Are you thinking about going vegan in the new year, or eating more plant based food? This helpful range of tips can help you transition to a vegan lifestyle, taking your plantbased cooking to a new level.
More and more people are turning to a plantbased or vegan diet than ever before for many reasons. These range from the ethical side of things, such as ending animal agriculture, to stopping environmental degradation and the fact that it’s brilliant for our health. Regardless of what your personal reason is, you can know that you are helping both yourself and the planet through this lifestyle change. If you’re thinking about this change, a range of cooking tips for beginners will certainly help you out.
1. Learn how to cook vegetables
Chances are, you will be eating a lot of vegetables on a vegan or plantbased diet, more than you’re used to. But, contrary to popular belief, vegetables can taste amazing. There are countless ways to prepare them, and oftentimes to can’t even tell that a particular dish contains them! There are stir-fries, salads, casseroles, even desserts!
2. Recreate old favourites
That being said, try expanding your culinary horizons. Most vegan dishes are easy to create with familiar ingredients. But, as soon as you start the journey, a world of new ingredients is presented to you, from superfood powders to new fruits and vegetable, that you may never have heard of before. Without overwhelming yourself, start finding new recipes and incorporating these ingredients into your diet to keep your cooking interesting. Chances are, you’ll discover plenty of new favourites! Doing so is important because it will stop you from getting bored with eating the same meals every day, which is a very common mistake.
3. Find inspiration
To get yourself started with vegan cooking and build up a range of go-to recipes, learn from others! Aside from cookbooks, the internet is full of amazing vegan recipes that you’ll want to recreate ASAP. Browse not only on google, but also Instagram and Pinterest, saving ideas for those days when you need anything from a healthy dinner idea, to an appetizer for a party table.
4. Get a good non-stick frying pan
A lot of vegan recipes require frying of some sort, so having a good frying pan is definitely a worthwhile investment, especially if you want to cook without oil (there’s nothing wrong with oil and I don’t like to label foods as good or bad, but it’s something I personally eat in moderation).
5. Learn how to do staples yourself
You know those products that vegans always eat, like plantbased milks and nut and seed butters? Of course, most grocery stores nowadays have them readily available. But in my opinion, homemade always tastes better, ensures there are no excess ingredients, and works out as much cheaper. You can even make your own vegan cheese! Doing so is far easier than it sounds and requires just a handful of ingredients.
6. Less is more
Especially with kitchen equipment. It’s much better to stock your kitchen with just a few good quality pieces that you know you will use a lot for your cooking. Having a lot of clutter simply causes unnecessary stress. The same can be said about food. It’s amazing just how many dishes you can cooking using just simple ingredients. Of course, as I said, finding new ingredients is fun, but sometimes people are put off from plantbased cooking because they think that it requires a very fancy kitchen, which certainly isn’t the case.
7. Have plenty of go-to spices
Spices are super important. Plus, there are so many different combinations that you can turn any old boring meal into something new. When following recipes, don’t be tempted to leave them out. At the same time, give new ones a go as much as possible to see which ones you like best. They are, after all, what gives each dish its unique character!
8. Corn starch for making a sauce thick and creamy
Arrowroot powder works really well too. When preparing a vegan dish, it definitely isn’t hard to achieve a thick and creamy sauce consistency (think mac n cheese and stir-fry sauces). A thickener like corn starch does the trick for both sweet and savoury recipes. Before adding to the sauce, simply stir it together with around twice the amount of water (for example, 1 tsp corn starch and 2 tsp water) and add to the dish around 2 minutes before it’s ready to allow the sauce to thicken.
9. Tahini and nut butter in sauces
Adding nut butters or tahini to sauces, either as just a subtle hint or a major ingredient, is a great way to cook a yummy sauce. One fantastic thing about nut butters is just the number of varieties available in supermarkets nowadays. Each one has a unique flavour, and works in a range of sweet and savoury dishes. For example, you can add peanut or almond butter to cookies and brownies, but it works just as well in a curry sauce. Likewise, I often add tahini to my recipes, and drizzle it over my meals by itself or with a little bit of lemon juice.
10. Have a shopping list of basic ingredients
As I said, it’s incredible just how many vegan dishes you can create from basic ingredients, from potatoes and beans to different different nut and seed varieties. That’s why it’s helpful to have a go-to shopping list. It will ensure that you always have those staples in your kitchen. As a starting point, check out my list of gluten-free vegan pantry staples for some ideas. However, remember that these will depend on your personal dietary requirements and preferences.
11. Learn how to veganise a recipe
In order words, remember your basic ingredient substitutions, which can be helpful if you want to recreate an old favourite dish, especially while you’re still adjusting to the lifestyle. Regular milk for plant milk (such as oat, soya, coconut, almond, etc.,) is an obvious swap. Chia eggs and flax eggs work by stirring together 1 tbsp chia seeds or ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water per ‘egg’ and letting it sit for around 10 minutes before using in a whole range of recipes. Honey can be switched out for maple syrup, while nut butters work well in place of regular butter for baking. Following these principles, you can make adjustments to old recipes without having to learn many new ones.
12. When in doubt, create a bowl
Nourish bowls are one of my favourite dishes to cook. What’s great is that they’re versatile, full of flavour and texture, and don’t require following an intricate recipe. In fact, you can follow a basic formula and create a super tasty meal every time. I like to start with a base of leafy greens (such as spinach or arugula). Then, I add a carbohydrate like rice, potatoes or pasta and a source of protein, usually beans or tofu. The next stage is adding healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds…) and a sauce, which can be as simple as a drizzle of tahini or vegan yoghurt. Finally, I add a few extra vegetables and sometimes fruit for a bit of sweetness. The end result is a nourishing and balanced meal that also tastes incredible!
13. Always keep learning
This is the thing that will help you improve your vegan cooking and keep improving for as long as possible. Plus, if you actively encourage yourself to learn new recipes and implement new ingredients, you won’t get bored with what you’re eating. Just like with any other art (and yes, cooking is an art for sure, even if you’re just making dinner for yourself and a few friends!), there’s always room to improve your skills, which is what keeps it exciting.
This post is also available in: Hungarian