Everybody’s doing it — Beyoncé and Jay Z did it, Bill Clinton did it, Ellen Degenerous does it… Of course, I’m talking about going vegan. Eating a vegan diet offers a myriad of health benefits to the body (when done correctly). Being vegan means that your diet consists of only plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, beans, fruit and vegetables. Vegans don’t eat animals or anything that’s been produced by animals – this includes eggs, cheese, poultry, fish, meat and even honey.
Plant-based eating has been associated with preventing heart disease, cancer, lowering cholesterol and losing weight. This is mostly because a vegan diet is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Being vegan does require some thought to ensure you are getting all of the proper nutrients. One of the biggest vegan missteps is when the diet consists mainly of refined carbs and sugar. This happens a lot and can lead to many health problems. Being a healthy vegan is about eating the right amount of protein from legumes, beans, grains, nuts and seeds and eating lots and lots of vegetables. It’s also about converting your favourite dishes into vegan ones with these top 10 vegan hack recipes.
1. Lima Beans = Cream Sauce
It’s shocking to think that beans could emulate a creamy, dairy filled sauce… but they can! One of the best lasagnas I ever ate was vegan and was filled with a lima bean béchamel sauce. The beans give a creamy texture that actually emulates the appearance and taste of cheese and cream. 1 cup of lima beans also provides 53% of your daily required intake of fibre.
Serving Size: 1 cup
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 3 minutes
1 can of lime beans, washed and rinsed (or ½ cup dried beans, cooked)
¼ lemon, squeezed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1. Blitz everything together in a food processor until a smooth consistency forms.
2. Layer this on top of lasagna noodles, use it as a cream sauce over pasta or eat it as a dip.
2. Chia Seeds = Eggs & Yogurt
Chchchchia… do you remember chia pets? Well, chia seeds actually grew on these plants! Chia are tiny little seeds that contain omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. They are mainly known for their high content of fibre 25 grams of chia seeds provides you with 6.9 grams of fibre. When mixed with liquids, chia becomes very gelatinous and sticky. This consistency works perfectly in vegan baked goods when a binding agent is needed. In baking, eggs help to leaven and bind, chia seeds don’t leaven but they are amazing binders.
Serving Size: 1 egg replacement
Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
3 Tablespoons water
1. Mix chia seeds and water together. Let sit in a bowl for 10 minutes until it becomes gelatinous.
Tip: Chia is also a great substitute for yogurt. A very common breakfast is yogurt with fruit and nuts, but if you’re vegan, yogurt is a no-no. Making a chia pudding provides a somewhat similar texture to yogurt. Although it’s more pudding like, it’s a great meal to eat first thing in the morning. Get the chia pudding recipe here.
3. Coconut Oil, Avocado, Applesauce = Butter
In the past, margarine was the classic non-dairy substitute for butter. Now that it’s common knowledge that some margarines contain hydrogenated oils, it’s time to make the swap to better butter alternatives. Coconut oil is the best butter substitute and can be used 1:1. It’s high in medium chain saturated fat which gets converted into energy after consumption. It can be solid, softened or melted and is actually great at making a flaky pie crust.
Avocado sounds like a weird butter substitute but it’s fantastic. You can substitute avocado 1:1 for butter, your baked goods will be delicious but the consistency will be a little different. Avocados are also less calories and less fat than butter.
Applesauce works wonders in baked goods. It can actually be substituted for eggs or butter and it’s naturally sweet so you don’t need to use as much sweetener. Applesauce can also be used 1:1. ¼ cup of applesauce replaces 1 egg.
4. Cashews = Cheese
Cashew cheese is one of the biggest crazes to hit the vegan and raw food scene. Cashew feta, cashew cream, cashew cheese cake… you name it, cashews can do it. These nuts are incredibly silky so they lend themselves well to making a variety of cheeses. They also have a mild flavor and can take on other seasonings really well.
Super Simple Crumbly Cashew Cheese
Serving Size: 1 ½ cups of “cheese”
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 5 minutes
1 ½ cups raw cashew
3 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt? and freshly ground pepper
Place the nuts in a bowl, cover with fresh water, and let stand for 2 hours.
Drain the nuts and place them in a food processor or blender.
Add 3 Tablespoons water, lemon, garlic, sea salt and pepper
Blitz until crumbly. You may need to add a little more water and blend again to adjust the consistency, if necessary.
The cheese will get a little more solid as it sets.
Raw Cashew ‘Cheesecake’
Serving Size: 7
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
1 cup almond meal
¼ cup pecans
½ cup dates, soaked/softened
2 cups cashews, (soaked for 4 hours, rinsed & drained)
1 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 oranges, juiced
2/3 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
1 cup blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
2 teaspoon maple syrup
1. Place almonds and pecans in food processor and process until finely chopped.
2. Add dates and process until well blended. The mixture will stick together when you press it.
3. Press the crust into a 9” pie dish. You can also press them into muffin tins to make mini cashew cheesecakes.
4. Combine the cashews, coconut oil, orange juice, maple syrup and sea salt in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
5. Spoon the filling over top of the crust.
6. Place in the freezer for 1 hour.
7. Remove from the freezer and allow to set in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
8. Take the cashew cheesecake out of the pan it is in.
9. Blend the berries and maple syrup in the food processor until a sauce is formed. Drizzle this over cheesecakes right before serving.
5. Tempeh = Bacon
Tempeh is a fermented soy product that has bacterial cultures that nourish your gut. It’s also a great substitute for bacon. Since tempeh is made from soy it is a complete protein, which is rare for vegetarian sources of protein. To make a delicious tempeh bacon it requires paprika, liquid smoke, tamari and maple syrup. It also should be marinated for at least an hour to absorb all of the necessary bacon flavours.
Get the ultimate tempeh bacon recipe here.
6. Nutritional Yeast = Cheese
Nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend. It is a deactivated yeast that tastes incredibly cheesy. It can be sprinkled on top of dishes or mixed with nut milks to create creamy, faux cheesy goodness. It’s high in B vitamins, especially B12 which is needed to produce energy in the body. It also has a surprising amount of protein. My favorite nutritional yeast experience is when I ate vegan mac n’ “cheese”. It completely emulated the cheesy taste of mac n’ cheese.
Mac n “Cheese”
Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 package of rice noodles or noodles of choice
1 small butternut squash, cubed
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup daiya cheese
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup ground almonds
1. Cook the pasta in a pot over the stove.
2. Peel and cube the squash into small pieces.
3. Place the coconut milk in a pot on the stove and put the squash in the pot. Allow the squash to cook until completely softened.
4. Place the coconut milk, squash, nutritional yeast, daiya and sea salt into a blender and blend until a smooth consistency forms.
5. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it in a casserole dish. Pour the cheesy mixture over and mix well.
6. Sprinkle the top with almond flour and place on a low broil for 5-7 minutes. The almonds will act and taste like parmesan cheese.
7. Sunflower Seeds = Caesar Dressing
Nuts and seeds are truly the best substitutes when it comes to vegan cooking and baking. They can mimic so many different textures and flavours. Sunflower seeds have a mild flavour and lend themselves easily to this amazing Caesar dressing. Sunflowers are one of the best sources of vitamin E, meeting 82% of the daily recommended value. Vitamin E has a lot of jobs, one of them is to protect the fats that line the cells of the body.
Sunflower “Seed-sar” Dressing
Serving Size: ½ cup
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 2 minutes
½ cup raw sunflower seeds (soaked for 2 hours, rinsed & drained)
1 lemon, juiced
3 dates, soaked
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
? teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
? cup water to thin out
1. Blend together the dressing ingredients in a food processor until creamy and smooth. Pour over salad mix of choice.
8. Cocoa Powder + Almond Milk = Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk is a favorite beverage for kids and adults alike. 1 cup of chocolate milk contains 24 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fat and it’s 190 calories. A healthier, lighter and vegan alternative is to make chocolate almond milk. You can either make your own almond milk or buy it from the store. 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 0 grams of sugar, 2.5 grams of fat and is only 30 calories.
Chocolate Almond Milk
Serving Size: 1 cup
Prep Time: 2 minutes
1 cup almond milk
3 Tablespoons raw cacao or dutch cocoa powder
2 medjool dates
1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. If you are using raw cacao you will need to add more sweetener because it is bitter.
2. If you don’t have medjool dates you can use maple syrup, coconut sugar or honey. Dates simply give it a great consistency and flavour.
9. Almonds = Milk
Making the switch to non-dairy milk is very popular right now. A lot of people opt for almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, hemp milk and quinoa milk! Yes, apparently you can get milk from quinoa! Making your own milk at home is really easy and it’s safe – meaning, you know what goes into it. Store bought nut milks are great if you don’t have the time to make your own, but they are filled with preservatives in order to make them shelf stable and to maintain their consistency. If you do have the time, I highly recommend making your own and it always tastes so much better when it’s homemade.
Serving Size: 2 cups
Prep Time: overnight or 12 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
1 cup raw almonds
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1. Soak the almonds overnight, then drain and rinse.
2. Place the almonds and water in a blender and blend on high for 2 minutes.
3. Pour the nut mixture in a large piece of cheese cloth over a bowl and squeeze hard to press all of the liquid from the meal.
4. Place the liquid back in the food processor and blend with maple syrup.
5. Keep refrigerated for 2 days.
6. You can use the leftover almond meal in cereals, porridges and baked goods
10. Tofu = Eggs
Tofu is the most classic vegan and vegetarian fare. It’s a white block made with soybeans that has minimal flavour and can truly become almost anything. It’s an amazing substitute for cheese such as cubes of feta in a Greek salad; it can replace chicken such as seasoned BBQ tofu skewers; it can replace cream and it can even replace eggs. One of the best ways it replaces eggs is with a tofu scramble. Opt for organic tofu to ensure it is GMO free. Tofu can provide the body with a great source of protein and calcium. In ½ cup of tofu there is 10 grams of protein and it meets 25% of the daily recommended intake of calcium. Try the recipe here and say goodbye to eggs and hello to tofu.
Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.