Nutripro - More Plant-Based, please: Function Comes First with Plant-Based Cooking

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Substituting new ingredients in place of something as familiar as cow’s milk can pose certain challenges to even experienced chefs.

For the best results when using 100% plant based - no milk options in your recipes, consider the following advice.


Tips for fine-tuning recipes


- Savoury applications

1. Unsweetened, unflavoured plant-based ingredients let the other flavours in your dish shine.

2. Products with little to no aroma are a good match for savoury dishes.

3. Vegan coconut milk blends well with curries and some Asian dishes.

4. A 25% or 35% fat product should be a versatile choice with good emulsifying and binding qualities.


- Sweet applications

1. Look for plant-based alternatives to sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened whipping cream.

2. Try soy, which is an effective binder in baked goods due to its high protein level.

3. If creating a vegan recipe, remember to replace the butter with a plant-based option and find a substitute for the eggs.

4. Lower baking temperatures and slower cooking can help prevent splitting.



Crash test kitchen

Before using a new plant-based product in your recipes, subject it to a thorough “crash test” to make sure it doesn’t split or get watery. First, bring it to a boil and check consistency. You’ll also want to add it to a tomato base to see if it handles acidity well, and blend in spices to see if it handles those flavours well. It’s also a good idea to test a sauce or soup preparation, leaving it for a few hours in a bain-marie to see if it holds up to heat and holding time. Finally, you can also test these products in a baking application like a potato/ vegetable gratin or a quiche.



Fitting a budget

Due to the costs of processing, some of these ingredients may cost more than their animal milk counterparts. When adding them to the menu, look for ways to maximize your return through strategies like offering smaller portion sizes, promoting dishes as premium health-driven choices, making them extra appealing and indulgent, and highlighting them on the menu.


The chef’s bottom line

“Functionality, versatility, and predictability are key in cooking. As a chef, I don’t want to change my cooking habits or skills. I just want these ingredients to perform like cow’s milk. In other words, they should look and feel as creamy as cow’s milk and keep their smoothness instead of splitting or getting watery when bended or heated. As long as the performance and taste are right, I can trust them in my recipes without having to make more adjustments.”



Stir up something new: updating your recipes with plant-based options

  • Replace cooking cream in desserts or savory dishes like gratins, sauces, stews, and soups.
  • Replace whipping cream in cheesecake, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, or lemon pie, or in sweet beverages like shakes, hot chocolate, or smoothies.
  • Replace Alfredo sauce in comfort foods like pasta bakes and noodles, as a sauce for a main entrée, on pizza, with appetizers or sides, in place of butter or as a dipping sauce.




You’ve probably heard of “non-dairy” products, which mimic the taste and texture of dairy but are usually made from vegetable fat and milk proteins. However, these are not the same as 100% plant- based options, which contain no animal products or by-products.