A recent question (How can I replace eggs when making an omelette?) attracted a couple of confused comments, essentially wondering whether an eggless omelette is really an "omelette".

A couple were flagged as not constructive (and subsequently deleted), since they were on the sarcastic side -- e.g.

How can I replace meat when I make a steak?

This one has not been deleted:

Just wondering as a (very confused) outsider, but why do vegans call this an omelet rather than a pancake? Or does chickpea flour specifically make it taste that much like egg?

As a community, how should we approach issues of terminology surrounding mock foods (such as this omelette), or dishes made with vegan replacement ingredients? Is it more or less up to the Question poster what they want to call their food?

  • 1
    Even a question like "How can I replace meat when I make a steak?" has its value: It points at a very, very difficult culinary challenge, an answer to which would be seriously interesting :) Mar 27, 2017 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


When a mock food is called by the name of the food it's imitating, we are identifying the mock food by its use, rather than what it is.

Almond milk is very much not "a pale liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals", but the name almond milk accurately describes how we use it. Almond juice may be a more accurate description of what it is, but less accurately describes its use.

Adjusting the terminology in this way is commonly done with mock foods, and helps to identify what a food product can actually do. Almond milk implies I can use it in baking, almond juice does not.

So yes, in terms of function, your portabello steak really is a steak and an omelette made without egg is still an omelette. Calling it anything else would be confusing.

  • Hasn't almond milk been called that way, and been considered a foodstuff on its own right rather than a substitute, since hundreds of years? And milk of magnesia also would not be misunderstood as milk from a cow someone named Magnesia (I'd... be... tempted...if...I had (responsibility for)...a... cow ;) ) Mar 27, 2017 at 10:44
  • Some words like "milk" are etymologically linked to the production process, i.e. you get milk by milking a cow. You don't get steak by "steaking" an animal. This is why I'd say it's good practice to say "tofu steak", but "soy milk" is confusing.
    – Turion
    Mar 28, 2017 at 16:05

I think many people inside veg*n communities use this type of language so habitually that we forget, for example, that omelettes were once made by someone somewhere with eggs (in the UK pancakes are traditionally made with eggs too, I don't know about elsewhere). Long ago, someone came up with a recipe for vegan "omelette" and in speech the speech marks are inaudible, so soon dropped off. Many people who haven't eaten some animal-derived product for a long time or ever don't see at as food and can't imagine eating it.

As long as it is clear what is being discussed, I don't see what's objectionable about calling an egg-free omelette-like food an omelette, and so on. It would feel strange to me to do otherwise, because that's what I call it when I make it. I don't see why I shouldn't speak in a way that feels natural to many veg*ns in a site about veg*nism, as long as the wider audience is able to understand what I mean.


Two answer more directly the question of how terminology issues should be addressed: I suggest either having a canonical question and answer or a featured meta post that explains how we use these "mock" terms on this site. The post should also briefly explain the pragmatic (rather than "essential") character of the definition that we use here. If a user is confused about "mock" terms, we can refer them to this post.

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