Vegan Baking Tips
Nondairy Baking — It's Simple!
All in all, there is a wide variety of nondairy milks that do an excellent job as the "milk" component in baked goods. Whenever a recipe calls for milk, feel free to use your favorite nondairy milk—or experiment with new flavors.
Most margarines and butter substitutes have whey, which is a dairy product. At least one has fish oil, and one is made with gelatin (see below).
Fortunately there many vegan choices for margarine or "buttery spreads." All varieties of Earth Balance are vegan. Soy Garden, Willow Run, and Spectrum are also vegan. Most varieties of Smart Balance have whey, but Smart Balance Light is vegan; the same goes for Blue Bonnet and Blue Bonnet Light. You may occasionally find other varieties of Smart Balance that are vegan; note that the formulations may change from time to time. Earth Balance seems to be the favorite, but everyone has different tastes.In the UK, here are the recommendations from Viva!: “Most supermarkets stock at least one suitable own brand margarine or look for Pure’s Dairy Free Soya Spread or Dairy Free Sunflower Spread. Health food shops will also stock a selection of vegan margarines including: Granose’s Vegetable margarine; Suma’s Sunflower Spread, Organic Reduced Fat Sunflower Spread, or their Soya Spread; Biona Organic Vegetable Margarine and Organic Olive Extra Margarine—made with olive oil; Vitaquell Extra Dairy Free or Bio Organic margarine. If you like a block of 'butter-style' margarine for baking, try Rakusen’s Tomor, available from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and many health food shops.”A popular vegan margarine in Australia is Nuttelex. In New Zealand, Olivani is the most commonly-available vegan margarine.Note: For a number of reasons (e.g., cost, flavor, sustainabiity), you may want to make your own vegan butter. It's easier than you think. See below.
- "Non-dairy" whipped toppings usually contain casein (often in the form of sodium caseinate), which comes from cow's milk.
You can, however, buy vegan whipped cream: Soyatoo offers both soy-based and non-soy-based options.You can also make homemade vegan whipped cream with just a few ingredients; recipes, such as this one and this one, are on the web. If you want to get a little more involved, you can make a rich whipped topping from cashews.
- Gelatin is made from animals' skin, bones, and connective tissue. It shows up in some candies, such as jelly beans and candy corn.Gelatin is also in most marshmallows. (Marshmallow creme and similar "gooey" marshmallow products usually contain egg whites.) Sweet & Sara and Dandies are two vegan marshmallow brands; Sweet & Sara has quite a few varieties. Ricemellow is a vegan marshmallow creme. For the freshest marshmallows, you can make your own, with the marshmallow kit from Angel Food.
- Honey is basically stolen from bees, who work for months and visit up to two million flowers to make a pound of honey, which they use as food. Easy-to-find alternatives for honey in baking include agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup.
- Reminder: Egg Beaters, Better 'N Eggs®, and similar liquid egg "substitutes" are made from eggs. (See the Baking Without Eggs section for vegan egg substitutes.) When in doubt, read the ingredients on the packaging, especially with product lines that have a mix of vegan and non-vegan items. Some products make it easy for you by clearly indicating on the packaging that they are vegan.
Other IssuesAnd Solutions
- If you're looking to buy the most ethically-sourced chocolate, the Food Empowerment Project has a handy and thoroughly-researched guide to vegan chocolate that lets you know how each brand of chocolate is produced.
- If you're trying to avoid palm oil, you can make surprisingly easy and delicious homemade vegan butter (although it does require a food processor). VeganBaking.net has a great article on the whys and hows of making your own vegan butter and shortening. In fact they have recipes for a variety of vegan butters, incuding banana and white chocolate.
- Gelatin is made from animals' skin, bones, and connective tissue. It shows up in some candies, such as jelly beans and candy corn.