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7 RD-Approved Vegan Swaps That Make Cooking Easy

Making your favorite meals plant-based is easy with these vegan swaps. Here are seven swaps a registered dietitian loves.

Written by
Stephanie Osmanski

Calling all plant-based eaters! If you have a hard time finding vegan swaps for certain dairy products and meat, a pro is here to help. According to Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, and registered dietitian and nutritionist, many of the best swaps are already sitting in your pantry.

No matter what you're cooking up—be it meatless tacos or dairy-free mac and cheese—there's a vegan swap that will make it taste just as delicious as the meals you grew up with. Here are nine changes you can start making right away.

Easy Vegan Swaps for Cooking

1. Instead of Cheese, Try Nutritional Yeast

Though nutritional yeast might not sound as appetizing as cheese, it surprisingly packs a punch in the flavor department. It also gives you some vitamins your body needs on a plant-based diet.

“Making tacos or a salad that calls for shredded cheese? Simply sprinkle on nutritional yeast instead,” Gorin shared in an Instagram post. “It has a savory flavor that’s super similar to cheese. Plus, if you buy the fortified kind, it supplies vitamin B12—a nutrient that vegetarians often lack.”

2. Instead of Pulled Pork, Try Jackfruit

Jackfruit is a plant-based staple for having a super-similar consistency to pulled pork. “For those tacos, sub in cooked, pulled jackfruit,” Gorin explains. “You can buy it frozen and all you have to do is reheat and eat. It’s a fruit, but it has the texture of pork."

3. Instead of Ground Meat, Try Lentils

Lentils are a legume that most often add delicious flavor to soups and curry, but they also work as an awesome substitute for ground meat. Especially because they're so high in protein at 18 grams per cup. “Lentils work surprisingly well in place of ground meat, as they have a similar texture,” Gorin adds.

4. Instead of Butter, Try Banana

Banana has a surprisingly similar consistency to butter—especially when it comes to baking. In order to keep your recipe totally vegan, Gorin recommends switching out butter for an equal amount of mashed banana. Just note: Replacing butter with banana may reduce your cooking time, as it needs one-fourth of the time to bake all the way through.

5. Instead of Eggs, Try Chia Seeds

Can a seed really work in place of an egg? You better believe it! "For baked goods, combine one tablespoon chia seeds with 2.5 tablespoons of water, and let sit for five minutes to make an ‘egg,’” Gorin explains. “Then add the egg to your recipe." Voilà—vegan baked goods! 

6. Instead of Egg Whites, Try Aquafaba

Another vegan swap to know about is swapping out egg whites for aquafaba when baking—aka the liquid from a can of chickpeas. Something that would normally go down the drain. “Aquafaba is essentially ‘chickpea juice'—the leftover liquid in a can of chickpeas,” Gorin says. “In a recipe, swap in two tablespoons of aquafaba for one egg.”

7. Instead of Heavy Cream, Try Canned Coconut Milk

Why reach for heavy cream when you have canned coconut milk on hand? "Make sure to shake it before you use it,” Gorin says. “Swap in an equal amount in recipes." Just imagine all of the creamy pasta sauces to come.