Hi! I'm Tabatha and I've been vegetarian forever.
I go through phases of being vegan, but for some reason I never manage to fully commit.
The longest vegan stint I ever managed was about two years towards the end of school, which was easy because I was young enough for my mum to still cook for me. Since then I've only ever managed to stay vegan for the odd couple of months here and there.
I try to avoid dairy whenever I eat out, but I'm terrible at cooking vegan food at home. Even though I'm a relatively good cook, I find thinking about vegan substitutes (think: mashed banana instead of egg, avocado instead of butter, cashews instead of cheese) stressful and overwhelming.
So I read up on dairy substitutes on Pinterest and decided to try out a bunch of vegan recipes to see if they worked.
Here's what I learned:
1. You can use mashed bananas and chia seeds to make pancakes that actually taste really nice!
Did it work: Yes! My first pancake burnt because I wasn't paying attention, but after that everything went perfectly. I even felt kinda healthy eating them, which cannot be said for normal pancakes. I coved mine in agave syrup (instead of honey) and blueberries and they were lovely. 10/10, would recommend.
You can find the recipe I used here.
2. The liquid from a tin of chickpeas is called ~aquafaba~ and you can use it to make delicious chocolate mousse.
Did it work? Even though I had read a lot about cooking with aquafaba, I didn't really believe it would work. Whisking chickpea water just sounded too weird. But I was wrong to be sceptical, because it was lovely! The whisking took aaaages (without a food processor, my arm would have fallen off) but the mousse was delicious. It was light and fluffy and it honestly didn't taste like chickpeas at all. It was maybe a tiiiiny bit waterier than normal chocolate mousse, but honestly I'm not complaining.
3. Scrambled tofu and nutritional yeast is almost as good as scrambled eggs.
Did it work: This was a really nice breakfast! The texture was almost exactly the same as scrambled eggs, and it was genuinely really tasty. But, and I'm sorry to say this, it didn't really taste like eggs. That said, it was yummy and I'd make it again.
4. You can make blueberry muffins with flax seeds and applesauce.
Did it work: Kind of. It would be very generous to call the things I made muffins, but they were perfectly edible. Unlike normal muffins, they didn't rise in the oven at all, which meant my first batch were very flat. After that I filled my muffin cases muuuuch higher, which made them look a bit more like muffins. But they weren't fluffy, and you could taste the bicarb in them. I'd give this another go, but I'm not 100% sold on them.
5. Pesto doesn't need to contain parmesan — you can make it with flax seeds instead.
Did it work: Totally. The batch I made was astonishingly garlicky, but I was very much OK with that. Honestly, this was just as easy as making regular pesto. I sprinkled nutritional yeast on top of mine and although it didn't taste very cheesy, it was perfectly tasty. I'm definitely going to make this again.
6. You can make peanut butter and chocolate ice cream (yes, ice cream!) with frozen bananas.
Did it work: This was honestly like magic. The final product was more like gelato than ice cream, which tbh is a better result than I was hoping for. It was so delicious and it's way healthier than normal ice cream and honestly I'm never going to stop going on about it. Go and freeze all your bananas immediately.
7. Vegans don't have to live without mac 'n' cheese: You can just use cashews and nutritional yeast.
Did it work: Kiiiiind of. It didn't taste like cheese at all, but it was a perfectly nice onion-y pasta sauce. The texture was a little bit grainy, which made me wonder whether I should have used a liquidiser, rather than a blender, for the sauce. Other than that, it was perfectly tasty and I'm just sad that I didn't mange to find a good cheese substitute.
8. The best chocolate cake I have ever made contained avocado and vegetable oil instead of butter and eggs!
Did it work: 100% yes. This is the best cake I have ever made, including nonvegan cakes. I am honestly so proud of it. The cakes cracked a bit in the oven, but I feel like all cakes do that. The cake was a bit denser than normal (my boyfriend thought it was too rich), but I was into it. The icing was the major revelation though. It basically tasted like sweet avocado, which I guess is an acquired taste, but I loved it. I'm going to make this exact cake for every special occasion from now on.
I learned that vegan cooking isn't stressful at all!
Most of these substitutes were super easy. I was a disappointed with the muffins that didn't rise, and I'm still not convinced that there is a good substitute for cheese, but the pancakes, ice cream, and chocolate cake are all total revelations. I'm definitly going to use a bunch of these recipes again.
And please let me know in the comments if you know any other vegan recipes I can try – especially if you know how to mimic cheese. 🧀