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16 Essential Vegan Products You Need for Fall and Winter Baking

From cozy spices to alternative flours, these are the must-have ingredients your pantry needs this baking season.   

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The fall and winter seasons are meant for breezy, no-hassle baking. No one wants to be in baker’s mode only to realize a few missing ingredients are separating them from the perfect creation. By the time you make the blustery trek to the store, the passion to bake is often gone. Prepare your pantry well, and you can whip up pumpkin pie bars or an apple crumble whenever your heart desires. Here are 16 vegan essentials to keep on hand September through February. 

But first, let’s take a look at what vegan baking actually is and which ingredients to be mindful of, as well as some of the benefits of swapping out animal products for plant-based ingredients. 

What is vegan baking?

Vegan baking is just like regular baking, only without the eggs, cow’s milk, and dairy butter. Because, of course, these ingredients are all animal byproducts. With that in mind, vegan baking does require a few swaps. Some of these are simple, like swapping dairy butter for a vegan alternative. Others can feel a little more complicated at first, like swapping eggs for a store-bought egg replacer (or even aquafaba!).

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If you’re new to whipping up a sweet treat without animal products, finding alternatives to your usual go-tos can feel a little intimidating. But we’re here to show you that when you know how, vegan baking can be simple and delicious. You won’t feel the need to go back to regular animal ingredients again. For more guidance, check out our guide on How to Bake Vegan or follow these vegan baking tips from pastry chef Fran Costigan. You can also keep reading to find out more about three baking staples: flour, butter, and eggs.

Is flour vegan?

Pretty much all flour varieties are vegan, however, there are some unusual exceptions. Bug flours, for example, are becoming more popular. Yep, you read that correctly. In some markets, you can find cricket flour or mealworm flour. However, this is not the norm. Most mainstream flours, such as white, whole wheat, self-raising, and all-purpose, are vegan. 

While some have raised concerns in the past that white flour contains bone char, the Vegan Society has confirmed there is no evidence to support these claims.

Is butter vegan?

Butter is another key part of baking. Some people who are lactose intolerant continue to eat butter, so there can be confusion around whether it contains dairy or not. But for the most part, butter is made with cow’s milk, or occasionally, sheep’s, goat’s, or yak’s milk, which means it is not vegan. 

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The reason some with lactose intolerance continue to eat butter is because it is often lower in lactose than other dairy products. However, there are plenty of plant-based butter alternatives available. Check out The Comprehensive Guide to Vegan Butter for an in-depth round-up of all the vegan butters on the market. 

Vegan baking without eggs

Because eggs come from birds, they are, evidently, not vegan. The most common type of egg used in baking is a chicken’s egg, although some people also choose to use duck eggs or quail eggs, too. But you don’t need to use eggs at all. Because they serve as a binding ingredient, many plant-based alternatives, like flax seeds, mashed banana, and applesauce can do the same job. Aquafaba (also known as chickpea brine) is another popular alternative. For tips on how to make and use aquafaba, follow our guide—but beware! It just might change your life. 

Is vegan baking healthier?

Let’s begin by saying that vegan desserts are not health foods (unless you’re following a recipe that specifically prioritizes nutrition). Just because you’ve swapped animal butter for vegan butter doesn’t mean cake is now good for you. (Sorry.) 

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But as many animal products, like butter and egg, are high in cholesterol, cutting them out may benefit your health. That said, be mindful of what you replace them with if you’re trying to bake healthier treats. Coconut oil, for example, is high in saturated fat. Of all cooking or baking oils, canola has the lowest level of saturated fat. 

And, it goes without saying, but adding in ingredients like seeds and fruits will improve the overall nutritional content of your baked goods.

Vegan baking products

For more tips, swaps, and vegan baking ideas, we’ve gathered 16 vegan products you’ll need for fall and winter baking. (We’re talking all the cold weather classics, like warming apple pies, indulgent holiday desserts, and pumpkin spice muffins, you know the drill.)

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1Vegan butter

As noted above, there are plenty of vegan butter alternatives available. This is important, because butter is an essential baking ingredient. Without vegan butter, there is very little you can do in the world of fall and winter baking. It’s essential for flaky pie crusts, cookies, buttercreams, rich dessert bars, crumbly toppings, and more. Stock up so you’ll always be ready to whip up something delicious.  

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2Coconut oil

Unless a recipe specifically allows you to swap coconut oil for another vegetable oil, don’t do it. Because this oil is solid at room temperature, it’s a necessary component for no-bake desserts. Without it, they’d never firm up. Melted coconut oil can also double as an egg wash substitute for pie crusts and enriched breads. 

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3 Warming spices

The pumpkin pie spice is obvious, but if that’s the only spice you use during the fall or winter season, you’ll tire of it quickly. By using the individual spices that make up this spice mix, you can make certain flavors more pronounced or omit the ones you don’t like. Stock up on cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg (fresh, if you can get it), ginger, allspice, cardamom, and black peppercorns. The latter is a secret ingredient to make any pumpkin filling truly exceptional. It just takes a pinch of these crushed peppercorns to add a complementary depth of flavor to pies, bars, puddings, and cheesecakes. 

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4 Apple and pumpkin butter

These concentrated fruit spreads always make baked goods even better. You could make them yourself by cooking down a colossal amount of apples or pumpkin with sugar and some spices, but the jarred varieties are so much more convenient. Find these two products at virtually every supermarket during the holiday season, and keep one flavor of each on hand to schmear on apple spice muffins, pumpkin waffles, cinnamon pancakes, and flaky biscuits. 

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5Sweeteners

Granulated sugar is a given, but fall baking also calls for a few other sweet ingredients. You’ll need brown sugar for brownies, blondies, and cookies; powdered sugar for frostings and dusting bundt cakes; maple syrup for fillings and sweet sauces; and coconut sugar if you’re into alternative baking. 

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6Flours

Yes, you’ll need multiple types of flour—all-purpose, almond, and chickpea tend to be the most commonly used. As a general rule, you cannot substitute one for the other, so spare yourself the baking catastrophe and just store all three on hand in air-tight containers. For a longer shelf-life, keep them in the freezer (just be sure to bring them to room temperature before using). 

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7Cornstarch 

This is your go-to thickening agent for pies, cobblers, and puddings. Without it, you’d have a very watery apple pie. In a pinch, it can be substituted for flour, but it’s a bit of a gamble. 

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8Oats

What’s the difference between a crisp and a crumble? Oats. A crisp is oat-free, a crumble should always have oats. Pro tip: never buy oat flour. If you have old-fashioned oats on hand (not steel-cut), you can make your own oat flour at a fraction of the price by pulverizing oats in a high-speed blender

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9 Apples 

Whether you pick them at a local farm, select them from a farmer’s market, or bag them at the store, apples are the star of early fall baking, but they work in a number of wintery desserts too. When making cobblers, crisps, and pies, incorporate a mix of varieties for the best flavor and texture. Solid baking apples include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. 

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10Applesauce

Applesauce serves two applications —it can be used to swap out oil in a recipe for a healthy spin, and it can also act as an egg replacer in some recipes such as brownies and quick breads. Learn more about basic vegan baking swaps here

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11Canned pumpkin

There is no need to go through the hassle of making your own pumpkin purée. The canned option is convenient, affordable, and works just as well. Just be sure you’re grabbing pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling (the latter is sweetened and spiced). 

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12Full-fat coconut milk or cream

For creamy fillings, moist cakes, and fluffy whipped creams, you need a can of full-fat coconut milk. Many recipes call for just the solid part, so save time by storing a few cans in the fridge and do not shake them unless the recipe specifies. It tends to sell out during the holiday months, so make sure to stock up. 

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13 Vegan cream cheese

Who doesn’t love a giant, tender pumpkin spice muffin with a sweet cream cheese filling? Cream cheese frosting and pumpkin go hand-in-hand, so make sure you always have a tub in the fridge. Favorite brands include Kite Hill and Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese. 

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14Canned chickpeas

Don’t drain the chickpeas! You need the brine to make vegan meringue magic (aka aquafaba). When whisked into oblivion with a bit of sugar, this bean liquid transforms into pillowy-soft peaks that perfectly mimic an egg white. Throw the actual chickpeas onto a salad or make chickpea blondies. 

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15Vegan caramel

You could make your own, but we like to have a jar of Nature’s Charm Coconut Caramel Sauce on hand to instantly drizzle over apple spice cakes, vegan pumpkin ice cream, and whip cream-topped apple cider. 

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16 Vanilla

Vanilla is a flavor, but it’s also a complementary ingredient to a spectrum of other tastes. When vanilla isn’t the star of the show, it helps the rest of the cast shine, which is why we rarely bake something without it. You don’t have to splurge on the actual vanilla bean (though it is nice if you want a really pronounced vanilla flavor), but avoid imitation vanilla extract. A happy medium in price point between basic vanilla extract and vanilla bean is vanilla paste. It’s a blend of concentrated vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder. We like using this when baking for others and settle for a cheaper, all-natural vanilla extract for goodies just meant for the home. 

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