Are you thinking about going vegan, or eating more Plant-Based Food?
Taking the first steps in a vegan diet can be difficult. Making delicious vegan meals may seem challenging at first glance. However, using eggs or milk is nothing but a habit that we have been trained for, often for many. Now we need to replace old habits with new ones. Veganism is probably easier than you think, and you don’t really have to sacrifice anything, in terms of taste or flavour. All you have to do is to use the right substitutes, to resemble the tastes of what we used to eat.
Learning to cook is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Preparing your own food is not only extremely rewarding but it’s often healthier than relying on convenience foods and can help you save you a lot of money. When you cook for yourself, you gain complete control over the ingredients used, the amount of sodium and fat, and the cooking methods used.
All the tips below are perfect for newbies or vegan veterans, these suggestions will make anyone’s time in a kitchen a little (or a lot) easier, so I hope you will implement these tricks straight away in your cooking :
1. Plant based milk can easily replaced cow’s milk in your kitchen. There are plenty of options in supermarkets or cafes. Soy, almond, oat or coconut milk all have different textures, consistency and flavour. You can use them in your coffee, oatmeal, pancakes or baking. If you would like to find out more which milk is best with your coffee and which one to use in your baking, check out my article – Introduction to Plant Based Milk.
2. Frozen bananas can work wonders in your dessert, especially if you want to whip up a quick sweet treat.
- Banana soft: Just blend frozen bananas in a blender and serve as ice cream
- Banana chocolate ice cream – blend frozen bananas with cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder for extra boost of antioxidants)
- Frozen banana in a melted chocolate , just dip frozen banana in your favourite melted chocolate and put back to freezer and voila chocolate dipped banana ready
- Quick and easy banana muffins – blend frozen bananas and mix with oil, flour, baking powder and sweetener of your choice and bake
3. You can still enjoy (and prepare) whipped cream– on the top of your hot chocolate or cake. It can be easily made from the hard coconut cream that separates from the water in a can of full-fat coconut milk. When it’s blended with a hand mixer, it fluffs up just like regular whipped cream. Please note that you can also buy now vegan whipped cream.
4. What about mayonnaise on your sandwich or in a creamy salad dressing?
Good news, you can still have it on a vegan diet. You can decide to get a shop bought version (there are plenty of options on the market). Or you can prepare it yourself.– all that you need are just 4 ingredients
- Soy Milk,
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Kala Namak – Black Salt (or regular salt ).
Preparation: Oil (any but coconut oil) and soy milk in proportion 2:1 (both at room temperature), a splash of apple cider vinegar and ½ teaspoon of kala namak for an extra eggy flavour. Blend everything with an immersion blender until the mayo emulsifies. You can keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.
5. How can I bake without eggs? Here you have a few substitutes for eggs in your baking :
- Flax seeds 1 tablespoon = 1 Egg. When ground and combined with water and a bit of baking powder, the fats and moisture in the flax seeds can mimic that of an egg.
- Chia seeds 1 tablespoon = 1 Egg. We handle it the same way as flax seeds- grounding and combining with water. Chia seeds, when ground, will thicken more than flax seeds, creating a great binding agent for baked goods.
- ½ mashed banana = 1 Egg
- 3 tablespoon of chickpea flour (garbanzo) mixed with 3 tablespoons of water = 1 Egg
- Aquafaba 2 tablespoons = 1 Egg. Aquafaba is the viscous water from a tin of chickpeas (chickpea brine)
- 2 tablespoon of Corn Starch mixed with 3 tablespoons of water = 1 Egg
- 65g of Apple or Pumpkin Puree = 1 Egg
- 1 tablespoon of Agar-Agar mixed with 1 tablespoon of water = 1 Egg. Agar, or Agar-Agar, is a jelly-like substance, obtained from red algae.
- 40g of Vegan Yogurt = 1 Egg
There are also shops like Organ or Ener-G where you can buy egg alternatives.
Note: In a previous section you can see all the possible substitutes for an eggy texture but if you are craving your egg salad or home made mayonnaise go for black salt – kala namak. It’s a salt originating in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has an eggy aroma due to its sulphur content. It is used extensively in South Asian cuisines and appreciated by vegans in dishes that mimic the taste of eggs.
7. Miss the creaminess of pasta sauce, soup, or curry or cheesecake? No problem. You can use cashew nuts. When blended, they can magically transform your dish. You won’t miss cream any more, and you have all the health benefits of cashews – rich in selenium, zing, magnesium and fiber.
8. If you were (are) a meat eater and you miss bacon, chorizo or BBQ flavour try smoked paprika. Smoked paprika or Spanish pimiento are very similar, both adding a delicious, subtle smokiness to your food. Rub your veggies or tofu/tempeh with smoked paprika for a BBQ like smokiness. You can also prepare bacon like bits of tempeh, eggplants or coconut chips- just marinate them in a smoked paprika, maple syrup and salt mixture – for the sweet- smoky-salty balance of bacon and bake in the oven.
9. Learn to use spices, create a lot of the flavour to your dishes. It’s not the meat or dairy that gives the distinctive aroma to our food, but spices that define national dishes. Indian garam masala, Arabic za’atar, Italian Basil or Thai kaffir lime leaf create unforgettable classic dishes. The right blend of spices can take your dish to a different level, transform it into a real symphony of flavours. Simple apples need a dash of cinnamon to create a perfect, satisfying desert.
10. Last, but not least, my favourite ingredient – best trick ever in vegan cooking – nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which means yeast cells are inactive in the final product. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability. It’s described as having a nutty, cheesy and savoury flavour. It’s a common vegan cheese substitute. Please do not try to substitute active dry yeast or baking yeast, it doesn’t work. A lot of brands fortify nutritional yeast with B12, just check the ingredients. Nutritional yeast also contains folic acid, selenium, and zinc.
But why I really love this product is how, just beautifully it works in vegan mac&cheese, vegan creamy sauces, salad dressings. You can just sprinkle your salad or pasta dish with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan.
Vegan diet has not only proven health benefits but I also strongly believe it can change our frame of mind and increase our vitality.– Ania Wojtkowska