Winter Vegan Comfort Foods

Written by Karina N. Almanza, CSUN Dietetic Intern

When I tell people I’m a vegan, 80% of them will respond, “Wow, I could never be a vegan.” The other 20% think it might be attributed to a career in nutrition as an aspiring Registered Dietitian or just all together think I’m crazy. Granted, I am slightly crazy but that’s just part of my quirky personality and has nothing to do with the title I take on as a vegan.

A vegan is an individual who abstains from the consumption of animal-related products avoiding meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products (butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream) and honey. Other hidden sources of animal-related products could be seen in gelatin, baked goods (including cakes, breads and cookies), some wines, some sugars, and dishes that use fish sauce/oil. Now you might be thinking, “Why would anyone be a vegan?” Here are three of the top reasons to practice a vegan diet.

Health Benefits

A vegan diet promotes the exclusion of animal fats that are attributed to illnesses and conditions including, but not short of, heart disease (the #1 leading killer in the US), cancer (the 2nd leading killer in the US), diabetes,
arthritis, hypertension, and obesity. A vegan diet encourages lower body mass index, lower blood pressure and a longer life.

Better for the Environment

A plant-based diet is eco-friendly and a sustainable lifestyle for the environment. Meat
production requires a significantly higher use of land, energy and water.

Animal Protection and Rights

Organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have been encouraging the practice of veganism or vegetarian diets for several years.

What are the different health benefits of veganism over vegetarianism?

The difference in diets is the exclusion of milk, dairy products, and eggs. Vegans do not consume any cholesterol from foods whatsoever. Excluding dairy products also promotes elimination of saturated and trans fats that can be commonly seen in baked goods, ice cream, and different cheeses.

With these exclusions, it might seem impossible to enjoy the usual comfort foods the winter
season brings forward like mashed potatoes with gravy, mac n’ cheese, leftover thanksgiving sandwiches,
tamales or hot cocoa. I’m here to tell you that it is possible! The demand for plant-based diets has
increased and several individuals have come forward with creative ideas and approaches.

Here are my top 13 vegan baking substitution tips:

1. Eggs → powdered egg replacer (potato and tapioca starches)

2. Eggs (unsweetened baking) → ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water

3. Eggs (sweetened baking)→ mashed banana

4. Egg fluffiness → 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

5. Foam of egg whites → aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)

6. 2% Milk → Soy Milk

7. Whipping Cream and Half and Half → Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk

8. Buttermilk → 1 cup of Soy Milk with 1 tablespoon of Lemon or Vinegar

9. Condensed milk → Coconut Milk with White Sugar and Vanilla Extract

10. Butter → Vegan spread or Coconut Oil or Avocado

11. Honey → Maple Syrup or Molasses Agave Nectar

12. Chocolate → Cocoa Powder

13. Frosting or Filling → Powdered Sugar mixed with Coconut Oil or Cashew Cream

It all sounds foreign at first but these substitutes call for great recipes and a whole new
level of potential in the kitchen. I’ll end this post with my favorite recipe that always wins the trophy at
potlucks. It might be out of your comfort zone but I dare you to endeavor in this recipe of vegan Mac N’

Super Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Author: Lindsay Rey

Incorporated with tips from Karina Almanza

Serves: 4-5


  • 10 ounces dried macaroni (or about 2⅔ cups)
  • 1 cup peeled/diced yellow potatoes (or russets)
  • ¼ cup peeled/diced carrots
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup water (preferably use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup coconut almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 pinch paprika

Tip from Karina : If you would like to make a whole box of macaroni, double the quantity of
each ingredient in the recipe!


  1. Cook macaroni al dente, according to package instructions (usually requires boiling for 6-8 minutes in salted water), drain, and set aside.
  2. Bring several cups of water to boil in a small pot. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, and onion in the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft enough to blend. Cooking time will vary slightly, based on how small you have chopped your veggies.
  3. When veggies are soft enough to blend, use a slotted spoon to remove them from cooking water, and place them in your blender. Add ¾ cup of that cooking water to your blender, along with your remaining ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour sauce over your cooked macaroni noodles in a dish of your choice, taste for salt, and serve immediately.
  6. Or, place macaroni mixture in a baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until crumbs are turning golden brown.

Vegan Dining near CSUN Campus

There are several vegan restaurants around the CSUN area including Veggie Grill (Woodland
Hills), Follow Your Heart (Canoga Park), and Vihn Loi Tofu (Reseda). Do you know of other vegan dining restaurants in the area? Or vegan baking substitutions? Tell us your vegan tips in the comments section below.

People with nut allergies:

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