A lot of the resistance to eating healthy vegan food is because people think it’s going to taste like cardboard. But the truth is that it can actually taste amazing if it’s done well.
When you know a few simple things about seasonings and cooking with plant foods, you can satisfy even the most demanding tastebuds.
When I first started cooking vegan food, I was lost for a little while. Then I started learning about how to work with the flavors of the healthy foods I was eating – bringing them out, combining them properly and using seasonings to make meals even tastier.
Now, I look forward to eating the delicious things I make for every single meal. I love eating healthy food because it tastes so good!
I also love making dishes to show off how incredible healthy vegan food can really be. It’s fun to serve something, have people rave about how wonderful it is, and then tell them that it’s healthy and vegan.
From what I’ve learned over the years, I’ve put together the most important tips for you to start making your own incredible meals to satisfy and impress your family and friends.
Use Fresh, High-Quality Ingredients
Over the holidays, I made gingerbread cookies using the exact same recipe I always use and love. The only difference was instead of using my usual brand of organic molasses, I used a nameless one I scooped out of a bulk bin.
Not only was this molasses really messy, but the gingerbread cookies were not nearly as yummy as they usually are. They were still good and disappeared into various mouths in no time flat, but I knew the difference.
If you normally go for the very cheapest ingredients, and are finding your meals lacking a certain something, try getting some higher quality foods.
Organic produce – if grown properly – often has more flavor. The purest versions of things like peanut butter or tomato sauce – the ones that aren’t buried in sugar, salt, oil and preservatives – have a much richer flavor.
Spice Things Up
Spices and herbs should become a regular part of your meals. They add flavor, and they even add nutrients!
It might seem crazy, but spices like cumin, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon have big benefits. Some give a boost to your digestive and immune systems, and they add really important nutrients like amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and antioxidants.
Fresh herbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Parsley, basil, mint, cilantro and others are so much more than garnishes.
Try to work spices and fresh or dried herbs into your meals more often. Tomato sauces, curries, salad dressings, bean dips, soups, veggie burgers, oatmeal – they can all benefit from the added flavor and nutrition.
Give Beans And Grains A Boost
Have you ever eaten a plain chickpea? Or a forkful of plain brown rice? They don’t taste like much of anything – they’re totally bland. If you want them to taste amazing, don’t serve them on their own.
Vegetables and fruit are bursting with flavors, and pairing them with beans and grains in a meal is a great way to make a dish more interesting – and healthier!
Infusing flavor into the water that you use to cook grains or beans is another way to add flavor. Adding spices, herbs, tea, broth or juice to the cooking water will take otherwise boring black beans or quinoa to a new level.
A good sauce or dressing will go a long way to adding flavor to a meal, especially with grains or beans. Marinating beans in a flavorful salad dressing will infuse the flavor right into the bean and make it much tastier.
Don’t Be Scared Of Fat
Choosing the right kind of fat is important to keep things healthy, but once you get that sorted out you should embrace it. It makes a huge difference to the flavor of your food, plus your body needs some fat to run properly.
Fat carries the flavor of spices and gives a richer feeling to a dish. A meal doesn’t have to be fat-free to be healthy if you’re using a healthy form of fat.
The best kind of fat is a whole food (avocados, nuts, seeds, olives), or as close to whole as you can get (nut or seed butters, olive paste). Whole foods have water, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants along with the fat.
If you need to use oil, choose an unrefined, extra-virgin version and only use a little bit. My favorites are coconut and olive for being minimally processed and not forming toxins when you heat them.
If you’re new to eating healthy or vegan food, or when you’re cooking for people who are, it can really help to add a bit more fat. It makes it taste and feel more like what you or they are used to.
Don’t Be Scared Of Salt
Salt brings out the flavor of vegetables, softens them and reduces their bitterness, and brings the flavors of the whole dish together. When you’re cooking, add enough salt to bring the flavors out and draw them together but stop short of it actually tasting salty.
Even though some people are told to reduce their sodium intake, lots of health experts say that increasing potassium is even more important for regulating blood pressure. Fresh vegetables are the best source of potassium, and if using a pinch of salt in your cooking means that you’ll eat more veggies then I think it’s a fair trade.
I don’t think of salt as a health food, but sea salt is a much healthier form than regular table salt, which has lots of additives.
Even better is a vegetable salt, which is sea salt mixed with dried herbs and vegetables. That way, you get more nutrients and less sodium. My favorite brand is Herbamare, by A. Vogel.
If you want to make some healthy vegan food that will impress your friends, your family and even yourself, try some of these simple ways to show off the amazing flavors of plant foods.
So remember – use spices and herbs more often, lots of flavor with grains and beans, fat to carry flavors and salt to bring them together and the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on.