From stir-fries to pasta to hearty bowls, it’s practically a no-brainer these days to find delicious plant-based lunch and dinner options to prepare at home or to order at a restaurant. Breakfast and brunch, though, can be another story. While these meals are very vegetarian-friendly, their traditional focus on eggs makes them quite challenging for vegans to navigate. Luckily, tofu scrambles have become very common in home kitchens and brunch hot spots alike. In fact, they’ve practically become the veggie burger of breakfast, which is to say that they’re tasty, filling, and easy to find, but can get boring quickly if they’re the only horse in the race.
If you’re sick of having the same old tofu scramble every weekend, check out these creative alternative vegan breakfast and brunch ideas. Not all of these options are common on restaurant menus (yet), but many can easily be made to order upon request or prepared at home with minimal elbow grease.
A popular small plate on the New York City brunch circuit, avocado toast is so rich, creamy, and delicious in its simplicity that everyone goes nuts for it. While each chef has their own spin, the base of the dish consists simply of ripe avocado mashed with salt, a drop of acid (usually lemon juice), and maybe a splash of olive oil, then spread on a slice of crusty toast. Don’t see it on the menu? Try building your own with a side order of sliced avocado and toast.
Socca, aka Chickpea Crepes
You’re unlikely to come across socca at a restaurant, but it’s an impressive and easy option for a home-cooked breakfast or brunch. Simply combine equal parts chickpea flour and water, a pinch of salt, and a generous splash of oil. Pour a thin layer of the batter into a hot, oiled pan, and fry on both sides as you would pancakes or crepes. Similar to an omelet, the socca can then be filled with whatever sautéed or roasted veggies you like, and even topped with a creamy sauce, if desired.
Huevos Rancheros, Hold the Huevos
A beloved Tex-Mex breakfast favorite found on virtually every brunch menu, traditional huevos rancheros consist of fried tortillas topped with saucy beans, salsa, fried eggs, and sour cream. Some restaurants will even include plantains, sautéed veggies, or other fun add-ins. The dish is made by layering each ingredient on the plate, so it’s easy to just omit the eggs and cream without having to change the recipe at all otherwise. Because beans are such a protein powerhouse and the salsa packs so much flavor, the dish is still filling and incredibly satisfying without the animal products. To make the meal even richer, add some sliced avocado and/or extra beans.
Build-Your-Own Pan-Fried Sandwich
Some of the most satisfying traditional breakfast and brunch meals consist of interesting combinations of textures (think: crusty but custardy French toast, for example) and flavors (think: smokey, salty and syrup-soaked pancakes), paired with just the right amount of fattiness. With their crispy, pleasantly greasy outside and their endlessly versatile fillings, fried sandwiches check all of these boxes.
Better yet, they are so simple that anyone, even a grumpy diner cook, can throw one together easily with whatever ingredients are in the kitchen. Simply top sliced bread with desired fillings (some great plant-based options include: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and bananas, avocado and tomato, hummus and veggies, or even melted chocolate and fruit), then fry in a little oil or vegan margarine until the bread is browned and the filling is warm. For a lower-fat option, just use a panini press instead of frying.
Soup, Salad, Rice Porridge, Or anything else on the menu that sounds good!
In his excellent cookbook, Vedge, vegan chef Rich Landau shares that his family’s favorite breakfast is a steaming bowl of kombu dashi with soba noodles and tofu. Similarly, a popular Chinese breakfast is congee, a creamy rice porridge with protein and veggies stirred in. Having soup first thing in the morning may seem strange, but what could be better than waking up with a warm, soothing mix of simple flavors and textures?
While it’s natural to seek a breakfast option that feels similar to our omnivorous friends’ meals, it’s also important to remember that starting one’s day with some version of toast, pancakes, and an egg (or something egg-like) is merely a traditional Western cultural phenomenon. The reality is that any nutritious dish with some protein, healthy carbohydrates, and veggies can be a great morning meal or to nurse a hangover. Put differently, just because Americans typically relegate soup, salad, stew, or even stir-fry to lunch and dinner doesn’t mean that it has to be that way.
Next time you’re out to brunch, take a peek at the rest of the menu and see if a hearty salad, soup, or other vegetable option catches your eye. Or, alternatively, get your buddies together and venture to your local ethnic restaurant instead of a trendy brunch spot—delicious Indian dal with naan, Chinese dim sum, or Middle-Eastern falafel sandwiches, for example, will satisfy everyone.
Facing breakfast and brunch as a new vegan can definitely feel daunting at first, but, once you learn to think outside the box, the possibilities are truly endless. Even if animal products are still part of your diet, the ideas above can be a fun and delicious change of pace, not to mention a great way to manage your cholesterol. Want more creative plant-based breakfast/brunch ideas? Check out these great recipes here on One Green Planet.
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Lead Image Source: Polenta Benedict (Vegan)