Whether you need recipes for this week's dinner or are looking to stock your kitchen to make cooking vegan easy, this simple guide to vegan cooking has you covered.
One thing I hear a lot from people who are new to veganism is that cooking vegan food is hard. 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 your pantry for flavorful vegan cooking
Let's start with stocking the pantry, because having a good stock of dried spices, canned goods, and bulk items can make pulling a meal together in a hurry a whole lot easier.
Check out the list below, or download my free, printable pantry checklist here.
You don't need every single item on the pantry list or in the list below. Think of them as guidelines, as you stock your kitchen for vegan cooking.
You also don't have to overhaul your whole pantry today. Chances are, if you were already cooking at home a lot, you have some of these things handy already. See what holes are in your own pantry, and stock up as you can.
You'll be making quick, simple vegan meals in no time!
Herbs and spices
Bring the flavor to your food the easy way with dried herbs and spices! These are the ones that I always keep handy.
I'm also including my favorite broth cubes here, because they live in my spice rack. Feel free to use whatever plant-based broth you prefer.
- black pepper
- broth cubes - I love the ones from Edward & Sons
- chili powder
- curry powder of your choice
- garlic powder
- ground ginger
- Italian seasoning
- nutritional yeast - not a spice, but so, so vital
- onion powder
If your favorite herbs and spices aren't on this list, by all means, still keep them handy! Food can be very personal, and you want food that suits your tastes.
Canned food can save time, and it can also be a great option when you need to cook a vegan meal in a hurry.
We don't do a ton of cans, but these are the canned goods I try to keep handy.
- beans - 2-3 kinds
- canned tomatoes
- coconut milk
- sliced black olives
Want some ideas to use those canned goodies? These vegan pantry recipes are a great place to start.
You don't have to buy in bulk, though you can save a lot of money shopping that way. I think of bulk foods as an umbrella for dried beans and grains, plus nuts and seeds.
- cashews (raw or roasted)
- flax meal
- peanut butter
- roasted nuts or seeds
- rolled oats
- split peas
Get the plant-based pantry checklist here!
The pantry checklist is a more comprehensive list, broken out by store section. I recommend using it to stock up on dry goods especially, because these are the cornerstone of easy vegan cooking.
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.
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!
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 compiled my family's favorite ones right here.
>>Make sure you get one like this, with a yogurt function!
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!
How to cook 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.
Cooking vegan, meal-by-meal
If you prefer a more proper recipe, don't worry! I've got lots of ideas for you. Here 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!
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. This post has a nice list of our go-to weeknight dinners, and I wanted to add a few bonus recipes here.
What I like to recommend to new vegans is to think about what you would make for supper if you weren't vegan, and see if you can "veganize" it.
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 chicken noodle soup, search for "vegan chicken noodle soup". You'll find pages of delicious options!
Sauces, sides, and starters
I love a one-pot meal, but sometimes it's nice to have a little something to go with your main dish. Maybe you need some veggie or flavor oomph or are looking to make a pot of soup into a filling meal. That's where sauce, sides, and starters come in.
Easy vegan sauces
When you're putting a bowl meal together, a good sauce can really up the ante. These are some easy sauces that I lean on heavily:
Vegan Ranch Dressing Made from Cashews
A good sauce can take a simple bowl of beans, rice and veggies and transform it into a total party!
Simple starters and sides
These starters and side dishes work well alongside a main course, or you can make a meal out of side dishes. Have fun with it!
If you want more ideas for easy vegan appetizers and side dishes, these simple vegan party food recipes are a great place to start!
Snack attacks are real, y'all. I love keeping easy-to-grab snacks on hand, but sometimes it's nice to whip up a snack from scratch, too. These are some of my faves.
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!