plant based swaps

Easy Plant-Based Swaps for Everyday Meals

Explore a delicious world of plant-based swaps: From eggs and meat to butter and milk, discover simple substitutions for a healthier, more sustainable you!

If you’re starting to explore the world of plant-based food eating, the hardest part is figuring out how you’re going to replace your favorite meals! What are you even going to eat? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to completely change your diet or find any new recipes to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. All you need to do is swap a few ingredients, and you can still enjoy a hearty stew or mac n cheese

More and more of us are looking to increase the proportion of plant-based foods in our diet for a variety of reasons. Switching to plant-based ingredients is not just for vegetarians and vegans – you may simply be trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat or aiming to cut out certain animal-derived products for ethical or health reasons. Research has shown that increasing the proportion of plant-based ingredients in our diets can reduce the risk of developing health issues such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Here are some easy plant-based swaps for everyday meals to help you begin reducing your meat and dairy intake. 

Plant-Based Egg Substitutes

Eggs are a remarkably versatile ingredient found in a huge range of foodstuffs. As well as being a family favorite for breakfast, eggs are used to make baked goods, batters, noodles, and much more. They are also used as a thickener for salad dressings and mayonnaise and as a binding agent for meatballs and meatloaf. Even some commercially-produced ice-creams may contain eggs!

Plant-based alternatives for eggs are not just for vegans and people with egg allergies – eggs are notoriously high in cholesterol, and many people are making the switch for health reasons. In addition, difficulties in sourcing affordable and sustainably-produced egg products can lead to people seeking plant-based alternatives.

plant based swap eggs

The rise in popularity of plant-based diets has led to a revolution in home cooking and baking, resulting in some ingenious methods to create our favorite foods without the use of eggs:

  • Flax seeds or chia seeds can be ground and mixed with water to form a gel-like consistency similar to eggs. This mixture acts as a binding agent and is often used in baking recipes.
  • Applesauce adds moisture to baked goods and can act as a leavening agent. It works particularly well when baking muffins and cakes.
  • Silken tofu, when blended, mimics the texture of eggs in quiches, custards, and creamy desserts.
  • Aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, can be whipped into a foam similar to egg whites to add lightness to meringues and macarons.
  • Chickpea flour is an effective binder and thickener for recipes like veggie burgers, fritters, and pancakes.
  • Mashed ripe bananas or pumpkin puree add moisture and help bind pancakes, muffins, and cakes.
  • Kala Namak, a sulphuric black salt from the Himalayas, has a potent egg-like flavor, adding an eggy touch to things like tofu scrambles or vegan omelets made from chickpea or lentil flour.

In addition, various commercial egg replacers are available in powdered or liquid form, such as JUST Egg and Simply Eggless. These are a great option if you’re looking for a straightforward swap or using a recipe where other plant-based alternatives won’t work. When using commercial egg replacers, follow the package instructions carefully for the correct ratio of replacer to eggs in the recipe.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

As well as the ethical and environmental benefits of eating less meat, adding plant-based meat alternatives to your weekly meal plan can also have significant health benefits. Plant-based meat alternatives are high in fiber (did you know that meat has NO fiber?) and lower in saturated fat than their meaty counterparts, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of heart problems.

plant based swap meat

Meat is often consumed as a source of protein, but many plant-based ingredients can also fulfill this role:

  • Tofu: Made from coagulated soy milk, tofu is a versatile and neutral-flavored meat replacement that is an excellent source of plant-based protein. Tofu absorbs flavors well, making it ideal for stir-fries and curries
  • Tempeh: Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a firmer texture and nuttier flavor than tofu. When sliced and marinated, tempeh is an excellent probiotic-rich substitute for grilled meats.
  • Seitan: This high-protein wheat gluten derivative has a chewy texture and neutral flavor and is often used as a substitute for ground beef, sausages, and even bacon. 
  • Lentils: Cooked lentils have a texture similar to ground meat and can be used in dishes like tacos, pasta sauces, soups, and veggie burgers.
  • Beans: Protein-rich legumes can be blended to form veggie patties or left whole in tacos, burritos, salads, and chili.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and cashew nuts provide a rich, earthy flavor and a meaty texture to dishes like spaghetti sauce and meatless meatballs.
  • Mushrooms: Portobello, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms have a meaty texture and a rich umami flavor, great for bulking out veggie burgers or as a filling for tacos or wraps.
  • Jackfruit: The fibrous texture of jackfruit famously resembles pulled pork when cooked.

The world of plant-based meat substitutes is evolving rapidly, and there are now meat replacements for almost everything you can find at your local grocery store. So, if you want something that looks and tastes like the real thing, you have plant-based burgers, sausages, chicken fingers, ground beef, and even fish to choose from. Market leaders in the industry include Beyond Meat, Impossible, and Gardein, all catering to savvy plant-based shoppers.

Plant-Based Butter Replacements

Butter is one of the easiest plant-based swaps to make, as we are already accustomed to using oils and fats in our kitchens that are derived from non-animal sources:

  • Simply swap for margarine or a plant-based butter, which are both readily available! 
  • Coconut oil adds richness to dishes when used in cooking and baking.
  • Mashed avocado, banana, or pumpkin bring a smooth, creamy richness to desserts and baked goods.
  • Nut butters offer a nutty richness and can be spread on bread or integrated into both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Olive oil is a versatile option for cooking and baking, providing a fruity and savory flavor.

Many of these plant-based butter replacements are lower in saturated fats than traditional butter, contributing to heart health. They also bring additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to the table, making them valuable additions to a balanced diet.

Plant-Based Milk Options

plant based swap milk

Grocery store shelves are now packed with plant-based alternatives to dairy milk, all with different flavor and nutritional profiles:

  • Almond milk has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and smooth texture and can be used in everything from cooking to coffee.
  • Soy milk is one of the higher-protein plant-based milks available. The creamy consistency and neutral taste make it ideal for beverages, sauces, and dessert recipes.
  • Oat milk has a naturally sweet flavor and creamy texture, making it perfect for coffee, cereal, and baking. It is also high in dietary fiber, providing a sustained release of energy.
  • Coconut milk is commonly used in cooking and desserts, but remember that the coconut flavor can be quite strong. This milk is higher in saturated fats than most other plant-based alternatives.
  • Rice milk has a mild sweetness and is a good option for anyone with nut or soy allergies.
  • Cashew milk has a creamy, slightly sweet, nutty taste, perfect for desserts and coffee. This milk is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats.

Other Plant-Based Swaps

Animal-derived ingredients are often in many everyday grocery store items, but the great news is that alternatives are normally readily available:

  • Cheese: Look for vegan cheeses in the re – these are normally made from nuts or soy, with nutritional yeast for that delightful cheesy flavor.
  • Yogurt: Coconut milk yogurt, almond milk yogurt, or soy milk yogurt are all delicious plant-based alternatives for dairy yogurt in breakfast bowls, smoothies, or desserts.
  • Mayonnaise: Vegan mayonnaise or homemade alternatives like avocado-based mayo or tahini can replace traditional mayonnaise in sandwiches, dressings, and dips.

What Are Your Favorite Plant-Based Swaps?

Making plant-based swaps in your diet can be a surprisingly simple and rewarding experience. Not only do the swaps we’ve suggested provide diverse and satisfying flavors, but they also contribute to a more sustainable and mindful approach to eating. By making conscious choices and embracing plant-based alternatives, you can discover new tastes, expand your culinary toolkit, and contribute positively to your well-being and the planet.

So, whether you're taking a gradual approach or diving headfirst into plant-based alternatives, remember that every small change counts. The journey to incorporating more plant-based options can open the door to a world of exciting and flavorful possibilities – happy swapping!