Vegan Cooking Basics

Vegan Cooking Basics

If you’re new to veganism or perhaps just curious about all the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, you may feel a little intimidated by learning how to cook new foods. But don’t worry! Preparing and cooking vegan meals is remarkably easy to learn and delivers many unexpected payoffs.

Not only will you save a ton of cash eating at home, but by learning how to cook vegan, you’ll inevitably be eating fresher and tastier meals with high-quality ingredients of your choosing. You’re in control of the spice level, and yes, you will allow substitutions and you’ll never find yourself second guessing if a meal is truly vegan or not. 

Hey, that cheese looked awfully suspicious on that pizza the other day. 

Once you’ve mastered the basics and your cooking skills develop, cooking will no longer feel like a chore. Instead, you may find yourself enjoying the mindfulness involved in preparing a meal such as chopping veggies and kneading dough. 

So if you’re ready to cook up some deliciously healthy (or naughty) vegan food but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered with this quick and easy guide to vegan cooking basics. 

Grocery Shopping for Vegan Ingredients

Ah, the grocery store. Depending on your idea of a fun time, gathering your ingredients for the week may not seem very exciting. But the good news is, many vegan ingredients can be purchased online (especially gourmet and hard to find ingredients such as vegan smoked drumsticks) and offer delivery right to your doorstep. 

For fresh fruits and vegetables, consider making a fun morning of it and head out to your local farmers’ market. Many farmers’ markets offer fresh organic produce at half the cost of your commercial grocery store. Not only will you be supporting local business, you’ll also be lowering your carbon footprint by eating what’s in season. You can find a farmers’ market near you by visiting the USDA directory for United States farmers’ markets. 

Vegetables

Cauliflower can be made into a healthy low carb rice, tossed into a raw salad, or made into a savory Indian dish simmered in a Malabar cooking sauce.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are very filling and extremely easy to prepare. They make impressive additions to soups and stews, and can be used to make a hearty breakfast with this easy recipe for baked sweet potato hash browns from Lazy Cat Kitchen. Serve with a side of vegan bacon and you’re ready to start the day on a full stomach.

Other vegetable staples to always have on hand are leafy greens such as kale and spinach, a variety of squash, onions for dicing and slicing, and ripe heirloom tomatoes.

With so many delicious vegetables available, you’ll want to learn how to cook and prepare all of them at once! But let’s not get too crazy just yet. Some veggies should always be kept on hand because they are easy to prepare and can be used in a variety of vegan meals. 

Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are all part of the cruciferous family and many studies have documented their cancer fighting abilities. These vegetables should ideally make their way into your meals about five times a week.

Vegan Pantry Items

You’ll want to make sure that your pantry is fully stocked for your vegan cooking adventures; that way there’ll be no excuses for eating out. Having all of the ingredients to make a healthy plant-based meal will make it less tempting to go back to eating animal products.

Buying in bulk is a great way to keep costs down when stocking your pantry, and you can also whip up something on the fly when you feel inspired. Here is a list of some basic vegan bulk items to keep your pantry shelves stocked with:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Canned or dry beans and lentils
  • Flour (whole grain), baking soda, and baking powder
  • Dried fruits such as raisins and dates
  • Cornstarch for thickening sauces and gravies
  • Seeds such as flax, hemp, sesame, and pumpkin
  • Nut butters
  • Almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Herbs and spices including Italian seasoning
  • Other pre-made spices mixes such as vegan chicken salt and vegan sea kelp seasoning to cut back on sodium while getting your iodine levels in check
  • Vegan chicken flavored bouillon cubes and pre-made soup packets

Once you’ve stocked your fridge and your pantry, it’s time to learn some easy vegan substitutes and replacements that you can refer to if you ever come across a recipe that you want to veganize.

Vegan Substitute List

Switching to a vegan or plant-based diet doesn’t mean you need to throw out all your old omnivore favorites. You can still have a healthy or decadent meal by just swapping out a few simple ingredients on your recipe card.

Vegan Egg Replacements

Eggs are usually one of the first things people worry about being able to replace when cooking plant-based, but are ironically the easiest food to substitute. If you’re looking to replace eggs in a baked item, all you need is some ground flax and water. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. It’s that easy.

Since veganism is on the rise, many pre-made vegan egg replacements exist, making it easy to serve up some fried eggs or even vegan scrambled eggs that look and taste just like real eggs, minus all the fat and cholesterol. 

Vegan Butter, Cheese, and Dairy

There are many incredible mouth watering pre-made vegan cheese selections ready to go. They melt, slice and shred just like dairy cheese, all without the harmful health hazards of dairy. Use them on your pizza, add a few slices to your sandwich, or make a pot of classic vegan mac and cheese. Your taste buds will insist on it!

Vegan butter is another easy staple, and you can buy sticks or tubs ready to go. Perfect to use when baking or just to spread on your toast in the morning. And if you’re looking to cut back on fat, you can simply replace any recipe that calls for butter or oil with equal amounts of veggie broth for cooking or use fruit pectin, applesauce, or mashed banana when baking.  

If a recipe calls for dairy milk, no problem! There are so many healthy and tasty plant-based milks out there, including soy, almond, oat, hemp, and flax. Need something creamier for your coffee? Try out some vegan coffee creamer and you’ll be making vegan lattes on the fly. 

Vegan Meats

Replacing meat in a recipe ain’t nothing but a thing! You can easily replace any animal meat with a vegan mock meat. Vegan meats are easy to cook (heat and serve) and you can enjoy anything from a vegan pork sandwich to serving up a vegan sirloin steak with mushrooms simmered in a red wine sauce. 

If you’re not into mock meats, then you can substitute any animal meat with a vegetable or even a bean. Chickpeas can be used in place of chicken in a vegan chicken salad. Tofu and tempeh can also be made into almost anything, including a mind blowing tempeh BBQ recipe from Nora Cooks. These meat alternatives are chock full of healthy plant protein. 

So now that you’ve got this cooking thing down, it’s time to invite some friends over (omnivore and vegan alike) to show off your new skills! And remember, anything they can make, you can make vegan!

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