The best plant-based chocolates from the staff of the Vancouver Humane Society

The best plant-based chocolates from the staff of the Vancouver Humane Society

Delicious chocolates that are also compassionate to animals and the planet are becoming more and more accessible. There are a plethora of plant-based chocolates on the market these days – long gone are the days where one looking to find more humane alternatives to their favourite treats would have to stick to just dark chocolate.

For World Chocolate Day on July 7 this year, the Vancouver Humane Society team is sharing some of their favourite plant-based chocolates that are arguably even more delicious than their dairy-based counterparts!

After reading, check out this blog post for more tips on going dairy free.

All chocolates can be found at Little Vegan Treats, a BC-based online company that is passionate about finding exciting, satisfying treats, showcasing just how delicious it is to live a vegan lifestyle.

I tried the Caroboo Orange Bar a while back and I really liked it. It reminded me of those chocolate oranges that you smash against a table and then you get little segments. We used to have those at Christmas when I was a kid so it was really nostalgic.
I first tried HIP chocolate bars last year and they are so smooth and creamy. I love that they come in several different flavours and my two favourites are Cookies No Cream and Salty Pretzel – the savory and sweet flavours pair together perfectly! I also love that the HIP is part of 1% for the planet.
Growing up, I always loved having Ferrero Rocher around the holidays. After I went vegan, I assumed that I would need to find a new tradition. That’s why I was so excited to find the Nutty Choc Balls from Love Raw at a Little Vegan Treats pop-up in Vancouver—they are absolutely decadent and capture all the nostalgia from of my favourite holiday chocolate!
I love Vego hazelnut chocolate bars. These yummy chocolate bars mix chocolate with hazelnut paste and whole, roasted hazelnuts to create simply the most divine treat on the market! We always have one in the pantry for snack attacks!
I love Doisy & Dam D&D’s crunchy outer shell and nutty and decadent flavour. M&Ms were one of my favourite chocolates as a kid. I would eat them with popcorn when watching movies, so I’m excited to finally have a plant-based version that satisfy tastebuds and align with my values!
I ordered the Buttermilk peanut nougat bar a while ago. It was sooo good. It tasted just like a snickers bar and was very milk chocolate-like! Now I will think about it all day long!

Chocolate recipes to try

Silky chocolate pudding

Silken tofu paired with dates, chocolate and maple syrup are blended up for the ultimate protein-packed pudding.

OH MY fudgesicle shake

Perfect for when you’re craving something sweet but wanting a healthy snack, this will be your go-to warm weather treat!

Looking for more inspiration? See all plant-based recipes in the Plant University recipe library and subscribe to receive free weekly recipes!

All recipes

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Plant-based milks: weighing your options

Plant-based milks: weighing your options

Featured author: Emma Levez Larocque, Plant-Based RHN

Glasses and mugs of plant-based milk along with the nuts and seeds that they're made from in bowls on a white background.

The popularity of plant-based milks is on the rise. According to the Government of Canada, retail sales of milk alternative beverages were valued at US$336.9 million (approximately $450.94 million CDN) in 2020 and are forecasted to reach US$469.8 million (approximately $633.37 million CDN) in 2025. According to data from Mintel, 161 milk alternative beverages were launched in Canada between January 2018 and February 2021. That’s a lot of plant-based options to choose from!

Why choose plant-based milks?

People are choosing plant-based milks for a number of reasons. First, many varieties offer health benefits when compared to cow’s milk. Second, though there is variety in the environmental impact of plant-based milks, they are invariably more earth-friendly when compared with the massive footprint of dairy milk. And of course, since they’re produced from plants, plant-based milks eliminate the need to take food out of the mouths of babes, literally (something to ponder as Mother’s Day approaches).

A word about mothers and milk…

The dairy industry is arguably one of the cruelest forms of animal agriculture. Besides many instances of outright violence, abuse and neglect that have been documented at factory farms, the very nature of procuring milk requires that cows be kept pregnant, and that calves be taken away from their mothers soon after birth so they don’t drink the milk that is then sold to humans. Moving away from supporting an industry that necessitates the separation of mothers and babies is an act of compassion on Mother’s Day, and every day.

Which plant-based milk should you choose?

Most mainstream grocery stores carry a wide variety of plant-based milks—you may see almond, soy, oat, coconut, cashew, hemp, pea, hazelnut, rice, flax, blends, and others.

There’s an exciting world of plant-based milks to explore, but if you’re new to the concept, the options can be overwhelming. Most options are versatile and can be used as a direct swap for dairy milk in most recipes. In the end, preference largely comes down to personal taste and trying different types is the best way to figure out what you like. We’ve put together some points to consider as you’re getting started.

Let’s do a comparison:

This “at-a-glance” chart provides a comparison of five popular types of plant-based milk.

Download the comparison chart

Diving a little deeper…

Quick Tips

As you’re dipping your toes into the world of plant-based milks, we have a few tips that can help you avoid pitfalls:

1) Read your labels:
As you’re getting started, be sure to look at the label and nutrition information closely. There is plenty of variety, even among different types of milk. They may be sweetened or flavoured, fortified or contain various additives, for example. If you’re looking for a good all-purpose milk, it’s better to go with something unsweetened.  

2) Do a taste test:
Some milks have a sweet flavour even if they are unsweetened (and some versions that are labelled “original” still have sugar added). Be sure to taste any milk before adding it to a savoury dish to ensure you don’t end up with a sweeter-than-desired result.

3) Find your favourite:
If you try one type of plant-based milk and aren’t crazy about it, don’t give up! There are plenty of options to choose from and they are all subtly different—it’s just a matter of finding one that suits your tastes.

A couple of easy (and delicious!) recipes using plant-based milk to start you on your way:

With all the health, environmental and compassion-related benefits they offer, it’s clear that plant-based milks are here to stay. With so many choices in grocery stores and corner stores everywhere, it’s easier than ever to find one that suits your taste and make the switch. We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on plant-based milks. Which ones are your favourites? How are you using plant-based milks in your life?

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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.  
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.

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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More cafes increasing plant-based milk options

More cafes increasing plant-based milk options

As the demand for plant-based foods is increasing, more cafes are responding by shifting menus.

Why are cafes shifting toward plant-based options?

A global collective of 11,000 scientists recently declared a climate emergency and pointed to six critical steps to addressing the situation. Included in the six recommendations was the assertion that “eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock, can improve human health and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Institutions that offer food service can help make it easier for consumers to access plant-based options by prioritizing those items on daily menus. One useful and effective strategy includes making the default menu option plant-based, effectively making the climate-friendly, healthy and humane option the easiest choice for consumers, while still allowing the consumer the ability to modify the default option if they so choose.

Chain cafes are shifting their menus

By 2030, Starbucks is aiming for a 50 percent reduction in its carbon emissions, water withdrawal and waste sent to landfills. “Alternative milks will be a big part of the solution,” said Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson. “The consumer-demand curve is already shifting.”

Johnson says the company will encourage consumers to choose plant-based milk made from coconuts, almond, soy or oats, which all have a smaller environmental footprint than dairy products. In North America, 15 to 20 percent of Starbucks customers already opt for plant-based milk options.

However, the company has not yet moved to remove the additional $0.80 charge from its plant-based milk options in North America. This is a necessary next step to truly encourage a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly shift.

The company’s announcement comes after an environmental assessment determined that dairy products are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions across its operations and supply chain.

The move to prioritize plant-based milk is part of Starbucks’ updated sustainability plan, which includes a pledge to “expanding plant-based options, migrating toward a more environmentally friendly menu.” The company is currently exploring new plant-based beverages and breakfast menu items.

The coffee giant’s expanded sustainability plan and focus on plant-based foods reflects the growing need to address our food system’s contribution to climate change, the global biodiversity crisis and the high demand for meat that drives factory farming.

Tim Hortons is also recognizing the importance of offering more plant-based milk options.

As a response, Tim Hortons introduced almond milk at locations across Canada in 2020, oat milk in 2021 and soy milk at select locations. According to Tim Hortons, research shows that customers who request plant-based milks prefer almond over any other types.  

Independent cafes are leading the way

A hand holds a pink beverage in a glass mug from the top floor overlooking Kind Cafe, Vancouver.

Many smaller cafes are joining or leading this plant-based movement. One in particular is Kind Café, located on Main Street in Vancouver. This locally owned, 100% plant-based and zero-waste cafe offers a number of plant-based milk options, including a variety of nut milks.

This is an excellent example of a cafe that offers plant-based milk as their default option.

Looking to find more plant-based cafes? Visit PlantUniversity’s Animal-free shopping & eating guide!

Interested in learning more tips for expanding plant-based menu options at your school, workplace, business or in your community? Get in touch with us!

Tips on going dairy-free from the staff of Vancouver Humane Society

Tips on going dairy-free from the staff of Vancouver Humane Society

Have you been thinking of transitioning from dairy to plant-based alternatives? It’s easier than ever to make the switch! Read on for some reasons to consider plant-based products and tips on going dairy-free from Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) staff.

A cow and baby calf nuzzle in a field

What’s the deal with dairy?

Many people get the impression from a young age that cows produce milk on their own or even need to be milked regularly in order to be healthy. The truth is that cows, like other mammals, produce milk for their babies. That means dairy farms remove baby calves from their mothers as soon as just after birth in order to profit from their milk supply.

Just like humans, cows and their babies form strong bonds with each other. Mother cows recognize their individual calf’s call, and prefer to stay close to their babies. Mother and baby cows also groom each other, as do other cows who form social relationships.

As more people learn about the suffering caused by the dairy industry, there is a growing demand for plant-based alternatives. VHS staff are here to help with some of our favourite products and tips to help you on your plant-based journey!

Transitioning to dairy-free

There are so many dairy-free alternatives available now, from milks and spreads to yogurt and ice cream. Rest assured that there is a plant-based alternative for even your favourite dairy product! You can find companies selling plant-based foods at our Animal-free shopping and eating guide.

Scroll down for tips from VHS staff on making the transition to plant-based, along with some of our favourite dairy-free alternative products.

Find delicious ways to get the nutrients you need

From VHS staff member: Amy Morris

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Yosa Coconut Yogurt. Yoso is creamy and makes for great smoothies and yogurt cups. It has a more coconut flavour. Another alternative with a less coconut flavour is the Riviera plain unsweetened coconut yogurt. Both are really tasty and humane alternatives to cow dairy, making sure Clover and I both get our probiotics on a daily basis.  

Tip: It turns out that probiotics can be used to make any kind of yogurt, including plant-based! Clover and I love eating plant-based yogurts every day with berries to get our probiotics and antioxidants. 

Give your taste buds time to adjust

From VHS staff member: Emily Pickett

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Silk almond vanilla coffee creamer. It’s creamy and perfect in my morning coffee! They also have a variety of other bases (coconut, soy and oat).   

Tip: Allow your taste buds time to adjust. I’ve heard people say “…but I could never give up [insert favourite dairy product]” and I also thought that myself when I first considered cutting dairy from my diet. But from my experience, I just needed to allow my taste buds time to adjust. In time, I stopped craving dairy-based cheese or ice cream and started craving different foods entirely. In addition, as new alternative products have been added to grocery store shelves, I’ve been able to find delicious dairy-free cheeses and ice creams to have as a treat. 

Bake it ’til you make it

From VHS staff member: Claire Yarnold

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Tofutti’s Sour Supreme. Tofutti’s Sour Supreme is a tasty vegan alternative to sour cream. It’s great as a topping for plant-based nachos or chili, especially with some fresh cilantro too.  

Tip: As an enthusiastic baker, I had to adjust my recipes after going vegan. After reading up online and experimenting in the kitchen, I realized I was able to make delicious cakes and baked goods just as easily, and without harming any animals in the process! Plant-based yogurt adds moisture to cakes, soy milk is a great dairy substitute and you can readily find plant-based chocolate chips in your local grocery store for the perfect chocolate chip cookies. 

Look up vegan versions of your favourite foods

From VHS staff member: Chantelle Archambault

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Daiya plant-based cheezecake. The key lime and pumpkin spice flavours are my favourites as a special treat.

Tip: Look online for plant-based versions of foods you already love. There is a dairy-free version of virtually every food now. Do you like shahi paneer? Give shahi tofu or red lentil curry a try. Do you like boxed macaroni and cheese? There are plant-based versions of that too. Once you get the hang of it, you can make most recipes dairy-free with your own substitutions! Oat milk, coconut milk, plant-based margarine, and even olive oil are incredibly easy (and cost-effective) swaps for dairy milk and butter in your cooking. 

Take it one step at a time

From VHS staff member: Julia McCann

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Almond milk. Almond milk is a great alternative to dairy milk and is so readily available. There are also lots of other plant-based milks to try, such as coconut, soy, rice or oat! I like to heat up and froth some plant-based milk to make a yummy at-home coffee.   

Tip: Shifting to plant-based doesn’t have to be hard. Try to make the switch one step at a time, instead of all at once. This can help make the process less overwhelming and it gives you an opportunity to explore the transition at your own pace.

Find a new favourite

From VHS staff member: Brooklyn Fowler

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Earth Island Parmesan Shreds. They pack all of the salt and flavour I love so much about parmesan! The parmesan has become a staple in our kitchen and we use it as a salad topper, to take mac & cheese to the next level, and as an addition to garlic toast. It really shines in Bacon & Pea Risotto made using local company PlantBase Food’s bacon. 
Tip: For me making the switch to plant-based was gradual. I told myself I would try being plant-based for as long as I felt good emotionally and physically about it, and 12 years later I’m still feeling great about it! It was easy for me to give up meat, but I knew I would miss strong-tasting gourmet cheeses the most! When I discovered Earth Island’s parmesan, I realized that I can still have the flavour and function that I wanted in my parmesan. I have also fallen in love with the many companies making gourmet cheeses including Myokos, Kite Hill, and Nuts For Cheese.

Ask about options at restaurants

From VHS staff member: Celeste Morales

Favourite dairy-free alternative: Sheese dairy-free cream cheese (original spread). I’m obsessed with the Sheese brand! These cream cheese-style spreads come in a ton of different flavours (garlic and herb, cheddar, chive, etc.!) but I love the original with a toasted everything bagel. Sheese also has different types of dairy-free cheese slices which are great for making a grilled cheese. 

My tip: When eating out at restaurants, don’t be afraid to ask about dairy-free options! Plant-based diets are so common these days, which means that it’s very likely the restaurant will have dairy-free alternatives, and you won’t be met with a look of confusion! Asking about dairy-free options is also a great way to let your favourite restaurants know that their customers want to see plant-based options on the menu! 

We hope you found these products and tips helpful! For more information and help on making the switch to plant-based, contact and make sure to check out more of the resources available on PlantUniversity.

Video library

Check out the video library for more educational content about the benefits of a plant-based diet.