Non-sweet vegan baked goods
April 16, 2020 3:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for dessert/other baking recipes using flour but that do not call for sugar or other sweeteners. Like.. savory cake. Is there such a thing? To complicate things a bit, it must be vegan or easily veganized.
posted by cokelessrome to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe I’m totally mis-reading your question, but if you’re in the market for unsweetened cake: have you looked into bread? Plenty of vegan options available.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:20 PM on April 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should have clarified not bread but something more complex and recipe-ish if that makes any sense.
posted by cokelessrome at 3:24 PM on April 16, 2020

Examples I've actually tasted are corn bread and pear cake made with masa and only sweetened with the fruit that is present in the mix (so kind of like corn bread with pears but very soft). I think most quickbreads that contain fruit or veggies like zucchini can have the sugar omitted if you calculate the flour to balance out the wet ingredients. It may affect the texture some.
posted by annathea at 3:31 PM on April 16, 2020

If you make pie crust then you could do a savoury pie (I like to make Japanese curry pie). Or if you make puff pastry then you could do something like a vol-au-vent.

To me a savoury cake is bread. A savoury cookie is a cracker. So pies and pastries are what's left for baked goods.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:50 PM on April 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

So Chinese savoury vegetable cakes are steamed, not baked, but I feel like it might scratch the same itch. Personally I like them sliced and then pan fried after steaming, to make them crisp.

Usually they're made with Chinese sausage and sometimes with dried shrimp, but I found this vegan version: Vegan Wild Mushroom and Daikon Cake. Chinese radish is a...polarizing vegetable; some people love it and some hate it--it's really strong. So if you don't like it but you want to make this cake, you could substitute grated carrot for the grated radish. It will taste very different but it will still be good. (It'll be a little sweeter because carrots are naturally sweet.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:58 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

How about a vegan savory scone?
posted by Mouse Army at 4:01 PM on April 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Soft pretzels? (Sub oil for the melted butter, skip the egg wash.)
posted by BrashTech at 4:09 PM on April 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Look in your cookbooks or Google for "quick breads" some are sweet but some not and don't use yeast. They're quick to make.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:21 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe scones? You could flavour them with nutritional yeast, seaweed, garlic, herbs, veggies like corn or tomato, seeds like cashew or sesame, or unsweetened fruit plus a floral like lavender or rose.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2020

Sugar really affects texture; you might have more success looking for savory biscuits. If you want to avoid white sugar, maybe make muffins or quickbreads, using a small amount of honey, and adding fruit, and using juice or cider instead of milk. I use Mark Bittman's flexible muffin recipe. If you really reduce the sweet, it will help to use some fat for tenderness. I don't eat dairy, and routinely use apple cider, OJ or other juice to activate baking powder, and I adjust for the sweetness. Eggs add nice texture, too.
posted by theora55 at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also look for scones, as a subset of quickbread (many have cheese, but it is generally skippable). Olive and onion quickbread, garlic scones (this recipe has no cheese at all, I feel like it would enjoy some herbs and/or spices). Biscuit rings are usually made with canned biscuits but obviously you can replace with homemade.

You can make similar rings, pull-apart breads, knots etc with a focaccia recipe (use sugar stirred into a little water, or agave nectar or even maple syrup in lieu of honey, it's really just there to feed the yeast), and that's going to give you a smoother softer crumb.

Zucchini muffins, but you can use any vegetable that appeals - just as a rule of thumb you should pre-cook and/or drain/squeeze anything that's going to give off substantial moisture OR won't get soft in that amount of cooking time. For something like this, if you're able to get out and get your hands on some Miyoko's vegan cream cheese, it's real good.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:38 PM on April 16, 2020

Cake salé! (Savoury or salt cake)

Most of the recipes are in French, but here are a couple of English vegan ones.
posted by Sar at 4:39 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I agree that you're going to have a tough time getting anything to be traditionally cake-like without some sugar in the mix. Sugar is crazy important for texture and moisture when baking--it tenderizes for soft, lovely crumb and keeps cakes from becoming too dry. Without it, as suggested above, you often just end up with bread.

This Tahinópita cake does have some sugar in it, but it's definitely more savory than sweet in flavor, especially if you skip the glaze (which I always do).
posted by jesourie at 5:50 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think you can find the complexity/recipe quality in bread if you look into filled/stuffed loaves, sometimes called tear and share. A flavored bread dough, a savory filling, formed into shapes? You can get as fussy as you like.

Here’s one from GBBO.
posted by janell at 6:22 PM on April 16, 2020

Green onion cakes!
the dough can literally just be flour + water
the filling is just green onions (or whatever - could be garlic!)
1 ¼ cups flour
3/8 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon cold water
start with the hot water, add cold until the dough is workable
knead it until it's elastic - almost like pizza dough
let it sit covered in the fridge for ~30 mins
then roll it out (in little golf-ball sized portions)
spread some olive (or canola or whatever) oil
sprinkle your toppings (onions) and a little bit of salt
roll it up like a cinnamon bun (I like to roll both ends in towards the center)
(optional - grab both ends and do a twist for more flaky layers)
flatten them out again to like 1cm or less thickness - you're making a layered pancake shape, ideally.
fry in a pan. We mostly don't use oil but obviously it tastes better with more oil
eat with sambal oelek or hoisin or whatever sauce sounds nice

you can freeze before frying - it's really nice to make a giant batch and then have a delicious snack just a few minutes away!
posted by Acari at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

Chickpea flour waffles?
These are a vegan, savoury base for almost any topping. Recipe is garbanzo flour, oil, water, and a little bit of salt. Bob's Red Mill garbanzo bean flour is a good option, though quite expensive compared to normal flour. Make batches, freeze (like normal waffles), toast, then add anything you want on top. The waffles are nutritionally quite dense (they will make you feel full, and possibly quite farty, watch out for that!) and do have a slight flavour. Works best with middle eastern type flavours.
posted by abuckamoon at 3:19 AM on April 17, 2020

"Like.. savory cake. Is there such a thing?"

No, not really. Sugar and fat (and leavening) are what separate cake from bread. You don't make it clear if you want steer clear of sugars, as a diabetic would, or stay from all sweeteners for flavor reasons.

The recipe for soda bread here is sugar free and fat free except for the buttermilk. There is a note that almond milk plus lemon will substitute for the buttermilk. I think the end product could work under suitable toppings, but all the toppings that come to my mind, e.g. berries, are sweet.

I found some things like this googling for "sugar free something", but mostly they use other sweetners and/or plenty of sweet fruit.

For something really savory, I think the portmanteau's idea of pie crust is pretty good. This Cornish Pasty recipe could be made with a vegan butter substitute. The meat in the filling could be replaced with some additional vegetables.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:13 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Green onion pancakes, also known as scallion pancakes. Chef John has a recipe.
posted by 445supermag at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2020

I love this Cauliflower Cake recipe by Ottolenghi.

Edit: Overlooked the vegan aspect, and it is both eggy and cheesy. But I guess vegans have things to sub for that.
posted by coraline at 10:39 AM on April 17, 2020

Thinking on this some more, the idea of using carbonated water as leavening occurred to me. This suggests tempura, which isn't cake per se, but which can certainly be savory.

And that led me to beer cake. There are lots of recipes, all of which use lots of sugar, most of which result in a sweet cake. I was intrigued by this one, though, since it's described as somewhat savory. You could use a sugar substitute, but you need one that substitutes for the bulk of the sugar as well as the taste.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:24 AM on April 18, 2020

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