I love vegan cooking. No matter how much I travel and enjoy exploring new vegan recipes in restaurants, I can't tell you how excited I sometimes am to get home and be in charge of my meals again.
Cooking is so liberating because I can eat anything I want and I'm only limited by my imagination. I truly hope that I can help you feel the same way in your own kitchen.
People often worry that they don't know what to cook for vegans. What's so hard about it though? You should feel confident that if you can read, you can cook vegan food. There are thousands of vegan recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, and literally all you need to do is follow the directions.
Most people who come to eat at my house leave after saying things like, "you make vegetables taste so good," and "if I had you to cook for me, I'd eat such healthy food." While it's flattering, it's important to me that people realize they can do the exact same thing with vegetables.
I think people are shocked that vegan food tastes so good for a few reasons.
1. They are used to eating overcooked vegetable side dishes like mashed potatoes, soggy green beans, and white lettuce salads.
2. They love the flavor of meat and think nothing else could ever taste as good.
3. They're literally addicted to dairy products and can't fathom not eating them again, let alone eating pizza or pasta without cheese on it even one time.
They then take those ideas and decide... vegan food is bad.
That lasts until you present them with a plate of food and they taste it and realize somewhere along the way their assumptions are wrong.
"What do you eat?"
It's one of the first questions people ask when they find out I'm vegan, and it's nearly impossible for me to answer because I eat so much.
Most vegans I know are more excited and open-minded about food than non-vegans. And they have a substantially larger database of recipes to pull from when they are hungry.
But what came first... the excitement or the vegan?
Did I grow to love different foods after being a vegan and needing to branch out, or did I love them always and then apply veganism to them?
I'm sure it's different for everyone. Some probably do learn to cook after deciding they don't want to harm animals in the process, and so their appreciation for food has developed over time.
Others likely look for ways to transform their favorite multicultural dishes into a cruelty-free dish. And there are probably plenty of vegan out there who like to stick just to the basics.
Whoever you are, with whatever love of food you have, this vegan cooking guide can help you.
For the first few years I was a vegan, I was continually awed at how easy it is to do vegan baking without butter, milk, and eggs. I truly always thought that you needed those things to make everything rise properly. How could I possibly make a fabulous cupcake, cookie, or pie without butter, milk, or eggs?
While not all vegans take their veganism so far as to look for ways that foods are processed, it's pretty easy to start using vegan sugars in place of regular white sugar, and several of the options are much more natural sweeteners that won't spike your blood sugar levels and make you feel crazy. Many people like to use agave syrup as a sugar substitute.
The first few trips to the grocery store as a new vegan can be overwhelming, and sometimes expensive. The good news is that a lot of the things you buy are replacements for other products and last for a super long time. You can also slowly accumulate those extra things for your vegan kitchen, rather than rushing out to get it at once.
Once you already have the basic supplies for vegan cooking, your everyday grocery trip will be much cheaper than it ever was as a meat eater, especially if you stick to a whole food diet and avoid the fake meats, cheeses, and other processed foods. I recommend a diet full of whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds.
When I started buying real whole grains besides just rice, I got a few seal-top containers and bought everything in bulk. If you need a list of whole grains or are just wondering, "what are whole grains," this chart will help you get started.
Cooking your own beans is super simple and incredibly cheap, and you have much more control over the sodium and flavoring than if you buy from cans. What I do is cook a ton of beans every so often and then freeze the extra. That way I have beans anytime I need them for a recipe, without having to buy cans all the time.
If you ever get in a rut with eating vegetables, don't forget to check out this list of fruits and vegetables. I prefer to buy seasonal, local fruits and vegetables as much as is possible, but you shouldn't feel bad for taking advantage of the plethora of options at local grocery stores during the cold winter months.
When choosing nuts and seeds, I find that a I have a few favorites, but I try to remember that there are different health benefits of nuts for each type of nut and seed. I keep mine stored in the fridge to prevent the oils from spoiling, and they last for about 6 months. If you're looking for a quick, high-energy snack, try 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds mixed with some dried fruit.
The last key to vegan cooking has to be the spices you use to flavor your whole grains, beans, and vegetables. There are so many different types of spices for vegan cooking, and they're especially important for foods that absorb flavors well, like cooked grains, tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
There are even some dedicated vegan cooking classes if you want a little boost of confidence in your skills. If you have some extra time and feel good about your cooking skills, you might consider paying it forward and offering to teach a vegan cooking class at your local Whole Foods or university.
Every city has opportunities to learn from more skilled chefs. Here is a guide to excellent cooking classes in your area. You could even think about teaching your own class with this resource.