“I wish I could be a vegetarian.” That’s what I said for years, even decades, but I didn’t think I could give up all my favorite foods. Then I watched a video that tore down all my walls of denial about how animals suffer to put that food on my plate. Not long after swearing off meat, I further learned about the horrors of the egg and dairy industry and it was clear I was headed towards a life of veganism. It felt overwhelming, though. There were so many foods to give up. How would I live without chicken, fish, cheese, milk and eggs? What would be left to eat? Did I have to eat tofu and drink soy milk every day? It turned out that the variety of plant-based foods is huge and there are vegan versions of practically everything! So if you are scared to give up your favorite animal foods because you think it means a life of sacrifice, read on. These recipes will calm all your fears and change your mind.
Some of my favorite dishes growing up were made with beef – pot roast, steak, ribs, burgers, meatloaf and meatballs. Beef has an umami taste that satisfies our cravings for savory, meaty flavor. Believe it or not, it is possible to get those same flavors without eating meat. There are at least 10 vegetables that can substitute for meat. By achieving the same flavors and textures that we associate with meat, we can satisfy our cravings in a meat-free way. So all those dishes I mentioned can be made in a veganized version. Try this Seitan Pot Roast, Portobello Mushroom Steaks, and Balsamic BBQ Seitan and Tempeh Ribs. Burger lovers will love these Black Bean Apple Burgers With Caramelized Onion Chipotle BBQ Sauce and Shiitake Bacon. This Diner-Style Meatloaf and these BBQ Lentil Meatballs will squash any idea that being meat-free means never having meaty-tasting food again. See Your Favorite Beef Dishes Veganized for plant-based versions of all your familiar favorites.
As much as I loved beef, it was chicken I thought I couldn’t live without. Chicken was the food that kept me from ever attempting a plant-based life for so long. I loved all kinds of chicken dishes – fried chicken, cutlets, wings, nuggets and Chinese food. As soon as I learned my way around a meat-free kitchen, I began veganizing all my favorite chicken dishes. Similarly to beef, we can satisfy any chicken cravings by getting the same textures and flavors with plant-based ingredients. If you’re thinking it’s just not the same, let me reassure you. No one loved chicken more than I did; my father used to say I ate chicken so often, I would sprout feathers one day. Yet I am completely satisfied with my veganized versions of chicken dishes and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. In fact, it’s just the opposite since I get my favorite dishes without the cruelty of eating actual chickens. See what I mean by trying “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks with White Gravy, Chick’n-Style Seitan Cutlets, Crispy Tofu Nuggets, General Tso’s Tofu, Sweet and Sour “Chicken,” and these Chicken-Less Burgers. Learn how to make Epic Vegan BBQ Tofu Wings. See even more recipes you can try in Your Favorite Chicken Recipes Veganized.
I’ll admit it, I was part of the “everything is better with bacon” mindset. In fact, I thought everything was better with extra bacon. Bacon is the food that seems to make people abandon all reason. Going meat-free doesn’t mean the end of bacon, just the kind that comes from adorable pigs. There isn’t just vegan bacon, there are all kinds of vegan bacon. There is Coconut Bacon, Shitake Bacon, Eggplant Bacon, Tempeh Bacon and even Beet Bacon. So you can still have your BLT sandwiches, bacon burgers and “Bacon” and Maple Syrup Pancakes. Besides bacon, you can veganize other pork dishes like chorizo, ham, and Sweet and Spicy Vegan Pork.
Let’s get this out of the way: fish are not vegetables. They are living, breathing sea animals who feel pain and want to live. Seafood dishes are incredibly easy to veganize. Using flavors associated with seafood such as lemon, dill, seaweed and Old Bay seasoning and choosing the right food for the texture will make you think you’re dining by the sea. You can enjoy vegan crab cakes, tuna salad, scallops, shrimp and even Gefilte “fish” without eating fish. Try this Tempeh “Fish” and Chips, Chickpea “Tuna” Salad, Tofu Scallops, “Shrimp” Scampi, and Chickpea “Crab” Cakes. Indulge in Vegan Tuna Casserole, a Chickpea “Tuna” Melt, and vegan Sushi while eating whole, plant-based foods. For more recipes and cooking tips, see You Don’t Need Fish to Make Delicious Seafood Dishes: Use These Tips Instead.
While I thought I couldn’t live without chicken, I was surprised to learn it was eggs that I had trouble giving up. If someone asked me, I would have said I didn’t even like eggs that much but I found I missed my omelets, scrambled eggs and using eggs for cooking and baking. Those were the dishes I had to learn how to veganize first. Lucky for me, it was easy. The color of eggs can be replicated using ground turmeric while the taste and aroma will be identical if you use black salt. Scrambled eggs are easily veganized with tofu or chickpeas. Check out these Tips for Making Killer Tofu Scrambles and then make this Mexican-Spiced Tofu Scramble or this Curried Tofu Scramble. Learn How to Make a Vegan Omelet, Sunny Side Up Vegan Eggs, Vegan Eggs Benedict, Easy Spinach and Pepper Quiche, and Roasted Vegetable Frittata. If you loved egg salad sandwiches, try this Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich. For more tips, see How to Replace Eggs in All Your Favorite Dishes and How to Cook and Bake without Eggs.
Most people think it’s cheese they can’t live without and that no vegan version could come close. Every day, that is becoming less true. Vegan cheeses have come so far even in the six years that I’ve been vegan. They melt, they stretch and they taste incredible – read Why the Future of Artisanal Cheese is Vegan. There are now so many brands to choose from or you can make your own vegan cheese. You will love the taste and texture of this Cashew Coconut Cream Cheese, Macadamia Nut Spreadable Pepper-Herb Feta, Vegan Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese, Vegan Moxarella and this Smoked Vegan Coconut Gouda that Melts, Stretches, Slices and Grates. Learn How to Make the Most Decadent Mac and Cheese and Vegan Dips for Cheese Lovers. If you think you’ll never be able to give up dairy cheese, read 5 Ways to Battle Those Cheese Cravings after You Go Vegan and then try These 10 Vegan Cheeses that will Make You Quit Dairy Forever.
Besides cheese, dairy covers a lot of territory. There is milk, cream, sour cream yogurt, butter and ice cream. There are, however, even more Reasons Why You Should Ditch Dairy and try plant-based versions instead. Instead of coming out of a cow, milk can be made from nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. There is soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk and rice milk, just to name a few. Learn how to make homemade Hazelnut Cashew Milk, Sprouted Sunflower Seed Milk, Peanut Milk, Coconut Milk and Hazelnut Fig Milk. You don’t have to drink your coffee black when you can add Vanilla Nut Coffee Creamer in it. Save money making your own Creamy Chai Latte and enjoy the festivities with this Vegan “Egg” Nog. When it comes to sour cream and yogurt, there are several brands you can buy or you can make your own like this Coconut Yogurt and this Coconut Sour Cream. Believe it or not, it’s even easy to make your own Vegan Butter that is creamy and delicious. You’ll be screaming for ice cream – dairy-free ice cream, that is – when you taste this Banana Split Cheesecake Parfait, Raw Banana Ice Cream Sundae, DQ-Style Vegan Ice Cream Cake, Chocolate Fudgesicles, Raw Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches and these Neapolitan “Milk” Shakes.
Lastly, avoiding animal foods means ditching the honey and helping to save the honeybees. There are a few brands of vegan “honey” on the market. There are also alternatives to honey such as maple syrup, agave nectar, and date syrup to name a few. Don’t reach for artificial sweeteners. Try these Natural Sweeteners That Are Healthy Honey Substitutes instead the next time you make Struffoli “Honey” Balls.
Name any food and I’ll tell you how to make a vegan version of it. If the idea of giving up animal foods scares you into thinking you’ll never enjoy food again, just try any of these amazing recipes. Not only will you not starve, you will end up eating a wider range of foods than you ever thought possible and you’ll love it.
Lead Image Source: The Perfect Vegan Fried Egg . . . Sunny Side Up