What vegans eat?

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Our guide to veganising your favourite foods!

‘What do you eat?’ is one of the first questions people will ask when they find out you are vegan. It’s pretty difficult to answer because vegans can eat such a wide variety of dishes!

Here are some ideas on how to veganise the most popular main dishes cooked at home in the UK.  Rather than provide set recipes, this post provides ideas on how to veganise dishes you already know how to cook. 

Spaghetti Bolognese, Chilli non Carne, Cottage Pie and Lasagne

These four popular dishes traditionally rely on minced meat as one of their main ingredients.  So what’s the animal free alternative? There are many options to choose from. For the most similar tasting substitute you can replace the minced beef with either frozen or dried soya mince, and follow the directions on the packet. Vegan frozen mince is widely available and some supermarkets have their own brand.

Lentils also offer a good substitute; you can either make the mixture with all lentils or a combination of soya mince and lentils – any type, green, red, or brown lentils all work well. If you are catering for people who want something meaty tasting, an addition of a small amount of red lentils will go unnoticed and will make your dish a little healthier and cheaper. Most dried lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking, but it’s best to cook them separately then add to the sauce.

Other beans and pulses (either tinned or dried) also work well in any of these dishes.  For example, you could use red kidney, black eye and pinto beans to make 3 bean chilli.

In addition to pulses in cans and in dried form most supermarkets are selling ready to use flavoured packets of grains and pulses e.g. puy lentils. These are really good if you are in a hurry, but if you are on a tight budget dried pulses are the best option.  These can be cooked in bulk and frozen to save time.

Adzuki beans are really healthy and taste great in Cottage pie.  You could also try replacing some or all of the mash topping with other root veg such as sweet potatoes, parsnips or swedes (a good source of calcium).

Loads of different fillings, not based on the mince version work well in lasagna, such as ratatouille; butternut squash and chickpea; spinach and walnut – the list is endless!  There are many different ways of making the white sauce to top this dish; use vegan margarine and soya milk instead of butter and cows’ milk to make the basic white sauce. To make it cheesier, you can either add one of the many vegan cheeses available on the market– the melting versions work best. A healthier option is to use nutritional yeast flakes, a great vegan cheesy tasting product packed full of B vitamins. You can also add some mustard to give more flavour. If you want something really easy, ready-made vegan cheese sauces, or those you just add water to are available to buy.

Roast Dinner

The classic vegan alternative for Sunday lunch is nut roast, which may be a cliché but is healthy, tasty and fairly easy to make.  You can also buy nut roast mixes.

There are loads of other options too – try strudels or chestnut pies made with home-made or vegan ready-made pastry, such as Jus-Rol.  Lentil, tofu or bean loaves make a lower fat alternative.

Another great ‘meaty’ alternative is to make a seitan roast. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and when cooked takes on a surprisingly meaty texture.  Or you can buy ready-made meat substitutes if you want something easier.

Vegan Yorkshires are also possible, using egg substitute such as aquafaba.

Serve with roast potatoes and other veg roasted in olive or another vegetable oil, and steamed veg.  You can either make your own gravy or many shop bought vegetable gravy mixes are vegan.

Vegan ‘Junk’ Food

Home-made sausages and burgers can be really healthy and shop bought vegan fake meat products contain less saturated fat than the meat versions. Burgers in a bun, “not dogs” and bangers and mash are easy enough with vegan sausages or burgers which are widely available in the chilled or freezer section of supermarkets and wholefoods shops.  Home-made vegan burgers can also be made with beans, nuts, tofu, grains (millet works well) and veggies.

Vegan pizzas are also easy, either buy a vegan ready-made base (most are vegan, just check the ingredients) or make your own dough. Top with your favourite veggies, olives or fake meat and vegan melting cheese.