Foodprints for the Future

Indulge your sweet tooth with 5 climate-conscious, plant-based swaps

There’s no shortage of sweets over the holidays. But for those of us trying to shrink our carbon footprint with plant-based diets, we don’t have many non-dairy dessert options. Some of the most common desserts are made with animal products, many in large measurements.

So, how you can continue to enjoy your favorite desserts while minding the health of the planet? Fortunately, many easy and delicious plant-based swaps can make your baking, and your appetite, more climate conscious.

1. Butter

More than ever before, grocery stores have stocks of plant-based “butters” and margarine made from a variety of oils, including coconut, avocado, canola, flax and olive. You can use these oils as a direct replacement for butter in your baking. If you want to be even more creative or want to bake without oil, you could even swap butter for applesauce or pumpkin puree.

2. Eggs

Several brands of egg replacements are on the market. I’ve had great success with one made of garbanzo bean flour and chia seed. Some other ideas are mashed bananas, ground flax seed or chia seed with water (try one tablespoon of the ground seed blended with three tablespoons of water), silken tofu, or aquafaba (the liquid in a can of garbanzo beans).

3. Chocolate

Chocolate is naturally free of animal products, and the higher the percentage of cacao (the darker the chocolate), the more likely it is to be dairy-free. Double check the ingredients list to make sure that milk is absent. And to support better labor practices and farming methods, look for brands with labels like FAIRTRADE International, Fair Trade Certified, Equal Exchange or Rainforest Alliance Certified. Check out Green America’s Chocolate Scorecard for a comprehensive guide!

4. Milk

Over the last few years, a deluge of non-dairy beverages has hit grocery stores. There are now alternative beverages made from soy, almond, cashew, macadamia, coconut, hemp, oat, rice, banana, pea protein and more. Some of these beverages work better in baking than others, depending on the recipe.

5. Heavy cream

Once again, silken tofu takes the stage. Silken tofu can be blended alone or with soy milk, depending on the consistency you want. If you’d rather use coconut, you can make coconut cream with coconut milk (store the can in the fridge and skim off the solidified coconut cream). You can also blend an alternative beverage such as soy or rice with margarine or olive oil.

Grab some recipes

You may want specific recipes for the exact measurements of these swaps, tailored to what you are baking. Check out some of these great blogs for vegan-baked good inspiration:

Don’t forget ice cream

As an ice cream fanatic, I can’t emphasize enough that non-dairy ice creams have greatly improved in recent years. Fabulous ice cream products can be made from soy, almond, cashew, coconut, hemp, oat, rice… Have you already tried almond-based ice cream and didn’t like it? Try coconut or oat instead!

Lastly, don’t forget the products which are already vegan by default, like most dark chocolate. Other options include graham crackers, Oreos, sorbet and lots of candy.

So, this holiday, indulge in outstanding desserts while also keeping it plant-based! Planet Earth will thank you. To learn more about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet, check out Earth Day Network’s campaign Foodprints for the Future.