A good place to start when you begin to eat vegan is to figure out what you’re going to eat in place of your go-to non-vegan foods (duh).
Use nutritional yeast in its flake form to sprinkle onto pastas and popcorn. You can also use nutritional yeast as the base for a cream sauce. It may take some getting used to but vegans basically use nutritional yeast like grated parmesan cheese. I avoid the powdered form and only get the flake form. get it here
Raw cashews are soaked until softened and then pureed with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt and spices to make a cream sauce. You can make great pasta dishes this way. get it here
We are in a renaissance for vegan cheeses. Some brands to try include: Field Roast, Miyoko, Daiya and Kite Hill and they all have a variety of options. You can get cheese slices, spreadable cheeses, block cheeses, shredded cheeses – so many things to try!
Homemade Parmesan Cheese
I make a version of this at home. It’s a very flexible recipe so try different nuts and spices to see what you like the best. get the recipe here
Almond is my preferred milk. There are many brands out there, including fancy Califia. Try out the various brands and see if you like them and skip the sweetened kinds to avoid excess sugar. Blue Diamond is a go-to for me, though it is not the tastiest (just one of the most affordable!). get it here
Soy is the classic go-to non-dairy milk. Coffee shops had soy milk as the alternative milk before almond or any other kind. Again, try the various brands out there and skip the sweetened kinds to cut down on unnecessary sugar. get it here
Rice milk is a fairly sweet milk. There isn’t much too it so I tend to avoid it and opt for a nut-based milk. You might like this as an option, though. get it here
Hemp is a thick alternative milk. Some like it and some do not – give it a try to see for yourself! get it here
Oat milk seems to be more popular in the U.K. and Australia than in the U.S.. I have never tried it so I can’t say if it is one I would recommend or not!
There is both coconut milk and coconut beverage. Coconut milk comes in a can and is not for drinking but for cooking and baking, typically. Coconut beverage is pourable from a container and meant to be a milk substitute for coffee, cereal, oatmeal, etc. There are even some hybrids like coconut-almond milk.
Earth Balance is a common oil-based margarine that is used in place of butter. It comes in soy-free varieties, whipped, organic and in sticks.
If you have been cooking tons of French food lately, you might be wondering how to sauté without butter. Easy! Oil! Olive oil is a commonly used substitute for this purpose. Extra Virgin Olive Oil seems to be the most popular but honestly I’m not an expert in this area. get it here
Coconut oil is also on the rise these days as an oil to use for sautéing. I really love coconut oil for popping popcorn and it is tasty in baking as well. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature (unless it’s the sweltering summer!) so you may have to melt it before using it in baking. By far, my favorite coconut oil is Dr. Bronner’s. get it here
There are some vegan butters out there that I haven’t tried yet. Miyoko supposedly has a really yummy one and I believe the difference between vegan butter and Earth Balance is that vegan butter is cultured. Give it a try and let me know!
Tofu is made from fermented soy beans and is the “meat” that many think of when they think of vegan meat substitutes. It comes in a variety of textures from silken to firm to extra firm. If texture is an issue for you, get the most firm texture or the already baked version. Like meats, marinate the tofu before baking or frying and it will take on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking.
Tempeh is also made from soy beans and is less processed than tofu – you can actually see the soy beans that make up tempeh. It has a nutty flavor and is much firmer than tofu. Like tofu, you can marinate it and bake or sauté it. If you steam it before marinating or cooking it, this will help get rid of some of the bitterness that can accompany tempeh. Tempeh is also sold prepared for sandwiches and wraps.
This is a meat substitute made from the flour, vital wheat gluten. It is commonly used to make the “mock” meats in Asian food restaurants. You can make your own seitan fairly easily or you can buy it pre-made.
Packaged Meat Substitutes
Brands make centerpiece vegan meat substitutes and deli slices (in the fridge and freezer sections). Shop around and see if you want any to be regulars in your home: Tofurkey, Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Amy’s and Daiya.
If you want to make sure you have a protein punch in your meal, it is super simple just to add a handful of beans. Keep canned beans in the pantry so you have something always ready to go or, if you are looking to save money, keep dried beans and make up big batches every week. Add them to salads, soups, bowls, sandwiches, burritos, etc.
Similar to beans, lentils are a good add-in to a veggie creation. They cook up fairly quickly though they do sell canned lentils (which I’ve never bought). Add them to all the things you would add beans to!
There are many, many packaged veggie burgers on the market. Honestly, they vary in taste and everyone seems to have their own preference. I don’t find any to be amazing (though I like a samosa burger just to mix it up). Nowadays, companies are trying hard to imitate meat burgers and these attempts are quite interesting. I would recommend giving them a try if you like this flavor. Beyond Burger is the one to try out because it is the only one of the two major burger makers (other one is Impossible Burger) that is in some grocery store. Other brands to try: Field Roast and Amy’s.
When you are headed to someone’s home for a BBQ, a portobello mushroom might be a good option as a burger replacement. Marinate the mushroom cap in some balsamic vinegar and garlic for a bit and then grill it up.
Homemade Vegan Burger
Often, vegan burger recipes are made from black beans, lentils and/or vital wheat gluten. I haven’t found a recipe I love (I guess I don’t love vegan burgers?!) and they can be tricky to stick together. If you are a big burger fan, try out some recipes and let me know your favorites! (my favorites are beet burgers)
Luna & Larry’s is the best coconut ice cream on the market. Fact!
If you are more interested in trying out a soy-based ice cream, there are many brands to choose from, So Delicious being the classic one. There are tons of flavors so pick your favorite!
There are even almond ice creams out there these days. Coconut is still my fave but give it a whirl!
Make your own (n)ice cream easily from frozen bananas! Everyone has their own method for freezing bananas, but I keep it simple: let the bananas ripen until fairly soft on your counter, cut into 1-inch pieces, place in a freezer bag and freeze. Some of the pieces will stick together as they freeze but I just set them out on the counter for a few minutes to unstick them. Then you simple puree the frozen banana in a food processor or high-speed blender and watch the ice cream form! Add a bit of vegan milk if you need to help the process along and you can also add cocoa powder to make chocolate nice cream. There is a recipe for this in the desserts section of your week of vegan meals.
There are many packaged vegan pizza options out there. Shop around a bit to find your favorite – they can even come with vegan pepperoni! Some brands are Amy’s, Tofurkey and Daiya.
Hold the Cheese
If you are getting pizza from a restaurant, ask them to hold the cheese to make it vegan. There may be some cheese in the pizza sauce – ask them if this is the case or just be ok with it. I personally don’t love the “hold the cheese” option but it might be your only option at times.
Homemade Vegan Pizza
In my opinion, if I’m going to have pizza, I want it to be properly vegan and not just without cheese. Vegan Richa by far has my favorite recipe: Buffalo Chickpea Pizza with White Garlic Sauce and Celery Ranch Dressing. You will not be disappointed. I like to use a meat substitute instead of the chickpeas like Tofurky Chick’n. get it here
Mix with plant-based milk or water to create an egg substitute. Also you can add flaxseed into oatmeal and smoothies as a good nutrition booster. get it here
Earth Balance is an oil-based butter substitute. Helpful substitute for butter in, say, chocolate chip cookies.
Like flaxseed, apple cider vinegar can be mixed with a plant-based milk and used as an egg substitute in baking. It is also a good base for a salad dressing and there are many home remedies that use apple cider vinegar. get it here
Bananas & Apple Sauce
Bananas and apple sauce are other great egg substitutes. They help bind the dough of whatever you are baking and many vegan recipes call for these ingredients.
If you are looking for a main event substitution for eggs, tofu is the common go-to substitute. You can sauté crumbled tofu with veggies and dress it with toppings like turmeric and nutritional yeast. I like a tofu scramble like this though you may take some time to get used to it as a substitution for eggs. Try my go-to recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Just Mayo is a huge company out of Silicon Valley that wants the world to eat more vegan products. They have made a mayo that tastes great. get it here
Vegenaise by the brand Follow Your Heart is the original vegan mayo. It existed long before all of these companies began making vegan mayo and is a solid vegan mayo option.
Hellmans & Other Brands
These days even the most mainstream of mayo brands is making a vegan mayo. Hellman’s has a vegan mayo as does Whole Foods. Shop around!
Soy yogurt came first, just like soy milk. If you can only find one vegan yogurt, it will likely be soy. It might just end up being your favorite. Silk is the main soy yogurt brand you will find.
Like with ice cream, coconut yogurt is my favorite vegan yogurt. I always eat it with granola, not solo and I love that we now have a vegan yogurt option! So Delicious is the coconut yogurt I get (and maybe the only brand I’ve ever encountered?).
Almonds are everywhere, even in yogurt. Give this flavor a try if you think it might be your preferred yogurt. Almond Dream and Kite Hill are the two brands I’ve seen the most.
Thank goodness for the lactose intolerant – they have really encouraged tofu cream cheese in this world. You can even find it as a topping for your NYC bagel in many places! In the store, the two main options are Tofutti (FYI, there is a non-hydrogenated and a hydrogenated version) and Follow Your Heart (Vegan Gourmet).
I have made cream cheese at home from cashews. It was pretty darn good! If you are so enterprising, this is a very simple recipe you might use. I found it to have too strong a vinegar taste so you might consider cutting back on that.
There are some wonderful burrito shops that have vegan sour cream but if you are looking to get it in the store, similar to cream cheese, the two major brands are Tofutti (FYI, there is a non-hydrogenated and a hydrogenated version) and Follow Your Heart (Vegan Gourmet).
If you are craving that Kraft Mac & Cheese but want to stick to your vegan diet, Daiya is your answer. Daiya has been making vegan cheese forever and now they have three flavors of packaged vegan mac & cheese to chose from. get it here
You can very easily make mac & cheese at home. The common ways to make a cheese sauce are with nutritional yeast or soaked and blended cashews. I even made one from sweet potato recently that was very yummy!
This infographic is a good reminder of all you can eat. Share it with your people!
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