Exploring Vegan French Cuisine: How to Veganize Your Favorite French Dishes

Ooh la la, Vedge Your Besties!

There’s no denying the allure of French cuisine. Whether your favorite is coq au vin, bouillabaisse, or a simple, flaky croissant, the warmth and history of French food is a craving for many. Unfortunately, none of those traditional dishes are typically prepared vegan.

So, what happens when you’re a Vedge Head navigating the world of French gastronomy? Traditional French recipes often feature a host of non-vegan stars like meat, dairy, and eggs, meaning that those who follow a vegan lifestyle can be left out of the fun.

I’ve got good news, though, Besties: these challenges are just opportunities in disguise. Yes, you read that right! The splendor of French cuisine doesn’t have to be off-limits just because you’re vegan. You can enjoy all the richness and variety that French foods have to offer, and you can do it on your own terms.

In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that. With a few clever tweaks and swaps, I’m going to take you on a gastronomic journey through France—vegan style. Whether you’re a seasoned plant-based pro or just getting your feet wet, there’s something for everyone.

Let’s start with a toolkit of vegan substitutions for common non-vegan ingredients. Then we’ll roll up our sleeves and veganize some of the most iconic French dishes, transforming them step-by-step into plant-based masterpieces. Trust me; veganism and French cuisine can work together.

Ready to Vedge your best? . À votre santé, Besties…let’s get cooking!

blue enameled cast iron pot with lid on a red & white check towel, sitting on blue wood plank background. potatoes to left of pot. Words "Bon Appetit" to right of pot with drawn outlines of knife and fork

Understanding Vegan Substitutions

The charm of veganizing any cuisine, especially one as rich and varied as French, lies in the magic of substitutions.

Substituting ingredients is the secret code to unlocking a world of plant-based possibilities. The goal isn’t to perfectly mimic non-vegan ingredients; rather, it’s about celebrating the incredible diversity and creativity that plant-based eating encourages. Swapping out traditional, non-vegan ingredients gives us the opportunity to explore new flavors and textures while keeping the essence of the traditional version intact.

Many elements of French cuisine involve recipes that have been developed over centuries, honed to perfection with ingredients that are, unfortunately, often animal-based. That’s where our clever substitutions come into play. Want to make a creamy soup without dairy? There’s a substitution for that. Craving a flaky, buttery croissant? No problem. There’s a satisfying option for that as well.

Using substitutions doesn’t mean that you’re compromising on the authenticity of your dishes. Quite the contrary; you’re adding your own creative touch, reinterpreting the classics in a way that aligns with your values and dietary choices.

Let’s Get (French) Cooking! 

Now that you understand the basics of veganizing your favorite French recipes, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: what vegan substitutes can we use to create a delicious meal full of indulgent flavors reminiscent of those found in the French bistros we all adore?

Here’s your Vedge Your Best guide to common vegan substitutions.

Meat substitutes  

The star of many French classics, meat can be substituted with an array of plant-based alternatives. For a blend of flavors and textures that still bring a satisfying dish to your table, try tofu, tempeh, seitan, or jackfruit in place of the chicken in coq au vin or the beef in beef bourguignon. 

Mushrooms, particularly the meaty varieties, offer a delicious option as well. You can also experiment with various plant-based meats that have become readily available in markets.

mushrooms -- in a square wood bowl (background) and loose (foreground and sides)

Dairy substitutes  

Dairy products provide the creamy base for many French recipes. But don’t worry—plant-based milk, like nut and soy milk, can replace cow’s milk without missing a beat. Vegan butter or coconut oil can take the place of regular butter for sautéeing vegetables or in basic recipes. And guess what? We’ve found that soaked and blended cashews can emulate creamy sauces like the one in Potage Parmentier (potato-leek soup), making it a satisfying option for dairy-free dining.

Egg substitutes  

Eggs are often used in French cuisine for binding and enriching. But your vegan french toast and quiche don’t have to suffer without them! Use flax or chia seeds mixed with water, mashed bananas, or applesauce to replicate the binding properties of eggs. Commercial egg replacers and silken tofu are also available for recipes that need a particular eggy texture. And don’t forget about nutritional yeast—it’s a staple in many vegan kitchens for a reason!

Seafood substitutes

You may be wondering how to recreate the flavors of the sea found in French classics like bouillabaisse. Some hearty vegetables (fennel is a personal favorite), tofu, and certain types of mushrooms, like oyster or king, can mimic the texture and flavor of various types of sea life. There are also specialized vegan products on the market that recreate the unique tastes and textures of the ocean.

vegan vegetable tart
As a francophile myself, I was delighted back in 2020 when Annie Sargent from Join Us in France Podcast wrote her cookbook, Join Us At the Table: Easy French Recipes Anyone Can Make at Home. I had the privilege of being a tester for her Tian de Légumes recipe.

From Traditional Dish To Delicious Vegan Version

Making a vegan version of your favorite traditional French dish isn’t hard. It just requires some creativity. Let’s dive into some delicious options:

Vegan Ratatouille

Already a vegan-friendly recipe, ratatouille is a beautiful medley of zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with aromatic herbs like thyme and basil, this traditional French meal celebrates the fresh ingredients of the season.

roasted vegetables in a white bowl on a wood table top

Vegan Coq au Vin

Traditionally made with chicken, you can substitute tofu or meaty mushrooms like portobello or shiitake to create a satisfying dish. Simmer your “coq” in a rich broth of red wine and vegetable broth and add traditional coq au vin seasonings like thyme and bay leaves. Want an extra punch of flavor? Throw in some vegan bacon.

Vegan Quiche

Quiche without eggs? Absolutely! Start with a crust made from flour and vegan butter or oil. For the filling, blend silken tofu with nutritional yeast, turmeric, and black salt (also known as kala namak) for an eggy flavor. Mix in a variety of sautéed vegetables and bake until firm and golden.

mini vegan quiche with fork in background

Vegan Crêpes

For these thin French pancakes, substitute your favorite plant-based milk for regular milk and mix with flour, a pinch of salt, and a vegan egg substitute.  These crêpes can be filled with your choice of delicious sweet or savory fillings.

vegan crêpes with blueberries on a white plate

Vegan Cheese

Yes, cheese! Soak cashews until they’re soft and then blend with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and seasonings to get a creamy, tangy vegan cheese that’s a fantastic substitute for the dairy version. It’s perfect for pouring over dishes or simply enjoying with some crusty bread.

vegan cheese in a white bowl on dark background

Vegan French Onion Soup

Start with a strong vegetable broth to replace the traditional beef broth. The key to this soup lies in cooking the onions very slowly until they’re deeply caramelized. This process brings out the natural sweetness of the onions, creating a flavor depth similar to the traditional version. Finish with a thick slice of crusty bread and a generous sprinkle of melted vegan cheese.

bowl of french onion soup. bowl sitting on a plate with a spoon to the right. onion cut in half to right of spoon. french bread slices at top left

Remember: French cooking is as much about taking your time and enjoying the process as it is about enjoying the dish. The same applies to its vegan versions. Don’t rush through these recipes; instead, allow yourself to enjoy each step. From selecting the freshest produce to savoring the blend of flavors in the final product, take pleasure in the journey of creating vegan versions of these classic dishes. 

So, there you have it, Vedge Your Besties! It’s time to fall in love with French cuisine all over again, this time through a vegan lens. Here’s to a culinary journey that is as compassionate as it is delicious. Bon Appétit!

Special thanks to Sarala Terpstra, our vegan cooking expert, who was my guest on episode 151: Veganizing French Cuisine for the inspiration to create this guide. Her invaluable insights have greatly enriched this post and, by extension, our understanding of vegan French cuisine.

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