Whether you need recipes for this week's dinner or are looking to stock your kitchen to make cooking vegan easy, this simple vegan cooking guide has you covered.
One thing I hear a lot from people who are new to veganism is that cooking vegan food is hard and expensive. While this 100% can be true, it absolutely doesn't have to be.
You just need a properly-stocked kitchen and some super delicious, easy vegan recipes in your arsenal.
You've got this.
Stocking a vegan kitchen
Let's start with stocking the kitchen, because having the right food on hand is the first key to success!
The good news is that if you cook at home already, chances are you have most of what you need already: herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, canned/dried beans, dried grains, etc.
Here's a quick list of staples that I like having on hand. If you want a more detailed guide, check out my vegan grocery list, which includes a free printable!
- canned food - 2-3 cans of beans, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, pumpkin, sliced black olives. Want some ideas to use those canned goodies? These vegan pantry recipes are a great place to start.
- pantry items - cashews, flax meal, dried lentils, peanut butter and/or tahini, quinoa and/or rice, rolled oats, pasta, split peas, peanut butter, crackers, vegan chocolate chips, dried fruit
- frozen food - frozen spinach, frozen corn, popsicles or vegan ice cream, 1-2 kinds of vegan meat
- refrigerator items - vegan milk, tofu, pickles, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, vegan mayo, fresh fruit
- produce - potatoes, 1-2 kinds of green veggies, tomatoes, carrots, salad greens, 1-2 kinds of fresh herbs
You also don't have to overhaul your whole kitchen today. See what holes are in your own food stash, and stock up as you can.
You'll be cooking quick, simple vegan meals in no time!
Easy vegan swaps
What I like to recommend to new vegans is to think about what you would make for dinner if you weren't vegan, and see if you can "veganize" it by swapping out the animal products for plant-based alternatives.
Here are some easy substitutions that you can use to replace animal products in vegan cooking.
- For eggs in baking, use aquafaba or a homemade flax egg.
- For eggs in scrambles, quiches, etc, use Just Egg or tofu. If you're using tofu, I recommend following a recipe when you are getting started. Here's my basic tofu scramble and a vegan quiche recipe.
- When it comes to cheese, it might be trial and error as you find a store-bought brand that you like.
- Like cheese, landing on your favorite plant-based milk can take some time. Check out my guide to vegan milk alternatives to help you get started!
- Vegan meat can be controversial. You can replace the meat in many dishes with whole plant foods like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, etc. Or go for store-bought vegan meats, if that's your preference. I have a guide to vegan meat to help you with that. My family tends to go for a little of both, but that's just us.
- To replace butter, there are some great vegan butters out there! I like Earth Balance and Country Crock Plant Based. Both are available in tubs or sticks, so there are options for toast and for baking.
- Vegan mayonnaise is one area where we have nailed it. Get yourself a jar of Follow Your Heart Vegenaise, and you're good to go.
If you're not sure how to make a meat-and-dairy recipe vegan, you can always do a quick search. So, if your family loves fajitas, search for vegan fajitas." You'll find pages of delicious options!
Helpful kitchen gadgets
You don't need fancy gadgets to cook vegan food, but they can save you time and effort in the kitchen. I have three kitchen gadgets that I lean on heavily.
1. Air fryer
Think of an air fryer as a super hot, miniature oven that cooks food in half the time it takes to bake in a conventional oven.
The time-saving is the thing I love most about air frying, and we fire ours up daily.
I lean heavily on my air fryer to make everything from Sunday brunch to weeknight suppers to fun desserts. I've written an extensive primer on how to use an air fryer, including lots of recipes.
>>This is the air fryer my family uses. We love it!
2. Instant Pot (or other multifunctional pressure cooker)
If an air fryer is a super fast oven, think of the Instant Pot as a super fast pot that cooks beans, grains, soups, stews and veggies in half the time it would take in a pot on the stove.
If you're looking for some simple vegan Instant Pot recipes, I've got a ton of them!
>>Make sure you get one like this, with a yogurt function!
3. A good blender
A blender or food processor makes cooking vegan a whole lot faster and easier. I use my blender for smoothies, for making quick sauces and salad dressings, and for mincing ginger and garlic.
You don't have to buy an expensive, high-speed blender, but a good-quality blender helps get smoother sauces. Especially when you're making something like a cashew cream.
>>This is the blender that I have and love!
Build the ultimate vegan bowl
Bowls are the cornerstone of my family's diet, because it's so easy to create a quick and healthy meal with my simple bowl formula. I love bowls so much that I wrote a whole cookbook about them!
Here's your basic build-a-bowl formula:
- bottom layer: whole grains (like rice or quinoa) or salad greens
- middle layer: plant-based protein (tofu, beans, nuts/seeds, seitan, tempeh...your choice!)
- top layer: a mix of raw and cooked vegetables
- tippy top layer: toppings (think green onion, avocado, pickled onions, seaweed snacks, etc.) and a sauce
With that formula in mind, you can create endless meals using what you have on hand.
If you prefer a more proper recipe, don't worry! I've got lots of ideas for you. Below are some easy vegan meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Quick vegan breakfasts
Vegan breakfasts can take a long time to make, if you're doing something like preparing steel-cut oats on the stovetop. But there are lots of quick and easy ways to start your day, too.
Look over these simple vegan breakfast ideas. They range from almost-instant to leisurely brunch recipes. Here are some of the almost-instant ideas to get you started:
- toast - Spread on some vegan butter or peanut butter, and call it a day.
- oatmeal - Rolled oats take about five minutes to cook in the microwave, and there's no pot to wash afterwards
- cereal - Pour on your favorite vegan milk, and you're ready to eat.
There are more ideas in the breakfasts post, including some that are actual recipes, but as you can see, vegan breakfasts don't have to be elaborate. Here are a few of the recipes to whet your whistle...
When you're scrambling to get your kid ready for the bus while still waking up yourself, you just need something quick and easy.
Easy vegan lunches
I'm going to focus on packed lunches here, because lunch food and dinner food are really very similar otherwise. In fact, leftovers from dinner are my very favorite lunch!
If you're looking for easy vegan lunches that you (or your kids) can take to work or school, this list is going to be very handy. It's got ideas for sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more!
Some of my own favorite easy vegan lunches (when we don't have leftovers in the fridge) include:
Vegan dinner ideas
When it comes to weeknight dinners, I tend to go for comfort food favorites that I know my family will eat. The recipes below are a great starting point.
You can also check out these easy vegan one pot meals that are perfect for weeknight supper in a flash.
At the end of the day, vegan food is just food. And just like cooking anything, cooking vegan can be as easy or complicated as you want to make it. I hope that these easy recipes and tips help kick off your vegan journey!