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Think you have to give up on all those yummy baked goods on a whole food, plant-based diet?

You don’t.

You just need to learn to bake your favorite recipes in a different way.

At the end of the day, the trick to succeeding in plant-based baking is through REPLACING the ‘classic’ baking ingredients with new, healthier plant-based alternatives.

For whole food, plant-based baking we need to replace dairy and eggs in our recipes as well as all the processed and refined ingredients.

Here are some great ‘substitution’ tips to help you adapt your old recipes to your new plant-based lifestyle:

Replacement of Dairy and Eggs

  • Milks: To replace buttermilk, mix soy, almond or oat milk with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar and let stand for 5-10 minutes. To replace regular dairy milks, just substitute equal amounts of almond or rice milk. To achieve a really rich, creamy effect, try replacing your dairy milks with unsweetened soy or cashew milk (coconut milk works too, but its saturated fat content is very high).
  • Cream: To get a thick heavy cream (that you can even use for whipped cream!), make your own cashew cream. Cream can be kept plain (just water and cashews) for a savory recipe. You can scrape off the top layer of coconut milk refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for an hour, but again it is a high saturated fat food and not the most recommended option.
  • Butter (oils): Instead of using processed vegan butter substitutes which pack a whopping 12 grams of fat per ounce, make your own from cashews. Applesauce also works well in place of oils and makes breads, muffins, cookies and other baked goods moist and delicious.
  • Eggs: This is a little trickier and depends on the function of the egg in the recipe. For leavening, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water and mix until gelatinous. For binding, use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and mix well. (Each of these mixtures replaces one egg.)

Replacement of Refined Ingredients

  • Refined Sugars: There are lots of sugars found in plants and you don’t have to strip them of their nutrients to use them in baking. You can replace granular sugars with liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar, but you’ll have to reduce the liquid in the recipe. A good rule of thumb is to reduce overall liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per 1 cup of liquid sweetener. But you can also use substitute granular sugars cup for cup with maple crystals, sucanat (dried sugar cane juice), date sugar or powdered green stevia.
  • Refined Flours: Replacing flours is trickier in plant-based baking, but you can even make your own self-rising flour from whole wheat, unprocessed flours. Just mix one cup of flour with 1-1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. (Remember, you can’t substitute regular flour or your baked goods won’t rise.) Regular whole wheat and stone ground flours are great for breads and rolls, but too heavy for cookies and cakes. (You’ll also have to add a little more liquid to the recipe or your breads will turn out heavy and too dense.) White whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flours aren’t bleached or stripped and they’re best for cookies, cakes, muffins and delicate pastries.

To make your whole food, plant-based recipes gluten free, you’ll have to omit the whole wheat flours, too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be surprised if some of your recipes fail the first time around. It takes time and experience to figure out the right balance for each of your favorite recipes and no two are exactly alike.

Think of it as a grand adventure and you won’t be disappointed with any of your whole food, plant-based baked goodies!

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.