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May 25, 2011 02:02 PM

Baking substitutions for vegans

While on the subject of feeding one vegan among 5 carnivores, I would like to bring desserts to these get-togethers we have but don't want to ruin a good dessert using egg, butter, and milk substitutes. Anyone out there have experience using these products? What do you think?

I assume I can use soy milk successfully to replace cow's milk. Any good egg/butter replacements?

One thing I'd really like to make is good old RIce Krispie Treats. I know some dieters leave out the butter as a matter of course, but I think the butter taste is essential. Any way to achieve that with a vegan product?

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  1. I think you just accept that vegan gives a diferent flavour profile and choose the main flavours accordingly.
    You also get a different 'mouth feel' - not worse just different.
    I don't think it's a good idea trying to replicate 'banned' ingredients - you need to think of aiming at different results.

    32 Replies
    1. re: Peg

      Earth Balance has a Vegan butter substitute. Not a great substitute but passable:

      1. re: ferret

        Yes--most marshmallows aren't vegan though so you'd have to find vegan marshmallows to make rice krispie treats.

        1. re: ferret

          They also make shortening sticks which are non-hydrogenated and fairly neutral tasting. I use that (or Spectrum organic shortening) more in baking, just because it has fewer "non-food" type ingredients than the margarine (which I do use sometimes, albeit a bit begrudgingly).

          One bad thing about coconut / palm oil based oils for baking is that they have basically no Omega-3s and lots of Omega-6s, even though they have no trans-fats. So I try to use canola or other oils when possible; however, certain desserts do work much better with a solid fat, and so I use them when I think the result will be better - I just try to avoid eating stuff made this way too often. Sometimes I'll blend the two - for example, I used straight out of the fridge shortening sticks mixed 50% with canola oil for this recipe recently, with good results. (I think there are also some environmental issues with palm / coconut oils).

        2. re: Peg

          It's the vegan himself who has been suggesting egg substitutes, etc. But I've been hesitant about making a cake that might only please one person in the group. Think I should make separate desserts? (I'd just make something vegan that is fruit/grain based, but the other family members have loved my cakes.)

          1. re: Birmingham

            There's a classic depression-era chocolate cake called wacky cake that has no butter, milk, or eggs (things that were harder to come by and pricier in those lean years), and is therefore vegan. It is a good cake, enjoyed by all kinds of eaters. I know you said in your cake thread that you're not much interested in chocolate, but I have also made non-chocolate versions - it's easy to make a vegan orange or apple-spice cake. This makes an 8x8-inch square pan, but you can double the recipe and use a bundt pan with a longer baking time. Add cinnamon and other spices as you like and chopped or grated apples to the apple-juice version. Chocolate chips are good in the orange version (make sure they're dairy-free).

            1 3/4 cups flour
            3/4 cup sugar
            1 teaspoon baking soda
            1/4 teaspoon salt
            1 cup orange juice plus grated zest of an orange, or 1 cup apple juice or cider
            6 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
            1 teaspoon white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if making apple cake)

            Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the wet ingredients until all combined. Pour into a greased pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool pan on a rack.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              That sounds really interesting, thanks. I'm going to give it a try. (I'm not anti-chocolate when baking for others--I've just come to terms with the fact that I'm starting to prefer other flavors.)

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Wacky cake is a great option. A chocolate cake with a coconut milk-based ganache can be quite delicious.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Caitlin, decided I'd try the wacky cake recipe for Monday (the dinner's on!)--but where's the chocolate? I'm assuming if it's the Depression, you'd be using cocoa powder... And you're sure it would work to double and put in a Bundt pan? (I've had a couple cake failures lately, so I want to be sure on this one.)

                  1. re: Birmingham

                    wacky cake is like a miracle. i've made it in a bundt (double the recipe) and it's come out perfectly

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Thanks, Trolley and GHG! I thought it was supposed to be a chocolate/orange concoction--and then thought that was pretty progressive for the Depression era.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Oh! Now that I read the ingredients and the method for wacky cake, I see it's like the "Snackin' Cakes" we used to buy in the 70s. You'd make a well and add water (and maybe oil?) and mix them right in the little cardboard pan that came in the box--and you'd have a little cake for a quick dessert.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            GHG: Can the Wacky Cake recipe be easily adapted to use gluten-free flours? If so, which is best? I'm new to a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free diet. Thanks!

                          2. re: Birmingham

                            I've found this site that shows the "wacky cake" in a bundt version:
                            (And now I remember making similar cakes but they were called dump cakes. One had pineapple and cherries and was called "Black Forest Dump Cake.


                            Here's my new question: I love the idea of adding a glaze. The one on this site uses butter and heavy cream. Any vegan substitutes? On the version, she says Pillsbury choc fudge frosting is vegan--can I water it down and turn it into a glaze? Or should I just stick with conf. sugar and water and drizzle it over? (Or I glaze half the cake with the "Satiny Glaze" and the other half with conf. sugar glaze.)

                            1. re: Birmingham

                              Or should I just stick with conf. sugar and water and drizzle it over?
                              sometimes simple is best :) but make sure you buy *vegan* powdered sugar!!

                              or try:

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Is the frosting referred to from Post Punk Kitchen, the chocolate ganache that goes with the Vanilla Bean Cupcakes? The link didn't go directly to a recipe that used frosting. (From further reading on the site, it looks like they took the buttercream recipe off to work on it.)

                                Never made ganache before--can it be drizzled over a bundt cake? (But I think I might stick with the conf. sugar drizzle and not get too ambitious.)

                                I can't wait to try these vegan recipes. If they taste as good as they look--and reported--it would be great to not have to use eggs and butter all the time.

                                1. re: Birmingham

                                  crap, i'm sorry the recipe is missing. here you go~

                                  Vegan Chocolate Buttercream
                                  Makes enough to frost two 8- or 9-inch cakes

                                  2 C. Earth Balance Butter, room temperature
                                  12 oz. Vegan Semi Sweet Chocolate, melted and cooled
                                  3 T. Plain Soy Milk (or other dairy alternative)
                                  2 t. Vanilla
                                  5 C. Vegan Powdered Sugar

                                  Beat the butter in a stand mixer until fluffy for about 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly add melted chocolate with mixer on low. After chocolate and butter are well combined, add vanilla, milk and sugar. Beat at medium low until just combined.

                                  and yes, you can absolutely drizzle ganache over a bundt! in fact, that's one of my favorite ways to go - it looks beautiful & tastes delicious :)

                                  1. re: Birmingham

                                    there used to be a chocolate buttercream recipe on ppk that i used and found it not very good. i thought the margarine took imparted a greasy texture. i'm not finding it on the site anymore which means maybe they thought it was gross too? who knows.

                                    there's a whole world of great baked goods beyond eggs and butter. i'm finding this out myself as well out of necessity but glad i found it!

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I stand corrected! thanks ghg! i DO like the one from ppk. it's easy and the consistency is great. it's the one i made prior to the one from ppk that was a greasy disaster and i can't seem to locate where i found it. well, i certainly got that one out of mind quickly!

                                    1. re: Birmingham

                                      This is awesome! GHG, thx for the vegan- buttercream recipe. Birmingham, I am with you--cant wait to try this and am going to make this cake this weekend! Yay! Will report back. Thanks for all the inspiration...*love this thread*!

                                      1. re: Blancmange

                                        there's also a recipe on the scharffen berger website for a mocha pudding made from cocoa powder, tofu, maple syrup, chocolate chips -- sounds crazy but is delicious as pudding or frosting (I leave out the coffee for my kids). Some choc chips are not vegan, though, so check the pkg.

                                  2. re: Birmingham

                                    I'm sorry to confuse regarding the wacky cake recipes! Yes, the classic is chocolate, and I offered a non-chocolate version (orange or apple). Regarding the bundt pan, like trolley, I have simply doubled the recipe for the 8x8 pan and baked in a bundt without incident.

                                    One suggestion, as you're going with the chocolate version: replace the water in the recipe with coffee. The cake won't taste of coffee, but it will deepen the flavor of the cake. I like to use brown sugar for the same reason, but some prefer the simpler flavor of granulated.

                                    I like the contrast of a non-chocolate drizzle on a choc. bundt cake sometimes, but instead of water, I prefer to use fruit juice with the powdered sugar so it has some flavor. Orange juice or sieved pureed raspberries go well with chocolate.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      One suggestion, as you're going with the chocolate version: replace the water in the recipe with coffee.
                                      yesyesyes! or if you happen to have instant coffee or espresso on hand, add a tablespoon to the dry ingredients.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Will it give the cake a coffee taste or does it just enhance the chocolate flavor, as I've heard some say? (I like the idea of a coffee flavor, just not sure of the others.)

                                        1. re: Birmingham

                                          as Caitlin said, it just enhances the chocolate flavor, it won't taste like coffee. i've been adding coffee or espresso to all my chocolate creations for many years, and people always ask me how i get such a deep/rich chocolate flavor but they never pick up on the coffee...well, unless i'm making something mocha-flavored! ;)

                                          1. re: Birmingham

                                            No, it does not give it a coffee taste at all. I *always* sub coffee or espresso for water in choc cake/cupcake recipes. It really , really adds depth to the chocolate flavor. I will often add a tsp of ground espresso, too.

                                        2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Sorry, Caitlin, I missed your post!

                                          Oh--and I like the idea of an orange drizzle over the cake!

                                          That's just how I'll make it: doubled for bundt cake, coffee instead of water, and orange juice with the conf. sugar. Yikes: hate to have to wait till Monday evening to get to try it!

                                          1. re: Birmingham

                                            forgot to mention above that the coffee/espresso trick also works with carob...just FYI :)

                                        3. re: Birmingham

                                          FYI: the recipe came out dry (and stuck to the bundt pan!). I think she must have used a smaller pan. I kind of wondered when she called for a 9-inch bundt--that's not how bundts are referred to, it's cups.

                                          I'm now going to try one of your other versions above and make it in a 9x13 pan.

                                          1. re: Birmingham

                                            Doubling the recipes for an 8x8-inch square pan should work fine in a 9x13 or a standard 12-cup bundt, you'll just need to watch the time it bakes, increasing as necessary, esp. for the bundt.

                                          2. re: Birmingham

                                            I don't know how it would work in a glaze, but if you have a vita-mix or other high-powered blender, you can make a pretty good nut based cream, like cashew cream. I have had some success using it for applications not requiring whipping. For example, I just made cream biscuits (out of Fannie Farmer) for strawberry shortcake, using cashew cream to replace the heavy cream in the recipe. You can buy some similar cream substitutes in packages at Whole Foods and similar stores.

                                  3. This company produces a vegetable-derived product that's meant to replace dairy/egg/mayonnaise in cooking/baking. They sold at the consumer level a few years ago (I bought several jars) but I don't see the option now.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ferret

                                      Z trim is just cellulose (fiber) derived from corn & oat hulls, and it was actually developed as a "calorie-free" fat replacer - the vegan aspect was just a bonus for some people :)

                                      anyway, it's not available to retail consumers anymore - it's strictly a manufacturer/food service product now.

                                    2. Isn't the bigger obstacle to Rice Krispies treats finding vegan marshmallows (made without gelatin or egg whites)? If you have a source of those, I think you would simply have to go with Earth Balance or the like as best-course butter sub.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        For whatever reason Vegan marshmallows are all over the place. Here's one:


                                        Seaweed gelatins have been used in Kosher marshmallows for half a century or more.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Oh I had no idea: thought marshmallows were nothing but sugar. (Gelatin is a no-no too?)

                                          1. re: Birmingham

                                            Conventional gelatin, used in the big brands like Kraft, is an animal byproduct (traditionally made from pigs' or cows' feet). Marshmallow Fluff has no gelatin, but has egg whites. You'd have to look for specifically vegan ones.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              and just to expand on Caitlin's explanation, there is vegan gelatin - it's derived from seaweed (agar) - but it's the exception rather than the rule, and usually marketed specifically as a vegan product.

                                        2. Here are some substitutes I've had success with:
                                          - Reconstituted ground flax seeds in place of eggs (1-to-3 flax seed to water ratio = 1 egg)
                                          - Coconut oil in place of butter
                                          - Applesauce in place of milk and/or sugar

                                          You might want to try coconut oil for rice krispie treats as I've made granola bars with it before and they turn out great. If you find they don't hold together, you can add a few tablespoons of rice syrup and/or a nut butter to bind them together.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: yumyumyogi

                                            Now that's sounds interesting. Isn't it coconut oil that used to make theatre popcorn so good?

                                            1. re: Birmingham

                                              One caveat: I refer to virgin coconut oil, which has extremely different fat and health properties than the highly refined regular coconut oil. I believe the movie theater popcorn is made with the non-virgin version which is high in trans fats and much less expensive.

                                            2. re: yumyumyogi

                                              I can't recommend the flax seed egg substitute enough. I've cooked for many vegans and it has yet to fail (or disappoint egg eaters who had no idea the muffin/cookie/cake was vegan) and has garnered better results than egg replacers on the shelves.

                                              I use 1 TB ground flaxseed to 2-3 T water (usually 2.75T) per egg. Add flax to water, stir thoroughly and let sit for at least 5 minutes (ideally longer).

                                              1. re: yumyumyogi

                                                Re: ground flax seed. I was just at Whole Foods and saw they had Bob's (Red Mill?) Golden Ground Flax Seed, regular Ground Flax Seed, and then "Egg Replacer" that didn't have any flax seed in it at all. And the Flax Seed bags didn't at all mention using it as an egg replacement. I did also see the EnerG Egg Replacer--but if the Bob's stuff is good, I'd rather use it as it's less expensive. But egg replacer or flax seed? I'm confused.

                                                1. re: Birmingham

                                                  okay, we need some serious clarification here.

                                                  - egg replacer and flax gel can both be used as vegan egg substitutes, but they're two completely different things. flax gel is an *alternative* to the packaged egg replacer for those of use who want to use a more healthful option, because the boxed stuff is just refined starch & leavening agents. (plus i personally think flax turns out better results.)
                                                  - golden flax & regular flax are interchangeable for this - the only difference is the color.
                                                  - just because it doesn't say anything about egg replacement on the bag doesn't mean you can't use the flax meal the way we've explained. it's also a great thickener for salad dressing, a binder for meatloaf, a good substitute for wheat germ, and an alternative to bread crumbs or flour for dredging/coating...but it doesn't say any of that on the bag either ;)

                                                  i'd suggest buying the flax instead of the packaged egg replacer because you can use it for other things besides baking the cake. just be sure to store it in the freezer, because ground flax is HIGHLY perishable. i personally prefer to buy the whole seeds and grind them into meal as need (i use a small coffee grinder), but some people think that's too much trouble.

                                              2. Like others have posted, I have had success with ground flax seed mixed with water. Although I will caution that in vanilla cupcakes, you can see the flax flakes. I have also recently been using Ener-G egg replace. It's mostly a mixture of starches. No one has been able to tell a difference in my cakes.

                                                As for milk replacement, I use almond milk over soy milk just because there's no soy taste. And I like using Earth Balance as butter- although different oils can be used with success depending on the recipe.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: noodlesegg

                                                  I can second the recs of EnerG brand egg replacer and almond milk. Coconut milk is another option. I'm not vegan, btw.

                                                  1. re: amyzan

                                                    I third EnerG egg replacer and unsweetened almond milk.

                                                  2. re: noodlesegg

                                                    Wow, this gives me hope. I keep finding recipes that are almost vegan and I keep doing the Homer Simpson "Doh!" when I discover there's 1 egg or 2 T milk or something.

                                                    If you don't mind my switching gears to cooking: I've got a rice/beans/grains cookbook with lots of "almost vegan" recipes too. Many of them are completely vegan until they recommend a topping of grated Parmesan to finish off the entrees. Any vegan equivalent for that?

                                                    1. re: Birmingham

                                                      Many of them are completely vegan until they recommend a topping of grated Parmesan to finish off the entrees. Any vegan equivalent for that?
                                                      kinda sorta. a mixture of nutritional yeast, ground walnuts (or almonds), and salt is pretty much the standard vegan answer to parm. it adds a bit of that savory umami flavor, but it's not gonna fool any cheeseheads :)

                                                      1. re: Birmingham

                                                        Yes, there's hope! I'm not vegan but I began experimenting with the above mentioned vegan substitutes ever since I started a batch of muffins one day, only to realize I had no eggs in the house. I tried using flax seeds and I was utterly fascinated with how good they turned out. Ever since, I've been replacing butter and eggs in my baking just to see how they turn out. So far so good.

                                                        As far as the Parmesan goes, that's a tough one Good luck finding a replacement.

                                                        1. re: Birmingham

                                                          It's not a parmesan cheese sub, but a lot of times when cooking for vegan friends, I will include rehydrated shiitake or other dried mushrooms, or seaweed in some form. Both have that "something," which is amino acid in nature, and some describe as umami. It's not as complex as the delicious and textural delight that is parmesan, but both have got their own pleasures, both flavor and texture wise. You can get a lot of boost from kizami nori, toasted shredded nori, for instance. But, of course, this assumes your vegan friends like seaweed and mushrooms, both of which can be acquired tastes for some people.

                                                        2. re: noodlesegg

                                                          One of my friends is a vegan who loves to bake. I was a little skeptical the first time she brought something to share at work, but a few weeks ago, she brought in a vanilla flax seed cake with a lemon (no) buttercream frosting. It was so good!