Cooking Ingredients

Many vegans and vegetarians cook for themselves, due to the lack of availability of packaged foods marked as suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and good labelling on pre-packaged foods generally (see food additives). As producers continue to feel demand from vegan and vegetarian consumers, more and more suitable processed foods are becoming available. But nothing beats good home-cooked food. So what are the differences between a vegan or vegetarian larder and an omnivores larder?

Fats and oils


Vegetarians eat and cook with butter, while vegans do not. Vegan margarines (see below) are generally used by vegans as a substitute for butter, although they contain proportionally more water and less fat than butter, so it is sometimes necessary to increase the amount of margarine if substituting in a recipe, and reduce the amout of liquid elsewhere.


Many margarines are not suitable for vegans, as they often contain dairy ingredients such as whey powder (derived from cheese - see food additives for more information on whey powder). There are vegan margarines available from health food shops and good supermarkets, based on a range of different vegetable oils.

Lard and Suet

Vegetarians and vegans do not use animal lard, although solidified vegetable fats are fairly widely available, and can be used as a direct replacement for lard in pastries etc.
Vegetable suet (suitable for vegetarians and vegans) is also available as a direct replacement for beef suet.
Of course the vegetarian versions are still not very healthful in large quantities!

Vegetable Oils

There is a huge range of vegetable, nut and seed oils (suitable for vegetarians and vegans, of course) available to provide a variety of flavours in cooking and salads. Nut and seed oils tend to be used uncooked in dishes to provide flavour. Vegetable (rape) and corn oils are used more for frying.


Vegans tend to use a wider range of flours than ominvores. High protein flours such as gram (chick pea) flour or soya flour help replace eggs in baking, and may be used to form vegan batters or "egg washes" for pastry with a little soya milk or water.
Corn flour, as well as rice flour or potato flour may be used as thickening agents.

Eggs & Dairy


Vegetarians eat eggs (although they may prefer free range eggs to those from battery chickens), but vegans must find alternatives to this traditional baking ingredient. In cakes, muffins, sponge puddings etc. commercial egg replacers may be used. These are powders, and water must be added to the recipe to replace the liquid that would have come from the egg. In some recipes, simply mashed fruit (eg a banana), ground linseeds, tofu, soya milk or soya flour may be used, or a combination to ensure the liquid balance of the recipe is not changed. Tofu may be mashed and fried to create a "scrambled" texture, and silken tofu may be used as a quiche-type filling. Egg-washes for pastry may be replaced by soya flour and water/non-dairy milk pastes, or soya milk thickened by the addition of a little lemon juice.

Milk & Cream

Vegans use nut, soya or rice milks instead of dairy milk. They can be made at home, by grinding the nuts, or, cooked rice or beans, with water and straining, but are also available commercially (refrigerated or long life) in supermarkets and health food shops.
Commercially available soya creams (suitable for vegetarians and vegans) are a little harder to get hold of, although they are generally available in the UK, but can also be made at home, in the same way as the milk but with less water. Silken tofu may also be blended to make a good cream substitute.

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These pages were last updated 22nd May 2010
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