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  • Sally Miller, B. S., N. E.

Simple substitutes for vegan cooking


I was fortunate to come across a new book written by Mark Bittman, a best-selling author, titled “Dinner for Everyone” from his “How to Cook Everything” series. The title was intriguing to me because I am very aware of the number of food choices families face in today’s society. I was looking for a source for recipes of plant-based foods, as well as healthy traditional ones and this is what I found.

“Dinner for Everyone” is a great cookbook. The recipes are simple, easy to read, and delicious. I was drawn in by the beautiful, mouth-watering photographs of the variety of food prepared in a simple way. One of the best parts of the book is the way the recipes are presented.

There are three options for each recipe: quick, vegan, and all out. There is a large array of international, as well as traditional recipes. There is plenty to appeal to both modern and traditional palettes.

This concept is perfect for families whose members have varying food choices. A lot of the ingredients are the same for each of the three options. It makes it easy to be a plant-based participant and still please others in your family or group.

When I found this book, I was looking for a plant-based “not chicken” salad recipe that has the flavor of traditional chicken salads I remember from past Easter buffets and spring luncheons, but without the chicken.

I wanted it to contain red grapes and tarragon. There is something about that combination that makes me think of spring salads. I was surprised to find that exact recipe in Bittman’s book In the “Everything-but-the-chicken salad”, he uses jicama and toasted sunflower seeds for the texture, and a great vegan mayonnaise that adds the creaminess.

During the last 18 years. I have learned if you intend to go full-on vegan or just want to incorporate more plant-based food into your life, there are substitutions for every animal-based food. Trading a few ingredients for plant-based alternatives will transform your creations into healthier, more nutrient-dense options.

Taking my lead from an article by Shannon Leparskiin Fitness Magazine, “34 Brilliant Ingredient Swaps That Make Any Recipe Vegan”, I am sharing the following list:

  • Milk: Swap out cow’s milk for equal parts of any nondairy alternative. Non-dairy creamers, yogurt and ice cream are also good options. Best swaps: Almond milk (made at home, coconut milk (canned, just add water), oat milk, cashew milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk

  • Meat: Keeping the meaty texture alive in your burgers, stir-fries, and salads doesn’t have to change. These plant-based swaps not only increase fiber but provide heart-healthy plant protein too. Best swaps: Shelled edamame, lentils, mushrooms, beans of all kinds (whole or mashed), eggplant, tempeh or tofu, jackfruit, quinoa or brown rice, or extra veggies instead of meat.

  • Eggs: Depending on the recipe, there are a few different ways to replace eggs for vegan-friendly options. Best swaps for baking purposes: replace one egg with: ¼ cup applesauce, 1 mashed banana, ¼ cup canned pumpkin, a flax “egg” (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons warm water until gelled), a chia “egg” (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds + 3 tablespoons warm water until gelled), Ener-G Egg Replacer or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer.

For an “egg” scramble: Use ¼ cup silken tofu in place of one egg. Scramble just like an egg with a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast added. Add sautéed veggies. Optional non-tofu choice would be to use a half of an avocado.

For “egg” whites: Replace egg whites with a mix of agar agar powder, according to the package directions.

  • Cheese: Breaking the cheese addiction is the hardest swap. It is easier now with some of the newer cheese substitutes from Daiya, Miyokos and Treeline. Best swaps: Nutritional yeast flakes give you a “cheesy” flavor on vegetables, salads and soups. Try it in place of parmesan on your choice of pasta and sauce. Cashews that have been soaked in water and blended create a creamy texture for desserts and pates, as well as “cheesy” spreads.

  • Butter: Whether you are baking or cooking, switch from butter to one of these dairy-free options and automatically reduce the saturated fat, cholesterol, and unnecessary calories. Best swaps: When baking, swap out equal parts butter (and oil) for: Applesauce, mashed banana, mashed avocado, coconut oil (unrefined will add a slight coconut flavor while refined will not), Vegan butter/stick margarine (like Earth Balance – not my regular choice because of the canola oil). When cooking, swap equal parts butter for: Coconut oil (or any high-heat oil like avocado or medium heat oil like olive), low-sodium vegetable broth (a favorite of mine).

  • Broth: Add flavor to any dish by replacing chicken broth or beef stock with vegetable broth/stock instead. Choose store-bought low sodium or make your own at home!

We are all ready for salads, vegetables and fruits as winter passes and the outdoors beckons to us. Enjoy this “Everything-but-the-Chicken Salad” to get you started and take a look at Mark Bittman’s book for some additional fabulous recipes. It is available at the Kanawha County Library and South Charleston Libraries.


Choose all organic, non GMO ingredients where possible.

Everything-But-The-Chicken Salad

Recipe from "Dinner for Everyone" by Mark Bittman

Jicama, pronounced “hee-ka-ma” is a turnip-shaped root vegetable, also known as a Mexican potato. It is related to the sweet potato but resembles the water chestnut in color, texture and flavor. The younger and smaller the tuber, the sweeter and more mild it will be. One pound will yield about 3 cups. Wash and remove the outer skin before slicing, as most Jicama in this area are not organic.

Yields 4 servings Total time 25 minutes

1 pound jicama, peeled

½ cup raw sunflower seeds

½ cup vegan mayonnaise (see recipe below)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon


1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

3 celery stalks, chopped

½ small red onion, chopped

8 large sturdy romaine leaves

Grate jicama using the shredding attachment on a food processor or the largest holes on a box grater to grate the jicama.

Mix jicama with a generous pinch of salt, then let it sit in a colander in the sink or over a bowl for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse the jicama, then wring it as dry as you can manage in a cloth towel. Transfer to a large bowl.

Put the sunflower seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are slightly darker and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer seeds to the jicama bowl. Put the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, oil, and 1 teaspoon tarragon in a small bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Put the grapes, celery, onion, and remaining 2 teaspoons of tarragon in the large bowl and drizzle on some of the dressing. Toss gently to coat, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more dressing if you like.

To serve, put the lettuce leaves on a serving plate or in individual bowls and top with a heaping spoonful of salad.

Vegan Mayonnaise

Recipe from "Dinner for Everyone" by Mark Bittman

Makes 2 cups.Total time: 10 minutes

1 pound medium-firm tofu, rinsed and drained

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

A pinch of turmeric powder

Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the container with a flexible spatula, until the mayo is smooth.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve right away or store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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