Candice Hutchings isn’t your average vegan. Kale isn’t her favorite food, she doesn’t worship Daiya cheese products, and she’s cool with ordering takeout. As the host of The Edgy Veg, a vegan cooking channel on YouTube with over 250k subscribers, and the author of a new cookbook, she isn’t your average person either. In fact, she’s kind of a rockstar human being all around. In the midst of her hectic schedule, I had a chance to chat with Candice about her new cookbook, The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore-Approved Vegan Recipes, and learn what her go-to vegan substitutes are in her cooking.

A self-taught home cook, Candice started her YouTube channel in 2011. At the time, she was working for a broadcast company and didn’t get as much creative freedom as she wanted, so she started making her own videos. Fast forward six years, and she’s now the author of a cookbook filled with not only easy vegan recipes, but also with food puns, basic cooking techniques, and pictures of her dogs.

One of her main goals with this cookbook is to bridge the gap between vegans and meat eaters. Since adopting a vegan lifestyle, she’s noticed that many people say certain foods are good "for vegan foods." But she’s tired of that. Candice is on a mission to revolutionize vegan food so that people realize it’s just delicious food, no qualifiers needed.

If you’re a non-vegan reading this, you’re likely thinking that nothing could make you give up your meat and cheese, because “vegan substitutes are gross.” Buckle up, buttercup, because Candice is dropping some knowledge.

Vegan Meat Substitutes

vegetable, mushroom
Jocelyn Hsu

SeitanAka “wheat meat," seitan can be made at home using flour and vital wheat gluten. You make a dough and bake it using whatever herbs and spices you want to mimic the meat you’re substituting. This is one of Candice’s favorite vegan substitutes, and she’s shared her go-to seitan recipe in her cookbook (but there are great store-bought options too).

Mushrooms—Meaty in texture, mushrooms are like a sponge thanks to how well they absorb flavors. If you marinate them, they take on whatever flavors you put in the marinade. Candice recommends using a large mushroom when you’re craving steak.

Eggplant—Like mushrooms, eggplant is meaty in texture and soaks up flavor well. Candice loves using eggplant as a bacon substitute; marinate it, then cook it low and slow in the oven until it’s chewy.

Coconut—Plot twist, coconut is an excellent bacon substitute as well. It’s slightly sweeter than eggplant bacon, but it takes less time to make and is nice and crunchy.

Smoked tofu—Smoother than firm tofu, smoked tofu is a great vegan substitute for sandwiches. You can find this at most health food stores, and likely at your local grocery store as well.

Vegan Cheese Substitutes

cheese, pastry, honey, cake, grilled cheese sandwich, butter, bread, sweet, toast
Christin Urso

Store-bought vegan cheese—Candice recommends buying Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, but there are lots of vegan cheese brands on the market. She’s not a fan of Daiya, so if you’re new to the vegan lifestyle you might want to try another brand first. There’s also a recipe for homemade vegan cheese in her cookbook if you’re dying to make it yourself.

Nutritional yeast—Nutty and cheesy in flavor, nutritional yeast is a great add-in to vegan recipes. You’ll often see this in vegan mac and cheese recipes, but it can be used for any number of things.

Vegan Butter Substitutes

Margarine—Lucky us, we don’t have to resort to making homemade vegan butter (is that even a thing?). Most store-bought margarines are accidentally vegan, so pick whichever you prefer. Candice swears by Earth Balance as it’s the most like real salted butter.

Vegan Egg Substitutes

chickpeas, pasture, soy, pea, cereal, vegetable, legume
Fiona Galey

Flax eggs—A mixture of ground flaxseeds and water, flax eggs are great for using in breads, muffins, and some cookies. Flax eggs have a slight nutty flavor though, so be careful what you use them in.

Aquafaba—Aka the water from a can of chickpeas. You might have to whip the aquafaba first (like you would egg whites), so make sure to follow the recipe instructions.

Tofu—Scrambled up with turmeric and a few other spices, tofu does a fine job imitating scrambled eggs. Throw your tofu scramble into a breakfast burrito or eat on its own.

Vegan Honey Substitutes

syrup, tea, whisky, wine, maple syrup, liquor, alcohol, beer
Louise Ferrall

Maple Syrup—You can add this sweetener to pretty much anything, but it’s particularly good on oatmeal and in cookies.

Agave—More neutral in flavor than maple syrup, agave is as sweet as honey and is a great vegan substitute.

Vegan honey—Candice has seen a few vegan honey brands popping up. This “honey” is made from apples and can be used like any of the vegan sweeteners on this list.

Vegan Milk Substitutes

milk, tea, water
Alex Frank

Soy Milk—With the highest amount of protein of all non-dairy milks, soy milk is particularly good for cooking. If your recipe has lots of spices in it, you won’t taste the soy milk at all.

Almond milk—Candice recommends using a neutral, natural almond milk for baking or as a coffee creamer. Make sure you’re buying almond milk that’s both unsweetened and unflavored so it doesn’t affect the taste of your baked goods. Two brands she recommends are Califia Farms and Blue Diamond.

Coconut milk—Coconut milk from a can is great for soups and curries, while coconut milk from a carton is good for cereals, milkshakes, and coffee since it’s thinner than the canned stuff.

If you’re a new vegan cook, hopefully this list of vegan substitutes will help you next time you’re in the kitchen. Check out The Edgy Veg cookbook for tons of great recipes (Candice’s faves are the butter chicken and the spaghetti and meatballs). While you wait for your cookbook to be delivered, try your hand at these six-ingredient peanut butter cookies or one of these 15 easy vegan recipes.