5 Vegan Alternatives for Your Kitchen Essentials
Replacing dairy with plant-based milks like almond milk or soy milk is a concept we’re long familiar with because it is widely available and commercialised. Plenty other animal-based ingredients that often perform functional roles in the kitchen, however, may seem challenging to be replaced. We’re here to help you break down vegan alternatives for 5 of the following vegan pantry staples.
Hold that glaze! If you adhere to an ethical and animal-compassionate diet, chances are your vegan pantry needs a honey substitute that won’t cause harm to some of the world’s most important pollinators. Fortunately there are many vegan alternatives to honey that can satisfy your sweet tooth. One of them is agave nectar, a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Mexican agave plants, that contains 55-90% fructose making it friendly for your blood sugar levels. Another bee-free substitute is maple syrup, made directly from the sugary sap found in maple trees which is high in antioxidants and nutrient-rich. Both these vegan honey swaps have a lower glycemic index score compared to conventional sweeteners while being just as heavenly as the real deal. You can substitute agave nectar or maple syrup on a one-to-one ratio to sweeten your tea, make easy homemade popcorn, or glaze vegan steaks.
Traditionally buttermilk isn’t vegan, but don’t give up yet on the Sunday brunch ideas with pancakes and scones! For there is light at the end of the proverbial vegan tunnel. Buttermilk, an acidic byproduct of milk that gives baked goods that tart tangy flavour and helps with leavening, is one of those ingredients that many of us may not have at hand but many baking recipes call for. The great news is that making your own vegan buttermilk is delightfully simple! All you need are two ingredients with the following ratio: 1 cup of your choice of plant-based milk to 1 tablespoon acid (typically lemon juice or apple cider vinegar), combined and allowed to sit for 5 minutes. We recommend using dairy-free milk options that are higher in protein content, such as soy milk, almond milk, or cashew milk, for a creamier consistency when they ‘curdle’.
Vegans hankering for some gooey oozy goodness, you need not distance yourself from simple joys like a good ol’ bowl of mac-and-cheese, because this exists: cashew cheese! This classic dairy-free and vegan alternative to cheese can be easily achieved by pre-soaking cashew nuts in filtered water, and then blending them together with nutritional yeast (an inactive form of yeast). It’s extremely versatile and easy to adapt to imitate your favourite cheeses by switching up herbs and seasonings like garlic, chopped dill, smoked paprika powder, and cayenne powder just to name a few. Cashew nuts lend to the thick and creamy feel because of its high fat content (approximately 44g of fat per 100g of cashews), and nutritional yeast, a vegan pantry staple that also also packs a great source of B12 and other B vitamins, provides the cheesy umami boost sans dairy.
Jackfruit, otherwise locally known as nangka, has been making waves in the plant-based and vegan communities abroad as a great meat alternative in vegan recipes. While we locals chortle with amusement at all the nangka “char siew” memes, it turns out this massive tropical fruit native to our neck of the woods in Southeast Asia makes the perfect substitute for shredded meat because of its chewy texture and mouthfeel which closely mimics the texture of pulled meat. Nangka, when ripe, is incredibly sweet, but when unripe it has a mild flavour profile that can readily take on the flavours and seasonings of the dish, making it a popular meat replacement favoured over gluten mock meats. It’s easy to be creative using jackfruit as a vegan meat substitute for your weekday dinner nights, including vegan BBQ pulled “pork” in a sandwich, vegan “lamb” curry, or even vegan “chicken” stir-fry!
Meat broth substitute
Vegetable stock is a natural substitute for vegans when meat or bone broth is called for, a common mainstay in both Asian and Western recipes, and it is equally as flavourful and aromatic. The umami and aromatic essences in the form of liquid stock are used as the base ingredient in various recipes from stir-frys to stews, soups to sauces, risottos to curries, and more. Vegetable stock is unbelievably cheap and easy to make using common pantry ingredients, and very minimal waste is discarded when straining compared to meat or bone based broths. It’s not even necessary to use whole vegetables to make homemade vegan stock, you can also use the veggie odds and ends from your kitchen scraps as we have shared here! Alternatively, you may also skip the hassle and opt for convenience by shopping for our recommended organic vegetable liquid stock to aid with a quicker meal prep, with a dash of tamari sauce for good measure.