Boston Veggie

Let’s talk substitutes
September 29, 2009, 1:36 am
Filed under: Vegan tips

Let’s talk substitutes

In my own cooking, I don’t usually like to use a lot of fake cheeses and meats. I prefer to cook with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, inevitably, if you are going to choose a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you will encounter substitutes. Lucky for you, I have already done a lot of the leg work over the past two years to weed out the best from the worst. I am not going to list the worst ones here because I don’t want to bash any brands. In fact, you might like some of the brands I don’t, but I do know you’ll probably like the brands I do.

Also, I am going to start posting some recipes that do have the fake stuff, so I want you to know what brand I’m talking about and where you can get it. P.S. forgive my photography. I went into Whole Foods and just started taking pictures, so the lighting wasn’t ideal.

Take a look at all of the meat substitutes that are available at the relatively tiny Whole Foods I have on Westland Avenue in Boston:

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Now take a look at all of the dairy substitutes available:

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When I first went vegan, I was so excited to try all of the fake stuff that I just went to Whole Foods and stocked up on everything out there. When I got home, I was horrified. The cheese didn’t taste like cheese; the cream cheese I got was horrible; and don’t even get me started on the meat. That was when I decided I wasn’t going to base my vegan diet on the substitutes.

However, after a long enough time had passed, I gave the fake stuff another shot. And low and behold I came to love certain vegan substitutes.

I showed you just how many dairy substitutes there are available, but here are the ones I like:

Butter. Butter is a main ingredient in SO many things. Whether it be in pastries or sauces or even just on a piece of toast, butter is crucial. Even on that first visit when I rejected most of the substitutes, these fake butters are even BETTER than real, and have ZERO CHOLESTORAL OR TRANS FAT. Earth Balance is the brand that my Whole Foods carries, and it comes in four varieties:

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I’m not 100% sure what the difference between ^^^ those two is, but

substitutes 003 (2) is whipped and

substitutes 004 (2) this one is soy free!

Some people are concerned about soy. Soy is a good source of protein, but may also increase estrogen levels that may lead to feminine cancers. Not enough study has been done on the subject to determine either way (my mantra is that if it grows from the ground, how bad can it be?), but if you are concerned about soy, this is a good butter substitute for you!

Cheese. Oooh glorious cheese. For the most part, I find it easy to avoid cheese. I don’t always need Parmesan on my spaghetti, I don’t need cheese on my enchilada, but when I do want cheese, this is how I do it.

In the vegan community, the ability for a cheese to melt is quite the bragging right. That’s why for things like tofu scrambles and casseroles I use Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternatives.

The cheddar is my favorite:
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But it does come in many varieties like Monterey jack, mozzarella and nacho!
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For times when I don’t really need the cheese to melt SO much, I use Vegan brand cheeses. This cheese doesn’t look like it has melted in the traditional way, but when you taste it after cooking, it is sooo creamy and good. NOTE: DO NOT EAT ANY VEGAN CHEESES RAW. YOU WILL NOT LIKE IT. THEY ARE DELICIOUS WHEN COOKED, BUT NOT SO MUCH RAW.

I use the mozzarella for pizza and lasagna. I prefer it over the Vegan Gourmet Cheese for those purposes.
moz che

I prefer this brand’s American cheese for grilled cheeses as well, but I melt the cheese in the microwave first before throwing it on the grill.

Vegan brand also makes a great Parmesan cheese.
vegan parm

Milk is the least of your vegan worries. Soy milk has come into the mainstream in recent years and you can get a soy latte at many cafes these days. However, there are a zillion milk substitutes that aren’t as main stream. Hemp milk, almond milk, rice milk, are all great alternatives as well.

I like vanilla soy or almond milk in my cereal, but I prefer non-flavored soy milk in my mashed potatoes. I’m not a huge fan of hemp or rice milk, but definitely give almond and soy milks a go.

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Tofutti Sour cream and tofutti cream cheese are amazzzzinggg. I used the tofutti sour cream in my enchilada recipe and I’ve used the cream cheese for bagels AND homemade jalapeño poppers.

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Store bought vegan ice cream is not very successful, especially with the limited varieties I have at my Whole Foods. Purely Decadent is the only brand they have, and it’s okay but Soy Dream is my favorite and they don’t have it at my Whole Foods :-/.

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But Trader Joe’s Brand ice creams are delicious. My favorite is the cherry chocolate chip. This is a brand that you could *trick* the non-vegans into eating and they’d be none-the-wiser.


Tofutti cuties are like little ice cream sandwiches that come in vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip and peanut butter. I like them from time to time, but it is really easy to overdose and get sick of them. Also, I wouldn’t recommend giving them to your non-vegan friends.

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Soyatoo brand whipped creams are delicious. Great substitutes for the real thing!

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Did you know that Whole Foods makes vegan chocolate and carrot cakes?

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This cake is vegan. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one of the carrot cakes in the window at the time, but they are BETTER than normal carrot cakes. I swear. We served the carrot cake to many an omnivore at my friend’s birthday party and everyone raved, not knowing they were eating veganly! Muah haha!

Did you know Boston Cookies are vegan?  Bet you’ve had one and not even known they were good for you!

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SIDENOTE: Did you know OREO’S are vegan?! And so are some brands of Pillsbury icing?! I’m not saying that makes them good for you, we all know Oreo’s are the devil… but interesting nonetheless!

Let’s face it. Mayonnaise is totally disgusting and horrible for you. It is nothing but raw eggs and hydrogenated oil. But not veganaise! Veganaise is better than the real thing by leaps and bounds. I used it to make potato salad but lied to my family that my cousin made it, and they scarfed it down. Again, people are just so scared of the word “vegan” they don’t understand that it just means “THIS WON’T CAUSE A HEART ATTACK.” So I do have to trick the public from time to time.

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Now to the meat.Veggie burgers, like soy milk, have started coming into the mainstream. However, I don’t like the veggie burgers that try to act like meat. They are heavily soy based with a lot of weird ingredients in them. I prefer veggie burgers that don’t necessarily mimic meat, but rather are just packed with veggies.

The Dr. Praeger’s brand California Veggie burgers contain carrots, onions, string beans, oat bran, soybeans, zucchini, peas, broccoli, corn, spinach, canola oil, red peppers, arrowroot, corn starch, garlic, salt, parsley and black pepper. NO FAKE STUFF, and just tons of vegetables.For that reason, they are my veggie burger of choice.

veg burg

In general, I don’t really like vegan meats, but there are four meat substitutes I love.

Smart Bacon is amazing. I LOVE bacon. Just add a tomato, lettuce, and a little veganaise to two pieces of whole wheat bread and you’ve got yourself a vegan BLT!

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Smart brand also makes Smart Ground meat. I would never recommend eating this stuff plain, but I used it in lasagna and it was amazing. I had to double check that I wasn’t eating real meat, that’s how good it is.

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Morning star riblets. OH. MY. GOD. MORNING STAR RIBLETS. I never really liked barbecue flavored things growing up until I could never eat them, so now I love riblets and barbecue chips. Morning Star Riblets are to die for. Literally, I’d die for them. In a few years time, you are going to hear of the “Church of Morning Star Riblets” founded by the Boston Veggie. MMMMMMMMM.

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I also like these vegan chicken nuggets. I don’t usually have them in the house, but every so often even a Veggie wants some junk food!

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As you can see, the world of vegan substitutes is more extensive than you would have thought. I do have to warn you, STAY AWAY FROM BOXED MACARONI AND CHEESES. I gave up my search for the Holy Grail of vegan mac’n’cheese long ago, and I want to spare you the same heartache I had to go through time and time again. Unfortunately, good vegan mac and cheese does not exist, especially not from a box. I am in the process of trying to find a good one through various experiments and online recipes, but have been unsuccessful up until now. I WILL FIND ONE THOUGH, I swear.

All this talk has made me hungry. I’m going to go make some riblets. Until next time!


1 Comment so far
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Great post! Super informative and I love the pictures of the products – makes it easy for people to recognize them in a store.

Comment by ematson

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