Perhaps you already have a recipe you enjoy that you’d like to convert into a great vegan dish or vegan waffle topping recipe, if you could simply find a substitute for the non-vegan ingredients. Here are a few easy substitutions with ingredients that aren’t too difficult to find, especially if you have a local food co-op, Whole Foods or health food store.
MILK: soymilk or ricemilk (or even almond milk, if you prefer). Note that soymilk comes in a variety of flavors if you wish to be creative, but unsweetened, unflavored soymilk will come the closest. We usually use the latter because that’s what we generally keep on hand for other purposes.
BUTTER: Canola or safflower oil, a butter substitute based upon these vegetable oils (e.g., Earth Balance), or even applesauce will work. Applesauce makes the waffle close to being fat-free, but we still prefer using some oil to add a little extra “richness” and prevent sticking, even when using applesauce.
SOUR CREAM OR CREAM CHEESE: A company named Tofutti makes dairy-free, soy-based versions of both of these; just be sure to get the NON-hydrogenated version (yellow/white, not blue/white) container of the cream cheese if possible, as trans-fats aren’t very healthy.
BEEF & CHICKEN: We’ve made excellent vegan versions of chile, cheese/beef, and sloppy joe with SmartGround and Gimme Lean, beef substitutes that you simply open up, crumble into a pan with some olive oil, saute for a few minutes (with onion and spices if necessary), and then mix in with your favorite dish. The oil helps satisfy the craving for the fat, which is much of what many people miss about the flavor of meat–in this case, however, you can control how much oil/fat you want to have, and avoid the cholesterol and most of the saturated fat altogether. You can also buy veggie burgers, cook them, and crumble them up. While not quite as meat-like, you can also use seitan, based upon wheat gluten, as a chicken or beef substitute; or you can buy meatless chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces to use in a topping–e.g., if you want to make vegan chicken and waffles. There are many other meat substitutes on the market, including tempeh, spiced soy sausages, and stir-fry strips.
EGG: For many recipes, the baking powder and baking soda take care of the leavening on their own, and ingredients such as banana and gluten in grains take care of the binding. However, I often add a little egg replacer for a little additional fluffiness and binding, as vegan waffles do sometimes have an additional tendency to stick, especially if your waffle iron is relatively low-power (below 1,100 watts) or spreads its power across a very large surface. The recipes we include or reference here already factor in an egg replacer, with the amount already defined, so you don’t have to worry about “experimenting.” Beyond this, consult Jo Stepaniak’s “Grassroots Veganism” site for a number of recommended egg equivalents. In addition to her recommendations, we’ve had good success with Ener-G egg replacer (available in Pittsburgh at the East End Food Coop–even though one box is just under $5.00, it’s the equivalent of several dozen eggs) and pumpkin. Jo also mentions finely ground flaxseed mixed with water–note that if you invest in a standard $15 coffee grinder, you can then grind a small amount every few days to put on your breakfast cereal to provide a regular (and cholesterol-free!) source of omega-3 fatty acids. The Post Punk Kitchen offers similar ideas on egg equivalents. My wife recently developed an excellent vegan peanut butter cookie recipe using the flaxseed and water substitution, and I plan to post the results of my experiments with flaxseeds in waffles here in the future.