Here we go – it’s time for your #VeganStart!
Select the common breakfast item to zip to that section, or scroll through our entries for a full education. If you’ve got any tips or suggestions, let us know! Our follow-up page is ‘Sneaky Ingredients‘, where we describe what a number of common animal-derived ingredients are.
One thing is for certain: if you don’t already read labels, you’re going to be in for a surprise!
NOTE: The “#VeganStart Choice” brands listed are not sponsored, but rather are there to highlight all-vegan companies with related products. Tell us if we’re missing someone!
Common Breakfast Ingredients & Alternatives
Cereal itself can be hit and miss, but ‘plain’ cereals (corn flakes, rice crispies) are often vegan (please consider choosing organic brands if you can to support better ecological stewardship). The most common culprits are honey and dairy, including whey powder. Gelatin may be found in some as well, primarily cereals with marshmallows or Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats. (Visit our Sneaky Ingredients page for more info on these.)
In addition, be wary of mysterious ingredients, like various triglycerides. They’re a lot more tricky to decipher. (Don’t worry about the supplemented vitamins, which are typically vegan with one exception, Vitamin D3 described below.)
In the US, many commercial-brand cereals are fortified with Vitamin D3 (aka cholecalciferol), which is unlikely to be vegan. ‘Natural’ and organic companies are more likely to be free of Vitamin D3 or have Vitamin D2 (aka ergocalciferol) instead, which is always vegan.
A surprising number of granola brands have honey, as well as dairy, including whey powder, but there tends to be less of the the ‘sneaky’ ingredients in granola, making reading the label less of a struggle.
If you’re buying plain oats, then you’re in the clear! Be sure to try out different varieties. Instant oats are quick to prepare, but less nutritious due to more processing. Regular ‘rolled oats’ are a preferred choice, retaining much more nutrition and, in reality, take only a few minutes more to cook. There are lots of oat varieties. Take a look around your natural food store and try a few out!
Flavoured packages of instant oatmeal will have some extra ingredients to watch out for, much like cereals.
Keep your eyes open for our up-coming recipe section where we’ll be featuring many tasty variations on oatmeal!
Finding a vegan bread can be tricky. Whey and honey are very common, as is an egg coating on ‘fresh’ loaves. Many commercial brands use tricky ingredients like sodium stearoyl lactylate (which may or may not come from animals) and L-cysteine (which is typically made from human hair or duck feathers. Yes, seriously! More details here.)
Rather than navigate this mess, we encourage finding healthier, less processed breads. Some you can find alongside commercial breads, and others you might have to track down at natural or health food stores.
Be sure to try different flavours and brands as there are many options. One popular new offering uses sprouted grains. Companies like Silver Hills actually use no flour; it’s made with sprouted wheat and other grains. Still light and puffy and no different from any other full-grain bread, yet it can offer much more nutrition.
If you bake your own bread, then you have full control over the ingredients. If this is the case, scroll down for some suggested replacements for animal products in bread baking.
Common Breakfast Ingredients
Milk is simple to replace – there is an incredible and delicious selection of non-dairy milks. Our best tip is to be sure to try out a number of different options and see which appeals to you the most – do a blind taste test with friends and family! In addition to the base ingredient (bean, grain, seed or nut), you also often have the choice of unsweetened or flavoured, like vanilla or chocolate.
Non-dairy milks are just that, and it’s important not to expect them to taste like cow’s milk. If you’re new to them, treat them as a new food. A good attitude when sampling these new foods is to try and appreciate them for the unique flavours that they offer. And if at first they don’t appeal, try returning to them. Our palates change over time, and what was unappealing in the past, may be more appealing now. (Personal note: the first hemp milk products were pretty unpleasant to me. I couldn’t even finish the carton and poured it down the drain. Now, they’re much improved!) But beware: if you expect these to taste like cow’s milk, you will probably be disappointed.
Most non-dairy brands are vegan; although keep an eye out as we have seen some that have honey or Vitamin D3, though this is rare. There are some ‘blended’ brands to watch out for as well – such as almond milk with cow’s milk (technically, milk powder).
- Soy milk is one of the ‘originals’ and often the most nutritious, offering more protein and fibre than most, as well as beneficial phytonutrients. Some brands are minimally processed and contain not much more than ground soy beans. Others can barely be called soy milk and are a highly processed mixture of soy protein powder, sugar and flavouring. The taste of this mixture can be very controlled and might be more familiar, but try to aim for a more quality product. Make sure you go with organic soy products; they contain fewer pesticides and are your best option if you’re concerned with GMOs.
- Almond milk is the next most common contender, overtaking soy in some areas. It’s typically more watery and light and has a less desirable nutrition profile with typically fewer calories and fat per serving.
- Rice milk used to be #2 to soy but has fallen in popularity to almond. It offers a bit more nutrition than almond and a similar watery consistency, but more calories than most others.
- Coconut milk is becoming very popular, likely due to its fatty nature! It’s also less nutritious but offers more fat than almond milk, although a similar number of calories.
- The list goes on … all these are commercial non-dairy milks that can be found on store shelves: flax milk, hempseed milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk, sunflower milk, quinoa milk, potato milk, cashew milk and macadamia nut milk. In addition to blends featuring two or more of the above, or made with mixtures of grains. Each has it’s own flavour and characteristics. Sample them all to find your favourites!
Enterprising individuals may also try making their own milks, often involving little more than boiling the beans, rice, nuts or seeds, blending and then straining or filtering out the solids.
There are several coffee creamers now available as well, and we recommend trying out the different brands and flavours to find which best suits you. As always, watch out for the yucky ones that are mostly chemicals.
This is a tough topic: there are several ‘vegan’ brands out there, including ‘Vegan Becel’, but as far as we know, all use palm oil, which is another hot mess and really worth avoiding if possible. For desperate consumers, Earth Balance is the defacto ‘vegan butter’, but they’re still contributing (directly or indirectly) to questionable practices which have a negative effect on animals, forests, and people (with the exception of their organic spread). If you’re in Australia, you’re in luck tho! They have a vegan spread/margarine that doesn’t contain palm!
You can also try making your own, this is an involved recipe, but sounds like it would be an amazing spread! Here’s another, but looks a lot faster and easier with only 4 ingredients.
We do have an easy, alternative suggestion: try using oil directly. This way, you’ll see how much fat you’re adding to your meals, and perhaps this will assist in reducing fat intake.
If you’re used to having a spread on toast, try dribbling on organic canola, olive or flax oil. Canola will taste the most like margarine (especially with a dash of salt), and if you like olive oil, or the nutty taste of flax, these will be sure to please. Alternatively, you can forego the spread entirely. You might not even miss it!
We’re on the lookout for a legitimate commercial vegan buttery spread, let us know if you come across anything!
There are a number of tasty vegan yogurts, most commonly made from soy, coconut and almond milk. The soy is typically more similar to familiar yogurts, and the coconut and almond are a bit more consistent with a pudding, in texture and flavour, but they all offer the same microbial benefits. Try them all to find your favourite!
#VeganStart Choice: WholeSoy & Co. (Canada & US)
Just a few years ago, this section would have been sparse, but a lot has been developed in that time, and we can offer some pretty neat suggestions for now and the future.
If you’re looking for a resemblance to the yolk of an egg, there’s The Vegg – a vegan egg! It’s a powder that mixes into a yolk-like substance, in taste and consistency, for those moments you need … well … something like that!
What about scrambled eggs? The Vegg also has you covered, with the first-ever ‘vegg scramble‘ which looks great! Also, Hampton Creek, who have developed Just Mayo, a delicious vegan mayo, is also working on Just Scramble. By all accounts, it will be a satisfactory replacement for scrambled eggs and will make a vegan transition that much easier.
A popular option that is also likely a lot more healthy, and which you can prepare now, is scrambled tofu – a long-time staple for vegan brunch menus. It’ll use many of the same ingredients as scrambled eggs or an omelette (mushrooms, green peppers, onions), and will share many of the same flavours. Until our recipe section is online, we recommend a quick search for ‘vegan tofu scramble recipe‘. When eating out for brunch, this is also likely found in many vegan-friendly restaurants.
Less well-known than scrambled tofu, yet equally popular with the taste buds is the protein-packed Pudla (using besan/chickpea flour). You can make it omlette-style or scrambled-style. Both are unprocessed, high nutrition bliss and oh so easy to prepare. Besan flour, also known as Gram or chickpea flour, is becoming more common in gluten-free sections of health food stores, although you’ll pay health food store prices there. You can also find it in stores which specialize in south Asian products where it’s usually much cheaper.
In preparing breakfast recipes that call for eggs, like pancakes or waffles, eggs aren’t needed. Generally replacing the egg’s moisture is sufficient. We’ll have recipes soon, but for now a simple search for terms like ‘vegan pancake recipe‘ will provide many options. Alternately, you can use an egg replacer product in your favourite recipes. You’ll be surprised at how superfluous eggs actually are!
* Extra Reading: What’s Wrong with Backyard Hens?