Plant-Based Baking Substitutions OR How To Make Any Cake Recipe Vegan (Or Egg-Free or Dairy-Free)

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Love baking but prefer to stick to a plant-based diet? Can’t bear to give up your favourite childhood cake recipe? Not to worry! There are plenty of tricks and tips that can guarantee that your final results satisfy even the most demanding of sweet tooths. Below we share our tried and tested secrets- the key is to figure out which of them works best for you. Different recipes will call for different solutions so have fun testing!

What To Do About Eggs

Eggs are mainly used as a binding ingredient in baking so the trick is to find alternative that will recreate that bonding quality. There are actually many solutions out there but our 2 foolproof solutions are: 1) Applesauce for finer cakes, muffins, and cupcakes and 2) Flaxseeds for rougher batters like pancakes, . Low-fat adherents have been using unsweetened applesauce for years when making boxed baking mixes. Obviously, we believe in a diet that contains healthy fats and is primarily made up of homemade foods so we are coming at it from a different angle but we do love the applesauce effect. Simple substitute 1/4 cup of the stuff per 1 large egg in any recipe and voila! You can make your own applesauce by slow cooking peeled apples with water and then blending them when they have completely softened. The flaxseeds option involves replacing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (freshly ground seeds are ideal as flax meal goes rancid quite quickly when exposed to light and heat) mixed with 3 tablespoons of filtered water per 1 egg. Allow the mixture to sit for 15-20 minutes until a jelly like consistency is achieved then throw in a pinch of baking soda (optional) and incorporate in the recipe as you would whisked eggs.
Other vegan egg substitutes are: 1/4 cup mashed bananas, 1/4 cup blended silken tofu, 1/4 cup non-dairy yoghurt, chia seeds (mix 1 tablespoon with 3 tablespoons of filtered water, let sit as with flax seeds). Depending on the recipe, each substitute will offer a varied result so the best thing to do is experiment, which means  you get to trial loads of delicious baked goods- who’s complaining?

mashed banana

What to Do About Milk

This is fairly straightforward- replace cow’s milk with a non-dairy alternative: options are soy, oat, rice, almond, coconut, hemp- it’s totally up to you. The quantity ratio to follow is 1:1. Make sure you check the label when using a store bought milk alternative- some of them have flavours and hidden sweeteners, which can potentially alter the final recipe’s taste. Our favorite is coconut milk- it’s packed with health benefits, has a lovely creaminess and an alluring sweetness that works with pretty much any cake recipe. We use drinking coconut milk. Canned coconut milk also works but it is thicker so you may want to dilute it. Note: make sure your nut mylks are strained when using them for baking- you don’t want bits and bobs of nuts floating around as they can alter the texture of your final product.


What To Do About Cream

Sorry to keep banging on about coconuts but coconut cream really does work perfectly as a substitute for dairy cream. Blended silken tofu can work too, as can a blended avocado- ideal for any kind of moussy baked dessert. Another option is pureed/blended white beans, navy beans or cannellini beans- though make sure you used tried and tested recipes if going down that path (The Spunky Coconut is a great resource).
Again- make sure there are no repeats in your recipe- don’t use the same substitute for two different ingredients in a recipe. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

coconut milk

What To Do About Butter

Our top butter replacer is extra virgin coconut oil- works a charm and you only need about half to two thirds of the amount of butter called for in a recipe. Depending on the recipe, almond butter can also do wonders (1:1 ratio)- great for nutty, heartier recipes but not an all rounder. Other substitutions include applesauce and mashed banana but remember, repeats don’t work! Don’t use mashed bananas to replace the eggs and the butter- each substitutions must have its own individual role to play in the recipe.

banana bread

What To Do About Sugar

Not strictly a vegan concern but we felt it had to be said! If you don’t do this already, use coconut palm sugar instead of white sugar- it works in a 1:1 ratio and you really can’t tell the difference! Other nutritious options: date sugar, maple syrup and stevia drops. The latter is not for everyone- some people’s tastebuds register stevia as bitter and truth be told, it’s not a perfect flavor match to sugar and make sure to use a pre-tested recipe for actual ratios.


Photo credits: Brown Flax Seeds via photopin (license),  banana walnut chocolate chip cookie via photopin (license),  IMG_7899.jpg via photopin (license),  Mashing it Up via photopin (license),  Cononut_milk via photopin (license),  2012-07-29_Avocado-cactus-Layer-cake via photopin (license).


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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