If you eat vegan or plant-based, you are probably used to thinking ahead when it comes to food. Choosing to cut animal products out from your diet—whether long-term or short—requires a few key ingredient swaps, getting a handle on what qualifies as vegan and what doesn’t, and of course, some good recipe ideas to make sure you’re not just eating delicious food, but getting enough variety. If you’re newly vegan or just vegan-curious, check out our tips for getting started.
What is vegan cooking?
There’s one key to ensuring a recipe is vegan: it should use no animal products (like meat, dairy, eggs, or even honey) whatsoever. While in vegetarian cooking you might use eggs, cheese, and other dairy ingredients, a vegan eating pattern is much stricter. Thankfully, there is a wealth of resources for adapting this lifestyle (because it does end up requiring some lifestyle changes). Though the term vegan originally meant people who abstain from animal products because of ethical convictions, many people are adopting the diet for health reasons.
You might see the term plant-based rather than vegan as a descriptor for recipes, restaurants, or packaged food. Though plant-based cooking also places an emphasis on non-animal products, it does not require strict adherence. So, if you are concerned about making sure your diet is 100 percent free of any animal products, opt for vegan. The good news is, if you’re focused on eating more plants, many vegan recipes are compatible with plant-based eating.
What are the basic tools for cooking vegan?
When it comes to cooking vegan food, you’re going to use the same basic items in your kitchen as with any other sort of cooking. To get started with vegan cooking, make sure you’re at least stocked with a sturdy cutting board, sharp knives, a 8" HexClad Hybrid Pan or a 10" HexClad Hybrid Pan, and a pot large enough for soups and stews, like our HexClad Hybrid 8 QT Pot or 5 QT Dutch Oven. Because you’ll be eating more vegetables than normal, tools that help vary textures can be your friend: a spiralizer to make vegetable noodles and an immersion blender for puréed soups are particularly handy.
What are the best oils for vegan cooking?
If you’re wondering about finding the best vegan cooking oils, you’re in luck: most oils are inherently vegan due to being made from olives, seeds, nuts, or coconut. But, some vegans avoid olive oil because of perceived environmental consequences. For high heat preparations, choose avocado oil, pecan oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil. For low heat, no cook recipes, or finishing dishes, choose extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil, or pumpkin seed oil.
How to substitute dairy ingredients like butter, milk, and cream in vegan recipes
After years of inadequate alternatives to dairy ingredients, the market has risen to meet demand. You can find nondairy butters, milks, and cream in most grocery stores and substitute them in equal proportions. The key is to try the ingredient before you add it to the recipe since the taste of vegan dairy alternatives varies in quality. When using nondairy milk in place of cow’s milk, make sure to buy unsweetened, unflavored varieties. No one wants sugary vanilla almond milk in a chowder. Vegan cheeses have come a long way, too. Everything from shreddable cheddar-style cheese to creamy ricotta.
Vegan substitutions for eggs
When it comes to making vegan food, you’re not going to be able to replace a fried or scrambled egg. But used in baked goods, there are plenty of ways to substitute eggs. You can buy vegan egg replacer or use flaxseed meal, instead. Whisk together 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons water. Let it sit until it’s gelatinous like an egg white. Use in place of eggs in your favorite baking recipe.
Focus on umami for delicious vegan food
One of the things you might miss most when switching to a vegan diet is the rich, savory flavor that comes from aged cheeses and cooked meats. Thankfully, many vegan ingredients are rich in umami, like mushrooms, soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, miso paste, and nutritional yeast (which many vegans swear by as a replacement for parmesan cheese). You can draw umami out of vegetables by roasting them and add a hit of smoky (umami-adjacent) flavor by sprinkling dishes with smoked salt.
Stock your pantry with vegan basics
Adjusting to cooking vegan can take extra time, so having a pantry full of ingredients that can make cooking easier is crucial. In addition to pasta, rice, and other comfort-food ingredients, stock your pantry with cans of beans and lentils, jars of vegan tomato sauce, rolled oats, nuts and seeds, grains, and a variety of spices so that you can vary the flavor of your dishes. In the fridge, store tofu, meat replacements like vegan sausage, and any vegan dairy basics. The freezer is your friend with vegan cooking—fill it with frozen veggies for when you can’t think of what to cook.