In recent years, the vegan diet has been on the rise as more and more people are choosing to cut out animal products from their diets. But despite its growing popularity, many people still don’t know how to cook vegan dishes without sacrificing flavor or convenience. And even those who do often find themselves stuck in a rut of eating the same few things over and over again.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are, of course, the stars of vegan cooking. Make your veggies and fruits taste delicious by using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper! As noted by the people behind All About Greens, You don’t need to know all by heart because veggies and fruits are all delicious when prepared the right way. If you’re not sure what to do with a fruit or vegetable, try googling “how to prepare [insert fruit/vegetable here]” and see what comes up. You can add your own personal touch by using spices other people haven’t thought of, and you happen to like them a lot.
For example, you can use additional herbs, as they make vegan food pop. Everyone around the world has their own type of basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano – the list goes on! Once you know which herbs go with which vegetables and fruits, it’ll be easy for you to create new recipes with ease. There’s nothing like adding sage into potatoes or rosemary into the rice.
The other star of vegan cooking, aside from fresh produce, is seitan/tempeh/textured vegetable protein. These vegan meats can be transformed into chicken nuggets or chicken fingers with a bit of creativity. Use chickpea flour as the coating for these nuggets because it holds up well in frying.
Cooking vegan meats and fresh vegetables requires a medium to cook them on whenever possible. Avoid oil wherever you can because vegan meats don’t absorb much fat compared to animal meats. Instead of cooking vegan meats in oil, add a small amount (or large) of vegetables and then cook them all together on low heat for an extended period. You can also use parchment paper or tin foil to cook plant-based meals without using oil at all!
To season vegan meats, use spices like turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon (yes!), oregano, paprika, garlic powder/granules/salt/pepper mixtures. It’s best to experiment with different combinations on your own since everyone has their own preference!
Flax eggs are a common substitution in vegan cooking because they act as a binding agent, much as regular eggs do. All you need to do is mix 1 tbsp. of ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp. of water, and let it sit for 10 minutes before using it in the recipe. This will allow the mixture to thicken up and have a similar consistency to regular eggs.
You can also find vegan cheese substitutes at your local grocery store, and many restaurants and other food-serving establishments now offer vegan options. Check out your local eateries and find a few dishes you like to make at home.
Substituting plant-based milk for cow’s milk is another simple substitution that can be made easily in most recipes, as both tend to work as a replacement for each other.
You can’t expect to go into the kitchen and whip up a delicious vegan meal without putting some effort into your prep work. Plan and try not to give yourself too much leeway in terms of cooking time, since you’re likely going to be starting from scratch with most recipes. If you have food prepped a few hours ahead of time, you’ll be able to focus on the cooking and won’t have to worry about your dish coming out under or overcooked.
There are a few vegan items that you should always have on hand, even if you don’t think you’ll need them for a specific recipe. Keep nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, and flax meal around, so you can whip up a quick “omelet” or flax eggs in a pinch. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Some recipes might also call for special equipment that only a non-vegan would normally use, such as meat grinders and egg slicers. But who says they can’t be “veganized”? If you’re feeling adventurous, try using alternatives like potato mashers in place of meat grinders and maybe even some kitchen shears instead of an egg slicer. You never know, it might just work!
If you want to go out for dinner but don’t know where or are having trouble finding something on the menu that sounds appealing, consider looking online before you go. There are many vegan apps devoted to helping people find vegan food near them, as well as making it easier to search by cuisine type and dish name.
Another way to save time when searching for a place to eat is by checking out vegan-friendly restaurant manuals first. Lots of restaurants offer them online, and many even have them available in print at their establishment. Restaurant guides make the job of finding veg options much easier because you can order from the entire menu, not just the limited few dishes that happen to be vegetarian or vegan.
Know Your Staples
If you live near an Asian market or have access to an Asian store online, it’s easy to find just about any ingredient used in vegan cooking at a much lower cost than other grocery stores charge. Just be sure that the ingredients are 100% vegan before buying anything just because it’s cheaper. You can also find tofu, seitan, tempeh, and other common vegan ingredients at your local supermarket.
It’s also important to know how to properly store your new vegan groceries, so they last as long as possible. It’s best to keep items like fresh produce in the fridge, whole grains, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes that can stay in a cool dark place or cupboard. Some vegans have even found success storing their pantry goods in paper bags instead of plastic!
There is no shame in asking questions, those on being a vegan or cooking in general. Most people don’t have a lot of veg experience, so reaching out to others for help is always an option!
It’s not always easy being a vegan. The stereotypical vegan diet often gets a bad reputation, and it can be difficult to find restaurants or grocery stores that offer the best options for vegans. But you don’t have to break your budget to eat well as a vegan! With the right hacks and tips, you can make vegan food that’s delicious while still keeping your wallet intact.