Need help finding vegan substitutes for a bean dip recipe.
November 22, 2022 6:55 AM   Subscribe

As the title says — I'm making a bean dip for a Friendsgiving gathering, but the host is vegan, so I'm trying to figure out vegan substitutes for the non-vegan items of this recipe, while preserving the delicious taste. I'm not a vegan, nor do I normally shop for vegan food items, so any help would be appreciated!

Recipe link - I've made this once before, and it was highly successful and delicious (and obviously using the original items, not vegan). If you feel vegan substitutes will make this taste meh, then an alternative, easy recipe suggestion that is vegan friendly might help, as well, but I'd prefer to stick closely to this recipe.
posted by dubious_dude to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depending on where you live, you might well be able to find vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese on the shelf at a Whole Foods or similar store. Look for it - it's probably going to give really good results.

There are also recipes for vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese.
posted by amtho at 7:07 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Vegan replacements for the sour cream and cream cheese might do for that, but while vegan cheese has gotten a lot better over the past few years, you are unlikely to find a satisfying replacement for the melted cheese on top. And I'm guessing that is a big part of what makes this dish popular.
posted by metasarah at 7:38 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]

If you're in the US you should be able to find Daiya dairy-free shredded cheese, which will melt and work just fine. Violife cream cheese is my personal favorite but Daiya brand is also good. And for sour cream, Tofutti is probably easiest to find and is good, but Forager brand is a little bit better.
posted by mezzanayne at 7:46 AM on November 22

I find it easier to start with a vegan recipe than adapt a non-vegan one. This one from Serious Eats looks fantastic (although complex). Even if you don't use the whole recipe, it might give you some ideas for home-made substitutions.
posted by BekahVee at 7:56 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]

I think even the Daiya shredded cheese is not a great substitute for the cheese on top of your recipe, though it's probably the best commercial cheese available. I occasionally order pizza from a vegan place that uses Daiya cheese, and I always end up thinking I would have preferred no cheese at all. If you want to stick with that recipe, I'd use the cheese sauce from the recipe BekahVee linked to instead of buying vegan cheese.

The vegan sour cream and cream cheese should work better - either making your own or using something available commercially. I hear good things about Kite Hill brand, though I haven't tried it. Miyoko's makes the best vegan butter, but I did not like their cream cheese.
posted by FencingGal at 8:28 AM on November 22

To stick with your recipe:

Sub vegan sour cream and cream cheese (both should be available at a Whole Foods/Sprouts/etc., or just a big well-stocked grocery store).

For sour cream, I like the Forager brand, but something like Tofutti or Kite Hill might be easier to find, and for our purposes will be just fine.

For cream cheese, Violife is good, but, again, Kite Hill or whatever brand you can find will work.

The big challenge is the shredded cheese--you can find Violife, Whole Foods 365 brand, or Daiya (in order of good-ness)--it'll melt, but it won't really brown like dairy cheese will.

One other thing: if you use canned or premade refried beans, be sure they don't have any animal ingredients--the big one to look out for is any variety of lard.
posted by box at 8:28 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]

I think you could safely swap the dairy for vegan ingredients. My brand choices would be daiya for the cheese (shredded cheddar or 4 cheese blend), for the cream cheese, I prefer kite hill by far above any other non dairy cream cheese, and sour cream I would do either kite hill or wild creamery. In a pinch forager sour cream would work, but I find it a bit watery and a bit of coconut flavor comes through, but I still use it on tacos if I can't find my preferred brands. Also, you probably already know this, but just in case, be sure the refried beans are vegan, sometimes they'll have animal products.
posted by CleverClover at 8:31 AM on November 22

I can't eat dairy. I really like dairy. That means I've spent a lot of time trying to adapt dairy-based recipes into vegan ones. I've learned through hard experience that it's only worth it up to a point. If there's a bit of dairy in a recipe, I can usually adapt it with no problem. If there's a ton of dairy in the recipe -- if it was meant to be the star of the show -- it usually doesn't work. That's because most dairy substitutes have some degree of off taste or texture. It's often just not palatable to sub them in large amounts.

This recipe, unfortunately, falls into that latter category. I would not even try to make this one vegan -- instead, I'd go for a recipe that was meant to taste good without dairy (for instance, a baked white bean and artichoke dip).

If you really want to try making this recipe vegan, then you might try...
- For "Mexican cheese" - Daiya pepper jack shreds
- For sour cream - I don't really like any non-dairy sour creams -- I find they all taste weird. WayFare might be the least worst.
- For cream cheese - I'd probably go with Violife. Absolutely no Tofutti, please. Kite Hill tastes ok but is really grainy.

Either way, good luck!
posted by ourobouros at 8:31 AM on November 22 [8 favorites]

Other people are addressing the sour cream and cheese - but don't forget the refried beans themselves, since it says you're getting those from a can. Some canned refried beans themselves are cooked in lard or have some other animal product in them somewhere.

However, you may be in luck - this vegan recipe looks almost identical to your original, and suggests that there are vegan refried bean brands out there. This other web page actually reports on which brands of refried beans are vegetarian and vegan-friendly, so maybe just making sure you get those brands. So I'd use that vegan recipe, and make sure you follow the advice of that "vegan-friendly refried beans" list when shopping.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]

Oh - and some people suggest silken tofu as a substitute for cream cheese and/or sour cream, if you're having trouble finding "vegan sour cream" or "vegan cream cheese". (I'll let ourobouros speak to how good a substitute it might be.) That may be easier to find; just make sure it's "silken" tofu instead of just "soft" tofu; "silken" is way mushier and would have the best texture.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Just a note that using vegan cheese shreds is not a great idea if you want them to melt well. Buy a Daiya block if you can find one and shred it yourself.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 8:55 AM on November 22

As others have said, trying to "veganize" recipes, especially when there's such a high component of dairy, doesn't tend to work very well (that is to say, it doesn't end up tasting very good).

This black bean dip looks similar in terms of flavor profile, but it's naturally vegan. I have not made this particular recipe, but I've made others from her website and they're all really good.

Black Bean Dip by Jennifer Segal

It does require chopping and cooking a few onions and peppers, but then it's just sticking stuff in a blender or food processor.
posted by lapis at 9:18 AM on November 22 [6 favorites]

I’d skip the dairy substitutes and make a naturally vegan dip like lapis shared. I’ve been vegan, still eat that way mostly and have a lot of vegan friends. Dairy substitutes are very divisive: some people like them, some people hate them, some people will only eat X or Y product but not others. Personally I find most faux cheeses like Daiya repulsive, they don’t melt properly or they taste like melted plastic.
posted by vanitas at 9:31 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]

Does it have to be a Mexican/Tex-Mex-inspired bean dip, or are you fine with something a bit more Mediterranean? If so, I'd suggest Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip from Serious Eats. Our notes after making it were: next time, cut garlic to 1 clove, cut rosemary a wee bit, double the lemon juice, but OTOH we like sour, lemony flavors. (I also note that our recipe app contains a version of this from Cook's Country that is exactly the same except for 1 garlic clove and 1 teaspoon rosemary, so we're not the only people who like it that way!)

If you'd prefer Mexican/Tex-Mex flavors, and are fine with it being a chunky bean dip, this salsa recipe from a former coworker of mine is FAB, and also works as a side dish. Infinitely adaptable--just adjust the proportions to feature what you like and reduce what you don't like as much. My mother likes it tomato-heavy, I like it heavy on the lime juice and cumin.

Black Bean Salsa

For every 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained:
2 tomatoes chopped or 5 cherry tomatoes quartered
4 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 Tb fresh chopped cilantro or 1 Tb dried
2 Tb vegetable oil
2 Tb fresh lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin (or more, if you like cumin!)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate 8 hours. Drain liquids. Serve with chips.

Quite versatile: adjust proportions to your liking, drain or not as you like. Works as a side as well as a dip. Tastes great freshly made, even better after it sits for hours. If you don't drain, give it a stir every so often as it sits as the liquids tend to collect at the bottom. Chips need to be sturdy, as the salsa's heavy.
posted by telophase at 9:59 AM on November 22

I would not substitute plain tofu for cream cheese or sour cream, though you could probably find recipes using it as a base for either.
posted by FencingGal at 10:03 AM on November 22

Slightly different flavor profile, but this "Brilliant Beet Black Bean Dip" by Jenné Claiborne is amazingly good and so pretty. It does require cooking beets, which is in my experience is easy but a bit messy, and then other things are rough-chopped and put in the blender/food processor. (I used an immersion blender when I made it, because I find those easier to use and clean, and that worked fine.)
posted by lapis at 10:21 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

You could also do something like this bean dip which relies a lot less on dairy/dairy replacements. I personally would us a store bought vegan queso (like siete brand vegan queso which is good) rather than try to make a vegan queso myself as suggested in the recipe.
posted by CleverClover at 11:14 AM on November 22

I would consider Toum as an alternative to sour cream.
posted by Candleman at 1:01 PM on November 22

So, I make a non-vegan version of this bean dip all the time that omits the sour cream/cream cheese--the main part of the dip is just a jar of salsa mixed with a can of refried beans, and then I top it with melted shredded cheese. But I can attest that the dip is delicious without the extra creamy ingredients mixed in. I would be cautious on the amount of extra taco seasoning you add if you leave out the dairy, though.

(I, a non-vegan, love Tofutti cream cheese and would happily stir that in for extra creaminess if needed.)
posted by music for skeletons at 2:07 PM on November 22

I would replace the melted cheese with a layer of guacamole (after it's heated, obvs). It won't be greasy melty cheese but it will add a lot of that creaminess and heartiness that cheese adds. And everyone loves guac.

You could probably do without the sour cream/cream cheese but vegan versions of those are good enough if you want them in there. But count me as someone who often eats vegan and hates just about all vegan shredded/block cheeses.
posted by misskaz at 4:28 PM on November 22

I love this vegan bean dip recipe from The First Mess; you could make it easier by just using canned vegetarian refined beans. The cashew-based “queso” is great.
posted by Empidonax at 7:20 PM on November 22

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, that helped immensely!

I got caught up in a whirlwind of work and other personal obligations a bit unexpectedly yesterday, so this time, I just bought plant-based queso dip and chips. Next time, I'll try one of the various vegan recipes shared here. Many thanks!
posted by dubious_dude at 5:00 PM on November 23

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