Review: The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions
Ever thought you were missing the secret to turning your mother’s famous mac and cheese recipe into a veganized success story? I know I’ve had my fair share of flops. But thanks to expert author team Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman, who have unveiled the mysteries of vegan food substitutions in their new book, we can all learn how to turn old recipes into delicious, veganized masterpieces.
Far more than just another cookbook, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions is crammed with tips, tricks, recipes and charts, presented in an exciting and approachable way. If you’re a follower of Celine’s blog, you’ll know she has a fresh, fun style all her own, so you can bet this won’t be a dry, monotonous read.
Not to say recipe experimenting isn’t fun, but this book is sure to limit the miserable failures that can result even after hours of chopping, boiling, simmering and stirring. With over 200 recipes to choose from, the book is organized by chapters in which each main ingredient substitute is covered. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for replacing everything from dairy, eggs, meat and animal by-products. Simply look up whatever non-vegan ingredient you want to sub out, and Celine and Joni will explain what sub options are available, how to use them, and provide several recipes as examples of their use. You’ll also find a chapter of healthy substitutions for replacing things like gluten, soy, refined sugar and fat, so you can fine-tune recipes to suit your needs.
Straying from traditional entrees and baked goods, I was pleased to see there are far more than just the stereotypical recipes to choose from. More reflective of our tendency to adapt recipes with our own dietary needs and palates in mind, I immediately zoomed in on the irresistible-sounding pulp not fiction muffins in the dairy substitutes chapter. Using the book’s recipe for basic peanut milk, these muffins are a perfect example of how to use what you have on hand as a binding agent. In this case, the homemade peanut milk is used as a dairy replacement and its leftover pulp for binding.
Next, I dove into the egg substitutes chapter in search of something I’ve never tried before. I decided the walnut cookies were a must-try because of their novel use of coconut paste to replace eggs. Rumour has it that the authors were cleaning their coffee grinder after working on another project when they noticed the water turned the ground coconut into a rather interesting paste that could be used as an egg replacer to bind ingredients. Talk about genius!
Just to make sure I had some of the basics covered, I wanted to try my hand at making a meal from the meat substitutes chapter. In particular, the Mexican spiced ground beef sounded like something that would make an excellent filling for a burrito lunch. Though I rarely use TVP or wheat gluten in my day-to-day cooking, I can absolutely promise this will not be the last time, as this was probably one of the best meat substitutes I’ve tasted. Unnervingly meaty in both flavour and texture, with a perfect blend of Mexican spices, this is one recipe I wouldn’t be afraid to serve to a steadfast meat eater. Surprisingly easy to make, this beats out the packaged stuff by a landslide.
Even before I had this book in my hands, I had been thinking about adding more gluten-free options to my repertoire, though it’s an area in which I don’t experiment enough. Thankfully there was an entire chapter dedicated to it, and the tempeh, corn and arugula salad sounded too tempting to pass up. Great as a side dish or on its own as a simple main, it was exactly what I had been hoping for: light but well-dressed with a simple tamari, red pepper and mirin mixture. The contrast between nutty tempeh, wilted arugula, and fresh corn made every bite engaging. Super simple to make, utilizing very few ingredients, this is now a staple in my daily menu.
Tempted by a more hearty rice dish, I selected the alluring red Thai coconut curry rice from the soy substitutes section. In just a little more time it takes to cook plain rice, came this luscious, richly flavoured and creamy result with a kick of Thai spice. This is the sort of dish you could make for company and elicit “wows” all around the table, whether your diners are vegan or not. As I was writing this review, my husband called from work to tell me the lunch he was eating (this dish) is his new favourite, which means I’ll need to stock up on coconut milk and curry paste!
In my view, this food guide and cookbook definitely stands out from the rest. I was impressed that there are recipes for absolutely every substitute mentioned, from homemade yogourt and cheese, made-from-scratch meat substitutes, soy-free creations and healthy sugar-free recipes. Though I’ve only scratched the surface in trying out what The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions has to offer, I know that this won’t be the last of my trials. I’m looking forward to whipping up more unique creations like the savoury chutney muffins, nutty pepperjack, and pear chai rolls, and using this book as my new go-to guide when creating my own recipes. Thanks, Celine and Joni!