Naturally Vegan Foods
Okay, you want to eat less meat. Maybe you want to give it up completely, but now what?
My first advice for new vegans/plant-based eaters is to consider holding off on analogue foods (these are the products made to look and taste like meat). Nothing is going to taste "just like" meat, so you'll find yourself disappointed and feel discouraged in many cases. I find that eating more naturally vegan foods is a better transition.
What do I mean by naturally vegan foods? Glad you asked.
Hummus. Hummus really is a favorite of vegans and non-vegans alike. You can use this as the traditional dip with pita, chips, veggies, or even fruit (I love apples or dates dipped in roasted garlic hummus). Occasionally, someone adds milk ingredients to hummus, but in my experience it's rare. Want to make your own? Here are some recipes to try out for a variety of hummus creations:
Classic Hummus. This has all the components of the classic hummus most of us are used to: chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and lemon juice.
Roasted Garlic White Bean Hummus. My mom hates the taste of chickpeas, so she thought she didn't like hummus! Then I made her white bean hummus and she's a total convert. So if you don't like your first hummus, try again!
Cucumber Hummus. With the oil and tahini, hummus can be a bit heavy, so try this lighter version for a healthy snack.
Roasted Beetroot Hummus. For outstanding color and flavor, try a beet hummus. It turns out MAGENTA. Completely show stopping gorgeous. Bring this to a party and everyone will be drawn to it and no one will even notice that it's vegan.
Okay, moving on... Even though I could share hummus recipes all day. "
Falafel. Another Mediterranean favorite, falafel is made of chickpeas and spices and fried, but you can also make it baked and even mix it up a bit if you aren't staunchly a traditionalist. Falafel is generally served with tzaziki sauce, which is dairy-based, but lemon tahini dressing or hummus (that cucumber hummus above would be perfect) work just as well.
Casbah Falafel Mix. This is available in most stores and super easy to make. I just love the flavor. My kids call these falafel "nuggets" and dip them in ketchup. I like to make small falafel using my cookie scoop and then top salad with them. You can also make them the size of a burger patty and use falafel as a veggie burger, with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and fresh onion it's a perfect burger alternative.
Stir Fry. Stir fries are not only a great way to get a variety of vegetables, they are so easy to make vegan. Most Chinese restaurants have a Buddha's Delight or Vegetable Delight dish (just ask if the use fish sauce or chicken stock in the sauce) and you can make those at home, but many places also have several tofu options as well as seasonal vegetable stir fries too. Want to make your own?
Garlic Snow Peas. Snow peas are a favorite snack in our house, particularly of my picky eater son, so we always have them on hand.
Soy-Free Teriyaki Coconut Aminos. I love this sauce on any stir fried veggies and rice. I simply put whatever veggies I have chopped into bite size pieces in a hot pan and brown in a flavorless vegetable oil, then stir in some rice and coat with flavor before dousing it all in this amazing sauce. It's so flavorful, that other than sriracha, you don't need anything else.
Indian Food. Many Indians are vegetarian, so a lot of Indian Food is easily vegan with a few questions. The first is to see if they use Ghee, a clarified cow's milk butter. If not- you're in business. Also, some Indian vegetarian dishes will contain cream or paneer, which is a cow's milk cheese. Just ask and you'll be good to go. Some Indians foods that are USUALLY vegan without any modifications:
Aloo Gobi- this is a potato and cauliflower dish with yellow curry and a very traditional and flavorful dish. It's nice and filling, so you don't need to worry about a veggie dish that won't fill you up.
Baingan Bharta- this is a stewed eggplant dish with tons of flavor. One of my favorites.
Chana Masala- chana means chickpea/garbanzo bean, and masala is a rich and spicy red sauce. The chickpeas make this filling and satisfying.
I have two Indian cookbooks that I love, and there are many more. Take your tastebuds on a fun adventure!
I wrote a children's book, How Our Vegan Family Celebrates, to help vegans and vegan allies know how to include vegans in their celebrations and give affirmation to vegan kids who may feel alone. The book goes through holidays throughout the year and has a section at the back with parent tips!
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