Oil Substitutes: Banana, Sweet Potato, Applesauce, Prune Puree, Pumpkin PureeOIL/SHORTENING
Prune Puree
Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, or Squash Purees

Pureed fruits make excellent substitutions for fat in baked goods – keeping in mind that they can slightly affect the taste of the finished product.  Applesauce doesn’t impart too much flavor so that’s my go-to substitute, but prune puree (baby food works best because it’s so smooth) is great for chocolatey baked goods and banana and pumpkin purees work well with pancakes, waffles and quick breads.  I use the same amount of puree as the amount of fat called for in the recipe.

Nut Butters & Seed Butter Collage

Nut and seed butters also make fantastic oil substitutes.  I trade them one-for-one for the oil called for in a recipe.  Check out my oil-free Quick Chocolate Chip Banana Squares and my Banana Fig Cakes with Date-Coconut Drizzle.

Sugar Substitutes: Agave, Maple Syrup, Maple Sugar, Barley MaltSUGAR
Agave Nectar
Barley Malt Syrup
Maple Sugar
Maple Syrup

Sugar Substitutions: Dates, Stevia, Xylitol, Coconut Nectar

Dates/Date Syrup
Powdered Stevia
Liquid Stevia, Coconut Nectar

Usually I use powdered stevia instead of even unrefined sugars.  Stevia is derived from an herb and doesn’t wreak havoc on the glycemic index the way that other sweeteners do.  And it packs a powerful sweet punch – it can be between 70-400 times sweeter than sugar – so you have to be mindful of how much you add to a recipe.  I use between 1-2 teaspoons of powdered stevia for every one cup of sugar called for in the recipe.  And since the bulk of sugar will be missing from the recipe, it must be replaced with applesauce or another fruit puree.  I use 1/4-1/2 cup of applesauce when using 1-2 teaspoons of stevia in a recipe.  Again, it takes some experimentation to get the texture the way you want it.  NuNaturals makes wonderful stevia products – no bitter aftertaste – in a variety of flavors.

Agave nectar and maple syrup are great for using when making bread dough or preparing beverages since they dissolves quickly.

Maple sugar has a nostalgic place in my heart and when a recipe absolutely needs the grain and bulk of sugar, I reach for the jar of maple sugar.  I get mine from the same place my family has been buying maple syrup forever: Richard’s Maple Syrup in Ohio.  It’s the real deal.  FYI, maple sugars can come in a variety of textures.  The kind I buy is very fine so it’s good-to-go in recipes, but some are very coarse and need to be put through the food processor prior to use.  Also, it can clump like brown sugar so store in an air-tight container and throw in a heel of bread to absorb moisture.  Maple syrup can be substituted for sugar as well, but since it’s a liquid, the amount of other liquid called for needs to be reduced slightly.

Xylitol is another good substitute for white, refined sugar; it looks just like it.  It’s derived from various sources including oats, birch, mushrooms, or corn husks.  Unlike other sweeteners, xylitol is actually beneficial to dental health.  I use it one-for-one in recipes.

Coconut nectar comes from coconut trees – think of it like maple syrup.  It’s has a low glycemic index, is raw, and contains amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.  Use it in beverages, as a pancake or waffle syrup, or in baked goods.

Finally, date paste and date syrup make for nearly guilt-free sweetening (dates pack a powerful caloric punch, so go easy).  I put chopped dates in my smoothies.  For baked goods, I make a thick and intoxicating date paste (simply cover a pile of dates with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or so.  Cool, process until smooth, and store in the ‘fridge).  Dates add a smoky richness to sweet breads, cakes, and cookies.  For a recipe that calls for 1 cup sugar, I will generally use 1/4 cup date paste and 1/2 to 1 tsp. of powdered stevia.

These aren’t the only unrefined sugar substitutes out there, but they are the only ones I have in my cupboard.  You might investigate date sugar, brown rice syrup, turbinado or Demerara sugars as well.  Check out my sugar-free Mango Lime Pancakes with Ginger & Coconut.

Dairy SubstitutesDAIRY MILK/YOGURT

Nothing complicated here.  If a recipe calls for dairy milk, substitute your favorite non-dairy variety – soy milk works especially well in baked goods calling for milk.  Try hemp, flaxseed, oat, rice, cashew, and coconut milks.  They all have subtle and distinctive flavors, so do some taste-testing.  If you don’t like the ingredient on store-bought non-dairy milks, make your own.  Check out my almond milk and peanut milk recipes.

Same goes for yogurt, though be sure and read labels.  I love coconut yogurt, but even the plain variety can sometimes be sweetened.

Egg Substitutes: Chia, Replacers, Tofu, FlaxEGGS
Egg Replacers
Silken Tofu
Flaxseed Meal
Chia Seeds (pictured below)

Happily it is quite easy to replace eggs in recipes for baked goods.  I switch between using ground flaxseed meal and Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer (made from soy flour, wheat gluten, seaweed and corn syrup solids).  I’ve used both to great success.  The ratio of water to replacer is the same for both: 1 tablespoon replacer/flaxmeal + 3 tablespoons water.  When using flaxseed meal, add 1/8 tsp. baking powder to the mix to lessen gumminess.  Whisk together until frothy and let sit a moment to thicken, then add to the recipe with the other liquids.  Hampton Creek Foods also offers a powdered egg substitute. (They also make a mayonnaise substitute.)

Chia seeds also make a very satisfactory egg substitute.  I use 1 tbsp. chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp. water.  Be sure and stir the chia/water well so that all of the seeds are moistened.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until very thick and gooey.  Keep in mind that using chia seeds will give a little bit of crunch to whatever you use it in – much like poppy seeds.  Check out my Carrot Walnut Bread recipe.

Silken tofu can be used to replace the eggs in recipes as well – use 1/4 tofu for each egg called for in the recipe.  Water-packed tofu can be used to make scrambled “eggs” and “egg” salad – with surprisingly delicious results.

Try The Vegg if you’re looking for a substitute for egg yolks.  It’s eerily yolky.

Vegan Mayo


There are many mayo substitutes – many of which taste spot on to their eggy counterparts.  I love mayo, but it’s loaded with oil so I use it very, very rarely.  Vegenaise, Nasoya, and Hampton Creek Foods all offer delicious mayo stand-ins.  Check out my Nasoya Nayonaise and NayoWhipped review and mayo recipes.

If you avoid added oils as I do, try making your own creamy sandwich spread with silken tofu, lemon, dry mustard, salt and pepper.

Coffee Substitutes: Choffy, CafixCOFFEE
Ground Cacao

If you’re trying to ween yourself off of coffee, give herbal substitutes a try.  They are surprisingly delicious and can be used in all kinds of ways – from straight up “coffee” to lattes, smoothies, and in baking.  I especially like Cafix and Dandy Blend – but there are many other brands – try a few to find the one that makes your taste buds sing.  Teeccino also makes a huge variety of herbal substitutes (some of which come in handy single serve “tea” bags).  I like their French Vanilla and Hazelnut flavors.

While ground cacao is not strictly a coffee substitute, I include it here because it’s delicious and also might make for a good replacement for those trying to kick the coffee habit.  My brand of choice is Choffy, but there are other brands as well.  Brew it up like you would coffee (I use a French press) and add a splash of non-dairy milk and sweetener of choice.  The smell alone will get you.  P.S. you can use the un-brewed or brewed grounds in baked goods.  Check out my Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake and my Chocolate-coated Key Lime-Coconut Creme Pie recipe.

*I am not compensated in any way by the brands mentioned or pictured here.

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  1. trueindigo says:

    Every new vegan should link to this page, well done! I love your personal opinions, much more important than a bare-bones take on substitutions.

  2. Vegan Rabbit says:

    I LOVE THIS! I am adding this page to my “vegan resources” widget! If anyone asks me “what do you use to replace ______?”, I’ll just refer them to this page, rather than explain all of it to them lol.

  3. vegancharlie says:

    This is just perfect. I can never get enough of substitutions posts people don’t realize how many different ways you can substitute common ingredients.

    • I know – cool, huh? Someone recently told me that chia seeds thicken up really well, wonder if they can be used instead of eggs, too?

      • ifollowmyheart says:

        I haven’t tried it myself, but I did come across this on Pinterest, and I kept it in mind:
        According to me, it should work, because even when I add chia seeds to my yoghurt, it thickens a little when left to stand for a bit

  4. saradraws says:

    OK, I’m not Vegan, though I love vegan food. Since I’m lacking in information, why is oil and sugar substituted? Are they not vegan? Or is it a healthy option thing.
    Is this a dumb question?

    • Not dumb at all! I’m impressed that you read that far ;-)! I’m vegan plus I try to limit refined sugars and added oil. Yeah, I know – way to make life REALLY difficult!

      • saradraws says:

        Phew! I am less dumb than previously thought. Are the purees and sugar substitutes (except stevia) 1:1?
        I’m gona try this stuff.

      • Yeah, essentially. If you use a liquid sweetener (i.e., maple sugar or agave nectar), you have to back off on other liquids in the recipe. As for oil/shortening, I often cut the called for amount by half, and then use half applesauce, prune puree, tofu or banana. That way, I don’t compromise the texture of the finished product, yet the fat is reduced by a nice amount. There are lots of substitution sites online with MUCH more detail and info than mine.

      • saradraws says:


  5. Dudette says:

    This is SO helpful, yet so simple! No need to memorize 10 pages of explanation in vegan cookbooks… I am ‘only’ a vegetarian, but trying to move towards a vegan, even more natural, wholesome, healthier diet. This is certainly helpful! Thanks!

  6. veghotpot says:

    What would you use to substitute olive oil/ vinegar in a salad dressing? I like the idea of replacing oils in baking with apple puree I will try that as my ‘go to’ pizza recipe has something like 5 tablespoons of oil in it!! crazy!

  7. See Becca Try to Tri says:

    Hope you don’t mind, I linked this to my blog. Super helpful!

  8. Brianna Petree says:

    What about a good cream cheese or sour cream substitute? Is there just not one? The toffuti stuff I can’t handle. I’m newly off dairy and trying no gluten, just clean and organic so the vegan lifestyle works very well for this! Just having a hard time with the cheeses.

    • An Unrefined Vegan says:

      Hi Brianna! There are good cream cheese and sour cream subs – – and they don’t have to be store-bought! I suggest you acquire a wonderful book called The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions. Can’t recall the authors’ names off the top of my head, but it’s a vegan kitchen staple. I just created my own “farmer cheez” yesterday (it will be on my blog in a few days) with nothing more than tofu, cashews and a few other simple ingredients. Cheese seems to be the stumbling block for a lot of new vegans. It does get easier! Oh – you can also make your own hard cheez, too. I have one on my blog: and I’ve got a roasted pepper cheddar coming up, soon, too ;-)!

  9. ifollowmyheart says:

    This is a really nice overview! I also try to use as many plant-based products as possible (we never use milk or cream at home, only soy/almond/…), I always use margarine or oil and I also try to substitute eggs.
    But I haven’t found a nice substitute for my beloved cheese yet, so I’ll stick with that for a little bit longer. Maybe you can convince me with your recipe, I’ll certainly try it one of these days.

  10. Jason E. Marshall says:

    Excellent advice! I have been pondering “Going vegan” for sometime, and a list like this is very helpful for those making the switch, that don’t know all the little tricks. Thanks! ;-)

  11. Angela @ Canned Time says:

    Hey there Annie. Just wondering if you’ve ever used the flax – egg substitute as a binder like in a bread crumb coating situation for frying something? I saw a recipe for fried tofu and they used an egg in the coating. I’m thinking that the flax wouldn’t hold up? Any thoughts or experience?

    • Oh my – interesting! I haven’t tried that (well, maybe once for French toast, but the memory is too vague). I’m picturing a gloppy mess, but that would define an egg/bread crumb coating, too. Also worry about burning.

  12. Homemade Fried Tofu, Fresh Veggies & Trader Joe’s Fried Rice « Canned Time says:

    […] For more great ‘vegan’ substitution ideas like these ‘flax eggs’ for your recipes please check out the ‘Substitutions’ page at […]

  13. Graciel says:

    Oh wow, really really useful.

    I’m just switching to a vegetarian/vegan diet (starting with veggie and moving as fast as possible to vegan :) but wasn’t sure about what I could substitute when cooking. This is perfect. Thanks!

  14. peachyvegan says:

    So many times thank you <3 I am so grateful you posted this. I really do not like the idea of adding sugar to recipes, and had no clue how to use stevia instead. There will be much more (vegan) baking in my future!

    • You’re welcome :-) – and I really need to update this page a bit! Did you see my NuNaturals post from last week? Yet another new no-sugar sweetener out there called Lo Han. I need to experiment with it more, but I feel pretty sure I’ll be stocking it in my pantry.

  15. The Vegan Tourist says:

    I’ve been a vegan for a few years, but have shied away from baking and complicated recipes until now. Thank you for those substitution tips. I’m off to the store today with a shopping list that includes apple sauce and flaxseed meal.

  16. Homemade Fried Tofu, Fresh Veggies & Trader Joe’s Fried Rice | Canned Time says:

    […] For more great ‘vegan’ substitution ideas like these ‘flax eggs’ for your recipes please check out the ‘Substitutions’ page at […]

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