I’ve often heard people proclaim that plant-based cooking/baking is difficult or even impossible, to which I always reply that it just takes a little planning (and a short grocery list). I went through our pantry and made a list of the most commonly-used cooking ingredients (and the traditional ingredients they usually replace); I hope that this list will prove useful to anyone interested in giving plant-based cooking and baking a shot. I also added current prices for similar amounts (bulk prices as well as unit pricing) and where these prices were found. I do my shopping around Akron, OH, USA, so please keep that in mind if you find yourself reviewing the numbers thinking, “These prices don’t match what I see at my regular grocery!”

 

FATS

Earth Balance buttery spread

Size - 15 oz.

$ - 3.99

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

- I try to use Earth Balance (and other products that contain palm oil) sparingly, due to the damage clear cutting and palm plantations have on rainforest ecosystems. Here is the Wikipedia page about the practice, if you would like to read more.

 

Coconut Oil (cold-pressed)

Size - 16oz/64oz. (2x)

$ - 13/25

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron/Costco, Columbus

 

Valu-Time Spread

Size - 16 oz.

$ - 0.79

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

A much cheaper alternative to Earth Balance, but nearly tasteless. It’s great for baking, as it is the least-expensive butter alternative I’ve found, and has little to no palm oil in it. Use Earth Balance or extra virgin olive oil for cooking, though.

 

 

EGGS

As expounded upon in my first post on S + S, there are a number of egg replacement options, my favorite of which is the Flax egg 2.0; you can also scope out recipes for powdered egg replacer and traditional (milled) flax egg if you’d like to compare results. Other popular replacements are banana, applesauce and cashew cream, but in many instances (particularly baking), the upgraded flax egg/gel is superior. 

The price difference between eggs and these replacements is significant:

-1 dozen eggs: ~$1.55; 1 egg ~ $0.13

-1 bag Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed, 24oz. (bulk would be cheaper): $4.99; 2 T./oz. so enough for 24 rounds (120 flax eggs). 

$4.99/120 = $0.04/flax egg. Holy crap! 

 

MILKS

Soy (there are tons of brands, we normally buy Silk unsweetened original)

Size - half gallon

$ - 3.79

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

 

Almond (again, it’s often what is available and competitively priced, which is usually Almond Breeze; we prefer unsweetened vanilla)

Size - half gallon

$ - 3.79

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

There’s really no way around nut milks being noticeably more expensive than cow’s milk, as the dairy industry is subsidized by the US government in many ways. I was lactose intolerant long before giving up dairy, so I actually drink and cook with much more nut milk than I ever did with animal milk. Bonus: no sick feeling after dinner every night!

Store-bought almond milk is our go-to, though we have made it at home, and the latter is far superior but requires a bit more forethought and time to create. It also has a shorter shelf-life, which is both positive and negative. Here is a simple recipe for homemade almond milk, and the added bonus of having leftover almond meat, which has its own set of uses.

 

Rice (there are refrigerated and Tetrapack varieties; this price is for Rice Dream unsweetened vanilla refrigerated)

Size - half gallon

$ - 3.99

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

 

Coconut milk

Size - 14 oz.

$ - 3.29

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron

 

 

CHEESES

Quick anecdote (I promise!): I worked in a pizza shop throughout high school and college, and one family in my small town had us use soy cheese on their pizzas, and let me tell you, the food science of non-dairy cheese these days is light-years better than back in the late 90s. That soy cheese was downright putrid, before and even after cooking. It stuck to your fingers, left a slimy, stinky film that took 2 hand washings to remove, and didn’t even melt in a 450 degree oven. Imagine my surprise when we started sampling cheese alternatives in 2013 - they smelled right, they melted right, they even tasted right. Thank you, faceless cheese scientists!

We have in no way sampled all of the “fake cheese” brands out there, but here are a couple of the more readily available brands we use:

 

Daiya mozzarella or cheddar style shreds

Size - 8 oz.

$ - 4.99

Location - Giant Eagle, Akron OH

 

Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet mozzarella or cheddar style shreds

Size - 8 oz.

$ - 4.99

Location - Mustard Seed Market, Akron OH

We use far less non-dairy cheese (volume as well as frequency) in our cooking than we did with traditional cheese, as well as pairing with or substituting nutritional yeast. This magical foodstuff is cheesy and salty while being neither, and significantly cheaper than ‘cheeze.’ If cheese was once our cooking crutch, nutritional yeast (we lovingly refer to it as "nutch," pronounced nootch) is our crutch now, and that’s pretty OK really.

 

 

MISCELLANOUS

Vegetable stock 

Extra virgin olive oil

Nutritional yeast

Cashew pieces

Liquid aminos 

Soy sauce may contain fish or shellfish, as well as a buttload of sodium.  Liquid aminos are plant-derived and impart a salty flavor without massive amounts of sodium.

Cider vinegar

Liquid Smoke

Tofu 

The lowest of the low-hanging fruits on the vegan joke tree. The reality is that the sky is really the limit when using tofu. Fake bacon, marinated slices grilled/sautéed/roasted, triple chocolate mousse layer tarts, tofu scramble, creamy bean dips, you name it. It is incredibly versatile, and worth keeping on hand.

Lemons 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of substitutions and recipes in general call for fresh lemon juice, and it is far more economical to buy a 5 lb bag of lemons for $6 than having to go to the store every couple days for a single $0.75 lemon. You can also use the spent lemon rinds to wipe down kitchen surfaces.