant-based pantry staples to keep on hand to set yourself up for success. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can also find great resources on VHS’s PlantUniversity Platform and make sure to subscribe to get involved in VHS’s work to help animals, people and the planet.

Let’s begin!

I hope you found this list helpful for your own kitchen! You can find more plant-based tips on my Instagram, Facebook and website, @TheVeganProject.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform to stay updated on new content and to get involved in their work.

First steps to tofu mastery

First steps to tofu mastery

Featured author: Emma Levez Larocque, Plant-Based RHN

Tofu was invented more than 2,000 years ago and has been eaten in many Asian cuisines for centuries! As this ingredient has become more popular around the world, chefs and cooks everywhere have been experimenting with tofu in the kitchen. We now know that tofu can be versatile—and incredibly tasty—if you just spend a little time learning how to cook it well. 

There are a few things that people who are new to using tofu should be aware of to ensure a good experience.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of tofu and tips and recipes for cooking it. For more tips check out the PlantUniversity platform and subscribe to receive free weekly recipes.

3 things to know to set yourself up for tofu success

1) There are different kinds of tofu, and the kind you use matters

2) How you prepare and cook tofu affects the texture, and good texture makes it easy to love tofu

3) Tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavour, but it will take on the flavours you add to it (which makes it the perfect “blank canvas” and adaptable to many dishes)

Let’s dig into the details.

Types of tofu

The two main types of tofu are regular and silken (Japanese-style). Both types come in soft, medium, firm and extra-firm consistencies. Part of learning to use tofu is trying different kinds to see what textures you prefer. Below is a description of the different kinds of tofu and what they are typically used for.

Adding flavour to tofu

As mentioned above, tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavour on its own. Some people love the subtle taste of plain tofu, and it works well added on its own to dishes like miso soup or a curry/chili. However, most of the time when you are using tofu as a base, or a featured part of a dish, you’ll want to flavour it with herbs, spices, aromatics, or other flavourful ingredients, and/or a delicious marinade or glaze.

Once you get comfortable with tofu and start experimenting, you’ll realize that the possibilities are endless. However, if you’re new to tofu preparation, where should you start?

These are two simple methods that are great to try out as you get started on your tofu journey:

Method 1: Frying and Glazing Tofu

3 simple steps:

  1. Prepare a simple glaze by combining 2 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tbsp tamari, and prepare 1 block of extra-firm tofu by cutting it into 1- inch cubes 
  2. Heat a no- or low-stick sauté pan over medium heat, and once hot, add a dash of olive oil. Add tofu cubes immediately, flipping and turning occasionally until the cubes are crispy on all sides. 
  3. Once the tofu cubes are nicely browned, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the simple glaze, tossing until the tofu is well covered. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn, reducing the heat if necessary. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, until all the glaze has been absorbed and the tofu is nicely coated. Remove from heat once the tofu is looking nice and crispy.

Other flavourful glazes of equal parts liquid sweetener + liquid salt can be used with this method, and the resulting cubes are a tasty addition to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.

Watch how to fry and glaze tofu:

Method 2: Blending Tofu

Let’s make a Silky Chocolate Pudding!

This recipe is a good example of how silken tofu can be used as a base for sweet or savoury dishes since it will take on the flavours of the ingredients you add to it.

  1. Place the following ingredients in your blender: 
    • 1 container silken lite firm tofu (349 g) OR soft (dessert) regular tofu*
    • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 5-6 dates, soaked for several hours
    • 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup, or more to taste (optional)
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  2. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Place into dishes and chill to set. Serve with fresh berries or other fruit of choice. Can be used as a dip without chilling and setting.

*You can use either kind of tofu here, but the silken variety will give you an extra creamy texture.

Watch how to make a silky chocolate pudding:


Let us know how it goes

Have you tried these recipes and tips? How did it go? What’s your favourite glaze to use with tofu? Are there other ways you love to cook tofu? What dishes do you enjoy making with tofu?

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Tips for making your holidays plant-based

Tips for making your holidays plant-based

Holidays provide a special opportunity to try out new plant-based traditions, adapt your favourites, or continue ones that have been in your family for a long time. Keep reading for tips and suggestions from Plant University volunteers and supporters on how to make your holiday deliciously plant-based.

Submissions have been edited for grammar and clarity.


The holidays are full of good food which can all be made compassionately. We start with baking and decorating holiday cookies and sweet treats to share. Our new neighbours are Italian, so this year we found a delicious vegan biscotti and almond cookie recipe to make for them. We also have a few traditions for our Christmas meals. My daughter makes the best vegan cinnamon rolls – the recipe was adopted from our favourite local plant-based bakery To Live For. They are accompanied with a berry platter recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi I vegan-ized by substituting labneh for Yoggu plant-based yogurt.
 
Our Christmas day dinner is completely plant-based. Guests bring a plant-based dish to share so the menu changes every year, but some consistent dishes we serve are puffed pastry filled with mushrooms, lentils, and onions and broccoli, cannelini beans, and vegan cheese for the kids version. We also have mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with cranberry and walnuts,  green beans with lemons, and dinner rolls. 
 
Plant-based meals can be intimidating at first but once you break it down, they can be completely nourishing, fulfilling, simple, leaving your belly and your heart full.  
Teresa
For the holidays, I try to appeal to everyone’s dietary restrictions and preferences while keeping everything cruelty free. Beyond beef is a great substitute for ground beef – it’s made with pea protein, has no soy, gluten, GMOs, and is even kosher! I like to make a variety of dishes with it like cabbage rolls, meatballs, lasagna, and meatloaf. For dairy, it’s very easy to swap your favourite recipes with vegan butter and oat milk. Veggie and fruit trays are also a great snack or appetizer that many people can enjoy. Happy holiday hosting!
Monica Hiller
You can be really creative with food during the holidays. I love helping my family make their favourite recipes like hamburgers and enchiladas with plant-based products like Yves. Chips and guacamole are a great snack to bring family together. My family also really likes making tacos as they’re very easy to make plant-based. We replace the meat with foods such as beans, tofu, vegan chorizo with cilantro and tomato sauce – delicious!
Brian J
I make roasted potatoes with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, Gardein stuffed not turkey, vegan gravy, Brussels sprouts, and carrots, and yorkshire pudding made with plant-based milk and egg substitute.
Sue McCaskill
I like The Very Good Butchers Stuffed Beast, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. Oh, and vegan gravy and whole cranberries.
Phylis Brown
I make a big vegan dinner and try at least one new recipe every year. I make vegan desserts and hot chocolate too! My fave roast to make is the Tofurky ham roast! But I don’t like the ale glaze it comes with so I make my own glaze with maple syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar!
Melissa Viau
Slowly & gently melt 3 Lindt 90% chocolate bars (broken into pieces) in top of a double boiler: stir in rough-chopped pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, and a bunch of fresh orange zest: spread mixture on a non-stick cookie sheet: press flat, cool until set. Break it up. This is called holiday bark. What’s not to love!
Susan J Broatch
We have plant-based ‘eggnog’, all the trimmings, just no turkey. We don’t miss a thing!
Jill Sonia
I make beet wellington instead of turkey.
Kpswebster

Bonus tip: Wanting to take your plant-based holiday to the next level? Consider donating to a vegan or animal organization – you can even do so as a gift for a loved one!

For more plant-based holiday inspiration, check out this episode of the Vancouver Humane Society’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally, about adapting to the holidays as a vegan!

Podcast: Adapting to the holidays as a vegan

Go to our recipe library!

Check out PlantUniversity’s original recipe library for more delicious plant-based meal and snack ideas.

I’m a home baker; here are my tips for vegan baking!

I’m a home baker; here are my tips for vegan baking!

A plant-based vanilla cupcake on a plate.

When I first went vegan, I spent a lot of time experimenting with new savoury recipes. The curries, chilis, pastas, sandwiches, salads, and other dishes I already loved tasted amazing with plant-based swaps! But there was one area that I was a little more hesitant: baking.

I have a major sweet tooth and have always loved baking. I even became known as the “cookie person” when I got together with loved ones for the holidays.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great vegan treat brands and “accidentally vegan” store-bought goods, from Maynards Fuzzy Peaches to Oreos; but for me, there is nothing quite like biting into a warm cookie fresh out of the oven. So I set out to hone my plant-based baking skills.

It didn’t take long! As it turns out, it’s very easy to make delicious plant-based treats. It might even be easier than baking with animal products—say goodbye to fiddling with eggshells in your batter! It wasn’t long before I was turning out quick desserts that were wowing even my non-vegan friends.

Here are some of my favourite ways to make non-vegan recipes plant-based.

The best non-dairy milk for baking

According to my research, the best non-dairy milk for baking is soy milk, followed by almond milk. If you bake a lot of treats with thin batters, like cakes, you might want to consider those as your top option.

A batch of chocolate chip cookies close up.

However, I mostly bake cookies with a thicker dough that only call for a couple tablespoons of milk. For recipes where your non-dairy milk is not going to be the star of the show, I’ve found it makes no difference to use whichever milk you prefer for your everyday use like sauces, coffee, or tea. When a recipe calls for dairy milk, I normally substitute 1:1 for an equal amount of oat milk.

The best plant-based butter for baking

There are so many great plant-based brands that make dairy-free butter. Here is the best side-by-side comparison I’ve found of the various vegan butters for baking cookies.

My personal favourite cost-effective butter substitution is Becel Vegan Margarine, which I’ve found works well in cookies, squares, and even buttercream.

A batch of vegan brownies cut into squares in a pan.

If you’re in a pinch, a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil works just fine in cake recipes.

Applesauce can also be substituted for butter if you’re oil-free.

The best plant-based egg substitutes for baking

Replacing egg with flax egg

A flax egg is my go-to egg swap in cookie recipes. If a recipe calls for only one or two eggs, a flax egg works flawlessly. Watch the video below for instructions on making a flax egg or see the recipe here.

One thing to be cautious of is using flax eggs in recipes with 3-4 eggs or more. In egg-heavy recipes without other binding ingredients, the flax egg loses some of its power as a binding agent and can leave you with a dessert that doesn’t set properly. A store-bought substitute can work best in these cases.

Using Just Egg in baking

Store-bought egg substitutes like Just Egg are designed to mimic the fluffiness and binding properties that you would see from using an animal egg in baking.

A bottle of Just Egg vegan egg replacement on a muffin tin.

Bonus: When you’re done with your sweet recipe, they also work great in savoury dishes like plant-based omelettes.

Replacing egg with pumpkin or banana in baking

One egg can be replaced by ¼ cup pumpkin puree or mashed ripe banana (equal to about ½ a medium banana).

A bunch of overripe bananas on the counter.

Pumpkin and banana make baked goods dense and moist, making them perfect for breads and muffins. This replacement works especially well for recipes that naturally incorporate these flavours, like:

  • pumpkin cookies
  • pumpkin spice muffins
  • pumpkin cake
  • banana muffins
  • banana pancakes
  • banana bread

Replacing egg with tofu in baking

Silken tofu is an effective egg substitute in a wide range of recipes, including cakes, cookies, squares, and breads. Each egg can be replaced with ¼ cup pureed silken tofu.

Silken tofu can be used as an egg sustitute.

What to use instead of egg in meringue

For recipes that call for egg whites to be whipped into a meringue, aquafaba is a naturally effective plant-based substitute.

Aquafaba meringues from chickpea liquid.

Aquafaba refers to the liquid left over from cooked chickpeas. If you’re making a recipe with chickpeas like this scrumptious chickpea salad sandwich, chickpea tagine, or hummus, simply save the liquid from your canned chickpeas or the leftover cooking liquid from cooking dried and soaked chickpeas. The word can also refer to the meringue-like foam made by whipping this liquid.

To make aquafaba, whip the liquid saved from cooked or canned chickpeas for 3-6 minutes. Check out this step-by-step guide on making aquafaba.

The bottom line

There are so many easy plant-based substitutions for baking, and even more unique recipes to explore that are plant-based by default—like these tender and fragrant plant-based cranberry lemon yogurt muffins! Plant-based baking is a wonderful (and delicious) way to get creative in the kitchen.

What did you think of these plant-based substitutions for baking? Do you have a favourite that we missed? Find PlantUniversity’s posts at @vancouverhumane on Tiktok or Instagram and let us know your thoughts!

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10 strategies for your busy vegan kitchen

Featured Author: Anna Pippus

10 strategies for your busy vegan kitchen

Today for Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform, we are going to provide you with strategies shared from animal rights lawyer and cookbook author, Anna Pippus, that will help you manage your busy vegan kitchen! You can follow Anna on Instagram at @easyanimalfree for more great plant-based tips and recipes. We hope you find these strategies helpful, whether you’re just starting the shift to plant-based or you’re well on your way. 

 If you’re interested in learning more after watching this video, you can find great resources on VHS’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get involved in VHS’s work to help animals, people and the planet

1. Learn to cook.

Being able to cook for ourselves is liberating! It doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy.

Consider checking out cookbooks from the library and watching YouTube videos—not just the food pros, but “what I ate in a week” videos are also great to get a sense of how ordinary people really feed themselves.

2. Get comfortable with leftovers.

Cook more than you need for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch.

Some foods, like pasta and stir fries, usually need a splash of water when they’re reheated to keep from being too thick or dry.

Leftovers can be repurposed into new meals. For example, rice and beans for dinner can be tacos for lunch; roasted sweet potatoes keep well for 4 to 5 days and help make lunchtime salads filling; and leftover rice is ideal for fried rice.

3. Plan ahead.

If you’re not great at meal planning, instead consider cooking by theme. For example, Mondays are pasta, Tuesdays are bowls, Wednesdays are one-pot meals, and Thursdays are stir fries and other pan-Asian inspired meals. On Fridays you could do something fun like burgers and air-fries, and over the weekends coast on leftovers, have long lazy brunches, and get together with friends and family for meals. Having themes means you have some direction but also some flexibility.

For more ideas on how to organize meals around themes, check out “The Vegan Family Cookbook” by Anna Pippus.  

4. Have some back pocket meals.

For most of us, being prepared 100% of the time is impossible. The hungries will strike and you’ll need a low-effort meal in a hurry!

For lunch, try chickpea crepes, chickpea salad sandwiches or tacos. Or simple favourites like peanut butter and jam toast, with veggies and fruit. Or a big salad with roasted sweet potato and lentils or beans.

For dinners, some quick go-tos could be cashew cream pasta, red lentil curry or rice noodles with tofu.

5. Learn to cook without recipes.

Recipes are a great way to learn a new recipe, and to replicate an old favourite.

But following recipes every day can be exhausting, because it takes more mental effort to read through instructions, using measuring tools means more dishes, and it can feel like a chore rather than a creative expression.

Don’t be afraid to go off-recipe! Use the vegetables that are going bad and the spices you prefer. Skip the ingredient you don’t have, or look up a substitute.

Many meals don’t even require a recipe at all, like stir fries, bowls, and soups. The Vegan Family Cookbook also includes a section on how to make a bowl and soup without recipes. YouTube and instagram are also great resources for this.

6. Stock the pantry.

It’s useful to have a variety of grains, legumes, and flavour enhancers on hand. A few key pantry staples are brown rice, oats, pasta, rice noodles, red and green lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, coconut milk, soy sauce, jarred tomatoes, a few kinds of vinegar, and tons of herbs and spices.

7. Buy produce that lasts

Consider buying foods like cabbage, carrots, apples, potatoes, onions, frozen berries, and frozen peas. That way even when the fridge is getting bare, you can come up with a fresh meal.

Cabbage is good raw as slaw, in tacos or on bowls, or as a side for burgers. It is also perfect in soups and stir fries, where it’s barely detectable, even by kids.

Frozen peas can be thrown into pasta water in the last five minutes of cooking. Add some cashew cream sauce, and it’s a nearly-instant dinner.

8. Keep it simple.

Consider ways you can make cooking easier – like cutting out multiple steps when one step will do just fine. For example, instead of boiling and then roasting potatoes –  just roast them. The goal is yummy and nutritious, not gourmet.

Over-complicating things is a fast track to overwhelm and burnout.

9. Cook and clean as you go.

Conventional cooking wisdom is that we should prepare all of our ingredients before we start cooking, but a rolling prep strategy can save you time. For example, chop an onion and get it sautéing before prepping the rest of your soup ingredients, or get rice or noodles boiling before making your sauce.

Dishes are easier to clean when food hasn’t had a chance to get stuck onto them. When you have downtime while cooking, this is a great time to clean any prep tools you’re finished with and wipe the counters.

That way, after dinner when you just want to relax and hang out together, you’re not staring down a giant mess. The prospect of a big kitchen mess can deter us from wanting to cook in the first place, so nip this in the bud with a clean-as-you-go approach!

10. Have fun.

Cooking can become genuinely enjoyable and is an opportunity to get creative.

At dinner time, consider playing some beautiful music and make a simple meal. It’s relaxed and enjoyable.


We love these strategies from Anna Pippus and hope you find them helpful in your own kitchen! We encourage you to check out her cookbook, “The Vegan Family Cookbook”, for more plant-based recipe inspiration!

If you’ve found this helpful, please consider sharing it! Don’t forget to subscribe to Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform to stay updated on new content and to get involved in VHS’s work.

Adapting meals to be plant-based

Adapting meals to be plant-based

Featured Author: Asha Wheeldon

Hi everyone, I’m Asha Wheeldon, the founder of Kula Kitchen and co-host of Chop It Up. We focus on creating plant-based food to nourish and empower our community. Many of the meals and flavours are inspired by food I grew up enjoying with my family in East Africa and Toronto. We are driven by community through collaborations with other food producers and local partners.

Today, for the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform, I’m going to share some tips on how to get creative in your own kitchen and help you adapt traditionally non-plant-based recipes to be plant-based. 

If you’re interested in learning more after watching this video, you can find great resources on VHS’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get involved in VHS’s work to help animals, people and the planet.

I remember the first couple of months during my transition to PB diet. The first dishes I was looking to recreate were some of my favourite childhood dishes that were mostly my mother’s, such as stews, sauces and baked goods. Over time I came to terms with the fact that what I create will not be the same, the texture and flavour will not be the exact copy of the “original” recipe. I found myself enjoying the process and the outcome of the dishes, I would share with my friends and family who also loved them.  

I want to share some of the things I think about and steps I take when I’m trying to adapt a recipe that is not traditionally plant-based, to be plant-based:

I think about what I want the food to taste like, the texture and flavour:

  •  Some of the more versatile alternatives are tempeh, textured vegetable protein; they come in granules, slices, curls and cubes. Coconut milk for yogurt, nutritional yeast for cheese. For the most part, you can use the same seasoning with a few adjustments. 
  • Mushrooms like oyster and king oyster mushrooms are a great alternative for  fish. 

Small adjustments go a long way:

  • One of the great eye-opening moments I had was realizing that most of the foods I loved were mostly plant-based, all I had to do was remove or replace 1-2 ingredients. For example…Sukuma wiki is sautéed collards or cabbage prepared with meat protein and enjoyed with chapati or ugali, a corn based porridge. I often add soy or mushroom to make it plant-based. It’s still one of my favourite meals.

I have my favourite ingredients available:

  • Some of them include: lentils, collards, and black eyed peas.
  • Before I learned about some of the meat alternatives like soy,  I would cook with ingredients I was familiar with and love. This made for a comfortable experience. I cook with lentils and black eyed peas often, you can find them in most grocery stores, they have lots of protein and fibre. 

Seasoning is gold; I like to keep stocked with various spices in my pantry. 

One of the most important things to me about food and recipes, are the flavours! I love foods that are rich in flavour so the first steps includes stocking up on my favourite spices and adding some new options (I may have and continue to go overboard sometimes).

I have a few suggestions that can help you with getting the perfect flavours for your dishes: 

I found that if you keep to the original seasoning which is often already plant-based, you can still maintain the original taste of the dish.

Some of my favourite spices and herbs are:

  • Cayenne, Turmeric, Berbere, cumin, curry powder, cardamom, cinnamon. 
  • A tip: I often blend the spices to create different flavours. For example, if I am preparing a rice dish, the spices would be on the lighter side and not as spicy. For stews I can go all in and sometimes add in some of the sweeter spices like cardamom. 

What’s great about blends is you can use your staples to expand your seasoning options. This also applies to marinades when incorporating spices and sauces.

I’m going to show you how to make one of my favourite and super simple spice blends:

You take 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, chili and cloves and mix. There you have it – a simple spice blend you can use on your next dish like rice pilau!

Herbs, Limes and lemon are always a good idea:

  • You can enhance nutritional impact with citrus for greens, many leafy green vegetables like collards and kale are great iron source and they activate with adding citrus.
  • I find herbs like cilantro provide that fresh and elevated flavour. Add fresh as garnish or cook with your meals like rice pilau, and stew.

I have a couple favourite dishes at Kula Kitchen. One of them is our portobello curry bowl with black eyed peas, mushrooms, collards, and carrots and served over rice pilau. This dish is warming and a perfect meal on colder days.

I also love our nourished bowl with tofu and mushroom scramble, black eyed peas, collards, and roasted sweet potatoes. This is a perfect dish for breakfast and lunch. They are available to order on our website, KulaKitchen.ca, along with our packaged plant-based meats, stews, curry, and sauces.


I would encourage anyone starting their plant-based journey to be more intentional and meet yourself where you are at, try not to be hard on yourself. Nothing is perfect, you will slip up, make mistakes, and create a completely different dish and that’s ok! What happens next is an abundance of ideas, creativity, and fun. Lots of Fun! 

For this reason, I think it’s also important that we support each other during our journey. As a vegan, if you know someone who is trying to introduce more plants in their lives, support them where they are at. Also recognize each person has different identities, stories, and viewpoints. I think it’s important that we encourage each other; let’s meet each other wherever we are and have more meaningful discussions that are free of judgement and exclusion. I have witnessed family and friends through their journey, who have shared how  they were inspired by the encouragement and judgement free discussions, the food and support. It really does take community support for better outcomes for animals, humans and the planet.

I hope this has inspired you to get cooking and to get creative in the kitchen. And remember, always be gentle on yourself and others in this plant-based journey.

To stay connected you can find us online at www.kulakitchen.caChopItUp.ca and Kula Kitchen and ChopItUpyvr on Facebook, Instagram, and Kula Foods on LinkedIn. We offer weekly delivery and pick up services that include offerings from our community. You can also find our products at our local partners spaces in BC. We love hosting events like our collective cooking classes to get folks together over food, and keep in touch to find out about events in the Vancouver Area.

If you’ve found this helpful, please consider sharing it! Don’t forget to subscribe to Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform to stay updated on new content and to get involved in their work.

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Plant-based winter desserts for your humane holiday

Plant-based winter desserts for your humane holiday

Food is a highlight for many families celebrating holidays, and especially during the December holiday season. Now, with so many plant-based recipe variations for your favourite holiday dessert, it is easier than ever to have a plant-based holiday season. Here are a few of our favourite plant-based holiday recipes. Try one (or a couple) the next holiday season!

Apple crumble tart:

Baking with apples is always so delicious – and makes your home smell amazing too! This recipe is filled with decadent ingredients like pecans, maple syrup and holiday spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. In the link below, there is also a handy video you can follow along that shows you how to make the tart.

Tip: Using a food processor is recommended for making the crust.

Sugar cookies:

For some, sugar cookies are a classic holiday cookie – they are simple, yummy and melt in your mouth. This holiday, try out a new plant-based version of this classic. Bonus: These cookies are also gluten free and grain free.

Tip: Use festive cookie cutters!

Blintzes:

Surprise your guests this season with these tofu filled blintzes! They are sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Tip: For a healthier blintz, this recipe suggests to leave out sautéing at the end. Mix it up by replacing the blueberries with strawberries, peaches, mango, or your favourite fruit.

Rugelach:

You can whip this recipe up in under 30 minutes! Instead of making your own pastry, this recipe suggests looking for a puff pastry in your grocery store – many are plant-based! This will save you a lot of time this holiday season and we guarantee, it will still be delicious.

Tip: These can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months in an airtight container.

Sweet potato pie:

One word: Yum. This pie is mouthwatering, oh-so-flavorful, with a thick consistency because of delicious coconut cream. If you are feeling adventurous, try making your own pie crust too (find a recipe for a plant-based pie crust in the link below).

Tip: Read about some of the nutritional benefits of eating sweet potatoes in the recipe link!

Mochi:

These sweet red bean filled mochi are deliciously sweet and chewy. This recipe makes 8 mochi for you to share over the holiday season.

Tip: Want more intense flavor? This recipe suggests using molasses instead of brown sugar to make the dough. Yum!

Nanaimo bars:

A B.C. fav, you cannot go wrong with serving Nanaimo bars over the holidays, especially these plant-based and gluten-free ones! Everyone will be asking you what the delicious filling is made with! Check out the recipe to see what the secret filling ingredient is.

What makes these bars even better? This recipe includes no powdered or white sugar!

Looking for more delicious plant-based recipes?

Go to our recipe library!

Check out PlantUniversity’s original recipe library for more delicious plant-based meal and snack ideas.