What's the trick to cooking for people who love meat when you don’t touch the stuff? Vinegar. Or nuts. Or a good charbroil. Vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli, the winner of Food Network’s "Cupcake Wars," provided TODAY with some easy cooking substitutions and strategies that will have even the hungriest carnivore asking for seconds on that vegan dish. Try one of them out on World Vegan Day, November 1.
Discover some secret ingredients: Vegan cooks are full of smart swaps, especially when it comes to baking. Coscarelli has a surprising trick for baking without butter or eggs: "One of my favorite secret ingredients is a little bit of vinegar. When you add some vinegar, it reacts with the baking soda and makes the cake really moist and fluffy. You don’t need eggs and you can’t taste the vinegar, I promise. It’s delicious and no one will ever know."
Turn up the heat: When cooking vegetables like mushrooms (a great meat stand in), cook them until crisp and slightly charred. "You get that crispy texture and smoky flavor, and it doesn’t really matter what the actual substance is," says Coscarelli.
Hit the sauce: Once you've got a nice char on those veggies, hit them with some sauce — creamy, spicy, garlicky... you make the call. "If you put a delicious sauce on it, no one will really know what the actual protein is," says Coscarelli.
Go nuts: Coscarelli loves to use nuts to add heft and richness to vegan dishes. For example, she says cashews blended with water are a "great substitute" for dairy in creamy dishes such as fettuccine Alfredo.
Take the moo out of your milk: In many recipes, almond, rice or soy milk can be used in place of cow's milk. "Another one of my favorite substitutions is coconut milk, especially when you’re baking," says Coscarelli. "It's kind of like nature's substitute for heavy cream and you don’t need dairy."