As more and more people are choosing to go meat-free or simply reducing their meat intake, there are more and more amazing vegan and vegetarian recipes being shared and making their way into mainstream cooking. For people new to meat-free eating, this is a great thing because it shows you all the amazing options out there beyond salad.
It’s also great for people trying to reduce their environmental impact, as plant-based foods (especially beans and lentils) do have a lower footprint than meat and animal products.
But, for diehard meat-eaters, switching to a plant-based diet - even just one or two nights a week - can be a difficult habit to adopt. If you’re used to the rich and savoury flavours and textures, as well as that really full feeling you get from meat-based dishes, plant-based meals can leave you feeling unsatisfied, which makes it harder to stick with your new habit.
Before we get to the recipes, here are 3 tips for creating comforting vegan meals that don’t leave you wanting:
This is probably the most important tip. Whole foods leave you feeling fuller, longer because of the high fibre content. Fibre truly is your friend for eating meat-free without feeling hungry all the time. Aim for whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables.
A common complaint of people used to meat is the lack of flavour in plant-based dishes. Combat that with rich, savoury seasonings like soy sauce, chilis, tomato paste, lemon and other citrus, cinnamon and so on. Deeply caramelized tomato paste makes for richer sauces, soy sauce brings that umami flavour you may be missing, spices like cinnamon give a richness to vegan chilli, while citrus flavours liven up steamed vegetables and soups.
We talk a lot about the taste and smell of the foods we love, but texture matters too. It can even be one of the things you miss most about eating meat! Experiment with things like tofu, seitan and tempeh, “meaty” vegetables like mushroom, jackfruit and eggplant, different types of lentils and beans, and some of the newer plant-based meat substitutes, which have come a long way since the veggie burgers of only a few years ago.
This comforting casserole is packed with fibre, has a great mix of textures, and is flavoured with rich spices like cumin and chilli powder for a warmly fragrant dish that will leave you feeling full. You can eat it as-is, or even serve it in warm tortillas, topped with salsa and shredded vegan cheese. It also reheats well, making it ideal for meal prep and workday lunches.
This recipe calls for vegan cheese sauce and links to a recipe to make it yourself, but you can also buy a premade vegan cheese sauce, or you can swap the cheese sauce for a vegan alfredo sauce if that’s easier for you to find. What really shines in this recipe is the crunchy, savoury chickpeas, which are packed with protein and satisfyingly crunchy. Serve this dish on its own, or alongside roasted squash or sweet potato wedges for something truly filling.
Is there anything more comforting than rich and fluffy mashed potatoes? Topped with this savoury lentil stew, it’s the perfect steamy and delicious meal for chilly nights. The mushrooms, combined with the thyme brings an earthy, satisfying flavour, and you can even get creative by adding diced carrots or shredded kale to the lentil stew.
This recipe suggests serving this rich, hearty sauce over linguine, but it is also amazing served over crispy fried gnocchi or toasted polenta. Also, the pureed squash gives a creaminess that even actual cream can’t match. Serve this alongside roasted Brussel sprouts or a fresh side salad.
Tofu’s bland, right? Yes. It absolutely is! That’s why how you flavour and cook it matters a lot. In this recipe, tofu is fried till crispy and then basted in a sticky, savoury, mouthwatering sauce. The gochujang sauce called for in this recipe may also be called Korean chilli paste if you’re having trouble finding it. You may need to try a speciality store, or even find a recipe to make it yourself. It is definitely worth the extra work for this flavourful sauce. Serve on white or brown rice alongside steamed, stir-fried or roasted veggies.
Cutting out (or cutting back on) meat and animal products don’t mean you have to give up on flavour or that satisfyingly full feeling that can be so comforting.
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