The Ultimate Vegan Guide to French Cooking

The Ultimate Vegan Guide to French Cooking

Convert Classic French Dishes into Vegan Versions with the Below Recipes

Many things probably come to mind when you think of French cuisine. The adjectives elegant, romantic, and rich might be on that list. But perhaps the furthest thing from your mind when you think of French cooking is the word “vegan.” Let’s face it—the French do love their meat. In a recent blog, we provided some ideas for how to follow a vegetarian diet when traveling in France, whose cuisine is dominated by meat. But in a cuisine that also relies so heavily on cheeses, butter, eggs, and rich, creamy, sauces, how can you go a step further and enjoy vegan French food without just depending on salads? That might be a little tricky when you’re traveling, but if you’re up for doing some French cooking at home, it’s absolutely possible to make yourself some yummy vegan delicacies that taste just like the original recipe. Let’s take a look at how we can make some classic vegetarian French dishes vegan.

Specifically, we’ll look at French onion soup, vegetable quiche, croque-madame, gratin dauphinois, gougères, and crepes.

Vegan French Onion Soup

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French onion soup is usually made with some sort of meat stock (usually beef). It contains onions and is usually has gratinéed croutons and cheese on top of a large piece of bread. The first step to making a vegan French onion soup is to use vegetable stock instead of meat stock.

What if I can’t find vegetable stock?

If you can’t find vegetable stock, another way to make the broth is by combining some dry white wine, water, low-sodium soy sauce or tamari (tamari is gluten-free), balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, thyme sprigs, and sea salt. You could also use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce or tamari. Whichever option you choose, just make sure not to add too much, as the flavor can become overpowering.

What about the cheese?

These days, many if not most grocery stores carry vegan cheeses. But you can also make the “cheese” yourself at home. Simply use a high-powered blender to blend 2/3 cups of water, ½ cup of raw cashews, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder or cornstarch, and ½ tablespoon of sea salt. In place of white wine vinegar and arrowroot powder, you could also use tapioca starch and a plant-based milk for a nice, stretchy vegan cheese.

What if I don’t have a high-powered blender?

If you don’t have a high-powered blender, soak the cashews in hot water for 30-45 minutes before blending.

What if I don’t want to use nuts?

If you don’t want to use nuts to make your vegan cheese, blend a cup of water, 2 small cloves of roasted garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup of nutritional yeast, 3 tablespoons of quick-cooking rolled oats, 1 tablespoon of arrowroot and cornstarch, 1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard, 1 ½ teaspoons of onion powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1-2 tablespoons of tahini. The more tahini you use, the cheesier your vegan cheese will be.

Can I just not use cheese?

Remember that while cheese is common in many French onion soup recipes, it is not required. So if you don’t want to bother with the cheese, no problem. Just use a vegetable broth and the onions, adding any spices and herbs you wish to give it the perfect flavor. Many people say red wine is a great way to enhance the flavor.

Vegan Vegetable QuicheOSBlog5_VeganGuideFrenchCooking_VegetableQuiche-300x200 The Ultimate Vegan Guide to French Cooking

Quiche is a savory, open-crust pastry made with eggs, milk or cream, cheeses, and meat, seafood, or vegetables. Obviously, your vegan quiche will be made with vegetables or plant-based meat alternatives.

How do I make the pie crust vegan?

You can find vegan pie crusts for your quiche at the grocery store. Just be sure to check the ingredients and make sure they don’t contain any dairy or lard. If you wanted to make your pie crust at home, just use vegan butter, shortening, or vegetable oils instead of butter or lard. If the recipe requires milk, simply substitute a plant-based milk. Chickpea flour can make a good base for a vegan pie crust.

What vegetables can I use in my quiche?

You can use whichever vegetables you would like. Vegetables typically used in traditional French quiches include onions, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, leeks, and/or asparagus.

How do I replace the dairy in a quiche?

Tofu is an easy base to use for a vegan quiche. One way to do it is to mix some extra-firm silken tofu, hummus, and nutritional yeast for an egg-like flavor and texture. You could also blend tofu and soy or another plant-based milk with herbs and spices, such as turmeric, lemon juice, nutmeg, soy sauce, tamari, oregano, sage, and basil. For a super eggy taste and smell, you can also add black salt (kala namak). Some people find this a bit overpowering, but it’s certainly an option. Note that if you’re going to use the black salt, you may want to cut back on some of the other ingredients that have a strong flavor, such as tamari. Some people find tamari too overpowering even without the black salt, in which case you can use less or omit it completely.

What if I want to go soy-free and don’t want to use tofu?

You can make this recipe soy-free by replacing the tofu with a mixture of chickpea flour, spices, herbs, nutritional yeast, and oil.

Vegan Croque-Madame

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A croque-madame is a baked or fried ham and cheese sandwich, usually made with béchamel sauce, topped with a fried egg. To make this recipe vegan, start by omitting the ham. If you wish, you can use a vegan ham substitute, here is a great list put together by peta2.

How can I get the egg yolk needed for the recipe without using an egg?

There’s a company called The Vegg, which makes 100% plant-based egg yolk replacements that mimic the taste and texture of egg yolk using all natural products. You can blend some Vegg and pour it over your finished recipe—you’ll hardly notice the difference if at all.

How can I make the cheese vegan?

You can either buy vegan cheese from the grocery store, or you can make the cheese at home using any of the recipes discussed above.

How can I make a vegan béchamel sauce?

First, you can replace any milk in the recipe with unsweetened soy milk. Aim for a brand that has a thickening agent, such as Silk. You’ll want to pour it in gradually and whisk to prevent lumps. For a thicker sauce, you can add more flour, and for a thinner sauce, you can add more soy milk. Some people also use vegan butter in the recipe but keep in mind that this will have a strong flavor. If you don’t want to use vegan butter, you can use olive oil.

Can the vegan béchamel sauce be made without soy milk?

Yes, you can use any plant-based milk to make a vegan béchamel sauce. Whichever milk you use, make sure you get the unsweetened version. Otherwise, your sauce will end up tasting sweeter. The recipe can also be made with vegetable stock, but it, of course, won’t be as creamy.

Vegan Gratin Dauphinois

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Gratin dauphinois is a dish made with potatoes and crème fraiche. It’s easy to make this recipe vegan by simply using a plant-based milk and cream instead of the dairy-based milk and cream. Be sure to use the full-fat version of whatever dairy-free milk you choose to achieve maximum thickness.

How can I give my gratin dauphinois a cheesy flavor without using any cheese?

To give your gratin dauphinois a cheesy flavor, simply add some (or lots of) nutritional yeast and any other seasonings to taste. You can also add vegan cheese to this recipe by adding a store-bought brand or by making the cheese yourself using the guidelines discussed above.

I’m worried about my sauce coming out too sweet.

Again, you’ll want to use an unsweetened plant-based milk, or else your sauce might end up being too sweet. A word of caution: even when using the unsweetened version, some people find coconut milk too sweet, which can affect the flavor of your dish. In this case, using another plant-based milk might be better. However, if you only have access to coconut milk, you can offset some of the sweetness by adding another flavor, for example, saffron.

I’m worried about my sauce being too thin.

For an authentic French gratin dauphinois, you want your sauce to be nice and thick. To ensure thickness, remember to use a full-fat plant-based milk, as noted above. In addition, you can add some cornflour gradually till you reach desired texture. Make sure to dissolve the cornflour in a bit of water before adding it to the sauce. Otherwise, it will clump up in the milk instead of being evenly distributed. You can also add some dairy-free butter for more thickness.

Vegan Gougères

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Gougères are cheesy puff pastries, usually made with Swiss or Gruyere cheese. It is simple to make this vegan – impress your friends with our vegan gougères recipe below!

How can I make the dough vegan?

You can replace the egg in your dough recipe with flax seed powder. Remember that 1 cup of ground flax seed powder plus 3 cups of water gives you one flax seed egg. The butter in the recipe can be replaced with vegan margarine or butter.

How can I make the cheese vegan?

You can buy vegan cheese from the grocery store or make it on your own using the guidelines discussed above.

Can I make this recipe without cheese?

You can. They won’t quite be gougères, but puff pastries without cheese do make for a nice dessert. Alternatively, if you wanted to give your gougères a cheesy flavor without actually adding any vegan cheese, simply add some nutritional yeast to your dough.

Vegan Crepes

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Savory or sweet, crepes are a French favorite. They are thin, French-style pancakes that can be filled with anything from butter and powdered sugar, to Nutella and fruit, to vegetables in meat. The first step to making vegan crepes is to ensure that any fillings or toppings you’re going to use are vegan. Now for making the crepes themselves. Your batter will contain unflavored, non-dairy milk and non-dairy butter. Vegetable oil can also be used in place of butter.

How can I replace the egg in this recipe?

As an egg replacement, you can use flax seed mixed with water. However, crepes are also easy to make without an egg replacement, as it is not necessary. Simply combine your non-dairy milk and butter/oil, water, sifted all-purpose flour, baking powder, and sugar. You can also add in maple syrup and/or vanilla extract if you wish.

Can I make my vegan crepes gluten-free?

To make this recipe gluten-free, use sifted oat flour instead of all-purpose flour.

How do you feel about these recipes? Have you tried these? Do you have more of your own? If you are passionate about vegan or vegetarian recipes, French cuisine, cooking, or anything else under the sun, check out Konversai. Konversai is a new global knowledge platform where providers of knowledge and seekers of knowledge on any topic of interest, no matter how extraordinary or mundane, are able to connect via one-on-one live video conversations. Founded on the premise that everybody everywhere in the world has valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences that can benefit other people, Konversai allows knowledge providers the ability to monetize what they know on their own time and own terms and knowledge seekers the ability to receive tailored, personalized knowledge on exactly what they want to know. Knowledge providers who don’t need the money have the option of holding sessions for free or donating their earnings to a charity of their choice. Any and all knowledge, skills, and experiences have a place on Konversai, whether it be about sports, travel, food, wine, coffee, yoga, languages, colleges, makeup, academic subjects, or something else entirely. The only limit is your imagination. Join the fun today!

Written by: Pavita Singh

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  1. Alison. Vegan White Sauce (Béchamel). Loving It Vegan.
  2. Alissa. (2016). How to Make a Vegan Quiche. Oh My Veggies.
  3. Ashley. (2017). Vegan French Onion Soup with Homemade Mozzarella. Blissful Basil.
  4. Avey, Tori. Dairy-Free Saffron Scalloped Potatoes.
  5. Dana. Simple Tofu Quiche. Minimalist Baker.
  6. Edwards, Terri. (2016). Vegan French Onion Soup. Eat Plant-Based.
  7. Hiser, Chrysta. (2017). Chickpea Flour Quiche [Vegan]. One Green Planet.
  8. Huggins, Melissa. (2015). Vegan French Onion Soup. Vegan Huggs.
  9. Stacy. (2013). Croque Madame. Vegan Fatty Boombalatty.
  10. Williams, Rhian. (2016). Vegan Potato Dauphinoise Gratin (GF). Rhian’s Recipes.
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