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Plant-Based Switches & Swaps

Discover easy, plant-based switches and swaps for all your favorite recipes.

| May 2019

 Photo by Getty Images/violleta

Working out how to make vegan versions of your favorite recipes can be a lot of fun. If you use any prepared store-bought ingredients, always first check the label to make sure they are vegan, and also that they work for you or your guests if you are catering for allergies, so you know they don’t contain the ingredients that you would like to avoid. Many seemingly innocuous items (including bouillon cubes, flat breads, burger buns, and condiments containing wine) sometimes contain meat or dairy products, so make sure you always read the label carefully. Here are our top discoveries for some great vegan switches.

Aquafaba: The fancy name for the liquid, or water, from a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) — aquafaba means “bean water”). You can use other cooked beans (experiment with beans such as navy beans), but chickpeas are the most reliable (you can also use the liquid from a jar of chickpeas). It’s a miraculous ingredient — and we usually throw it away. It behaves just like egg white — in many ways it is even better because you can’t overbeat it — and it can be used almost anywhere you might use egg whites, from cloudlike white meringues and chewy cookies, to pancakes and even cocktails and mayo. Save it whenever you cook with chickpeas; one 15-oz can will yield 2/3–3/4 cup aquafaba and it keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Some brands work better than others; choose chickpeas in unsalted water, shake the can well before opening, and when you’ve drained it into a bowl, look for a thick, gloopy liquid. If it seems thin, reduce it in a saucepan to thicken, then cool before using.

Flaxseeds & chia seeds: As well as bananas, and occasionally applesauce, we use ground (also known as milled) flaxseeds or chia seeds to make “eggs” to help bind baked goods. Both keep well if kept in a sealed container in a cool dark place. To replace 1 egg, mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (whole seeds won’t work) or 1 tablespoon chia seeds, with 3 tablespoons water, then set aside for 5–10 minutes, at which point the mixture will turn into a gel. (Don’t use the seeds without first soaking them.) Don’t try the gel in an omelet. If you want an omelet, go for chickpea (besan) flour. And if you want scramble, use soft tofu, or ackee, with a pinch of sulfuric black salt.

Nutritional yeast: Also known as “nooch,” it sounds weird and looks like flaky fish food, but is a wonderful (and cheap) replacement for Parmesan. The yeast is deactivated, and it adds savory, nutty, umami-ness to foods. We use it to make “chees” and cheesy sauces and to sprinkle over pasta dishes. It is rich in hard-to-find B vitamins.

Miso: White or yellow miso paste, used sparingly, replicates the tang and funk of mature cheeses, and can be delicious in broths, sauces, and even vegan “butter”. If you need to avoid soy, soy-free miso is available online. Similarly, we love using an occasional splash of old-fashioned pickle liquid from a jar, because proper cultured pickles contain lactic acid, just like cheese and butter.

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