Many people would like to try an animal-free diet, but are turned off by the high prices at health food stores and the obscurity of certain vegan products. Others dislike the gimmicky aspect of “fake” meats and dairy products, and they might have a point. Many of these imitations aren’t exactly on-target, and if vegan foods are so great, why are they masquerading as something else?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Though the word “vegan” and products associated with the lifestyle are relatively new, a wealth of centuries-old recipes exist, using inexpensive, familiar ingredients you can find in the grain and produce sections of just about any grocery store. Cook them up with your friends, and don’t say anything until they ask for seconds. Surprise! They just enjoyed a vegan meal!
1. Homemade Hummus With Red Peppers
Homemade roasted red peppers don’t take long to make, but if you’d rather not dirty a baking sheet, you can find them in jars at your grocery store or omit them from the recipe altogether and just have plain hummus. Serve with pita bread, veggies, or crackers.
2. Spicy Eggplant Caponata
This flavorful roasted eggplant dip is an old Italian favorite that includes olives, capers, pine nuts, golden raisins, pepper flakes, and celery, which can all be left out if you don’t have them handy. A simpler version of this dish, nicknamed “eggplant caviar,” is a popular Russian appetizer. You’ll need some kind of bread or crackers to dip in this.
3. Warm Potato Salad With Spinach and Chickpeas
Here’s a tasty, safe dish you can bring to your next potluck or picnic as a healthier alternative to the familiar mayo-heavy potato salad. Like the hummus dish above, chickpeas shine as a frugal protein source. There’s no need to buy expensive soy burgers all the time!
4. Ketchup Baked Home Fries
As every vegan knows, sometimes fries and ketchup are the only option on late night diner stops or road trips through the Midwest. That’s not to say they aren’t delicious! Try this savory home version with fresh chopped garlic. Who doesn’t like home fries?
5. Simple Lentil Dal
This simple, ancient dish is a staple at Indian restaurants. Now you can make it at home and serve it with Basmati rice or just some warm flatbread. If you don’t have all the spices listed in this recipe, use a basic curry powder, which includes a mix of all of them.
6. Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf
People either love it or hate it, but cauliflower is like the tofu of the vegetable kingdom, soaking up all the flavors and colors it’s cooked in while adding a delightful texture. Wild rice is only a suggestion in this pilaf recipe. You can make it with any rice you like, or with the protein-rich grain quinoa.
7. Chili No Carne
This one’s a no-brainer. It’s just the well-loved chili without added meat. You can add a lot of other things that aren’t in the core recipe, like chickpeas, zucchini, or garlic. Even a little peanut butter can add some dimension! Meatless chili should never be bland — the options for added textures and flavors are virtually endless. Cook up a big pot because the leftovers taste better and better every day.
8. Crispy Gnocchi With Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Brussels Sprouts
Here’s a simple but impressive entree that’s perfect for spring! Grocery store gnocchi is often incidentally vegan, but it’s fine to substitute regular pasta in any case. If you really want to get fancy, you can make your own gnocchi with just flour, olive oil, and potatoes.
Lead image source: Crispy Gnocchi with Mushroom, Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts