If you’re moving toward a vegan diet, I have good news. When it comes to delicious baked foods, you won’t be missing out in the slightest. While eggs and butter feature heavily in most mainstream baked desserts, there are superb vegan recipes that do away with these ingredients and yield sensational results.
I didn’t go vegan until I was past twenty, so I have eaten two decades’ worth of non-vegan bakery products. Despite that, I can say with absolute conviction that the best cookie, the best pie, and the best brownie I’ve ever eaten were all vegan. What’s more, a high percentage of the world’s finest breads, from whole-grain sandwich bread to artisan sour dough baguettes, just happen to be vegan as well.
Buying Vegan Baked Goods Locally
You probably have far more options for local baked goods than you realize. To start, French bread and baguettes are nearly always vegan, and excellent regional brands are available almost everywhere. Your local bakery probably has a few vegan items as well, even if it makes no particular effort to cater to vegans.
Any good natural food store will feature a deli with some vegan baked items. And every Whole Foods Market sells vegan baked desserts like cookies and cupcakes, alongside their non-vegan baked offerings. Most Whole Foods Markets also source vegan baked products from regional specialty bakeries.
If you’re lucky, you may even have a local doughnut shop nearby that’s partly or exclusively vegan. There are dozens of such shops around the world.
Mail Order Options
You can also purchase excellent vegan baked items, either from Amazon.com or directly from the bakeries themselves. Here are a few links to get you started:
Taking up Vegan Baking
Later in this article I’ll list more than a dozen cookbooks that are entirely devoted to various sorts of vegan baking. So whether you want to bake bread or casseroles or fancy desserts, you’ll have no problem finding a terrific vegan recipe.
But before we go any further, I should tell you that baking tends to be much more demanding than other types of cooking. In stove-top cooking, a mistake here or there may not amount to much, but in baking one little error can cause an inedible disaster. There’s no redeeming a soufflé that doesn’t rise, or a cake that won’t dislodge from the pan.
So if you simply want to make delicious vegan meals, you’ll be better off reading our vegan cooking guide than digging into this article. My feelings won’t be hurt if you take this paragraph as your cue to split—I just want you to be able to eat delicious food with the least possible effort.
That said, two baked items—roasted vegetables and baked potatoes—couldn’t be easier to make. And bread machines are likewise guaranteed to make perfect loaves every time with virtually no effort. So let’s quickly cover those possibilities before moving on to more sophisticated baked items.
Roasted Vegetables and Baked Potatoes
Not only are roasted vegetables one of the most healthful foods imaginable, they’re also ridiculously easy to make. To get started, just check out our easy directions.
The only thing that stops me from saying roasted vegetables are the easiest food you could ever make is that baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are even easier. Here’s all you need to do:
- Scrub them thoroughly so you can eat the nutritious potato skins. You won’t want to eat the skins of baked yams or sweet potatoes, but you should scrub them anyway prior to baking so they won’t come out of the oven dirty.
- Stab them a few times with a fork, so the steam produced during baking can vent.
- Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 35 to 70 minutes. The larger your vegetables, the longer the required baking time.
Since you are waiting for our potatoes to bake, you can ponder the immortal advice from Mitch Hedberg: “I don’t have a microwave oven; it takes forever to cook a baked potato in a conventional oven. Sometimes I’ll just throw one in there, even if I don’t want one, because by the time it’s done…who knows?”
If you love bread, you should strongly consider purchasing a bread machine. You can certainly make bread without one but it’s a labor-intensive process requiring more than ten minutes of vigorous kneading and lots of clean-up. Bread machines enable you to start a loaf in just three minutes. Then you just push a button and the next beep you hear means your loaf of piping hot bread is ready.
If you’re on the fence about investing in a bread machine, consider that an inexpensive model will pay for itself in about thirty uses. That’s a conservative estimate given the amount of money you’ll save per loaf compared to buying bread from a market or bakery.
If your household is just one or two people, buy a bread machine capable of making a one-pound loaf. Alternately, if you’re in a larger household, consider buying an upscale model. You’ll get superior results and your unit will still pay for itself in less than a year.
Vegan Substitutes in Non-Vegan Baked Recipes
Once upon a time, vegans had to make big adaptions to baking recipes in order to cut out the eggs and butter. The final result would often suffer, since there’s little room for drastic changes where most baking recipes are concerned.
Today, however, the workarounds are much easier. Thanks to vegan milks, and products like Miyoko’s Vegan Butter and Earth Balance, you can remove dairy products from your baking recipes with impressive results. Natural food stores even sell vegan whipped cream, which is the perfect garnish for cupcakes and pies.
Eggs play a prominent role in baking. Sometimes they are included to add moisture. In these cases, tofu or apple sauce may be a good substitute. Other times, they bind ingredients and provide a the stretchy properties needed for a cake to rise properly. In these situations, it’s the protein in egg whites that contributes the desired baking properties. Every natural food store sells vegan egg replacer, which you can also buy online. Typically each tablespoon of this product mixed with three tablespoons of water will replace one egg in baked recipes.
Egg whites are also famously whipped into meringues, and one of the most exciting recent vegan cooking innovations is aquafaba, which can accomplish the same effect. Aquafaba is made from the foam of cooked beans. There’s an entire vegan cookbook devoted to its wide-ranging possibilities.
There’s much more to know about vegan egg replacers than I have room to cover here. Check our guide to egg replacers and egg-free baking for more information.
Think Twice Before Modifying Non-Vegan Recipes!
Even though excellent vegan alternatives exist for every sort of egg and dairy product, you must exercise care when converting a non-vegan cake, pastry, or bread recipe. If there’s one thing that separates baking from other forms of cooking, it’s that there’s practically no room to mess around with proportions, temperatures, preparation methods, and cooking times—alter just one variable imprudently and it will throw the entire recipe out of whack.
So just because you can convert non-vegan baking recipes doesn’t mean you should. Especially if you’re new to baking, you’re much better off using a recipe that’s designed from the ground up to be vegan. A good vegan recipe is likely to deliver vastly superior results when compared to an old family favorite that you’ve veganized.
You won’t have any problem finding fantastic recipes for whatever sort of food you’d like to bake. Before I list the top vegan baking cookbooks, let’s quickly run through the kitchen equipment you’ll need to bake at home.
Baking Equipment and Accessories
Here are the essential baking items needed in every kitchen:
- Baking sheets plus nonstick silicone baking mats
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Silicone spatulas for mixing and metal spatulas for flipping
- Mixing bowls
- Hand mixers or stand mixers for mixing cookie dough or cake batter
- An oblong pyrex dish for baking lasagna
- Stoneware casserole dishes with lids for casseroles, baked macaroni, and baked ziti
Vegan Baking Cookbooks
Even though you can certainly veganize non-vegan recipes, doing so is a hassle and you’re always courting failure since you’ll have to fiddle with key ingredients. So if you want to try your hand at making breads and baked desserts, what you really want are baking cookbooks written just for vegans. Fortunately there are plenty of outstanding titles available.
- The Homemade Vegan Pantry, by Miyoko Schinner
- Gluten-Free Vegan Bread, by Katzinger & Barnard
- Bread and Butter (Gluten Free), by Erin McKenna
Pizza & Casserole Cookbooks
Baked Dessert Cookbooks
- Whole Food Vegan Baking, by Annie Markowitz
- Modern Vegan Baking, by Gretchen Price
- Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Moskowitz & Romero
- Whole Grain Vegan Baking, by Steen & Noyes
- Vegan Desserts, by Hannah Kaminsky
- The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
- Vegan Pie in the Sky, by Moskowitz & Romero
- Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, by Chloe Coscarelli
- Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Moskowitz & Romero
For further reading: Please see our coverage of vegan cooking, vegan desserts, and vegan breads.