January 23, 2011

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions

Last year I was a lucky member of the recipe testers for Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman's cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions." I sometimes get questions from readers about what foods to substitute for various ingredients in recipes, and now I have the perfect reference to direct the questioners to. Whether you want to veganize a recipe, or avoid a particular ingredient because of health concerns or allergies, this book has everything you need to know. Dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, honey, gelatin, gluten, soy, refined sugar, fat and more — Celine and Joni have got it covered. There's a full chapter for each of these ingredients with explanations of what substitutions to use, and recipes for using them.

The beginning of each chapter is loaded with information about the featured ingredient, including a handy chart of substitutions, suggestions for finding substitutions at the store, recipes for making your own substitutions at home, and a sample recipe showing where and how to substitute for unwanted ingredients. An eclectic collection of creative and delicious recipes, from fast and easy to more challenging, follows. Below are some of the recipes I tested for the book.

The fast and easy walnut "parmesan" sprinkles (above) appears in the cheese chapter, as do other tempting recipes like Indian-spiced pumpkin gratin and savory artichoke pie.

One of our favorite (maybe our favorite) recipes from the book is "beef" and broccoli bowl, (above) a very easy and extremely delicious seitan dish that appears in the meat chapter. This is often our go-to recipe when we can't think of what to make for dinner. First we make one of the incredibly fast and easy seitan recipes, and while it cooks, we put rice into the rice cooker, and throw together the sauce. There's a recipe for seitan cutlets that only takes a few minutes to mix, and about 20 minutes to bake. If we have more time we might make baby back ribz (below). If we don't feel like making seitan, we use tofu, or mushrooms, or cashews, or whatever we have. Sometimes we put it into nice bowls and serve it to company. It's both delicious and impressive.

In the sugar substitutes chapter you'll find salted caramel wheat treats. I made these for a vegan bake-sale which is why they're all wrapped up and tied with ribbons. Truthfully, wrapping them quickly was the only way I could stop myself from eating them all on the spot.

Kablooey (above) is a simple, wonderful kasha (toasted buckwheat) salad that appears in the fat substitutes chapter.

These are the best oven fries. The best. We love them. They're called smoky potato wedges, and you don't think you need another recipe for oven fries, do you? Well, you're wrong. These are great! The recipe can be found in the meat substitutes chapter.

This is a good place to say a few more words about how the book is organized and indexed. Trying to find a specific recipe can be challenging if you don't know where to look. I searched the index under "p" for potato, and "s" for smoky, to no avail. I finally flipped pages until I spotted a photo of the potatoes in the meat chapter. I checked the index under "meat," but the recipe isn't listed; I finally found it under "side dishes." So, if you're just looking for a recipe to try, you're sure to find something interesting, but if you're looking for a specific recipe, it's a little trickier until you become familiar with the book's organization and limited index.

Denver quiche is, of course, in the egg substitutes chapter, and listed in the index under "main dishes."

You can find super simple creamy dijon dressing in the animal by-products substitutes chapter (subbing for honey-mustard dressing) and in the index under "salads."

BBQ beans is in the by-products substitutions chapter because it avoids honey. You can find it listed in the index under "soups and stews" because I'm telling you it's there. Otherwise, good luck.

You can find the recipe for yummy cookie cookies under "cookies" in the index, or you can see the recipe in the "look inside this book" feature on Amazon. They are cookies made with Oreos, or as in the cookies you see above, with Newman's O's. Just go to the Amazon page and look for yourself. (No, I don't get rewarded if you go take a look — or buy a book.)

I saved the craziest photo for last. This one is scary, isn't it? I assure you it's just seitan with fake bones made from taro root. It's called baby back ribz. Here's a link to the recipe on Joni's blog. We usually make this just to use for seitan in other recipes, not to gnaw on with juice running down our chins, like you might be picturing. :D And when we have some on hand, we always make beef and broccoli bowls. (I only made it with the "bones" when I tested the recipe — it's bone-free since then!)

While it's true "The Complete Book of Vegan Substitutions" does offer you extensive information on how to veganize just about anything, it would be a mistake to think of it just in those terms. It's a cookbook filled with tempting and delicious vegan recipes, as well as a resource for those wishing to avoid animal products.

Full disclosure: I received this book in exchange for testing recipes. Doing a review was my idea, and I received no pay for writing it.


Urban vegan recipe testing

Sticky toffee-banana smoothie

Dirty rice

Mega-Israeli salad


Watch your back!
Just a note to say I've been very involved in a graphic design project over the past few weeks, and worked on my computer a bit too intensely, and without paying enough attention to ergonomics. I really wrecked my shoulders, neck and back, and have been staying away from the computer as much as possible. I haven't been leaving comments but I've tried to keep up as best I can with reading on my husband's ipad. I'm feeling much better but not 100% so am still being careful.


  1. i love the little drawings on the front of that book:) it would be nice to have all sorts of vonversions in one place, thats always interesting to me too. my husband is always amazed by how realistic seiten looks:) i get the funniest looks from him when i slice into one! i feel weird to though...lol

    good to read that you are taking care of your back!ttysoon m

  2. I'm sorry you hurt your back! I did the same using my computer. Now I have the craziest setup ever, but it helps. #1 was to get a new computer - because I couldn't change the height of my desk. The iMac has a wireless keyboard I put on my lap. Then I sit in an old office chair with two pillows on it to be higher, have my feet up, the keyboard on my lap, and in general look like someone's grandmother.... but it helps my aching neck!

    You sure have been busy with the testing. I think I have enough cookbooks... usually... until I see one with such a glowing review as the one you have just written. Especially when it comes to seitan, A's favorite food. I may just have to get that book!!!

  3. Do I really need another cookbook? I think yes. This sounds like a winner! I mean a real winner, and the fact that so many of the recipes are standards in your house tells me it must be good stuff!

    I kind of agree with the "bones" for the ribz being ever so slightly creepy...I think I'd give them a miss, but taro root sounds good though; I think I'd serve some on the side or someting and just call it taro root and not "bones". : )

    All the food looks awesome Andrea.

    I hope your back gets back to 100% v. soon! Back problems are very unpleasant and limiting. Sending good back vibes!

  4. Sounds like an interesting book! The seitan is very tempting.

    Andrea! That's crazy you messed your body up that way. I know how consuming that can be, just when I wake up with a crick in my neck or whatever. Get well soon!!!

  5. Fake bones! Wow, creepy. Sometimes I wonder if I could fool a carnivore with things like that. I'm sure my dogs would love them regardless.

    Sorry about your back. There is a free workshop on back pain that I am headed to this week at east-west bookshop. It's about posture of all things!

  6. DD,
    It's a handy reference, though by now I kind of have my favorite substitutions lined up. Still, it's awesome to have everything in one place, just in case. :D

    I actually had to get a new desk at work because of pain from using a bad set up. It was an amazing desk with adjustable height and a separate keyboard tray that was adjustable in height and slant. Very expensive, and I'd love to have it now. I took a class on ergonomics and learned a lot about how not to get injured sitting at a computer all day. You know you can get a hook-on keyboard tray with adjustable heights. I had one at home in Madison.

    Not all the recipes I posted are standards at our house, mainly because we're always forgetting about what we've cooked. The seitan and broccoli, however, happens a lot!

    Thanks for the back vibes. I need them.

    My back is getting better every day. I just have to limit my computer time. But I'm not finished with the design project! Darn computers.

    Creepy, I know. I don't think it would fool a carnivore, and the taro cooked up a little too soft for dog bones. Joni used pieces of food-safe wood for her bones.

    Posture is very important to back health, as well as to computer work. I'll look up the workshop.

  7. WOW..everything looks SO good. Sorry to hear about your back/neck/shoulders. Maybe a good soak in an Epsom salt bath?

  8. Andrea, I had no idea that the Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions included recipes; thanks! Feel better soon.

  9. I adore the front cover of this book! The cow! The piglet! The mother hen with her little chicks! That's probably the best cookbook/food reference cover ever.

    You're such a lucky tester! I *WANT* those oven fries! And Urban Vegan's Dirty Rice! Can I have some starch with a side of starch, please? :P

    I hope you feel better soon! Get lots of rest!

  10. I hope your back feels better!

    Everything looks sooo good! I am especially drawn to the Israeli salad. I wish I could eat seitan

  11. I'm so glad that you posted about the book. I came across it the other day on Amazon.com and added it to my wish list. I was wondering how it really was. This will definitely be a book that I buy in the very near future.

    Ditto on the bones in the ribs....ha

    I hope you feel better very soon!

  12. That book sounds perfect for a newbie vegan. I wish I would have had something like that at the time to help me. I guess I did okay though, seeing as I found so many awesome vegan bloggers who helped me. Sorry to hear about your back, I hope you're doing better soon.

  13. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा1/24/11, 1:41 PM

    The broccoli and seitan dish looks great!!

  14. I got my copy in the mail recently too--I was/am so excited! Even though I tested, there are so many recipes I haven't tried yet, and I am loving it.

    I am so sorry to hear about your back. Do you ever go to a chiropractor? I find that can really help me. I hope you feel better soon!


  15. Kirsten,
    Thanks for the suggestion — if I had a nice big tub I might try it. Yoga seems to be helping a lot so I'll keep doing that.

    It's loaded with recipes!

    Now that I look at it, it seems like something you would design. You're very clever at depicting animals!

    Well, who doesn't love starch with a side of salt and olive oil? :D I'm telling you, though, the fries were GOOD! I will rest and crochet.

    Thank you. It's much better than it was. The Israeli salad is definitely something I'd expect on your blog — very fresh and colorful.

    The book I recommend — not so sure about the bones. :D

    My back is on the mend — I just have to limit my computer time, which is so hard.

    The blog world is amazing, I agree, but it's pretty handy to have so much information in one little book. It would be a big help for new vegans, for sure.

    Thanks so much for your comment. The seitan and broccoli really is one of our favorites!

    It looks like there are plenty of recipes to keep us busy for a while!

    I used to go to the chiropractor, but the last time I went, I had a bad experience, and I've been a little afraid to try again, especially in a new city where I don't know any of them.

  16. That cookbook sounds very useful. Except for the difficulty in finding recipes, I think I would love it! Sorry about your back. :-( Hope you feel better soon.

  17. Blessedmama,
    The weirdest thing is I've been looking for a recipe that's listed in the index but I can't find it in the book. Oh well. It's a pretty cool little book anyway.

    My back is good. Thanks!

  18. Sorry about your back, Andrea. I was having problems, too, but my sister told me to support the small of my back, raise my feet (she made me a footstool for Christmas!) and have the text I was typing from raised up, so that I wasn't always looking down at it.
    Your photos always make me want to rush to the kitchen! The book looks great, but maybe there are too many American ingredients in it to be worth it for me. Sigh...
    Any chance of the recipe for the sticky toffee banana smoothie?

  19. After seeing all of the yummy looking food from the cookbook, it's going on my wish list. Hope you're back is all better soon! :-)

  20. Penny,
    Now you have me curious as to what "American ingredients" you can't get in Scotland.

    I'm really sorry I can't give out the recipe because it's a tester for a new cookbook.

    I hope your computer setup is working to keep your back from hurting.

    Chow vegan,
    I was kind of surprised to see that my Amazon wish list is now three pages long. That's embarrassing!

  21. Sorry to hear about your back! Hope you're feeling better soon. And wow, talk about mega testing! The recipes from Celine and Joni's book look great, as do the others. Those ribz are a little scary! ;)

  22. I am really sorry to hear about your neck, shoulders and back. I hope you feel better soon, Andrea.

    What a great review. I just got my copy and I already love the book.

  23. Wow, this is a brilliant idea for a cookbook. I am more tempted to buy this than any other cookbook I've seen in a while.

  24. Ricki,
    Posture and yoga — must keep at it!
    If you think the ribs look scary in the photo, you should have seen them glistening on the counter — almost too scary to eat. Not to mention that they are evil gluten.

    Thanks, Mihl.

    I should try a recipe I didn't test, but I keep wanting to make the ones I already know. I think I might make the salted caramel treats for an upcoming bake sale; they were so good.

    Thanks for your comment. I really like your blog!

  25. That smoothie looks incredible! I have always loved smoothies, and any new ones are welcome in my house.

    And if you are looking for any more recipes to try, check out http://www.draxe.com. He has some really great stuff!

  26. I really want to buy this book! Those ribs look awesome!


Thanks for visiting Andrea's easy vegan cooking. I love, and read, all of your comments! Please share your thoughts.

There are a few Amazon links in the posts. Thanks in advance if you click on one.

Note: ALL THE IMAGES FROM THIS BLOG WERE ACCIDENTALLY DELETED ON 1-21-12. I'M RESTORING THEM, POST BY POST, BUT IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME. Recipe pages you visit may be missing photos, but all the text in intact. If you find a post without images, let me know so I can fix it. Thanks!