If you need to transform or alter a dish this Thanksgiving, or at any other meal, so that a vegetarian can eat it, and you are not sure what to do, here are some ways to do so. In this other post, I listed some vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving dishes and suggestions.
Vegetarian Substitutions for Bacon
In cases where bacon is added mostly for flavor, such as in a chowder, or a potato salad, you can often use some toasted sesame oil instead. Start with 1 teaspoon, because it has a strong flavor.
You can often find this in the Asian foods aisle of any grocery store. It’s the dark oil with a strong aroma.
You can also try adding a tiny bit of liquid smoke. This adds the smokiness that bacon adds, but it won’t do anything for the texture. This is also in grocery stores, near the hot and Worchestershire sauces. (NOTE: Worchestershire sauce is not vegetarian. It has anchovies in it.)
Where bacon is used for a salty crunch, you can use vegetarian bacon bits. These are often made from flavored soy protein. These may be available in a grocery store. Read the label on the bottle of imitation bacon bits. Otherwise, any natural products store will have them.
Sprinkling chopped nuts, crushed crackers, croutons, or bread crumbs may also work, depending on the dish.
Vegan Substitutions for Milk
You can, in most cases, substitute a nondairy milk product for milk in dishes like mashed potatoes, cream soups, white sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie.
- coconut milk
- almond milk
- rice milk
- cashew milk
- hemp milk
- oat milk
You can find most of them at any natural foods store, but even most grocery stores these days will carry at least coconut milk and soymilk. Look in the cooler, near the regular milk, or in the section where boxed drinks are kept. You may also find them if your grocery store has a separate health food or gourmet section of the store. Coconut milk is almost always in the Asian foods aisle.
Vegan Substitutions for Eggs
If you need to replace eggs, this gets a little trickier.
In pumpkin pie, you can use some starch and water instead of eggs, to thicken the pie. Try about 1/4 cup of each, mixed together into a slurry, then added to the rest of the pie filling. You can try cornstarch, flour, or other starches, although I haven’t tried everything…
Bake as normal. The pie filling will get firmer as it cools, but I like to chill the pie to be sure.
Here is a vegan pumpkin pie recipe that I’ve used for many years. It uses nondairy milk and cornstarch as the thickening agent. It sets up better when it is chilled.
To replace eggs in most baked goods, including quick breads, cakes, and cookies, you can use ground flaxseeds, also called flaxseed meal.
For one egg, use
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon flaxseed meal
1/4 cup water
If you can only find whole flaxseeds, grind them up in your blender to make flaxseed meal. Flaxseeds can be found in a natural product store or most grocery stores, in the cereal or baking aisle, or sometimes in the gourmet or natural products section.
If you can’t find it, ask a clerk. Flaxseeds are very popular, and they are likely to carry them somewhere.
There are also commercial egg substitute products made from starches, which may be tried.
If you are trying to substitute eggs in something where egg whites make up the structure and texture of the finished product, such as in meringues, you will probably have trouble. So I suggest trying another dish instead.