When most of my friends and family members found out that I decided to live a vegan lifestyle they were confused at 1) why I would do such a thing, and 2) what I would eat.  After all, without meat, eggs, dairy, and honey, what else is left in this world?  Thankfully my passion for food and cooking quickly assured them of my health and well-being, as well as my discerning palate and high standards.  For me, food is life–and I believe that life ought to be delicious, savored, and enjoyable.  Food is also community, it’s the object we, as humans, gather around and celebrate.

As a vegan, it’s simple: no meat, poultry, fish, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter), eggs, honey.  Essentially, no animal products whatsoever.  As a vegan in the 21st century, it’s a bit harder.  Most pre-packaged and processed foods contain elements of animal products–gelatin, whey, egg powder.  Even many meat substitutes sold in the frozen foods section aren’t vegan–something I find a little ridiculous.  If someone making fake chicken is going to sell it in my local Kroger, why not make it vegan as well so that more folks will buy it?  But I digress.

This section isn’t about explain the ABCs of veganism.  I’m not a nutritionist; I can’t tell you how to balance your proteins and carbohydrates and amino acids.  I can show you what to replace eggs with in a recipe or how to make vegan buttermilk.  I can also tell you that I’m not a big fan of the meat substitute.  Vegetables are delicious and good for you–maximize their culinary efficiency to the highest degree possible.  Forget tofu, you’ve got butternut squash and kale!

Meat Substitutes

Trick question–use vegetables!

Dairy Substitutes

Soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk, coconut milk

Butter Substitutes

Earth Balance, Shedd’s Willow Run Margarine

Egg Substitutes

Flax seeds, silken tofu, Ener-G Egg Replacer, bananas, soy yogurt, apple sauce

For a run-down on quantities and directions on how to use the various egg replacers, check out The Post Punk Kitchen. Isa is the vegan cooking and baking goddess extraordinaire, and I’ve been using her recipes and recommendations for years now.

Honey & White Sugar Substitutes

Wait, white sugar? Yup, white sugar isn’t exactly vegan. Cane sugar is purified with activated charcoal, a substance which may be of plant, animal, or mineral origin. Over half of the cane sugar refineries in the United States use bone char as their activated carbon source. While the animal is so far removed from the process so as to be deemed Kosher, many vegans do not consider refined sugar to be vegan–an animal is still involved in the production of the food product. Be sure to check with your vegan guests to see if refined sugar is an issue for them. White, refined sugar can be replaced easily with raw sugar, which can be found in the bulk sections of your local co-op or at most major grocery stores in the natural foods sections.

Other sweeteners include: Agave nectar, sorghum, stevia, maple syrup

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