A Guide to Vegan Baking

If you’re new to a vegan diet and you aspire to be a successful vegan baker, the idea of baking without eggs or dairy can seem like a challenge. However, with a few tips and tricks in my Guide to easy Vegan Baking, you’ll be a vegan baking pro in no time at all.

I am certified through Rouxbe cooking school as both a plant-based pro and vegan desserts expert. So, although this is not a 100% vegan baking blog, I do a lot of vegan baking and I’m happy to share with you some of my favorite tips.

The Joy of Vegan Baking

Let’s go through the main baking ingredients one by one, and I’ll share with you how I veganize them.

Replacing Milk

Photo of Pyrex measuring jar with soy milk
Soy Milk

This one is relatively easy because I will oftentimes use plant-based milk in the same quantity the recipe calls for. Vegan kinds of milk are no different than cow’s milk, it comes in different varieties, some of which are thinner than others. So, Rice Milk is a little thinner but is a great choice for people who have soy allergies. One of my favorite kinds of milk to bake with is Kirkland’s Vanilla Soy Milk. The way I look at it, if I’m using vanilla-flavored soy milk, I can skip adding vanilla to the recipe. Just be sure to buy plain (not vanilla flavored) plant-based milk for your savory dishes. You don’t want vanilla flavoring in your mashed potatoes! Also, if you like a little steamed milk in your tea or coffee, be sure to check out my Guide to Dairy-Free Steamed Milk (coming soon).

The one exception to the rule is canned coconut milk. Because it’s so high in fat, you will want to avoid using canned coconut milk when a recipe calls for milk. Use the plant-based milk above unless the recipe calls for cream (see below).

One more tip. If you ever find yourself in a pinch without any plant-based milk on hand, simply blend oatmeal and water together in a blender (or food processor). Pulse for several seconds and then pour through a fine-mesh strainer. Voila! You’ve got some oat milk that will get you through in a pinch!

Replacing Buttermilk

Buttermilk is essential to a lot of baking recipes. That’s why having vegan buttermilk is important for vegan baking. The combination of plant-based milk and vinegar does the trick. I know it may seem strange to add vinegar to baked goods, but just think of it as a chemical reaction. The baking soda in your recipe needs a little acid to help it start reacting (bubbling). That’s why recipes will call for things like lemon juice or buttermilk.

Replacing Cream

a can of coconut milk being drained into a bowl
Coconut milk can be used as a cream substitute.

This one is a little trickier. When a recipe is calling for cream, you may be able to substitute a vegan creamer like Silk’s Soy Creamers. These are usually found in the refrigerated health food section of your store. Another great option is using the thick cream from a can of Coconut Milk. I often keep my coconut milk in the fridge because it will help separate out the thick, full-fat part of the coconut milk from the thinner milk. Simply drain the thinner milk and save it for your next smoothie, and spoon out the thicker cream that’s left.

Replacing Sweetened Condensed Milk

I have a recipe for Sweetened Condensed Milk. It’s relatively easy to make. I start with a base of regular soy milk, add sugar, and a tablespoon of cornstarch. Heat that up until it thickens and add a little vanilla and you’ve got a great replacement for sweetened condensed milk. I have also used canned coconut milk, although it does have a distinguishable coconut flavor.

You can also buy Coconut Milk Sweetened Condensed Milk through a product called Nature’s Charm. I can even find this in the baking section of my local grocery store.

Replacing Cream Cheese

A delicious Vegan Oreo Cheesecake topped with lots and lots of Oreos!
Vegan Oreo Cheesecake

You can make Vegan Cream Cheese and this can be a tasty and nutritious alternative, especially when you’re working with a no-bake dessert.

For a creamy alternative to cow’s milk cream cheese, there are options to buy these in the store. Here are my preferences based on the products I’ve used:

  • Tofutti’s Vegan Cream Cheese is my favorite according to texture, taste, and availability. However, there is a consistency issue, in that it doesn’t create a smooth texture when whipped. In fact, it can leave little globules of cheese when using it for something like vegan cream cheese frosting.
  • Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese is great for texture and availability. I do think there is a strange flavor with Daiya which I wish they would resolve, but it has the best texture of store-bought vegan cream cheeses. I love using it, and simply add a little more vanilla or even some coconut extract when using it to offset the flavor.
  • Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese has great flavor and texture. The availability is not my favorite because it’s a bit of a drive for me to get there, but I definitely make a point to buy their cream cheese when I’m around. It has a great flavor and works well with most of my recipes.

However, if you’re wanting cream cheese as a spread on a bagel, the link above is great to make your own homemade.

Replacing Eggs

The first thing about replacing eggs in a recipe is to understand the multiple roles they play in a recipe. Vegan egg substitutes for baking need to fulfill one or more of these purposes: binder, leavening, structure, or flavor.

Binder: An egg can be included as a binder because it holds things together. You can see this in a spaghetti casserole where an egg is added to the spaghetti to help hold it together.

Leaving: Eggs also can be a leavener. They add volume to a recipe. This is particularly true of egg whites.

Structure: Eggs can also add structure to a recipe.

Flavor: Eggs add a distinct flavor and sometimes you might be fine without an eggy flavor in your vegan cheesecake, other times you might choose to try to replicate the flavor of eggs by adding something like nutritional yeast flakes.

Here are some of my favorite egg replacers that I’ve used in my recipes:

A hand pinching homemade vegan whipped meringue in a mixer
Making vegan meringue
  • Whipped Silken Tofu (1/4 cup for each egg)
  • Flax Egg
  • Chia Egg
  • Mashed Banana (1 mashed banana for each egg)
  • Plant-based milk (1/4 cup for each egg)
  • Apple Sauce (1/4 cup for each egg)
  • EnerG Egg Replacer (follow instructions on the box)
  • Aquafaba. It’s a strange word, but it’s basically the brine from a can of beans (usually chickpeas). Believe it or not, you can whip that bean brine just like meringue.

It’s important to realize that each egg replacement works better in different recipes. Here’s a quick guide to some of my favorite vegan substitutes for eggs in baking:

A hand holds a mixing bowl and is pouring meringue over the top of a pie.
Vegan baking egg substitutes includes making meringue for pies!
  • Egg Replacer for a store-bought cake mix
  • Cheesecake – I think using silken tofu works best here
  • Chewy Cookies – I mostly use Starchy Flax Eggs (see link above) for my cookie recipes
  • Crispy Cookies – Oftentimes the EnerG Egg replacer works great when you’re making a crispy cookie
  • Brownies – I will sometimes use a Flax Egg in brownies, but if you don’t mind a banana flavor, that works great too
  • Meringue – See the link above where I share 3 ways to make vegan meringue
  • A low-fat cake – You can use applesauce as a great low-fat alternative to eggs
  • Pumpkin Pie – I’ve used silken tofu with great success to make Vegan Pumpkin Pie
  • Cream Pies – Again the silken tofu is going to work best here. I’ve created a Chocolate Cream Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, and a Lemon Cream Pie with great success using silken tofu. Learn more about tofu with my Tofu Buying Guide

Quantity of Eggs in a Recipe Matters

A word of caution about replacing eggs in a recipe. If the recipe calls for one or two eggs, replacing them with something from the above should be no problem.

However, if you have a recipe that calls for three or more eggs, consider yourself warned. The more eggs called for in the recipe, the trickier it can be to mimic the same consistency/texture.

Angel food cake is a great example. It’s possible to make a vegan angel food cake, but it’s tricky, and I recommend finding a credible source that’s already gone through the work of creating a good recipe. And there’s a chance it may not be what you’re hoping for.

Replacing Butter

A food processor jar with ingredients to make a vegan pie crust
Vegan pie crust ingredients

If you have a recipe that calls for butter, believe it or not, you have some great vegan options. Vegan butter substitutes for baking are one of the easiest when it comes to vegan baking substitutes!

One of my favorite butter substitutes is something I oftentimes refer to as Vegan Butter for baking, aka, Earth Balance. I love that you can find Earth Balance at most grocery stores nowadays.

I use vegan butter in a 1:1 as a replacement for butter in baking vegan recipes. For example, in a cookie recipe, if the original recipe calls for 1 cup butter, you can substitute 1 cup vegan butter.

A word of note, oftentimes I will do half and half Earth Balance and half peanut butter, simply to cut back on the amount of butter in the recipe.

In addition, Earth Balance makes a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Crisco also sells non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening in plain and butter flavor. You can use this to make your own vegan pie crusts.

Another dairy-free margarine is Fleischmann’s unsalted. However, it has been more difficult to find this lately. Miyokos makes vegan butter that is wonderful to work with, although a bit pricier than Earth Balance.

Sometimes you can use vegetable oils in place of solid fats in a recipe, just be prepared that the consistency of the finished product may be different as when using a solid fat.

Another great substitute is coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, but turns to an oil consistency when heated.

You can even experiment with using ingredients liked mashed avocados to replace butter in your recipes. It may not sound appetizing, but it actually does a great job of replacing the fat in your vegan baking. For example, this Vegan Avocado Cake uses mashed avocados.

Vegan Baking Recipes

A guide to vegan baking cannot be complete without including a few of my favorite Vegan Baking recipes:

We hope you enjoyed this Guide to Vegan Baking! Feel free to check out our other Vegan Resources and Recipes, for example, have you taken our Vegan Type Quiz? Take it today to find out what kind of vegan you are and to see some recipes we recommend for your type.

Image of a hand mixer with the text A Guide to Vegan Baking