You have just had your main course and want to go for something sweet. But if you wish to reclaim the space to eat and live unapologetically, opt for a vegan dessert. These are delicious and healthy alternatives to dairy-based desserts, best suited for those with dietary restrictions including lactose intolerance or egg allergies. In fact, food experts have started innovating sweets by giving them a vegan-healthy twist.
Additionally, the nutritional value of a vegan dessert is more than a regular dessert as it relies on quality plant-based, whole-food ingredients like fruits, nuts, maple syrups, coconut/ almond milk and so on, very close to their natural states. They have lesser calories, are cholesterol-free and contain unsaturated fatty acids. They are definitely healthier and tastier than most sweet delicacies.
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“As more people switch to a plant-based lifestyle, brands are pushing limits to create delicious dessert offerings that are not bland and boring, yet plant-based and healthy. Vegan desserts are no more limited to options that are vegan in nature, but gourmet desserts like puddings, cheesecakes, tarts, cookies and parfaits made using natural sweeteners, coconut oil and sugar, nuts, coconut cream, vegan chocolates—the options are endless,” says Sameer Seth, founder and CEO of Hunger Inc Hospitality, a Mumbai-based group that has F&B brands like The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro and Bombay Sweet Shop under its portfolio.
A vegan power barfi at Bombay Sweet Shop is made using 100% vegetarian ingredients and natural sugars like dates, jaggery and coconut sugar. The power barfi contains jaggery, dates, cashews, almonds, pistachios, coconut sugar, figs, puffed amaranth, and the crunch (from sesame, poppy and melon seeds), and cardamom. “Indian mithai is interpreted to be dairy-forward with milk and ghee being the main ingredients. With the vegan barfi, we have reimagined a version of Indian mithai not only without dairy, but also without refined sugar,” adds Seth.
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Mumbai-based bakery The Conscious Baker offers products minus refined flour and sugar for dietary needs without compromising on nutritional values. Tamara Dsouza, the brand’s co-founder, has experimented with a variety of chocolate modaks for vegan food lovers. “We created 85% dark version and a coconut version of modak this year. Most Indian desserts have dairy in them, now gulab jamuns and rasmalais are found in vegan variants too. From vegan chocolates, modaks and barfis, we are recreating classic desserts to a vegan version,” says Dsouza, who does not use dairy or butter, instead includes organic cocoa beans, cocoa butter, coconut milk, sunflower lecithin, erythritol and monk fruit blend as alternatives for sugar-free chocolate modaks or a fusion version of the traditional ladoo with almond date balls without refined sugar and low on fat or sugar-free/ gluten-free cookies or sugar-free/ diabetic-free chocolates.
Today, there is a great requirement for portion control mithai, healthy alternatives, vegan and plant-based or sugar-free desserts. As per Dsouza, “Gourmet mithais or desserts are a twist on traditional preparations. The twist can be either in terms of flavour or the use of alternatives (healthier) ingredients
like millets, almond flour instead of refined flour, dates or apples or using erythritol (zero calories), monk fruit (sweetener is made from extract derived from dried fruit and has zero calorie) instead of refined sugar or honey,” adds Dsouza.
Meanwhile, city chefs have gone a step ahead in being more creative to offer alternative ingredients. At the same time, they feel vegan desserts are gaining popularity around festive days because of rich, healthy alternatives to sweets. “Vegan diets are high in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C, vitamin E and iron. We use soya cream, vegan chocolate and vegan flour for desserts,” says Pawan Kumar, executive chef of Angsana Spa and Resort Bangalore, who makes vegan pancakes, waffles, cookies and breakfast rolls. These are hit food items on the menu besides Indian desserts like coconut javvarisi payasam (creamy delicious sweet made with sago or starch, coconut milk and sugar from the south Indian cuisine).
Most Indian desserts can be made using coconut milk, jaggery, dates and almond milk. “For vegan desserts, we refrain from using gelatin and honey in most cases. Some of the popular vegan desserts are mahalabia, an Arabic dessert from the Middleeast, which is flavoured with dates, cardamom, coconut milk.
Similarly, Tham Thim Krop of Thailand is made using fresh jackfruit, water chestnut, coconut milk and red rubies,” says Gaurav Bansal, chef de cuisine, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel, Brigade Gateway.
Chef Utkarsh Bhalla, chef of Sly Granny Cafe, a brand by Azure Hospitality, says, “People these days are diet conscious and vegan desserts won’t lead to the guilt of harming animals, hence, instead of excluding dessert from the diet, including something as simple as a vegan dessert can be the best option. Vegan snickers are one such popular option for a dessert.”
A berry panna cotta dessert at Soul Pantry, which is a quaint cafe in Andaz Delhi, by Chef Akshay Bhardwaj, head chef, has basic composition of vegan coconut berry panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) and has layers of coconut and strawberry puree. “The dessert is gluten-free, lactose-free, light and healthy. Considering the demand of sugar free and vegan options, we worked on a dessert which has a clear mouth-feel of fresh fruits and berries but is done with coconut milk to enhance it further,” he says.
Similarly, Tarun Sibal, chef and co-founder of Titlie, a culinary bar in Goa, and Street Storyss, a vegetarian craft kitchen in Bengaluru, says no menu is complete without the option of vegan dishes nowadays. “A vegan diet should not be restricted to just savouries. Desserts are also important like a chia vanilla pudding, almond milk, plums and peaches is a good option for vegan lovers as such preparations do not come in the way when one feels the sugar rush. A vegan dessert is a substitute to key ingredients—no use of honey or eggs, or animal based ingredients, and when cooked in techniques and with combinations can produce a zillion things,” adds Sibal.
While vegan desserts do not contain animal products like milk, cream, cheese, paneer, etc, chefs bring out alternatives to reproduce popular desserts like panna cotta, cheese cake, chocolate cake, gulab jamun, shahi tukda and rabdi by using almond milk, cashew nuts and soya cream, etc. Rana Dominic Gomes, area chef of South Royal Orchid Hotels, Bengaluru, says, “As vegans crave for the texture and taste found in non-vegan foods, the twist gives them plenty of options to consume foods guilt-free—like mock meat, vegan ghee, butter, cheese (made from almond, cashew or peanut milk).”
While healthy and conscious eating is now a way of life, vegan desserts seem to have a robust demand this festive season. Vegan desserts are not typically heavily loaded with milk, dairy products (yogurt, butter, cream, cheese, milk permeate), eggs, honey and animal gelatin, yet have nutritional value as that of a vegan diet. These desserts are also trending because of the increasing demand for low fat, lactose-free, and all-natural products which is also expected to fuel the growth of the market in the coming years. In addition to this rising income and health consciousness among the consumers have been driving the sales of dairy-free foods. As per Grand View Research, the global vegan dessert market size is expected to reach $5.97 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 10.1% from 2020 to 2027.
Since a vegan diet has the best environmental impact along with a cruelty-free footprint, nowadays brands, too, have incorporated vegan choices as these imply more chances to stop animals from suffering on industrial farms, as well as try out the newest vegan culinary innovations. “A number of businesses are creating goods that are compassionate for animals and beneficial for the environment as they realise that plants are the future. Brands have started to provide a tempting selection of nutritious and environmentally conscious vegan treats like ice cream brands are seeing the most disruption,” says Kunal Mutha, founder of Only Earth, a vegan milk brand.
Mutha, who regularly collaborates with influencers to create vegan dessert recipes across the country, feels there is a growing demand for plant-based foods and vegan foods or desserts, as this is now becoming a ‘mega-trend’. “Baskin-Robbins, NOTO vegan ice cream, Minus 30 which is gelato brand in Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Chennai or cakes, pudding, chocolates and brownies are gaining popularity, thanks to pastry businesses and influencers who specialise in baking vegan specialities,” he adds.
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