WFPB – Food Substitutions



Some people make the transition to a WFPBD (whole food plant-based diet) via rather unhealthy processed vegan foods, but this isn’t something I would suggest. So here are some truly healthy substitutions for eggs, dairy, cheese, meat, oil, salt and sugar.



Depending on whether you need a thickener for savoury or sweet meals, the following provide roughly the same thickening effect as one standard egg:

  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seed in 3 tbsp. water.
  • 2 tbsp. potato starch.
  • ¼ cup / 60 g mashed potatoes.
  • ¼ cup / 60 g canned pumpkin.
  • ¼ cup / 60 g puréed prunes.
  • ½ banana.
  • Crumbled and fried tofu with spices and vegetables can make a “scrambled-like” egg substitute.

When using whole grains in baking, you almost don’t even need an egg substitute because it all naturally binds together. Processed white flours lack so many things and therefore need eggs to bind them together but whole grains seem to bind naturally on their own. Oats are also useful as a binder, and then you’re getting another boost of that healthy whole grain.


Whether you’re buying plant milk or making your own, you’ll probably find that you have your own taste preference – soya, almond, oat etc. It’s worth trying different brands of the same plant milk since I’ve found they do differ depending on what’s been added to them and the level of concentration of the particular plant used. It’s because of the moderately processed nature of commercially-made milks that I prefer making my own – always without sweetener.

  • Plant milks can be used in cereals, tea or coffee, and in both baking and cooking.
  • To make 1 cup / 250 ml buttermilk, you can add 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of soya or almond milk.
  • Yogurt can be made with silken tofu.


Cheese substitutes can be made from soy, rice, almond, hemp and other ingredients. These are usually highly processed and I suggest they are avoided. The following alone or in combination can work well. Experiment!

  • Nutritional yeast. I get through dozens of tubs of this stuff. It’s sprinkled onto microwaved/boiled/steamed veg, put into stews, soups and sauces, baked and fried meals. I can’t get enough of it – and, best of all, it’s really good for you. (Avoid nutritional yeast if you have Crohn’s disease.)
  • Tofu with spices.
  • Nut butters.
  • Soaked and blended raw cashews and blended with nutritional yeast. (Avoid cashews if you have heart disease.)
  • Miso.
  • Tahini.


If you really feel the need for a chewy meat-like texture, there are some substitutions that offer some degree of texture but with none of the problems associated with meat but have all the green light healthiness of whole plant foods.
  • Jack fruit is quite expensive but has very meat-like texture. Sample recipe here.
  • Microwaved/sauteed Portabello mushrooms can be used in place of grilled meats, burgers or steaks. Marinating a Portabello mushroom in balsamic vinegar and then cooking it on the grill makes a really nice steak. Also, even ground up, cut up, chopped up mushrooms really give that nice ground beef or a ground meat consistency.
  • Cooked/grilled aubergine (eggplant) is a delicious alternative for Italian dishes and sandwiches.
  • Crumbled Tofu and tempeh (a fermented soybean product) can make good substitutes. Tofu is tasteless on its own, but it can absorb whatever flavours it’s cooked or marinated in.
  • Beans and pulses can add body and texture to meals.
  • Potatoes and other starchy vegetables will always make excellent main dishes.
  • Bulgur wheat can also work well.

In my experience, it’s best not to try and duplicate the texture of meat. The world of plant-based eating is more than sufficiently varied without having to try and reproduce something that was never optimal for our health in the first place – let alone the health of the animals and the environment.

Sugar, Honey & Other Sweeteners

In many recipes the sweeteners can be left out completely. Try it, you’ll be surprised. Sometimes a simple piece of frozen fruit can satisfy a craving for sweets. Here are a few ideas:

  • Home-made apple sauce from pureed apples. You can use as much of this as you want.
  • Pureed or finely chopped dried fruits like dates and raisins work well in both cooking and baking.
  • Shredded coconut. It has a high fat content, so use sparingly.

Butter, Shortening, Fats and Oils

Instead of lining your pan or your pot with oil, line it with vegetable stock – you will start to pick out the nuances of the flavours once you don’t use oil in your diet.

  • Vegetable stocks, water or wine for sauteing or frying.
  • Try baking instead of frying where possible.
  • Salad dressings can be made with a base of vegetable stock, water or vinegar in place of the oil. Adding mustard and spices can make an excellent salad dressing. Blended tofu with a squeeze of fresh lemon can substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise.
  • Date or prune juice are great for baking biscuits, cakes and sweet breads. You can make your own date/prune paste by processing 1 cup / 150 g of dried pitted dates or prunes with 1/2 / 120 ml cup of water. Substitute 1/3 the amount of prune paste for the amount of oil called for in the recipe.
  • Pureed pumpkin, bananas and other fruits will work in some recipes but don’t hold the moisture as well as the prune paste, and they can change the flavour of the finished product.
  • Unsweetened apple sauce works when you are looking for more moisture and is also great for baking.
  • Mashed beans in all sorts of savoury and sweet recipes can add healthy nutrients as well as moisture.
  • Mashed avocado can be used as a butter substitute for sandwiches and baked meals.
  • Hummus is especially good for making sandwiches – adding both taste and moisture.


It’s best to avoid adding salt to any meals. Indeed, there is no salt in our house at all. Soy sauce or tamari sauce don’t usually get past the front door because of their high salt content. It really doesn’t take long to get used to life without added salt. There are lots and lots of really tasty alternatives, dry and liquid, that you can use – whether you buy them ready-made or make them yourself. I covered much of this here, but the following is a quick summary of alternatives:

  • Granulated spices such as onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, etc.
  • Fresh onion, spring onions, garlic, lemon juice, salsa and hot sauces.
  • Nutritional yeast adds a saltiness without the negatives of sodium.
  • Dr Greger’s Savoury Spice Blend is excellent.
  • Mrs Dash makes salt-free alternatives to seasoning mixes and sauces. They’re quite pricey, but worth the effort. As an alternative, why not simply look at the ingredients on the latter products and make some mixes yourself from scratch?
  • All types of vinegar – balsamic and sherry are two of my favourites. They tend to find their way into most savoury meals.
  • Lemon juice.
  • All types of mustard – yellow powder, wholegrain, Dijon. Brilliant in so many savoury dishes.

The above is by no means a comprehensive list of options, but I hope it provides you with at least one or two ideas.

Think of your WFPBD as an exciting voyage of discovery. We all got used to what we were brought up with as children and what we may have been eating for years or decades as adults; but eating the optimal diet for human health need never be boring. With all the thousands of plant combinations that we can make, and the increasing number of exciting WFPB recipes online and in publications, the future looks like a brightly-coloured rainbow of culinary opportunities.