Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a curious omnivore, learning how to take any recipe and make it vegan is a valuable skill to have – and it’s completely within your reach! I took some of my favorite family recipes that I enjoyed before becoming vegan, and modified their ingredients so they not only now match my values, but they also taste fantastic.
Many, many recipes are very simple to veganize (for example, swapping out ground beef for an equal quantity of crumbled tempeh, tofu, seitan, or cooked lentils, or sautéing vegetables in vegan butter or oil instead of dairy butter). With an open mind and a sense of adventure, you’ll soon be making vegan versions of all your familiar favorites!
It’s easier than you might think, and only requires a few steps. Here’s a step-by-step action plan to help you get started!
1. Choose your recipe and identify the non-vegan ingredients. It can be helpful to make a photocopy of the recipe you’re working with, for any notes you’d like to take as you work. Don’t be afraid to mark up your recipes!
2. Study the recipe to find clues about why the non-vegan ingredients are used. Is the ingredient a prominent feature of the dish – for example, the chicken in chicken fajitas, or the eggs in an omelet – or does it play a supporting role, such as the eggs in bread pudding or chocolate chip cookies? Also consider the importance of texture: is the ingredient prominent enough that a different texture would be noticeable?
3. Refer to the Vegan Food Substitution Guide for ideas on what to try. Start with ingredients you like and are familiar with, and in time you’ll feel more comfortable and willing to try new-to-you foods.
4. Be willing to try new things and think outside the box. Have fun with your experimenting! Even if the final dish turns out to be a little different than you’d expected, it will likely still be edible (if not downright delicious), and you’ll have learned something in the process.
5. When you feel stuck, seek help from others. There are so many talented chefs and home cooks who are always finding new and exciting ways to make vegan versions of their favorite recipes, so searching online for inspiration is a great idea for when you’re feeling stuck. Check out a variety of different recipes and follow your instincts. Also, if you have a great idea for something to try out but you’re feeling anxious about giving it a go, see if someone’s tried it already, and if they were happy with their results.
Additional Helpful Resources
For more great recipes and lots of creative inspiration, I highly recommend checking out The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen, and The Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner.