Ultimate Vegan Baking Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Baking and Vegan Desserts

Being vegan means avoiding all animal products, from meat to dairy and from eggs to honey. Leaving eggs, milk, and honey out of your diet can make it seem impossible to enjoy your favorite baked treats, such as cake and brownies. But vegan baking is an amazing thing. With a few substitutions and recipe tweaks, you can enjoy your favorite desserts, without using any animal products at all.

Vegan Baking

Vegan Substitutes for Baking and Cooking

Eggs, butter, and other dairy products might seem to be the backbone of baking. But the truth is that you can easily substitute animal-free products for dairy and eggs. There’s no need to use animal products at all when you bake.

Egg Substitutes

Finding a suitable substitute for eggs can often be what throws newbie vegan bakers for a loop. Eggs help to bind ingredients. They also help the baked goods rise and provide color and flavor. While most vegan egg substitutes won’t perfectly mimic eggs, they do perform many of the same functions as eggs.

For example, Ener-G egg replacer has long been a popular, commercially available vegan egg substitute. It’s made from potato and tapioca starch and contains leaveners so that it can help hold baked goods together and can provide some lift. It doesn’t have a taste, so it won’t alter the flavor of what you’re baking.

Ground flax seed also works as an egg replacer. Like Ener-G, ground flaxseed helps bind baked goods. The one drawback of using flax is that the seeds have a noticeable flavor. If you use flax in a recipe for cake or cookies, people will be able to detect it.

It’s best to use flax seeds to replace eggs in recipes that already have a slightly nutty flavor, or in recipes where the nutty flavor will blend right in, such as in banana bread or whole grain muffins. To make flax eggs, combine one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of water for every egg you are replacing.

Silken tofu is another common egg substitute. Since tofu is a bit dense, it’s not the best option for every baked good, but it does work particularly well when used in recipes for brownies or other baked goods that have a heavy, fudgy texture. To use silken tofu in place of an egg, substitute 1/4 cup of pureed tofu for every egg in the recipe.

Depending on the recipe, you can also trade the egg in for a piece of fruit. You can substitute one ripe, mashed banana for every egg in a recipe for brownies, quick bread or muffins, for example. You might also see vegan recipes that call for applesauce, avocados or black beans in place of eggs.

If you’re working with a recipe that asks for whipped egg whites, you can try using agar-agar powder, combined with water. Agar-agar also works a replacement for gelatin in recipes for pies or custards.

If you want to learn more about vegan eggs and other vegan breakfast options you can check out our Vegan Breakfast Guide!

Milk and Cream Substitutes

Dairy milk is one of the easiest ingredients to swap out when baking. In place of dairy milk, you can use an equal amount of soy milk, almond milk, or any other type of nut, grain or bean-based milk.

It’s also easy to create a vegan substitute for buttermilk. Just stir a teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into your favorite type of non-dairy milk.

Finding a vegan substitute for heavy cream takes a bit more effort. One option is to use coconut milk, which is thick and creamy but also has a strong coconut flavor. A more flavor-neutral option is to combine two parts soy or another non-dairy milk with one part oil or vegan margarine.

If your goal is to make whipped cream, you can bend together an 8-oz package of silken tofu with two tablespoons of soy or other non-dairy milk, plus a bit of sugar and vanilla to taste. You can also purchase prepared vegan whipped cream, which is made from soy.

In recipes that call for evaporated milk, you can often find a coconut milk-based vegan option. You can also create your own vegan evaporated milk using a can of coconut milk. Open the can and scoop out the cream that floats to the top. Use the remaining, thinner liquid as a one to one replacement for dairy-based evaporated milk.

If you have a recipe that calls for condensed milk, you can use the cream from the top of a can of coconut milk as a replacement. Canned, condensed coconut milk is also available.

Butter and Fat Substitutes

It should be easy to find a vegan butter substitute for baking, right? Just use an equal amount of margarine for the butter.

Not so fast, though. Not all types or brands of margarine are vegan. Some contain trace amounts of dairy products. Read the ingredients list first to make sure there’s nothing animal-based in the margarine.

One of the most popular and best vegan brands of butter out there is made by Earth Balance. The brand’s buttery sticks can be used to replace dairy butter in recipes on a one to one basis.

You can also use vegetable-based oils or coconut oil as replacements for butter. Since oils are liquids and butter is usually solid, you’ll need to reduce the amount of oil used in the recipe, or else your baked goods will be soggy. If the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, use 1/4 cup of vegetable oil instead.

The exception is coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, like butter. You can substitute coconut oil for butter on a one to one basis. So, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, use 1/2 cup of coconut oil instead.

If a recipe calls for shortening, you can either use regular shortening, since it is vegan, or you can replace the shortening with a healthier fat option, such as oil or vegan margarine.

Honey Substitutes

Since bees make it for their own use, honey isn’t a vegan sweetener. The good news is that you have a lot of options if you want to replace honey in a recipe. Two of the more common and easy-to-find substitutes for honey are agave nectar and maple syrup. To replace honey with either maple syrup or agave nectar, use a one to one ratio. So, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup honey, use a 1/4 cup of agave or maple syrup.

For more vegan baking substitutes for butter, milk and eggs check out our full article for vegan baking substitutes.

Vegan Baking Cookbooks

There are lots of vegan baking cookbooks out there to help you get started in the kitchen. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The Joy of Vegan Baking is full of recipes for classic treats, but with a vegan twist. It’s a go-to cookbook when you want to whip up a batch of delicious, cruelty-free chocolate chip cookies or when you want to impress someone with a vegan cheesecake. It also provides a decent introduction to vegan baking, including what to use to replace milk, eggs and other dairy and plenty of vegan baking tips.
  • Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes. If you’re not only vegan but also gluten-free and/or following a raw diet, this cookbook is for you. The book is full of recipes for cakes, pies, cookies, and even ice cream, all made without refined sugars, animal products or gluten and processed flours. Instead, the ingredients are all superfoods, such as nuts, fruits, and cacao. If you’re longing to bake outside the box or just want to enjoy something delicious and good-for-you, give Rawsome Vegan Baking a try.
  • Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets. Gluten-free and vegan don’t have to go hand-in-hand, but they often do. If you avoid animal products and you can’t eat gluten, you don’t have to go without. “Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking” contains more than 100 recipes for things you didn’t think could be vegan or gluten-free, such as churros, almond braided bread, and donuts. There’s even a veganified, gluten-free version of Samoas, a favorite Girl Scout cookie.
  • Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. Back in 2007, when “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” was published, cupcakes were all the rage. Even though the trend for cupcakes has died down a bit, they are still a delicious treat now and then. The recipes in “Vegan Cupcakes” are easy to prepare and taste delicious. Along with recipes for classic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, the book includes recipes for vegan red velvet cupcakes, coconut cream cupcakes, and Mexican chocolate cupcakes, among many others.
  • Chloe’s Vegan Desserts: More than 100 Exciting New Recipes for Cookies and Pies, Tarts and Cobblers, Cupcakes and Cakes–and More! Chloe Coscarelli was the first vegan baker to ever win “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network, so you know her recipes for vegan cookies, cupcakes and cakes, and doughnuts are bound to be good. The book includes a vegan basics section, so it’s an excellent introduction to vegan baking for those who are new to either baking or veganism.

The Benefits of Baking Vegan

Why bother with vegan baking? After all, isn’t enjoying a sweet cupcake without eggs or dairy just as unhealthy for you as eating buttery, egg-filled cupcake? Not quite.

Often, the substitutes used to replace eggs or butter in a vegan baked good recipe are much healthier for you. For example, flax seeds add fiber when you use them to replace eggs. Some more creative vegan recipes call for using black beans to as an egg substitute. Beans are not only an excellent source of fiber, but they also contain a fair amount of protein.

Don’t forget about what you’re giving up when you switch to vegan baking. Eggs are notoriously high in cholesterol, for example. Vegan foods, which contain no animal products, contain no cholesterol. Unless you’re using coconut oil to replace butter or other fats, you are likely producing baked goods with lower levels of saturated fats when you bake vegan, as well.

Although there are plenty of vegan recipes that are high in sugar and refined flours, vegan baking often goes hand-in-hand with other health-conscious baking trends. For example, raw recipes are usually free of refined sugars and flours. Gluten-free recipes leave refined wheat flour out of the equation as well.

Vegan baking isn’t just good for your health. It’s also good for the health of the planet. All the food fed to livestock on a daily basis could easily feed 3.5 billion people, about half of the world’s population. Vegan diets also require considerably less land and other resources to maintain.

If you’re interested in learning more about veganism or the benefits of baking vegan, The Vegan Miracle is a handy vegan guide. It will introduce you to famous vegans, including many athletes, and will provide you with a lot of resources to help you on your vegan journey. It’s also a vegan baking course, as it contains two dozen recipes.

Surprisingly Vegan Snacks and Desserts

Going vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite “junk” foods. A lot of common snack foods are completely vegan. Look and see if one or more of your favorite guilty pleasures is on this list.

  • Oreos. Take a look at the ingredient list on a package of Oreos, and you won’t find a single animal product (although they are prepared in the same area as non-vegan foods, so there is a small risk for cross-contamination). Excited to hear that Oreos are vegan? Celebrate your love for the cookie with 10 recipes and 10 fun facts about Oreo.
  • Duncan Hines Cake Mix and Frosting. Want to bake a cake but too tired to do it from scratch? Duncan Hines to the rescue! Their cake mix is completely vegan. To make your cake entirely vegan, just replace the egg called for with Ener-G or your favorite egg substitute.
  • Lay’s Potato Chips. While some flavors of chips aren’t vegan, thanks to cheese, sour cream or “beef flavoring,” classic Lay’s chips contain only potatoes, oil, and salt.
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Enjoy a vegan version of chocolate milk by squeezing a bit of Hershey’s syrup into your favorite soy, almond, or other non-dairy milk. You can also use it to top vegan ice cream.
  • Nabisco Original Grahams. Some types of graham crackers contain honey, which makes them off-limits for vegans (honey is produced by bees, after all). But not Nabisco Original Grahams. If you’re craving a graham cracker fix, look for the ones in the red box.
  • Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Those flaky, buttery rolls you might remember from dinners as a kid are completely vegan.

Vegan Recipes

Want to try your hand at vegan baking but don’t want to invest in a full cookbook just yet? Give one or more of these recipes a try. They are an excellent introduction to vegan baking.

    • 6 Guilt-Free Desserts. Vegan baking often has a health halo, and for good reasons. The six recipes mentioned here, such as Skinny Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars and Red Velvet Cupcakes, are all low in fat and calories. More importantly, they all taste delicious.
    • Vegan Cookie Dough Balls. What’s the best part of making cookies? Eating the raw cookie dough! Except, non-vegan cookie dough can make you very sick, thanks to the risk of salmonella. This recipe for cookie dough balls is safe and delicious, as well as easy to make. Just mix the ingredients (oats, banana, peanut butter, chocolate chips) together, then freeze until firm, and enjoy. Check out the video tutorial below!
    • Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat more healthfully and to go vegan, this recipe for vegan carrot cake cupcakes and cream cheese frosting lets you do both. The cream cheese frosting is made with a vegan cream cheese and margarine, so absolutely no dairy is involved. Here’s an easy how-to video for the recipe!
    • Vegan Vanilla Frosting. Looking for a smooth, fluffy icing that is perfect for cakes and cupcakes? This vanilla frosting recipe is made with vegan margarine and shortening and whips up easily. Since the recipe is dairy-free, the frosting won’t form a crunchy outer layer.
    • Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes. These cupcakes are the perfect match for our vegan vanilla frosting. It uses coconut oil in place of butter and almond or rice milk instead of dairy milk.
    • Vegan Banana Coconut Oatmeal Cookies. Packed full of oats, raisins, bananas, coconut and even walnuts if you’d like, these cookies are a satisfying snack. You can even enjoy one or two for breakfast since they are full of fiber, fruit and everything you need to get your day off to a good start.
    • Vegan Sugar Cookies. Do you miss frosted sugar cookies during the holidays? This recipe for vegan sugar cookies will let you get your holiday cookie fix, without eggs or dairy. The recipe includes a full video tutorial, making it easy to follow along. Here’s a quick and simple video tutorial!
  • Vegan Coconut Ice Cream with a Vanilla Twist. Your guests will be convinced you’re giving them ice cream from a creamery. This vegan ice cream only requires 5 ingredients for a flavored-packed dessert you won’t be able to stop eating. But that’s okay because it’s vegan and healthy!

Fully Raw Vegan Recipes

Cooking food often depletes it of necessary nutrients and enzymes. People that follow a raw diet don’t heat their food above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. You might think that sticking to uncooked foods would limit what you can eat. But that’s not true.

As proof, look at these popular raw, vegan recipes. You can make everything from “ice cream” to a “cheesecake” without turning on the oven.

  1. FullyRaw Ice Cream. You can make an ice cream that tastes and feels just like real dairy ice cream, using only bananas. You’ll need a powerful mixer, such as a Vitamix, to whip the frozen bananas up into a creamy consistency.
  2. Easy Vegan Cheesecake. The secret ingredients in this tasty, raw vegan cheesecake are cashews and coconut. The raw crust is made of dates and crumbled cashews. Having a Cuisinart food processor will make preparing the cheesecake a lot easier.
  3. No-Bake Chocolate Fudge Cookies. Cookies can be healthy, especially when they are made from raw, superfood ingredients such as chia seeds and coconut.
  4. Raw Brownies. Raw brownies sound impossible, but they are very much a thing. This popular recipe combines pecans, dates, cacao powder, coconut and agave nectar to make a fudgy brownie. Spread the brownie batter into a square treat pan to make portioning even easier.
  5. Raw Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. A decadent dessert can be vegan and raw. The main ingredients in these molten chocolate lava cakes are oats, walnuts, dates, and raisins, plus cacao powder. The chocolate sauce in the middle contains cacao butter, maple syrup, dates, and cacao powder. You form the cakes by pressing the batter into ramekins or a muffin pan.

Vegan FAQs

Still have more questions about vegan baking? Take a look at our answers to a few frequently asked questions. It’s likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for here!

How do you make vegan buttermilk?

To make vegan buttermilk, just stir one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into one cup of your favorite non-dairy milk. The acid in the vinegar or lemon juice will cause the non-dairy milk to curdle. One Green Planet has a thorough explanation of when and why you’d want to use vegan buttermilk.

Can you substitute applesauce for eggs?

Yes, applesauce is a great substitute for eggs in some baked goods. Just use 1/4 cup of applesauce for every egg the recipe calls for.

Is baking powder vegan?

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) plus an acid to help baked goods rise. It is entirely vegan.

Is margarine vegan?

Although margarine is a vegetable oil-based substitute for butter, some brands contain trace amounts of dairy, such as lactose or whey. Read the ingredients list carefully when buying margarine or look for a package that is clearly labeled “vegan.”

Is vegetable shortening vegan?

Vegetable shortening usually contains palm oil and hydrogenated vegetable oils, which stay solid at room temperature. It doesn’t contain any animal products, making it vegan.

What is vegan butter?

Vegan butter is margarine that has coloring and flavors added to help it mimic the taste and look of dairy butter. Veganbaking.net has a full guide to vegan butter, as well as a recipe for making your own at home.

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