Plant-based diets aren’t only healthier and more sustainable, but they’re also scrumptious and go way beyond some sad wilted lettuce on a bamboo plate. In fact, some delicious foods are vegan to begin with — did anyone say falafel? — but even the delicacies that aren’t can usually be made to be vegan pretty swiftly.
So much so that, sometimes, the veganized versions are even nicer than the original. Here we give five examples of dishes that can easily be rendered vegan and tastier, which will have many benefits like better balanced hormones.
There are, of course, plenty of pasta recipes that are vegan. But if you’re craving some creamy goodness, there is no better to start with than with a classic Alfredo. Traditionally, the dish (named fettuccine al burro, or fettuccine with butter in Italian) is made by combining two deeply non-vegan ingredients — butter and parmesan cheese — until they emulsify into a mouthwatering, creamy sauce. Modern versions, and especially American ones, add insult to injury with heavy cream. Either way, the sauce is then paired with fresh fettuccine which includes eggs. Overall, a vegan’s nightmare.
However, making this recipe plant-based actually brings out a depth of flavor that doesn’t exist in the original. The rich creaminess is often swapped for a nuttiness found, for example, in cashews and others with a high fat content. This brings out new aromas that are not present in regular cheese. For example, Pasta Evangelists’s vegan fettuccine Alfredo recipe blends “smooth cashew milk and gently steamed cauliflower, resulting in a gloriously indulgent sauce, worth every inch of its status as an Italian classic.” They also have a fresh vegan fettuccine recipe on their website, but you can always opt for dried pasta that does not contain eggs in the first place.
Another creamy, cheesy staple is the mac and cheese. Every family has their own version of it, using sharp cheddar, gruyère, gouda or a combination of a few. Some cook it and serve, some bake it, but the only thing that’s sure is that it’s utterly scrumptious — and definitely not vegan.
Similarly to the Alfredo, most veganised recipes will use the nutty flavors of cashews to replicate the creamy texture of cheese in the dish. However, many choose to add different ingredients that inevitably make the classic far more interesting taste-wise. Be it carrots, broccoli, butternut squash, or some sliced tomatoes atop of your melted vegan cheese bake, you can be assured that your vegan mac and cheese won’t only be more nutritious, but also pack a punch.
Nothing spells home like a good shepherd’s pie, but unfortunately, as the name suggests, it is very much a meat-based meal. Saucy lamb meeting a roof of mashed potatoes has formed the crux of some of our best childhood memories, but that doesn’t mean a vegan version of the dish can’t be even more appealing.
The protein most plant-based shepherd’s pie recipes call for is lentils. They have a texture similar to that of lamb but with a whopping 144% less calories, plus little to no saturated fats and a good amount of fibre. Lentils also absorb flavors well, which will allow your seasoning to really shine through, far more than in a meat version. In this recipe from Jamie Oliver, mushrooms are also used, and the mash topping uses sweet potatoes as well as the regular spuds, adding an extra oomph to the dish.
There’s nothing like a fluffy French toast on a sunny Sunday mid-morning. Thick slices of bread coated with a milk and egg combo might be all you need right now, but everybody knows that the real star of the show is the toppings. With a vegan French toast, you can truly go crazy with those, adding any fruit or veggie creams and syrups your heart desires. Eating meals like this is a great example of why plant-based diets are so good for your health.
Many recipes suggest a batter of your favorite plant-based milk — which already adds flavor, particularly if you opt for one with a distinct taste such as hazelnut, coconut or almond milk — and chia seeds. These expand in the liquid to create a thicker consistency that’s perfect for replacing eggs: “the trick to the batter is letting it sit to firm up a bit. Chia seeds typically take 10-15 minutes to activate (longer for pudding), and that’s about how long I let mine rest before dipping the bread in,” Minimalist Baker explains. You can add in any extra flavors to the mix too, from cinnamon to syrup.
Veganising a dish immediately sparks more creativity, though, and that doesn’t have to be done through the batter or toppings. You can even make savoury vegan French toast — we recommend this masala one.
We all like a little chilled treat on a warm summer’s day, and while there are plenty of vegan options available — from ice lollies to veggie versions of well-known ice creams — sometimes a rich creamsicle is all you need. Unfortunately, as the name suggests, they have cream in them, which is not ideal for a plant-based diet.
Your run-of-the-mill creamsicles use rich vanilla ice cream, which is obviously delicious, no one would dare say otherwise. However, vegan versions of the treat use coconut milk as well as vanilla, which instantly creates a more interesting flavor. It also means you can add your own twists to the flavor — this could be tangy orange and lime zest, or even by replacing the milk with yoghurt.