Food & Beverage

Cooking Without Animal-Based Ingredients

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Every day more of us are relying on plants for the nutrition and flavour we crave. While this shift is inevitable if we want to feed the world, it is also an exciting opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire.

Milk, eggs, and other animal-based ingredients often perform functional roles in cooking, so it can be a challenge to replace them. Finding a suitable alternative depends on their role in the original recipe. While substitution is an experimental process, the following tips and tricks are a good place to start.


Egg Substitutes

Eggs may serve more than one purpose in a recipe. To choose an appropriate replacement, consider their function in your dish.

  • Coagulation/Gelation
    A typical custard or flan recipe uses one egg to set 250 mL of full-cream milk with 25 g of added sugar. To replace the egg, substitute a combination of 3-4 g (1 tsp) corn starch + 0.5 g gum. Depending on the fat content of the milk, the amount of sugar, and additional ingredients in the recipe, this might have to be adjusted. If you are also replacing the milk with a plant-based alternative, add a pinch of salt to set the gel.
  • Emulsification
    Eggs help incorporate oil and water-based liquids together into a stable substance. To replace them in salad dressings and mayonnaise substitute 5 g (1 tsp) lecithin + 0.5 g gum for one egg yolk. (Note that some lecithin is animal-based, so look for soy-based alternatives.) In sweet batters, combine thick fruit purées (like apple or banana) with the lecithin and gum to emulsify and add body to the recipe.
  • Foaming
    The foaming ability of egg whites aerates foods to make them light and fluffy. When making mousses and terrines, replace egg whites with whippable non-dairy creams especially formulated for this purpose. In baked goods, you can replace eggs by increasing the amount of baking powder/baking soda and adding a teaspoon of vinegar/lemon juice for taste.
  • Colour
    Instead of relying on eggs for browning, use a pinch of turmeric to add a light golden touch. Be careful not to overdo it, as turmeric could also impart its flavour.
  • Texture
    Eggs are also used for binding or holding ingredients together. To bind savoury dishes without eggs, try adding mashed potatoes, rice flour, or wheat or corn starch to thicken the recipe. In cake batters, mashed banana, apple puree, and a pinch of gum or corn starch will give a nice thick texture to the batter. In gluten- free recipes, create a slurry of 1 tbsp flax seed dissolved in 3 tbsp water and set it aside until sticky, then use this in place of egg.
  • Taste
    Eggs add a richness to the flavour of baked goods, desserts, sauces, and dressings. Add a teaspoon of nut, sunflower, or olive oil to compensate for every egg removed in these recipes.


Milk Substitutes

Like eggs, milk has several functions in food, so there are no universally fail-proof substitutes.

  • Liquids
    In beverages and pourable applications (like dressings and sauces), you can typically use a 1:1 substitution with plant-based dairy alternatives, vegetable broths, fruit juices, or water, depending on the recipe.
  • Other Dishes
    In more complex recipes, milk’s protein, fats, carbohydrates, salts, and minerals may affect the dish’s functionality. Several plant-based dairy alternatives for milk, cream, and yogurt, each with its own formulation and functionality, are commercially available, but finding the most suitable replacement for each recipe involves trial and error. You may need to adjust the flavour by adding a pinch of salt, sugar, or a squeeze of lemon to balance sweetness, saltiness, and acidity. For baked custards, batters, and egg & milk emulsions, add 1 g of additional salt per 250 mL of milk alternative.


Gelatin Substitutes

Bovine gelatin is used to set gels, moulded desserts, and candies, and sometimes to add a transparent coating or glaze to appetizers or fruit desserts.  To replicate its setting ability, substitute the same amount of powdered agar (derived from seaweed) or carrageenan.  Approximately 2 g of agar will set 250 mL of liquid. Alternatively, gums (from guar, xanthan, or locust bean) can also be used. One gram of gum will provide the same functionality as 3 g of gelatin or 2 g of agar.


Honey Substitutes

Honey’s primary function is to add sweetness or flavour to recipes. While the flavour is unique and can’t be replicated by plant-based ingredients, you can substitute maple syrup, agave syrup, or brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio to provide sweetness.


Source: Nestlé Professional UK