Vegan Baking Tips for the Holidays

I love baking. I love creating edible, delicious art for loved ones, and enjoying homemade treats instead of relying on store-bought.

This holiday season, you can make all your favorite treats healthier and plant-based with some easy swaps. Here are my favorite vegan baking tips– developed after years of baking, tweaking and testing– to help you keep up your rotation of goodies while making all the vegetarians and vegans on your list happy.

Why Vegan Baking?

Vegan baking is not only healthier, as common baking ingredients like eggs, butter and milk are linked to a range of health issues, but it’s often cheaper since vegan foods are often less expensive than animal-derived ingredients. And I’ve found that once you start baking vegan goodies, it’s hard to go back to “regular” baked goods with butter, eggs, and/or milk, because they start to seem heavy and dense.

These five healthy swaps can make for easy baking this holiday season and beyond.

Banish the Butter

There are two great ways to reduce or eliminate the butter in your baked goods. Coconut oil is my favorite, but a very close second is vegan margarine. Coconut oil is loved for its health benefits, but it’s great for baking too, as the high saturated fat content is similar to that in butter. I find coconut oil is best for anything chocolate, and for other nut-based desserts, and it works just as well for cookies, cakes, breads and more.

Choose an organic, virgin coconut oil that is processed naturally (not with hexane). Any natural foods store should have a wide variety. You can use the unrefined variety for a rich, coconutty flavor, but if you want the benefits without the flavor, choose a refined oil with no coconut scent. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which means it’s naturally solid at temperatures below about 75ş, so keep that in mind for baking. Have all your ingredients at room temperature before mixing with coconut oil, or you will end up with a gloppy mess.

Vegan margarine is another great substitute when you need that buttery flavor, like shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies or muffins. There are lots of great brands on the market, and I’ve had consistently great results with like Earth Balance, which comes in sticks for easy baking measurements. Be sure to choose a brand with no hydrogenated oils.

Eliminate the Eggs

For years I’ve used ground flaxseeds for baking with amazing results. Flaxseeds are super cheap (find them in the bulk section of your natural foods stores) and they have good dose of fiber, healthy fats and protein that helps our bodies stay healthy. Chia seeds are another great alternative, but as they are more expensive and tend to be much stickier than flaxseeds, I most often choose flaxseeds.

Vegan Chocolate Berry Mochi

Vegan Chocolate Berry Mochi made with vegan margarine and coconut oil.

Flaxseeds and chia seeds both have natural mucilaginous properties that help bind your cookies, quick breads and more. You can purchase already ground flaxseeds or buy the seeds whole and grind in your coffee grinder; however you get them, always keep ground flax in the freezer to keep it fresh.

To use for baking, you can substitute 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water. Whisk and set aside until it gels, then proceed with the recipe as directed. Flaxseeds do not leaven (rise) the baked good, so it works best for cookies, banana breads and muffins. Find flaxseeds in the Best Oatmeal Cookies recipe below, and try it in all your recipes!

vegan ginger cookies

Gluten-free Ginger Cookies made with ground flaxseeds as egg replacer

Amazing Aquafaba

Aquafaba is a magic ingredient that took the blog world by storm this past year, and with good reason. Recipes that have been elusive for vegan baking for years, like classic French macarons, pavlovas, and meringues, are now available with an ingredient that was previously thought of as waste: the thick liquid leftover in a can of beans!

In an interview with the inventor of aquafaba, he explains that aquafaba works best for: “low temperature applications, like mayonnaise, icing, marshmallows, meringues, and macrons, it mimics the characteristics of egg albumen very well. For higher heat applications, it provides some of the binding, leavening, and liquid component that you might find in a whole egg or egg yolk, but the egg white component of it breaks down, so you can’t use it in a recipe that relies on that under high heat. This is why the angel food cake fails, but also why it works amazingly well for cookies, breads, cakes, etc.” Learn more about how to use aquafaba in our post all about its beany magic here.

Replace Eggs with Fruit

It’s true, you can use fruit to replace eggs in many recipes. Pureed pumpkin, pureed squash or mashed banana helps give your baked goods structure, poof and lift in a similar way to eggs. Of course, you don’t want everything to taste like banana or pumpkin, but this is a great tip for spice cakes, chocolate cakes, cookies, and other soft baked goods, like the Sweet Potato Brownies and Pumpkin Oat Cookies listed below. You may have heard of using applesauce in recipes, though this is usually used to replace oil. It’s not recommend to try to replace both eggs and oil with fruit– you will end up with a soggy mess!

Another option for eliminating the eggs is to use the Ener-g Egg Replacer. It’s a pre-made starch mixture that helps bind all your ingredients together, but since it tends to dry out baked goods, it’s best for cookies or things you want to be crispy, like the Chocolate Macadamia Nut Biscotti listed below.

Ditch the Cream

Coconut again comes to the rescue to replace an animal ingredient. Coconut milk in a can can replace milk and heavy whipping cream in your baking, with its deliciously rich texture and beautiful coconut flavor.

Always choose full-fat coconut milk in the can (if you do want low-fat, just buy the full-fat and dilute it!). If you’re using it to replace milk or half-and-half, simply shake the can and measure into your recipe. To replace heavy whipping cream, let the can rest overnight in the fridge. The heavy fats will rise to the top, which the watery part will sink. Open the can carefully, scoop out the cream, and use as needed. The leftover watery part can be used as cooking liquid for rice, oatmeal, or used as water in another recipe.

The heavy coconut cream can also be used to make vegan whipped cream, should that be on your dessert menu this season.

vegan sweet potato brownies

Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies made with sweet potatoes as the binding ingredient


Vegan Baking Recipes Using these Techniques
Chocolate Banana Cookies (gluten-free)
Pumpkin Oat Cookies (gluten-free)
Sweet Potato Brownies
Sugar Cookies
Mandarin Coconut Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies (gluten-free)
The Best Oatmeal Cookies (wheat-free)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Biscotti
Lemon Biscotti
Chocolate Berry Mochi (gluten-free)

Vegan Baking Substitues (1)

Feature image from ThinkStock; Vegan substitute graphic by Ashlyn Kittrell for Care2; all other baking images from author


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn2 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Pablo B.
.2 years ago

stop please! yummy yummy

Christina C.
Christina C2 years ago

Great tips, thank you for sharing!

Angela K.
Angela AWAY K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Teresa Fazackerley

thank you

Nina S.
Nina S2 years ago

good advice

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 2 years ago

Great recipes--wish i could bake but i'm the worst baker around. Guess i could again. thanks

krysta Ice
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks, good recipes! With so many oils available butter is totally unnecessary. Why non-vegans bothered to read this then make negative comments stumps me.

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Work for and enjoy the fruit of health