Next Article

Do You Really Need a Recipe?

It’s fun to find a new recipe and add it to your regular favorites. Most of the time, though, you’re too busy to cook with a recipe. You whip up dishes that are familiar and easy to prepare. What can you make that doesn’t require any reading or measuring, but is tasty and nutritious?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Roti wraps with veggies, tofu, and sauces
  • Vegetables, gravy, and rice
  • Soups, salads, and sandwiches
  • Stir-fries

We use the “meat, potatoes, and vegetable” approach to a meal, and sauce it up! Simply pick one or more of each:

Protein source: beans, tofu, soya chunks, and granules, mock meat

Carbohydrate source: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, roti

Veggies: Countless options

Sauce: Nearly all supermarkets carry a wide array of canned and bottled sauces, dressings, glazes, marinades, salsas, etc. Ranging from the mundane—basic tomato or barbecue sauce—to the exotic—such as spicy Thai chili or peanut satay sauce.

You can marinate and cook, bake, or fry your protein in sauce, or cover your carbohydrate source and veggies, including salad, in the sauce. Many sauces can be made even more nutritious with the addition of nuts, seeds, and/or oils.

With the variety of sauces available and the number of food combinations possible, you can easily try innumerable new “recipes” without ever cracking open a cookbook!

Substitution Tips

Recipes are often presented as fixed and final. It might seem that if you don’t have tempeh, or green shallots, or vegetable broth, for example, you’re out of luck. But very rarely is something so vital to a recipe that you can’t substitute for it, or even ignore it (such as the eggs called for in boxed pancake mixes).

Don’t be afraid to experiment—try soya chunks or granules instead of seitan, onions instead of scallions, peas instead of carrots, tomato sauce, or even ketchup instead of tomato purée, soy sauce instead of tamari, pasta instead of rice, etc.

Indeed, most traditional recipes can be made vegan with some imagination. The more you experiment, the better you’ll be able to revitalize old favorites and create new ones! Read on for some ideas to get you started.

Tofu as a Meat Replacer

Select firm or extra-firm regular tofu.

Pressing

When used in place of meat, tofu should first be pressed. Cut the block lengthwise and squeeze out the excess water. The more liquid removed, the firmer and more flavor absorbent the tofu becomes.

Freezing

For a chewier texture, use frozen and thawed tofu. Frozen tofu not only lasts longer but, once thawed and pressed, more readily soaks up sauces and marinades. Be sure to use regular tofu and, for best results, freeze for a minimum of 48 hours.

Let the tofu thaw in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Once fully defrosted, press thoroughly and then slice or tear into bite-size pieces, as desired.

On-the-Fly Stir-Fries

You can make a stir-fry to meet any taste, using whatever you have on hand—tofu or soya chunks, onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.

For an easy tofu dish, heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick frying pan. Once the oil is medium hot, drop in bite-size pieces of tofu.

After a few minutes, start to add the vegetables, generally in the order of those that need to cook the longest (carrots) or will impart the most flavor to the tofu (onions and/or garlic).

Once the tofu has browned enough (sometimes, more oil must be added), pour in a teaspoon of soy sauce—or any other type of sauce that sounds good! Stir thoroughly, cover, and let simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Serve over rice or pasta and garnish with some fresh herbs.

Creamy Non-Dairy Dips

Photo by Lively Days

Creamy dips can be based on any variety of beans, such as chickpeas for hummus, or prepared with vegan yogurt, or silken tofu.

Starting with 300g of tofu in a food processor, add ½ cup of soy milk and ⅛ – ¼ cup of canola oil. You can use any type of plant-based milk, a different oil (or none), a dash of soy sauce, water, etc. If you use soft silken tofu instead of extra firm, you won’t need as much liquid, if any.

Next, add a package of vegan soup mix; then blend at a high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. For new dips, stir in a bunch of spinach, substitute the soup mix with whatever seasonings you’re in the mood for, or replace the liquid ingredients with your favorite salad dressing.

Meat and dairy alternatives

Yes, you can make delicious, animal-free milk and milk products at home—without any special equipment or recipes! Follow these easy steps to make a whole range of plant-based milks, butters, cheeses, curd, and even ice creams.

Milk

To make plant-based milk, try the soak, blend, strain approach. Follow the steps below.

  • Soak a handful of nuts—almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, or hazelnuts—overnight.
  • Blend the soaked nuts with some water until smooth. You can adjust the quantity of water to make the milk as thick or thin as you prefer.
  • Strain the mixture through a sieve or a cheesecloth. You can add the leftover pulp to salads, rotis, or baked goods.
  • Add a touch of vanilla essence or sweeten the milk if you like!

Replace cows’ and buffaloes’ milk with non-dairy milk—try it with cereal or with your morning cup of tea or coffee!

Curd

Photo by Namrata Edward Kshitij from Of Donkeys and Dhokla

You don’t have to give up the familiar taste of curd—or dahi—when you eat vegan. From dahi bhalla to the traditional favorite curd rice you can substitute dairy curd with this vegan version in all foods!

Cheese

Making vegan cheese at home is easy and enjoyable—you’ll find a host of recipes online. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Block cheese: If you have the right ingredients, you can make hard cheese that can be sliced or grated.
  • Cheese dip: This versatile dip is easy to make and goes well with pasta, chips, sandwiches, and more!
  • Parmesan cheese: Sprinkle it over pastas and salads for a cheesy flavour.

Bonus tip—adding nutritional yeast to any food instantly gives it the flavor of the cheese.

Butter

Photo by Darshana Muzumdar

Try this creamy, melt-in-your-mouth vegan butter—you won’t miss the taste of dairy butter! Simply mix these ingredients and freeze until solid.

  • ¼ cup refined oil
  • 1 ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • Salt and lemon juice to taste

Enjoy it as a spread on toast and bagels, or use it as a butter substitute while cooking!

Ice Cream

Photo by TheFullHelping.com

Craving dessert? We’ve got you covered! All you need to make mouthwatering vegan ice creams are a few ingredients and a sweet tooth!

  • Peel and freeze bananas and blend them with some frozen fruit—such as berries or mangoes—to make a quick dairy-free ice cream.
  • Freeze some tender coconut flesh, blend it with some cocoa powder and sugar, and freeze it again until solid.

You can experiment with flavors when you make dairy substitutes at home—try making a blackcurrant ice cream or a red pepper cheese dip! Show us what you make by posting on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #VeganOutreachIndia!

Here are just some of the vegan versions of traditional animal-based foods, which are available at most grocery stores and supermarkets. Some stores also offer store-brand options.

Vegan Meats

Photo by GoodDot.in

Vegan meats are increasingly available—both in the number of varieties and locations where they’re sold.

Vegan meats include ready-to-cook mock meat, kebabs, sausages, soy chunks and granules, and veggie burgers.

Looking for a quick snack on the go? Try soya chaap—the ultimate desi mock meat! Many street food vendors and restaurants offer this delicious animal-free treat.

Other Vegan Meat Alternatives

Everyday kitchen staples like tofu, mushrooms, and raw jackfruit are some easy-to-cook meat substitutes!

Tofu has a neutral taste, making it a very versatile protein option. Firm tofu can be stir-fried, scrambled, baked, broiled, grilled, or stewed. Marinate it before cooking—it easily soaks up flavors from herbs, spices, and sauces—or buy the flavored and ready-to-eat brands.

Non-Dairy Milk

Photo by Anipixels.org

From tea to milkshakes, replacing cows’ and buffaloes’ milk with plant-based alternatives is delicious and satisfying!

These are just a few vegan dairy products—you’ll find more brands at your local stores or online!

Dairy-free butters, dips, and spreads

Dairy-free butter and spreads can be found everywhere—look for table spreads and dips without milk solids at your local grocery store. Vanaspati ghee, or margarine, is also a great substitute for butter and ghee.

Looking for some homemade plant-based substitutes? We’ve got you covered! Try some of these easy vegan milk, cheese, and curd recipes!

Accidentally vegan foods

Photo by Anipixels.org

From chocolates to namkeen, you’ll find several packaged foods at your supermarket that are ‘accidentally’ vegan—simply check the ingredients on the package to see if they have any animal products. Here are some of our favorites:

Baking

Adjustments for vegan baking may seem inconvenient at first, but making delicious baked goods is easy once you know how!

The most common question is how to bake without eggs. Here are several egg substitutes to choose from when making a birthday cake, brownies, or a family-favorite sweet bread.

Ready to get cooking? Show us your creations on social media by using the hashtag #VeganOutreachIndia

Also Read

Gajar halwa (Oil-free)

Gajar halwa is a carrot-based dessert that originated in India. Gajar halwa is incomplete without adding khoya/khawa to it. Khoya (Hindi) or khawa (Marathi) doesn’t

Read More »

Tofu Dosa

This recipe is a tasty and nutritious twist on a classic South Indian dish. This vegan version of the traditional dosa recipe replaces the typical

Read More »

Take the pledge today!

Going vegan is the best thing you can do to help animals and the planet. Sign up for our free 10 Weeks to Vegan program and make a difference!