Relax. We’ve reinvented eight classic American desserts you can love without guilt.

Cool, velvety cheesecake that doesn’t make you feel like a blimp? We didn’t believe it was possible either. But always up for the challenge of making the tastiest of foods healthier, we went into the kitchen with a wish list of classic American recipes to reinvent without eggs or dairy (ergo, with less heaviness and no cholesterol). A creamy New York-style cheesecake. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. A decadent chocolate cream pie. After testing dozens of recipes (some of which tasted decidedly undessert like and were immediately tossed out), we found that tofu and soymilk are lifesavers (in more ways that one) when it comes to making deep flavored creamy desserts with a savory mouth feel.

In the process of perfecting these recipes, we developed these four guidelines when baking with soy:

First, stick with silken tofu. Regular tofu, whether soft, firm, or extra-firm, has a chalky mouth feel. After it’s been pureed, silken tofu has a much more custardy texture and is moister, two properties that help promote creaminess. When pureed, silken tofu (we had good success with the firm variety) is much thicker and stiffer than other kinds of tofu. Best of all, silken tofu has less fat than regular tofu – less than one gram per ounce. (You can now find “Lite” silken tofu with even less fat per ounce, but we don’t recommend using it for these recipes.) We found that it works especially well as a replacement for thick, creamy dairy products like sour cream, yogurt, or heavy cream.

Second, beat the silken tofu for maximum smoothness. We found that beating tofu (and other ingredients) in the food processor for at least a minute or two improved the character of many of our soy-based desserts. The metal blade on a food processor whips in a lot of air and therefore lightness. (The blender does not do this as well and so we do not recommended it for the recipes that follow.) Making the filling for a cream pie or cheesecake in a food processor is also the easiest way to blend all the ingredients at once.

Third, soymilk will work seamlessly in any recipe that calls for dairy milk. We made rich, smooth hot cocoa; a remarkably simple bread pudding; and creamy rice pudding all with soymilk. Many of these recipes, especially the puddings, traditionally call for eggs, but we found that you don’t need them as long as you compensate by adding more liquid ingredients. When using soymilk, pick an “original” formula, rather than a reduced-fat version. The extra smoothness and richness is needed, especially when not using heavy cream, eggs, or butter.

Fourth, plain tofu cream cheese is a vegan’s dream come true. It contains no animal products, yet has the same flavor, appearance, and mouth feel as dairy cream cheese. Available at natural and Jewish foods stores and bagel shops, it gives cheesecake and cream cheese frosting the signature tang. (It’s also delicious on toasted bagels.)

NEW YORK-STYLE CHEESECAKE

Serves 10

Tofu cream cheese gives this cheesecake the tangy flavor of an authentic New York cheesecake. The color, however, is a bit darker, almost tan, because granulated cane juice is used instead of the traditional refined white sugar. Covering the top of the cooled cheesecake with sliced strawberries just before serving takes care of this appearance problem and, of course, adds flavor. If your local natural foods store does not stock plain tofu cream cheese, try a bagel shop.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 11 full graham crackers, ground to fine crumbs in food processor (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated cane juice (such as Sucanat)
  • 5 tablespoons Spectrum Spread

Cheesecake Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds tofu cream cheese
  • 10 1/2 ounces silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup granulated cane juice (such as Sucanat)
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
  1. For the crust, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix graham cracker crumbs and granulated cane juice in medium bowl. Dollop Spectrum Spread over mixture and stir with fork until well blended. Transfer mixture to 9-inch springform. Press crumb mixture with fingers evenly across bottom of pan. Bake crust until lightly browned and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool crust completely.
  2. For the filling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tofu cream cheese, tofu, granulated cane juice, arrowroot, lemon zest, and vanilla in work bowl of food processor. Process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake for 50 minutes. Turn off heat but leave cheesecake in oven until edges are set and lightly browned but center still wiggles just a bit, about 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven and cool completely. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours. (Cheesecake can be refrigerated for several days.)
  4. Just before serving, arrange sliced berries in decorative pattern over top of cheesecake. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 363 calories, 50 protein, 260 fat, 280 carbohydrates, 10 fiber, 450mg sodium

DECADENT CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE

Serves 10

This pie is so rich your friends won’t believe it’s tofu or that it only took 30 minutes to make. The crispy oat crust is a good foil to the creamy mousse-like filling. Although the crust must be baked, the filling can be assembled in five minutes and the pie itself does not bake. just pour the filling into the prebaked crust and chill until the filling is firm (one to two hours). We had excellent results using dairy-free Tropical Source chocolate chips in this recipe. Look for them in your natural foods stores baking aisle.

Crisp Oat Crust

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground in food processor to coarse powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water

Creamy Chocolate Filling

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pound silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. For the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, ground oats, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk oil, maple syrup, and water together in measuring cup. Drizzle wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and mix with fork until dough is moistened. Use hands to form dough into large, flat disk.
  2. Place dough in oiled 9-inch pie plate. Press dough with fingers evenly across bottom of plate and up sides. Bake crust until edges start to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool pie crust completely.
  3. For the filling, place chocolate chips in metal bowl set over pan of gently simmering water. Stir with spatula until smooth. Scrape melted chocolate into work bowl of food processor. Add tofu and vanilla and process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until smooth, about 1 minute.
  4. Carefully pour chocolate filling into cooled pie crust. Use spatula to spread filling evenly. Refrigerate pie for at least 1 hour. Cut into slices and serve. (Once filling is set, pie may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 2 days. Let pie warm at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.)

PER SERVING: 345 calories, 7g protein, 170 fat, 40 carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 71mg sodium

CARROT CAKE WITH TOFU CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Serves 9

Soymilk is used to moisten this tender cake flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, while tofu cream cheese is whipped with a little honey and vanilla to create a tangy, smooth frosting. The combination is unbeatable.

Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup soymilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Tofu Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 pound tofu cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flours, baking powder, salt, and spices together in large bowl to remove any lumps. Stir in nuts, raisins, and carrots.
  2. Whisk oil, maple syrup, soymilk, and vanilla together in small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir just until flour is moistened.
  3. Scrape batter into oiled 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake completely; transfer to serving plate.
  4. For the frosting, place cream cheese, honey, and vanilla in medium bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Use spatula to spread frosting over cake. Serve immediately or refrigerate for an hour or so if you prefer a firmer frosting. (Cake may be placed in large airtight container or on cake plate with cover and refrigerated for 1 day.)

PER SERVING: 341 calories, 6g protein, 16g fat, 46g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 281mg sodium, 35% vitamin A, 14% calcium

FROZEN PEANUT BUTTER PIE

Serves 10

This rich, frozen creamy pie is perfect for a family dinner. Kids love peanut butter and the velvety texture of the filling and the crisp sesame crust will appeal to the adults. If desired, use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin strips from a hunk of sweetened chocolate and garnish the pie with chocolate curls just before serving.

Sesame Crust

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats,ground to coarse powder in food processor
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 1 pound silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. For the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, ground oats, sesame seeds, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk oil, maple syrup, and water together in measuring cup. Drizzle wet ingredients into bowl and mix with fork until dough is moistened. Use hands to form dough into large ball.
  2. For the filling, place dough ball in oiled 10-inch pie plate. Press dough with fingers across bottom of plate and up sides. Bake crust until edges start to brown, about 20 minutes. Cool pie crust completely.
  3. For the filling, place tofu, peanut butter, honey, oil, and vanilla in work bowl of food processor. Process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until smooth, about 1 minute.
  4. Carefully spoon peanut butter filling into cooled pie crust. Use spatula to spread filling evenly. Freeze pie for at least 3 hours. Cut into slices and serve. (Once filling is set, pie may be wrapped in plastic and frozen for several days. Let pie warm at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.)

PER SERVING: 365 calories, 11g protein, 22g fat, 33g carbohydrates, 4.49 fiber, 117mg sodium, 11% calcium

MAPLE-RAISIN RICE PUDDING

Serves 4 to 6

Arborio rice makes an especially creamy nondairy rice pudding. As the rice softens, it releases starches, which combine with the soymilk to form a rich, creamy pudding. If desired, use other dried fruits, such as dried cherries or apricots, in place of the raisins.

  • 4 cups soymilk
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place milk, rice, raisins, and maple syrup in medium saucepan. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, stirring often, until rice softens and liquid reduces to thick, creamy consistency, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Spoon pudding into individual cups or bowls. Cool. Serve pudding warm or well chilled. (Wrap individual cups and refrigerate pudding for up to 1 day.)

PER SERVING: 236 calories, 7g protein, 4g fat, 46g carbohydrates, 3.8g fiber, 28mg sodium

EASIEST-EVER BREAD PUDDING

Serves 4 to 6

Stale bread gets another life in this simple bread pudding. We particularly like sliced whole wheat bread in this recipe, but any bread that does not contain seeds or nuts will work just fine. Bread pudding tastes best warm, about half an hour out of the oven.

  • 4 cups stale bread cut into
  • 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 cups soymilk
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter bread cubes around oiled 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Whisk soymilk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together in medium bowl until smooth. Pour mixture over bread cubes.
  3. Bake until pudding is set and bread is just beginning to turn golden brown in spots, about 40 minutes. Cool pudding slightly and serve warm.

PER SERVING: 133 calories, 1g protein, 4g fat, 18g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 366mg sodium

HOT COCOA

Serves 4

Our colleague Adam Ried showed us that mixing the cocoa powder and sugar in a little hot water before adding the milk gives this hot, frothy drink a rich chocolate punch. Dutch-process cocoa from Europe is generally milder than American cocoa and gives the cocoa a smoother, rounder flavor.

  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
  • 1/4 cup granulated cane juice (such as Sucanat)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 1/4 cups soymilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whisk cocoa, granulated cane juice, salt, and water together in 2-quart saucepan until smooth. Set pan over low heat and bring liquid to boil. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
  2. Whisk in soymilk and increase heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking occasionally, until steam rises from surface and tiny bubbles form around edge, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not boil.
  3. Stir in vanilla. Pour cocoa into four mugs and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 119 calories, 7g protein, 5g fat, 170 carbohydrates, 5.2g fiber, 162mg sodium

OLD-FASHIONED INDIAN PUDDING

Serves 6

Rich with the flavors of molasses, maple, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, Indian pudding was a staple in Colonial times. Cooked cornmeal gives the pudding its body; stone-ground cornmeal that is neither too fine nor too coarse works best. Look for medium-grind cornmeal with a texture similar to refined white sugar. The pudding sets quite soft and tastes best warm.

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal
  • 3/4 pound silken tofu
  • 6 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk water and cornmeal together in large saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to boil, lower heat, and simmer gently, whisking occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, place tofu, molasses, maple syrup, oil, vanilla, spices, and salt in bowl of food processor. Process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape cornmeal mixture into food processor. Process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until smooth, about 1 minute. Add raisins but do not process.
  3. Divide mixture among six 1-cup souffle or baking dishes that have been oiled. Wrap each dish in foil.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until set, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.

PER SERVING: 274 calories, 6g protein, 9g fat, 45g carbohydrates, 2.5g fiber, 305mg sodium, 212% calcium

Three Secrets of Soy

Don’t let soy intimidate you. You just have to know what you’re looking for. Here’s what to use for our dessert recipes.

FIRM SILKEN TOFU

Silken tofu (sold in soft, firm, and extra-firm densities) is more custardy than regular fresh tofu and has a shelf life of about a year. Look for it in aseptic boxes in the international aisle, refrigerator, or produce section. The firm variety we used in these recipes has only 2.5 grams of fat in a 3-ounce serving.

TOFU CREAM CHEESE

Sold in tubs just like dairy cream cheese, tofu cream cheese is available in many flavors. For these recipes, use the plain flavor, it’s not much lower in fat than its dairy counterpart (8 grams per ounce), but tofu cream cheese is cholesterol-free. It’s sold in many bagel shops as well as natural and Jewish foods stores.

ORIGINAL SOYMILK

Soymilk is sold in aseptic boxes in numerous varieties: chocolate and vanilla flavors, unsweetened, calcium-fortified, fat-free, and others. But for these recipes, forget the fancy varieties and stick with the original, full-fat flavor (with 3 to 7 grams of fat per cup).