Ah, memories. When I first stopped eating meat, I did it so suddenly I wasn’t prepared at all for navigating a meat-free life. When I became vegan just a few months later, I was still confused. Part of my cluelessness was that I didn’t personally know any other vegetarians or vegans whom I could turn to for help. That led me to find answers on the Internet. Still, I didn’t even know enough to know what questions to ask. One of my most striking memories is of being in the middle of the supermarket crying, literally crying, because I couldn’t figure out what to buy. Today I’m the one offering advice to people who choose to eat plant-based meals and/or live a vegan life. Here are 10 common questions people ask about vegan food and cooking and the answers, of course. As always, there are links to the wealth of information you can find right here on One Green Planet.
1. How Will I Survive When I Don’t Know How to Cook?
You may not know this but when I became vegan, I didn’t know how to cook much either. I knew how to make a few easy things from having watched my mother cook but most of my home-cooked meals came out of boxes and envelopes with flavor packets. I was on a first name basis with all the take-out restaurants in my neighborhood. When I went veg, I suddenly had no place to get food from. I had no choice but to learn to cook; I was hungry! But don’t worry, you don’t have to live on frozen convenience foods nor do you have to become a chef to make delicious, satisfying and healthy meals. All you have to do is learn the basics and then it’s easy to put together a great meal. At One Green Planet, we have suggestions especially for people who think they can’t cook. Check out 13 Meatless Monday Meal Ideas for the Beginner Cook, 10 Basic Vegan Recipes Even the Worst Cook Can Master, and 10 Easy Vegan Recipes Everyone Should Know…Yes, EVERYONE!
2. What is Tofu, Do I Have to Eat It and How Do I Cook It?
Contrary to popular opinion, eating a plant-based diet does not mean you have to eat tofu. No one will report you if you choose not to eat it. However, as someone who used to insist that bean curd be kept out of any dishes I ordered from my favorite Chinese restaurant, tofu is now the food I think I cannot live without. Tofu is simply soy milk coagulated into curds and then pressed into a block. It is extremely versatile and when prepared properly, it is amazing. On the other hand, when it is not prepared properly, it can taste like a bland sponge. That’s why I consider it my mission in life to teach people how to use tofu so that they too can discover just how incredible it is. For all the tips and tricks, read 6 Tips that Will Make You Love Tofu, 7 Tips to Make the Perfect Tofu Dish, 8 Reasons You Hate Tofu and How to Change That, and Tofu: How to Avoid 5 Common Cooking Mistakes. Once you have all the sage advice, learn How to Make the Perfect Baked Tofu, Tips for Making Killer Tofu Scrambles, 10 Ways to Cook Tofu with Global Flavors, and even How to Make Epic Vegan BBQ Tofu Wings. Before you know it, you’ll be a tofu connoisseur and whipping up Buffalo Tofu Po’ Boys and Crispy Tofu Nuggets.
3. I’m a Baker. How Do I Bake Without Milk, Butter and Eggs?
Baking without milk, butter and eggs may seem like a big challenge. After all, what other ingredients are in baked goods besides these and flour? Not only is it possible to bake with only vegan ingredients, it’s possible to make the most incredible, decadent and mouthwatering baked goods you ever had! Vegan foods have come so far, it’s possible to substitute for practically any ingredient. For egg-free baked goods, see How to Cook and Bake without Eggs, The Healthiest Egg Substitutions for Holiday Baking, and Your Guide to Vegan Egg Replacers. To replace milk, see Which Milk for What Recipe: A Non-Dairy Milk Guide for All Your Cooking and Baking Needs. It’s easier than you think to make your own Homemade Vegan Butter. For even more information on vegan baking, check out 10 Awesome Hacks for Vegan Cooking, 10 Food Substitutions Every Plant-Based Eater Should Know and The Green Monster Vegan Baking Guide. See how to veganize a recipe step-by-step in How to Veganize Popular Baked Goods.
4. I’m Gluten-Free. Is It Possible to Be Gluten-Free and Vegan?
It’s understandable why it may seem daunting to be both gluten-free and vegan. Each category has a big list of foods to avoid. The good news is that it’s totally possible to be both and still have plenty of delicious food to eat. Just as there are vegan versions of most foods, there are more and more gluten-free products on the market. It’s also easy to make your own gluten-free, vegan dishes. Read 10 Gluten-Free Cooking Tips for a basic tutorial. Think bread is out of the question? Learn about The Best Gluten-Free Bread Options. Afraid you’ll have to give up pasta? See all the Gluten-Free Pasta Options and What to Cook with Them. One Green Planet has hundreds and hundreds of gluten-free recipes for you to enjoy including a gluten-free version of vegan meats.
If you’re gluten-free, vegan and a baker, we have even more help to offer. See 7 Tips for Gluten-Free Baking, 5 Must-Have Pantry Staples for Gluten-Free, Vegan Baking, 5 Uncommon Gluten-Free Flours that are High in Protein, and The Ultimate Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Substitution Guide which has the answers to all your questions.
5. I Guess I Have to Eat Vegetables. How Do I Make Them Taste Good?
While it’s certainly possible to be vegan and not eat vegetables, we really don’t recommend it. It isn’t enough to be vegan, you have to make sure you’re a healthy vegan. Vegetables are filled with vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health. Guess what? Vegetables are also delicious. If you have been turned off by veggies that were bland or overcooked, please know that it wasn’t supposed to be that way. It’s not the veggies’ fault they weren’t cooked properly. Show them some love and prepare them so they are amazing. Take advice from 7 Tips for Cooking Vegetables So that They Taste Delicious, Try These 10 Methods for Cooking Flavorful Vegetables, and How to Avoid These Common Mistakes When Cooking Vegetables.
We have so many tips and recipes for specific veggies such as how to cook with root vegetables, winter squash, pumpkin, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, collard greens, greens, beans, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, cabbage, and more! If you need help with how to flavor veggies, see 10 Simple and Awesome Homemade Saute Sauces and 10 Creative and Delicious Ways to Flavor Raw Leafy Greens for mouthwatering recipes. Brave new worlds with 10 Under-Appreciated Veggies You Should Be Eating and take the challenge with 10 Ways to Get Yourself to Eat More Vegetables. Of course, we have to be healthy so see The Best Ways to Cook Vegetables for the Most Nutrition.
6. I Loved Meat. Is It Possible to Get Meaty Flavor without Eating Meat?
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! This is one of my specialties. I was a huge meat-eater. My family would go out for ice cream and I would order a burger. I didn’t stop eating meat because I didn’t like it; what I didn’t like was how that meat got on my plate. So I create lots of dishes that have the meaty flavor I love but without any actual meat. It’s important to understand why some people love and crave the taste of meat. If that’s you, I recommend you read The Missing Link: How to Add Umami Flavor into Your Vegan Meals to learn about the fifth taste that makes us want savory foods. If you crave meat, that’s ok. I still do even after 6 years. See Missing Meat? Here’s How to Satisfy Your Cravings in a Meat-Free Way.
Learn about all the vegan meats in The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Meats and Meat Substitutions. You’ll learn all about tofu, tempeh and How to Make Perfect Seitan. You’ll also find out about all the vegetables that have “meaty” flavor and texture like mushrooms, lentils and jackfruit. See the 10 Vegetables that Can Substitute for Meat and the 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With.
Since it’s not the actual meat people love but the flavors and textures, you can create those same sensations with plant-based foods. See 5 Tips to Make Meatless Food Taste Meaty for all the secrets. Then enjoy compassionate and healthier versions of burgers, sausages, ribs, pot roast, cheesesteaks, meatballs, stews and steak. You can even Make Seafood Dishes without the Fish.
7. What About Take-Out Foods? I Love Take-Out Food.
I hear you. I loved take-out food too. Instead of recipes, my drawers were filled with restaurant menus. You can still enjoy take-out and eating out at restaurants; you just have to know how to order vegan dishes. Check out How to Order a Vegan Pizza from Any Delivery Store, The Best Veggie Items on the Menu at a Chinese Restaurant, and How to Eat Vegan at a Steakhouse. If you live in or are visiting the Big Apple, see our picks for the 10 Must-Try Veggie Burgers in NYC and the 10 Must-Try Vegan Sandwiches in NYC.
Another option is to make your own take-out style dishes at home. It’s easier than you think, less expensive and you get to choose the ingredients. Learn How to Make Your Own Chinese Food, Italian Food, Jamaican Ital Food, Indian Food and Spanish Food. Learn How to Cook Veggies Thai Style, and How to Make Your Own Pizza.
If you love Mexican food, have we got resources for you. Learn How to Cook Veggies Mexican-Style, How to Make the Perfectly Layered Chipotle-Style Vegan Burrito plus 10 burrito filling ideas, How to Make a Chipotle-Style Veggie Bowl, and 10 Awesome Taco Fillings to Make for Taco Tuesday. For even more ways to veganize your favorites, see How to Make Vegan Versions of Your Favorite Brand Name Foods and Fast Food Favorites Made with Whole, Plant-Based Foods .
8. How Will I Live Without Cheese?
While I wasn’t the biggest cheese lover, I did worry how I would replace the few I did like, especially mozzarella and parmesan. Many people believe they won’t be able to live without cheese and part of that thinking is because cheese contains addictive properties that make us crave it. Read how in How to Overcome Your Cheese Cravings and 5 Ways to Battle Those Cheese Cravings After You Go Vegan. Some of the biggest advancements made in vegan products are vegan cheeses; see Why the Future of Artisanal Cheese is Vegan.
You don’t have to have a company or a lab to make your own vegan cheese. Learn How to Make Fresh Vegan Mozzarella Cheese and How to Make Vegan Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese. Try Macadamia Nut Spreadable Pepper-Herb Feta, Vegan Cashew Dill Cheese, Raw Almond Parmesan and Smoked Vegan Coconut Gouda that Stretches, Slices and Grates. Also check out These 10 Vegan Cheeses that will Make You Quit Dairy Forever. With these amazing vegan cheeses, you can enjoy all your old favorites like Decadent Mac and Cheese and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
9. What Will I Eat for Breakfast Without Eggs?
This was my question too. I wasn’t much of a breakfast eater but when I did, it was usually eggs. While I thought chicken was going to be the hardest thing for me to give up, it turned out to be eggs. That’s why they were some of the first dishes I learned to veganize; I had to Learn How to Replace Eggs in Favorite Dishes. Besides tofu scrambles (which I love!), I learned to make vegan omelets, frittatas and quiches. It may sound unbelievable but you don’t need eggs to make vegan Eggs Benedict, French Toast, or even The Perfect Fried Egg – Sunny Side Up!
Besides these amazing vegan “egg” dishes, there are other ways to Make Breakfast Your Favorite Meal. You can start your day with juices, smoothies, hot cereals or muffins. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to Peanut Butter and Apple Pancakes with Peanut Butter Maple Syrup, Chocolate Chip, Orange and Apricot Scones or Peanut Butter Banana Waffles with Blueberry Macadamia Cream? Don’t forget the sides like Vegan Breakfast Sausage, Vegan Bacon and Home Fries. Of course, veggies should always be a part of every meal. Read Veggies at Breakfast: How to Do it Simply and Deliciously.
10. How Do I Know What to Buy?
This question brings me back full-circle to standing in the middle of the supermarket in tears from confusion. I wish I had the benefit of the resources available now. Get sage advice in A Whole Foods Vegan Diet: The Ultimate Guide. Unlike me, you do not have to shed tears in the supermarket; not when you have For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List and The Smart Shopper: A Beginner Vegan’s Pantry List for Winter. Get An Inside Look into a Healthy Vegan Pantry and find out the 12 Must-Have Items for Your Vegan Pantry and the 5 Pantry Staples You Can Turn into 10 Different Dishes. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods Supermarket (unlike me), learn 9 Hacks to Shop at Whole Foods as a Health Conscious Eater on A Budget. Learn How to Navigate the Grocery Store for Clean Food Quickly, How to Shop Your Way to a Healthy, Plant-Based Diet on a Budget and How to Shop at the Farmers’ Market. Save money with Frugal Food Hacks! 7 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill in Half, Strategies for Buying Healthy Food in Bulk and How to Properly Store Your Fruit and Vegetables for Maximum Freshness.
I hope this helped answer any burning questions you had about vegan food and cooking. If there’s a topic I missed, let me know in the comments and I can address it in the next installment.
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Lead Image Photo: How to Properly Store Your Fruit and Vegetables for Maximum Freshness