Have you recently adopted the vegan lifestyle? Good for you!
I’ve tried dozens of diets over the past few years, but giving up all animal products is by far what my body needs to feel best, and I think that lots of other people feel the same way, too.
However, that’s not to say that going vegan is easy… especially regarding cooking.
When you first approach your kitchen as a vegan chef, it can be overwhelming to know what to do without your trusty eggs, butter and even honey. It’s easy to get intimidated and cheat or turn to pricey premade vegan foods instead.
You don’t need to give in- becoming a vegan cook is easier than you think. I’ve figured out some strategies that made all the difference for me, and I’m ready to share them with you here.
Why Should Vegans Cook At Home?
Life is busy enough. Why add to your stress levels by cooking more at home? For me, the answer comes down to these reasons:
- Personalized meals are the best meals: By only using ingredients you know you love, your home-cooked food will be better than anything found in a store.
- Enjoy the creative process: I love that making my own vegan food gives me a creative outlet every week, and I’ve created some innovative recipes in the process.
- Save money: Premade food is pricey, but buying bulk ingredients to make your own food is one of the best ways to shave dollars off your food bills every month.
Essential Vegan Cooking Equipment
Enjoying time spent in your kitchen comes down to having the right tools available for the job. It can get overwhelming to know what you need to stock up on, but my list of kitchen must-haves may be the place to start.
- Food Processor
If you’re a fan of hummus, homemade sauces, and any nut butter, a high-quality food processor needs to be a priority for your kitchen. These versatile tools make chopping veggies and preparing dough easier than ever, saving you valuable time on every recipe.
- Quality Cookware set
Burning your food is cringe worthy for every kind of cook, so investing in a good cookware set can make cooking easier and more relaxing. Stainless steel is my personal favorite because it allows heat to distribute through the food evenly, but copper and ceramic are good options for cooking vegan fare, too.
Vegan cooks spend a lot of time with produce (no duh!) and one of the easiest ways to get tons of nutrition from fruits and vegetables is to juice them. Buying a home juicer lets you make your own nutritious juice, and many models can be used for processing nut butters, soy milk, and even grind coffee beans.
- Tofu Press
Most vegans are familiar with tofu, and for a good reason! This protein-packed meat substitute can transform your favorite dishes, and a tofu press lets you convert your tofu to the perfect texture for your recipe so that it doesn’t fall apart while you cook it.
- Quality Knife Set
Counter-intuitive as it might sound; sharper knives are often safer for cooks than dull ones. Invest in the best, and you’ll shave time off your recipe prepping each day while getting more precise cuts in the process.
5 Tips for Starting Out
Changing your relationship with food by becoming a vegan cook can be overwhelming, but it’s a process that works best when you take it one step at a time. Below are some of my tips for making your journey to animal-product free cooking a success:
- Give Yourself Extra Time: Often, designing meals around vegetables takes more time than conventional cooking (so much chopping!), so plan on adding some time into your schedule for kitchen experiments and adjustments.
- Stay Away from Convenience Foods: They might be delicious, but giving yourself an ‘out’ won’t help you become a better cook in the long run.Turn away from that frozen pizza, and keep experimenting with how to make your own instead.
- Keep Vegan Snacks on Hand: Don’t get caught on a road trip without vegan food options! Instead, strive to pack some snacks every morning so that you don’t find yourself starting without options.
- Go at Your Own Pace: It’s easy to fall into the mindset that you need to master every vegan cooking technique at once, but that’s a recipe for burnout. Instead, focus on one or two new methods or cooking techniques each week, and soon you’ll have an arsenal of vegan specialties at your fingertips.
- Don’t Stress About Protein: Breaking news- you don’t need as much protein as you think. Only endurance athletes need more than what most of us get on a daily basis, and vegan-friendly foods like rice, beans, nuts, and quinoa are excellent sources of the macronutrient. So long as you eat a plant-based diet with a variety of foods, your protein levels should be a non-issue.
What if You Mess Up?
Maybe you didn’t notice the gelatin listed on your gummy candy or forgot that freeze-dried milk was an ingredient in your favorite cake mix. It’s okay- we all mess up when we first become vegan.
The best thing to do is accept that it happened and move on. The spirit of veganism means that you follow the dietary guidelines as much as you can and forgive yourself for the rest.
Don’t be embarrassed, and don’t be afraid to keep trying. Learning how to be a vegan is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes some time to become proficient.
3 Easy Vegan Meal Ideas
Looking for some inspiration to get started? Check out my three favorite vegan meals below.
- Baked Sweet Potato
Fill a sweet potato with black beans, vegan sour cream, fresh chives and more for a delicious, filling vegan dinner.
- Rice, Beans and Broccoli Stir-fry
Rice and beans combine to make a complete protein, meaning that this meal will keep you full longer while providing the nutrition you need each day.
- Steel Cut Oatmeal
Starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal will keep you full for hours, and you can make it different each day depending on the toppings you use.
About the Author
Ashley Woodward is a nutritionist, fitness buff and the founder of VeganCookbook.com. Her goal is to help as many people as possible learn about the benefits of eating vegan, and to share her passion with other people who also have a love for cooking and trying new recipes. And if there’s something you want to see or ask, don’t hesitate to reach out, she’ll be happy to help!