What “vegan” means in baking

Not surprisingly, I have come to be known as the vegan baker among my family, friends and coworkers. Yet, there are still many people in my life who don’t actually know what that means. I am often questioned about what ingredients I use to make my desserts so delicious—without eggs, butter or cow’s milk, it may seem unconventional or even incomprehensible.

The truth is, there is a whole world of plant-based ingredients that can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth without harming your health, the environment or the animals. In fact, vegan baking can open up your mind to new ideas, techniques and foods you may have never thought to try before.

For me, vegan baking is about inspiring others to think differently about what they eat, so I’d like to share what “vegan” means in my own baking.

When a recipe calls for eggs it might mean: flaxmeal, mashed banana, applesauce, silken tofu, vinegar and baking soda, or sometimes Ener-G powder. Eggs perform various functions in baking, from binding and leavening to adding moisture and richness, so learning how to replicate those particular functions with healthful, plant-based ingredients can be a fun experiment.

When I want to use a fat in my baking for tenderness, texture or flavour, I might use: nut butter, seed butter, avocado, coconut oil, coconut cream, sunflower oil, olive oil or sometimes Earth Balance buttery sticks.

When I want to include flour in my recipe, I might mean: spelt, kamut, whole-grain wheat, almond, oat, buckwheat, brown rice, coconut, quinoa or chickpea. For some of these, I tend to purchase the whole food form and blend it up in my spice grinder or food processor. This way, I know it is unrefined and fresh.

When a recipe calls for sugar, my natural approach might involve using: dates, ripe bananas, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, coconut nectar, lucuma powder or unrefined cane sugar (Sucanat). (Please note that many brands of refined white sugar are not vegan-friendly.)

When milk is involved, it might mean: almond, rice, soy, hemp, oat, quinoa or coconut. For my raw dessert recipes, I make my own by blending a base flavour such as raw soaked almonds with water (I generally use a ratio of 1:4) and strain it through a nut milk bag. This is a great way to consume milk sans the unnecessary preservatives.

Have you tried a new vegan ingredient lately?

For more FAQs about vegan baking, please check out:


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14 Responses to “What “vegan” means in baking”

  1. Christy — February 6, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    This is my kind of baking! Thanks for the thorough post. I’m going to link to it today in my blog about muffins!

    • Nicole — February 7, 2012 @ 11:39 am

      Thanks, Christy! :)

  2. Good Girl Gone Green — February 6, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    Great post. thank you for sharing this! You have been pinned! :)

    • Nicole — February 7, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

      Thanks! :)

  3. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan — February 7, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    I absolutely love the visual guide here! Very comprehensive, too – well done.

    • Nicole — February 7, 2012 @ 11:40 am

      Thanks, Amber! The photo shoot was fun to put together.

  4. Jen @ Lita's World — February 15, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

    I LOVE this post!! I’m tagging it and sharing it…the photos are fabulous and it so clearly points out all the options we have as vegans…which is something I think most people don’t consider. They think we’re so limited in our choices, but really it’s all about MAKING a choice and not just going with what is considered the “norm”. Thank you!

    • Nicole — February 15, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Jen! That’s exactly the point I wanted to get across. It is all about making a choice and finding what works for you. There are so many options available!

  5. Meri — February 16, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

    Very thorough explanation! Your photos are gorgeous and I’m excited to sift through your yummy recipes!

    • Nicole — February 17, 2012 @ 11:12 am

      Thanks so much, Meri!

  6. Sophie — February 26, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    This is & was a realy helpful list! Thanks so much!

    I am not a vegan but cook vegan & vegetarian 5 X/week. Lately, I have made & invented several vegan recipes & used your guide doing it! :)

    • Nicole — February 28, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

      That’s amazing! I’m glad this list is helpful to you. Keep up the good work! :)

  7. Ashlae | oh, ladycakes — March 9, 2012 @ 9:08 am

    Thank you, for this! I’m the sole vegan baker in my family – and half of my relatives still think I’m the weird one. I’m going to pass this post along to them in hopes they understand a little better – and stop thinking of me as a freak. I mean, applesauce, dates, avocado, coconut.. all completely normal. Chicken eggs and heavy cream, on the other hand.. ;)

    • Nicole — March 9, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

      Hehehe. I completely agree! I feel the same way, and sometimes it’s just a matter of educating others :)

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