It’s a well-known fact I didn’t grow up eating a plant-based diet. My southern accent alone gives away that I likely grew up as most southerners do on a diet of buttered biscuits, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, buttered corn on the cob, and yes, more forms of fried chicken in any way you can imagine. Thankfully, I grew out of this “heritage” way of eating considering it wasn’t the most nutritionally sound way to eat. I nixed the fried food, along with the chicken and butter (and other animal-based foods). However, southern food creates deep-rooted appreciation for comfort foods like the ones I grew up eating. Having nothing to do with the fact that many of them contained animals, those foods generate warm, fuzzy feelings of happy times during childhood, and large family dinners where we embraced traditionally cooked meals. Southerners rarely celebrate anything without food and though it contains animal products for the most part, a southern diet is so easy to give a plant-based makeover.

1. Tofu Isn’t the Only Option

While meat substitutes may work well for some recipes, don’t try to substitute a piece of fried chicken with tofu – it’s not going to work the same, isn’t going to trick your family, and doesn’t taste anything like chicken (though tofu is a much kinder, healthier option.) There are other meat alternative products that may work better, such as tempeh, or veggie burgers, which have more flavor than tofu. If you don’t enjoy them ,then just leave them out. But there’s no need to feel deprived without meat; you’re not only saving animals by keeping chicken and other meats off of your plate, but also leaving more room for some incredibly filling, satisfying vegan meals.

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2. Bring on the Beans and Legumes!

Southerners love beans and legumes! Butter beans (lima beans), black -eyed peas, black beans, pintos, and green beans are all common foods enjoyed here in the South. This is perfect since these foods are vegan, so incorporate as many of them into your meals as much as you can. You can even use chickpeas to make a vegan gravy, so get creative and try out different beans in various recipes, whether it’s a mean Vegan Chili or an Easy, Vegan Sloppy Joe. Beans are also mild in flavor and work well in pureed form to mimic other meat-based meals. From veggie burgers to pancakes, brownies, omelets, and even down to mock ‘tuna’ sandwiches, beans and legumes can be used in a variety of ways while providing dense sources of nutrients. Learn what bean works best for your recipes in our tips for choosing the best beans for your recipes!

3. Get Your Greens On!

Collards, mustard, and turnip greens are some of the most popular and don’t have to be cooked in corn oil or bacon fat to be delicious. Saute some greens in some olive oil and opt for all kinds of greens including kale, spinach, arugula, collards, mustard, and turnip greens. Slow-cooked, stewed, and sauteed greens are some of our favorites and are one of the best foods to eat when preparing southern-style foods. Cook them in a little olive or coconut oil, or even a little vegan butter to add a more traditional southern flavor. Don’t forget the sea salt and pepper though, that’s what adds even more flavor! Learn even more tips for how to make your greens delicious for further inspiration.

4. Use Non-Dairy Milk For Creamy Recipes

Non-dairy milk can be used to cream potatoes, which we love here in the South! They can also be used to make vegan ice cream, used as a coffee creamer, or in any recipe you would normally add dairy cream. Buy unsweetened, plain varieties for a neutral flavor and unsweetened vanilla for a sweeter flavor. Soy, almond, hemp, cashew, and coconut milk all work well, while rice milk has a slightly sweeter flavor that might not be as versatile, yet still delicious.

5. Use Non-Dairy Butter or Coconut Oil

Making biscuits, gravy, or corn on the cob? Simply use non-dairy butter or some coconut oil in place of the butter in your recipes, like this vegan southerner does. These alternatives options aren’t only delicious, but also 100 percent plant-based,are non-hydrogenated, and cholesterol-free. They also work perfectly in just about anything you use them in, but like all high-fat foods, they should be consumed in moderate portions since they are still high in calories like dairy butter.

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Don’t Forget….

Southerners still love their fruits and veggies, despite eating a diet heavy in animal-based foods. So remember not to forget to include some traditional foods like cooked carrots and sweet potatoes, whole grain corn, green peas, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini squash, and asparagus, which are all enjoyed quite a bit. Grill them, steam them, or enjoy them raw; we love them any kind of way you can think of!

Thankfully, the South has warmed up to a way of healthier eating, and you can now find hummus, superfoods, and green smoothies in many southerners’ diets. However, if you’re looking for some home-grown flavor on a plant-based diet, use some of these tips above and try out some of the recipes below. Southern tradition is just a few vegan bites away!

Some of Our Favorite Southern-Friendly Vegan Recipes:

1. Fried Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aoili

Fried green tomatoes are the quintessential southern side dish. For this recipe, use a combination of fine cornmeal and chickpea flour, and instead of eggs, opt for flaxseed. This recipe also includes a “buttermilk” made from almond and vinegar.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style
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2. Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root

When it comes to making mashed potatoes, Southerners do not shy away from the butter and milk; ask your average southern grandmother, and she will tell you not to skimp on the butter and milk in favor of making ultra creamy and rich mashed potatoes. Sorry, grandma, but the dairy milk and butter is not necessary to make tasty mashed potatoes. To make a vegan version that is just as comforting, use a quality olive oil and soymilk.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

3. Vegan Cornbread 

For this cornbread, opt for organic cornmeal, organic coconut oil, organic grade B maple syrup, and homemade almond milk. The end result is a moist cake sans dairy that will go great alongside some chili or a vegan chicken dish.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

4. Easy Veggie Pot Pie

Potpies are warm, creamy, and bursting with flavor from delicious fresh veggies. This recipe is a fairly simple meal to throw together. Among the ingredients for the crust, use amaranth flour, white rice flour, potato starch and arrowroot.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style
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5. Baked Vegan Macaroni and Cheeze

Opt for whole-wheat pasta to make your vegan mac & cheese into a healthier meal. With this baked, healthy rendition, use chickpea flour, nondairy milk, and regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

6. Best Ever Vegan ‘Steak’ Sandwich on the Planet

Southerners love their heavy, hearty and meaty fare, with steak being no exception. To make this steak sandwich, use tofu and vegan mince/ground crumbles for heartiness and protein.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

7. Fried Green Beer Tomatoes

Here is another fried green tomato recipe, but this version calls for dark vegan beer to act as a binder to make the batter stick.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

8. Smoky Pumpkin Grits with Shitake Mushrooms in Kale Pesto Cream Sauce

These grits get a bit of an upgrade thanks to shiitake mushrooms, coconut milk, dry white wine, and smoky kale pesto. This dish is pretty simple to make, since to prepare the grits, you make everything in one cast iron skillet over the stove.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

9. Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Sherry-Maple Vinaigrette

Brussels sprouts are an incredibly healthy side dish, since they are high in vitamin C and folic acid. You don’t have to serve these drenched in butter to make them taste good; try this recipe, which calls for extra-virgin olive oil, shallots, garlic, aged sherry vinegar, time, Dijon mustard, agave nectar and black pepper.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style

10. Strawberry Shortcake with a Coconut Whipped Cream Topping

These strawberry shortcakes are quick to make and messy to eat. This recipe features a strawberry layer made with evaporated cane sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, as well as a shortcake and coconut whipped cream on top. This is a great dessert to have after your Southern-inspired dinner night.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made Over, Vegan Style
 

11. Grilled Buffalo Tofu Po’ Boy with Apple Slaw

The traditional buffalo sandwich is breaded, deep-fried, and smothered in buffalo sauce. This healthier version features grilled, marinated tofu with creamy slaw, apples and cabbage.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

12. Flaky Vegan White Bean Biscuits with Rosemary Butter

These unique, savory biscuits are perfect for mopping up all that gravy.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

13. Extra Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Here’s another creamy, cheesy mac n’ cheese recipe, but this one calls for using potatoes and onions in the sauce.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

14. Seitan Pot Roast

Who needs cow’s meat to make a bangin’ pot roast with a plant-based meat? Give seitan a try for this comforting dish.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

15. Sweet Potato Fritters

These fritters have a bit of a kick to them from the jalapeno, cilantro and pepper. Serve them alongside your main course.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

16. Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits

This biscuit recipe calls for curdled soy milk and vinegar to make a tasty buttermilk.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

17. Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy

This recipe may have Thanksgiving in the title, but you can certainly serve this gravy any time of the year with some pot roast, chicken or biscuits.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

18. Vegan Black-Eyed Pea Burgers with Mississippi Comeback Sauce

These black-eyed pea burgers are not very spicy, so layer them with toppings and sauces galore – tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, mustard, mayo, salsa, ketchup, you name it!

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

19. Balsamic BBQ Seitan and Tempeh Ribs

This indulgent rib recipe comes complete with a spice rub and and a balsamic BBQ sauce.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!

20. Vegan Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Use meatless breakfast links, almond milk, whole wheat white flour and liquid smoke for these baked biscuits.

10 Classic Southern Dishes Made With Meat or Dairy. What?!
 

Lead image source: Fried Green Beer Tomatoes

Image Source: Chocolate Pecan Pie

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