10 Plant-Based Dessert Hacks

We’ve all been there. Guests are arriving to dine at your home in an hour, and all that’s left to whip up is dessert. You know your recipe off by heart and so you start cracking… until you realise you’re out of eggs. And butter. And milk. Only the essentials. What do you do?

Whether you’re trying out plant-based eating, have totally made the switch, or you’re simply in a pickle… these hacks will have your back (and deliciously so). You may just find yourself running out of your everyday ingredients on purpose!

Instead of eggs, try applesauce

Applesauce can be made in 30 minutes using three simple ingredients: peeled, cored and chopped apples, cooked in sugar and water. After simmering them over heat, blend until smooth. 3 tablespoons of applesauce will give you the equivalent of 1 egg. The best part about this sauce is it can sit in your fridge for up to two weeks and can even be kept frozen for those last-minute dire situations. An apple a day keeps the eggs away… or how did it go again?

Or try aquafaba

There are few things that sound less appealing than legume juice. Who would have thought that the liquid floating around in your chickpea tin could turn into delicate white meringue tufts? Now that’s a Cinderella story! To make aquafaba, simply drain a can of chickpeas and measure out how many ‘eggs’ you need. 2 tablespoons give you 1 egg white (while 3 tablespoons give you the equivalent of a whole egg). Whip up the liquid using a hand or stand mixer. Within 3-6 minutes, soft peaks should start forming in your bowl. It’s simple, sustainable, and almost as if chickpeas are insisting you follow your meal with dessert!

Try a plant-based milk

While there seems to be no shortage of alternative milks available these days, it’s important to know which ones substitute most effectively. For the best swap, consider the flavours and needs of your specific dessert, while also paying attention to whether your alternative milk is sweetened or not, as this will impact your recipe. Soy milk is the highest protein plant-based alternative which is useful for desserts that require structure, but almond and oat milk make great options too. All of these milks substitute at a 1:1 ratio for cow’s milk. Rice milk tends to be too watered down to be of use without some sort of thickening agent, so we recommend skipping it unless you’re in a total emergency!

Instead of cream, try coconut cream

While the rich, satisfying flavour of pure cream is undoubtedly delectable, coconut cream makes saying goodbye to dairy quite easy! Subtly sweet, versatile, and healthier for you, coconut cream is not just for the lactose-intolerant among us. Its unique tropical taste takes desserts to another level, like a holiday for your palette: complimenting fruit, enhancing puddings and pies, and even forming a delicious base for plant-based ice-cream. Its subtle nuttiness pairs perfectly with vanilla, chocolate, and carrot cakes, and it can be whipped just like standard cream. If that isn’t enough, it’s also more sustainable in production, making use of fewer resources than needed for cream from dairy cows. Now that’s a truly guilt-free dessert!

Instead of butter, try coconut oil

Coconut oil makes a brilliant butter substitute: it’s thicker than plant-based oils, semi-solid at room temperature and can be used in both hardened or melted states. While butter is 80% fat and 20% water, coconut oil is 100% fat, meaning you will not need as much of it in substitution. It’s best to research the correct ratio needed for your particular dessert before swapping it out, but 1 cup of butter to ¾ cup coconut oil typically does the trick. If you want to skip the coconut flavour, remember to use the ‘refined’ kind. What makes this plant-based substitute an absolute gem is its nutritional value: the saturated-fats are really good for you and can improve your cholesterol levels, giving you all the more reason to skip the butter entirely in the future.

Instead of caramel, try sweet potato

We should have seen it coming… it’s hidden in the name! Sweet potatoes make a great alternative caramel sauce, with an earthy undertone. To make it you’ll need to form a puree out of the potatoes, from which you’ll extract the liquid. This can be done by cooking peeled and roughly chopped sweet potatoes in an oven dish, covered with water, and cooked under foil. Puree once out of the oven, place the pulp into a cheesecloth, and squeeze out the liquid sauce. Bring this liquid to a boil in a saucepan, reduce to a simmer and stir until it thickens like caramel. This makes a gorgeous sticky sauce for topping pancakes, brownies, or ice-cream and the sneakiest way to get in your vegetables for the day!

Instead of ice-cream, try bananas

Nature really simplified things on our behalf, offering us a whole ice-cream in one fruit. Bananas are creamy, naturally sweet and can turn into a crowd-pleasing dessert even once they have passed their sell-by date! Never let a brown banana go to waste again: simply peel, cut into pieces and pop into the freezer. Then, all those frozen banana bits need is a whirl in the blender to turn them effortlessly into ice-cream. And if you’re really in the mood to more than the bare minimum, jazz it up with peanut butter, cocoa powder, or any other fruits to make your flavour fantasies come true!

Instead of honey, try maple syrup

While one could always reach for an artificial sweetener, which promises to add the desired flavour to a dessert (though it most often falls short), few things beat the authenticity of nature’s own sweetener. Maple syrup is a beautiful plant-based alternative to honey. Its flavour is rich and delicious, somewhat caramelised yet subtly earthy. It has antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, as well as a lower glycaemic index than honey, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar. Best of all, the production of this syrup is sustainable, made in such a way that the trees aren’t harmed and can keep flourishing while outpouring their sweet sap for generations to come. Now that’s the bee’s knees!

Instead of biscuits, try nuts

Often biscuits contain a sneaky portion of dairy in them which eliminates them from the plant-based diet. Luckily, there is a nut for every occasion, providing a healthier, more nutrient, carb-free substitute. Rather than using biscuits in bases, like the crust of a cheesecake, use finely ground pecans, almonds, or walnuts instead. Bind together with coconut oil, sweeten with maple syrup, and press into your baking dish. And when it comes to toppings, replace biscuits on a cobbler or parfait with a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts, pistachios, or almonds. You can even exchange the flour for nuts in your favourite cookie recipe, giving you a protein packed portion of goodness that still satisfies the cravings!

Instead of cheese, try cashews

Speaking of nuts, look no further than the cashew as the answer to your cheese substitution needs. The trick is to soak the nuts overnight in water, and then blend together with a sweetener like dates or maple syrup. Flavour in any direction of your choosing: with vanilla extract, lemon, cinnamon, or cocoa. If making a cheesecake (with a nut crust, now that you know how!), pour this combined mixture over your base and chill until firm. Or just imagine it… spiced carrot cake with a thick coat of dreamy cashew cream cheese frosting! Plant-based eating doesn’t sound so hard after all now does it?