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Tasty Plant Based Food Swaps That'll Get Your Mouth Watering

Cooking for meatless Monday or simply looking at ways to incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet? Learn about simple vegan substitutes for cheese, baking, plant-based meats, and more.

Tasty Plant Based Food Swaps That'll Get Your Mouth Watering

Magical in many ways, plants are for far more than gardening. They're tasty! But you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to get more plant-based food goodness in your life. Some simple plant-based food swaps can help you get added nutrients and health benefits.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are tons of potential upsides for adding more plants to your diet. Vegetarian diets are associated with a lower risk of:

  • Developing coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Vegetarian diets are even associated with increased longevity! Munch on more veggies, and you might add years to your life. 

There’s no need to give up your favorite seafood or meats completely. The American Heart Association recommends to focus on swapping out more red meats like beef, pork, and lamb. Those tend to have more saturated fat than chicken or fish. But there are yummy plant-based options for just about everything, from ice cream to cheese to cookies. 

Vegan meats

Craving a hamburger? Meatballs? Or even some fish tacos? There’s a mock meat alternative for that.

Head to your grocery store's freezer section for frozen ground “beef,” chick’n nuggets and meatless patties, plant-based sausage, vegan shrimp, and more.

Most are super-easy to microwave, grill, pan-fry, or bake in the oven. Dress them up with your favorite fixin’s. We bet you won’t be able to taste the juicy difference. Use vegan meats as swaps for:

  • Stir fry dishes
  • Burgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Meat pasta sauces

You can also make your own “meat.” From lentil loafs and black bean-based burgers, to chickpea “tuna” and cauliflower walnut taco “chorizo,” lots of plant ingredients transform into savory mock meats with the right seasoning. Google your favorite meat ingredient with the words “vegan” to find recipes.

Try this: Next time you're craving steak kebabs, marinate, slice, then spear and grill some portobello mushrooms. They have a thick, meaty texture that's a delicious low-calorie alternative to red meat. 

Vegan substitutes for cheese

  • Store-ready plant-based cheeses now come in many varieties like shredded, sliced, and crumbled. They come in all flavors, from feta to American to cheddar.

Pro tip: Vegan cheese typically takes longer to melt compared to regular cheese. Look for vegan cheese-specific recipes that account for variances in cooking times. To make a basic quesadilla or grilled cheeze sandwich, just bake in a couple extra minutes to get the melty gooeyness. 

  • Nutritional yeast. Want to add a cheesy flavor without the actual cheese? Use nutritional yeast. This vegan ingredient is a complete protein packed with B vitamins. Sprinkle it on pastas instead of using parmesan. Or use it in a vegan mac 'n cheese recipe. Speaking of which ...
  • Did you know butternut squash is a great sub for traditional mac n' cheese sauce? Cook it up, blend it with some onion, cashews, and spices, and you've got yourself a creamy vegan sauce. 
  • With its soft, silky texture, tofu can be used instead of ricotta in lasagna, as a cream cheese-like spread, or for plant-based paneer in Indian recipes. 

There are different consistencies of tofu, from silken to super-firm, you can use in recipes ranging from cakes and desserts to deep-fried dishes.

Plant-based milks

There’s a wide variety of vegan milks today, including almond, coconut, soy, cashew, and oat. Some come flavored with vanilla or chocolate. Which you use depends on the food. Try vanilla almond milk for coffee or unsweetened soy milk for pasta sauce. Sweet tooths can also try plant-based coffee creamers and ice creams.

Nut milk DIY: It's incredibly quick, easy, and affordable to make your own nut milk at home! 

Soak 1 cup of raw almonds overnight. Drain, then blend them with 4 cups of cold filtered water for about 2 minutes, until creamy. You can also blend with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and/or 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and a pinch of salt, depending on your preferred taste.

Strain the almond milk into a container or mason jar using cheesecloth or a sieve. Voila! Your very own almond milk for cereals, granola, coffee, and smoothies.

Vegan substitutes for baking

Speaking of sweets, you can also use non-dairy milks for baking. Or whip packaged egg substitutes into scrambled eggs and omelettes.

Or, create a flax egg. Flax seeds and water can combine to create a binding ingredient that substitutes for eggs. Just mix 1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal with 2½ Tbsp. water. You can use flax “eggs” in baking recipes for cookies, muffins, brownies, and pancakes. You can also use flax eggs when you need a binder for savory plant-based recipes, like veggie meatballs.