Common Ingredient Substitutions for Vegetarian/Vegan Diets
Is one of your resolutions for the New Year to eat a little less meat? A few clever substitutions can make sure vegetarian and vegan meals are full of flavour, and just as filling as their meaty alternatives. Once you know what swaps to make, the possibilities are endless – you’ll be able to turn so many of your favourite recipes into veggie-friendly dinners.
So, grab your Pinch of Nom Quick & Easy Food Planner and get ready to put those pull-out shopping lists to good use! We’ve got you covered with a list of common ingredients you’ll need when you’re cooking for vegans and vegetarians.
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We’re starting with Henderson’s relish because we use this ALL the time! It’s a veggie-friendly, gluten free ingredient that you can use in any recipe that calls for Worcestershire sauce.
The traditional condiment can often contain traces of fish, making Worcestershire sauce unsuitable for anyone avoiding any animal products. With its intensely savoury flavour, you’d really notice if you missed this out from a recipe.
The good news is that Henderson’s relish is a great alternative and can be swapped like for like in any recipe. This means if the ingredients say to add one tsp of Worcestershire sauce, you can use one tsp of Henderson’s relish instead.
The tangy taste works especially well to cut through heavy, rich flavours like cheese. Use Henderson’s relish instead of Worcestershire sauce in this Mushroom and Rarebit Muffins recipe to make it vegetarian.
The cheesy topping is enriched with an egg yolk – and a good splash of relish really ramps up the flavour, making this an irresistible breakfast or brunch that you’d never know was slimming friendly!
Henderson’s relish is available in most supermarkets, although you can also buy it online if you’re struggling to find it in your local shop.
Vegetable stock cubes
Sometimes the most simple of swaps can transform a recipe into a vegetarian or vegan dish. Recipes that are usually made with meat will often call for a meaty stock cube to enhance the flavour of the food. Simply swapping to a vegetable stock cube is an easy way to cut out any meat products, without losing any flavour.
Depending on the dish you’re making, there may be other swaps you need to make in order to end up with a veggie-friendly plate of food. For example, you can switch out the pork sausages in this Sausages with Creamy Lentils recipe for your favourite vegetarian versions, and then make sure you throw in two veggie stock cubes instead of the chicken stock. It’s tasty, hearty and so satisfying – just remember to adjust the calories depending on which sausages you’re using.
Occasionally, even meat-free dishes can call for meaty stock cubes. Our Nando’s Spicy Rice recipe was originally created to be served alongside chicken, but we love it so much that we pair it with a whole host of dishes!
The recipe uses chicken stock to create a rich flavour that will complement chicken dishes, but there’s no reason that this can’t be switched out for vegetable stock. If you still fancy a chicken flavour, Oxo have a range of meat-free chicken stock cubes that can be found in most supermarkets (they do a beef version too!).
Dairy free milk
If you’re vegan or on a dairy free diet, you might already be familiar with all the various milk alternatives out there. From almond milk to soy, oat or even coconut milk, there are plenty of options for anyone looking to cut down on dairy.
When it comes to cooking, we love to use dairy free milk alternatives. Not only do they help make recipes suitable for a wider range of diets, they can add extra flavour (without adding loads of calories) too.
Take this Vegetable Coconut Curry for instance – you could make this using rich coconut cream, which is flavourful, but high in calories. By replacing it with a dairy free unsweetened coconut milk alternative, we found a way to capture all that flavour while keeping the dish light and slimming friendly.
Even if the recipe calls for dairy milk, it can usually be swapped like for like with a dairy free alternative. When making these delicious Cinnamon Swirls, rather than brushing them with skimmed milk, any unsweetened milk alternative will work! If you want the recipe to be completely vegan, you’ll need to look for vegan puff pastry too.
There are so many dairy free milk alternatives on the supermarket shelves. This unsweetened Koko Dairy Free Coconut Milk is one of our favourites. It’s so versatile and just 16 calories per 100ml.
Dairy free yoghurt
It’s not just milk that comes in a dairy free version. Many of our recipes use yoghurt, rather than cream, to keep the calories low. This can also be switched to dairy free yoghurt if you want to make a dish vegan friendly.
For these Air Fryer Cauliflower Hot Wings we used both dairy free milk and dairy free yoghurt in the recipe. The dairy free coconut milk alternative makes a delicious batter to coat the cauliflower florets, helping them to get crispy and golden as they cook.
To balance out the kick of heat in that crispy batter, we serve these hot wings with a cooling dip. Mix dairy free yoghurt with just a teaspoon of Sriracha to create a creamy dipping sauce, with no dairy in sight. To make this recipe totally vegan, just make sure you use maple syrup instead of honey.
If you don’t already have an air fryer, there is an oven method version of this recipe here. You can also check out our rundown of The Best Air Fryers to Buy, which includes budget friendly versions like this Pro Breeze 4.2 Litre Air Fryerfrom Amazon.
Vegan & Vegetarian cheese
While cheese may be a staple of a vegetarian diet, it’s not always free from animal products. Cheeses such as Parmesan, Pecorino, Camembert and others, can often contain rennet, which means they’re not suitable for vegetarians.
Luckily there are plenty of veggie friendly cheeses available, and if you pick the right alternative, they can be swapped to make almost any cheesy recipe vegetarian.
One of the most common ingredients you’re likely to come across is Parmesan, which is used in a variety of Italian-inspired dishes. We love it stirred into a creamy yet slimming friendly pasta recipe – it finishes the dish with a distinctive salty, rich flavour.
You can swap Parmesan for any vegetarian or vegan hard cheese and whip up a delicious plate of this Black Pepper and Parmesan Spaghetti with Garlic and Thyme Tomatoes. It’s comfort food at its finest, and so easy to make vegetarian/vegan with that one simple swap.
You can usually find this cheese in the Free From, chilled section of the supermarket, but it can also be ordered online if you’re struggling to find it in your usual shop. This non-dairy cheese from Violife is perfect – it’s even flavoured to give a similar taste to Parmesan.
Even if you’re not cutting out meat altogether, you might enjoy a vegetarian sausage from time to time. There are so many options available in the supermarket, with fresh and frozen veggie sausages becoming hugely popular recently. It’s not hard to understand why – they’re fuss free, tasty and usually lower in calories too!
It’s so easy to take any traditional sausage recipe and make it vegetarian simply by swapping to a meat-free sausage.
How about this Sausage and Marmite Pie? It takes bangers and mash to a new level, with a rich sauce and cheesy potato topping. To make it veggie just swap the low fat sausages for any veggie sausage and make sure you use Henderson’s relish instead of the Worcestershire sauce.
If you fancy something a little bit different, how does Sausage Lasagne sound? It may not be traditional, but it’s a cheat’s lasagne that’s ready in under an hour. It works just as well with your favourite vegetarian sausages (and veggie stock cubes).
Meat free mince
Frozen or fresh, meat free mince is a great choice if you’re looking for ways to eat more vegetarian meals. Once it’s turned into a tomatoey bolognese or cooked into a satisfying Shepherd’s pie, you’d hardly know the difference.
Why not try a classic comfort dish? The beef mince in our Cottage Pie can be swapped for Quorn or any other meat-free mince. As long as you use veggie stock and Henderson’s relish, this recipe can become completely vegetarian, while still being packed with flavour.
So filling, and great for batch cooking, this recipe is a firm family favourite. Just look at that fluffy mashed potato topping – how could you resist?
Saving your leftovers for another day? Store them in some airtight containers with lids like these to keep them fresh and delicious.
Beans and pulses
If you’re not a big fan of meat substitutes, one way to pack in the protein is to make sure that your meals include plenty of beans or pulses. As well as being tasty and filling, these ingredients are budget friendly and so good for you.
A staple of vegan and vegetarian diets, foods like lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas bulk out your meals and make sure you’re getting healthy, balanced nutrition. These ingredients can go into everything from stews to curries, and can be used instead of meat in lots of classic recipes.
We love the flavour and texture they bring to this Vegan Chilli – you can give it as much chilli heat as you like! Serve with fluffy rice or tortilla chips for a hearty, healthy meal that you’ll enjoy even if you’re not vegan.
Sometimes the simplest swaps are the most effective. Rather than meat (or meat-free alternatives), we love to just throw in some extra veg. Nutritious and full of goodness, there’s no reason that veggies can’t be the star of the show – and recipes like this Cauliflower Madras prove that vegetarian food is never boring food!
This classic curry is jam-packed with vegetables, simmered in a fiery madras sauce that’s fresh, fragrant (and easy to make milder if you can’t stand the heat). That’s tonight’s dinner sorted!
What are your favourite vegan and vegetarian swaps?
We’d love to know what ingredients you use to make your meals veggie-friendly! Why not share your ideas with us over on our Facebook Group? There are almost 1 million members who love to inspire and motivate others – it’s the perfect place to learn new tips and tricks for your slimming journey.