In our modern society with all of these new hipster terms going around you might ask yourself what is a vegan? The vegan definition as a noun is “a person who does not eat or use animal products.” As an adjective, the vegan definition is “using or containing no animal products.”
What is a Vegan?
A vegan is a person who follows a lifestyle that seeks to exclude, as much as is possible and practicable, any and all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals that are used for food, clothing or any other purpose. There are literally thousands of ways to live a vegan lifestyle. The one thing that all vegans have in common is that they consume a plant-based diet, which excludes all animal products such as meat (this also includes fish and shellfish) dairy, eggs and honey. Vegans will also exclude any products made from animals such as leather or anything that has been tested on an animal. The vegan definition truly is simple when you break it down to its smallest parts: no meat of any kind, no animal by-products, nothing that has been tested on animals and nothing that has been manufactured using anything that comes from an animal.
A vegan diet is rich with all types of colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and pulses. All of this food can be prepared in endless combinations ensuring that you will never tire of a vegan diet. Vegan food can be anything from curries to cakes, pastas to soups and stews. As long as these recipes are prepared with 100% plant based ingredients it qualifies as vegan food. (1)
The vegan diet has become increasingly popular over the last decade. More and more people have decided to become vegan for environmental, ethical or health reasons. When done correctly, a vegan diet offers many health benefits including weight loss and improved blood sugar levels.
Variations of a Vegan Diet
There are several different variations of the vegan diet. The most common types include the following:
Whole-food vegan diet
A vegan diet that consists of a large variety of whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Raw-food vegan diet
A vegan diet that consists of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or any other plant foods that are not heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
80/10/10: A vegan raw food diet that limits plants that are high in fat such as nuts, seeds and avocados. This style vegan diet relies heavily on raw fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on greens. This is also referred to as a low-fat raw-food vegan diet (LFRF) or also as a fruitarian diet. (2)
Starch Solution: This is a low-fat, high-carb vegan diet that is quite similar to 80/10/10 but it focuses on consuming cooked starches such as rice, potatoes, and corn rather than raw fruit.
Raw till 4: This is a low-fat vegan diet that was inspired by both the Starch Solution and 80/10/10. Raw vegan foods are eaten until 4pm and then cooked foods afterwards.
Junk-food vegan diet:A vegan diet that focuses heavily on meat and cheese substitutes, fried foods, desserts and other heavily processed plant-based foods.
Vegan Diet and Weight Loss
Vegans are generally thinner and usually have a lower body mass index (BMI) as opposed to meat eaters. This would explain why many people are choosing to turn to a vegan diet as a way to lose those extra pounds that they have acquired.
Some of the weight loss that vegans experience may be influenced by other factors besides diet. They may adopt healthier lifestyle choices such as exercise and getting more sleep each night.
There have been several controlled, randomized studies that report that vegan diets are far more effective for weight loss than other diets that they were compared to. Surprisingly, this weight loss advantage continues even when whole food diets are used as the control diet in the study. The American Heart Association (AHA), the American Dietetics Association (ADA), and the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommend these diets.
Even more surprising, researchers reported that the participants who followed vegan diets lost more weight than those who were following other calorie-restricted diets, even when they were told to eat until satiated.
Vegan Protein Powder
Many people who decide to make the switch to a vegan diet for weight loss often include vegan protein powder as a means to increase their daily protein intake. Fortunately vegan protein powder has come a long way since its inception. Today there are literally thousands of different varieties to choose from with flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cookies and cream. When vegan protein powder first came out on the market it was grainy and tasted like sawdust. These days, most of them taste like dessert.
Vegan protein powder is just like traditional protein powder except that the ingredients are all plant based. That means there is no dairy or eggs included in the formulation. Many get confused and think that whey protein powder is vegan but it is not since it is made using milk from cows. Whey protein is considered vegetarian though. Some of the most popular vegan protein powder varieties are made from soy, pea, and rice proteins. All of these contain a large spectrum of essential and non-essential amino acids. Usually there are other protein sources mixed in such as hemp, flax seed, maca root and chia seeds.
Initially those who choose to follow a vegan diet get caught up in trying to make fancy meals and then often times they get discouraged when it gets too complicated. Sadly they go back to eating meat-based meals. Truly the best way to start out is with easy vegan recipes! In today’s modern society there is absolutely no recipe out there that cannot be made vegan. Plant-based meat and cheese substitutes have flooded the market. The industry is booming right now with more advancements made each day.
Substitutions for Vegan Recipes
Vegan Milk Substitutions
Soy, rice, oat, hemp, almond, cashew (or any nut of your choice) Here are a few brands to check out:
- Blue Diamond
- So Delicious
- Trader Joe’s
- Zen Soy
- Whole Foods Market 365
Vegan Cheese Substitutions
In place of ricotta or cottage use crumbled tofu, soaked raw nuts or a combination of the two. There are also many leading industry brands that sell every type of cheese that you could possibly want. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Follow Your Heart
- Field Roast
- Go Veggie!
- Kite Hill
- Punk Rawk Labs
- Miyoko’s Kitchen
- Heidi Ho
Vegan Egg Substitutions
Excellent substitutes for scrambled eggs are either tofu scrambles or VeganEgg. For baked goods you can use applesauce, pureed silken tofu, Ener-G egg replacer, a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seed plus 3 tablespoons water or liquid of your choice, blended together), or mashed ripened bananas. In recipes that call for a binder (like meatloaf) you can use soy or oat flour, rolled oats, bread crumbs, cooked oatmeal, instant potato flakes, tomato paste, nut butters, arrowroot or cornstarch. Chickpea (garbanzo) flour is excellent for making omelets and aquafaba is the best substitute for egg whites. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Follow Your Heart – VeganEgg
Vegan Beef or Chicken Stock Substitutions
Vegetable broth or bouillon cubes. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Whole Foods
- Trader Joe’s
Vegan Butter Substitutions
There are many brands that have delicious butter substitutes. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Earth Balance
- Miyoko’s Creamery
- Smart Balance
- Melt Organic
- I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter (vegan blend)
- Ellyndale Organics
Vegan Yogurt Substitutions
There are several types of vegan yogurt on the market such as soy, coconut, and almond. Here are a few brands to check out:
- So Delicious
- Good Karma
- Forager Project
- Hain Celestial
- Kite Hill
- Living Harvest
Vegan Sour Cream Substitutions
An easy substitution is simply plain nondairy yogurt, especially if you are making a dip of some sort. Silken tofu is another option. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Follow Your Heart
Vegan Mayonnaise Substitutions
Aquafaba can be used to make a homemade vegan mayonnaise but there are several brands that you can buy in the store. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Earth Balance
- Follow Your Heart
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Food’s
- Hellman’s vegan
- Hampton Creek
Vegan Gelatin Substitutions
You can use agar flakes or powder. It will begin to thicken as it heats up. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Bakol Jel Dessert
- Simply Delish
- Lieber’s Sugar Free Jel
Vegan Honey Substitutions
The two most common honey substitutes are maple syrup and agave nectar. Other options are corn syrup, malt syrup, light and dark molasses, and brown rice syrup. Here is our favorite brand:
- Bee Free Honee
Vegan Sugar Substitutions
Beet sugar, fructose, natural organic sugar, unbleached cane sugar, date sugar, maple crystals, turbinado sugar, and FruitSource. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Wholesome Sweeteners
- Now Foods Beet Sugar
- Trader Joe’s
- Sugar in the Raw
- Rapunzel Rapadura
- Woodstock Farms
- Florida Crystals
- Red Path Sugar
- The Raw Cane
- Sprouts Sugar
Vegan Chocolate Substitutions
Dark chocolate is the number one alternative. Here are a few brands to check out:
- Green & Black
- Now Cow
- Whole Food’s
- Equal Exchange
- Chocolate Inspirations
- Newman’s Own
- Endangered Species
- No Whey!
- Alter Eco
- Theo Chocolate
Vegan Meat Substitutions
If you prefer to use meat substitutions rather than just beans and tofu you are in luck! Here are a few brands to check out:
- Beyond Meat
- Field Roast
- Yves Veggie Cuisine
- Trader Joe’s
- Boca Burger
- Sweat Earth Natural Foods
- Simply Balanced
- Morningstar Farms
Vegan Ice Cream Substitutions
It’s very easy to find vegan ice cream substitutions! This industry has grown substantially over the past decade. You can find vegan ice creams based on soy, nut, coconut and rice. Some can be higher in fat and some are completely fat-free. Here are a few brands to check out:
- So Delicious
- Luna & Larry’s
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Simple Truth
- Soy Dream, Rice Dream, Almond Dream
- Coconut Bliss
- Breyer’s Non-Dairy
- Trader Joe’s
- Double Rainbow
Now that we’ve shared all of our favorite vegan substitutions with you let’s get cooking! With these easy vegan recipes you’ll never want to go back to eating meat again. Let’s get started!
Vegan Breakfast Recipes
These are two of our favorite vegan breakfast recipes:
These vegan pancakes are light, fluffy, decadent and delicious! We have tested out hundreds of vegan pancake recipes and these continue to be our favorite. We hope you enjoy them too.
- 1 & ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons raw organic sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon pink salt
- 1 & ¼ cup filtered water
- 1-tablespoon oil (we prefer sunflower or coconut)
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the water and oil together in a separate smaller bowl. Make an indentation in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet inside. Stir until everything is combined. The mixture will be slightly lumpy. Do not over stir!
- Heat a griddle or medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. We prefer to cook them in either sunflower or coconut oil. Drop the batter by large spoonful onto the griddle or pan and cook until bubbles appear and the edges are dry and golden brown. Flip and cook until lightly golden brown on the other side. Repeat until all of the batter has been used.
Vegan French Toast
This vegan French toast is quick and easy to prepare. They take about 7 minutes from start to finish and serve 4 to 6 people. Out of all the vegan French toast recipes we tested this one was the winner by far.
- 1 cup vanilla-flavored plant milk of your choice (we used soy or almond)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1-tablespoon raw organic sugar
- 1-tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1-teaspoon cinnamon
- 4-6 slices bread (stale bread works best)
- Mix together plant milk, flour, sugar, yeast and cinnamon.
- Dip a piece of bread into the mixture to coat both sides completely and cook on a skillet or medium sized saucepan until golden brown. We recommend medium-high heat for the burner.
- Repeat with all remaining slices of bread. Serve with maple syrup and/or fruit toppings and enjoy!
Vegan Lunch Recipes
These are two of our favorite vegan lunch recipes:
This vegan pizza recipe is so easy to prepare! It takes about 20 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook. The crust doesn’t have to be kneaded at all so it comes together in a snap. This vegan pizza has a simple sauce and is dressed with vegan Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
- 1-teaspoon active yeast
- ½ cup warm filtered water
- 1-tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ flour (unbleached white and/or a combination of white and whole wheat if you prefer)
- 1/3 teaspoon pink salt
- 1-teaspoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Red pizza sauce of your choice (we prefer Organicville organic pizza sauce)
- Sliced bell pepper (green, red, or yellow)
- Sliced red onions
- Sliced mushrooms (white or baby Bella)
- Sliced Kalamata olives
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil, chiffonade
- Vegan Parmesan (we prefer Parma vegan parmesan)
- Vegan Mozzarella (we prefer Miyoko’s Kitchen vegan Mozzarella)
- Red pepper flakes
- In a large mixing bowl mix warm water, yeast and 1-tablespoon flour. Let this sit for a few minutes in order for the yeast to activate.
- Add 1-cup flour, salt, herbs and garlic and olive oil and mix thoroughly. Add another 3 tablespoons of flour and mix in completely. Mix by hand and knead the dough until it becomes slightly sticky. Add in another tablespoon of flour if necessary. Form the dough into a large ball and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes in a warm place. We like to put it into a bowl and place a towel over the top and sit it in a sunny windowsill.
- Add ½ teaspoon of oil on top of the dough and spread it around evenly until the whole ball is covered. Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Use a small amount of flour to spread the dough into a 12-14 inch round shape. You can make it as thin or as thick as you prefer. Make sure to allow the edges to remain thicker than the center. Allow the crust to sit for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread the pizza sauce all over the crust. Spread all of the vegetables evenly on top of the sauce.
- Mix the minced garlic with one teaspoon of olive oil and some pink salt and oregano. Sprinkle lightly over the entire pizza.
- Sprinkle vegan Parmesan and Mozzarella over the entire pizza.
- Bake pizza for 15-18 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Top with fresh basil and red pepper flakes. Slice and enjoy!
Vegan Mac and Cheese
This vegan mac and cheese is creamy, luscious and delicious! It has a rich velvety texture and is packed with lots of nutrition from the vegetables that are included in the sauce. This vegan mac and cheese recipe is our favorite because of the versatility and the simplicity!
- 10 ounces dried macaroni (approximately 2 & 2/3 cups)
- 1 cup peeled and diced yellow potatoes
- ¼ cup peeled and diced carrots
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- ¾ cup water (use liquid from pot of boiled vegetables)
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pink salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional but gives it a nice kick)
- Large pinch of smoked paprika
- Cook macaroni until it’s al dente, according to package instructions, approximately 6-8 minutes in salted water, drain, rinse and set aside.
- Bring medium pot of water to boil. Place potatoes, carrots and onion into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender and soft for blending.
- Remove vegetables from pot using a slotted spoon and place them into a blender. Add ¾ cup of the cooking water into the blender along with all of the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Alternatively you can put the macaroni mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes until topping is golden brown.
Vegan Dinner Recipes
These are two of our favorite vegan dinner recipes:
This vegan chili recipe gets 5 out of 5 stars! It’s tasty, hearty, filling and packed with protein and fiber. We love this vegan chili because it comes together easily and the leftovers are even better the next day!
- 1-tablespoon olive oil
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1-teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon pink salt
- 2 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chili peppers, drained
- 2 (12 ounce) packages vegan burger crumbles
- 3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn (or you can use frozen if you prefer)
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in onions, bay leaves, cumin, oregano and salt. Cook until onion is tender and then add in celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chili peppers. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegan burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 5 minutes.
- Mix tomatoes into the pot. Season with chili powder and pepper. Stir in all beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in corn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!
This vegan lasagna is packed full of vegetables and protein from the tofu. It’s hearty and rich and so satisfying! We love this vegan lasagna recipe the most because holds together nicely and the leftovers are amazing the next day. It’s so easy to just pop it into the oven the next day. The flavors really pop in this vegan lasagna!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.5 cups chopped onion (we prefer red onions)
- 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 4 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
- /3-cup tomato paste
- ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ tablespoon pink salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
- 2 pounds extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon pink salt
- 3 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- Make the sauce. In a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat warm the olive oil. Place the onions into the pan and sauté until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes.
- Place the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and parsley into the saucepan. Stir well and turn the heat down to low. Let the sauce simmer covered for 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering bring a large kettle of salted water to boil. Boil lasagna noodles for 9 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place tofu blocks into a large bowl. Add garlic, basil and parsley. Add salt and pepper and mash all ingredients together until fully incorporated. It should be the consistency of ricotta cheese.
- Assemble lasagna. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 inch casserole dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles, sprinkle 1/3 of the tofu mixture over the noodles. Spread the spinach evenly over the tofu. Next, ladle 1.5 cups tomato sauce over the tofu and top it with another single layer of noodles. Then sprinkle another 1/3 of the tofu mixture over the noodles, top the tofu with 1.5 cups tomato sauce and place a final layer of noodles over the tomato sauce. Finally, top the noodles with the remaining 1/3 of the tofu and spread the remaining tomato sauce over everything.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake the lasagna for approximately 30 minutes. Allow the lasagna to rest for 20 minutes before cutting to serve.
Vegan Dessert Recipes
These are two of our favorite vegan dessert recipes:
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
These vegan chocolate chip cookies are so tasty and you cannot eat just one! They are a little crunchy around the edges but still soft and chewy. These vegan chocolate chip cookies are nut-free, soy-free and will soon be your family’s favorite.
- ½ cup solid organic refined coconut oil
- 1.5 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 4.5 tablespoons water (allow to sit for 5 minutes until it becomes creamy and smooth)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup organic raw sugar, fine
- ¼ teaspoon fine pink sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1-teaspoon baking powder
- 2-teaspoon organic vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups unbleached white flour
- 1-cup vegan palm oil free chocolate chips and chunks
- >Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet tray with parchment paper.
- Add all ingredients from the coconut oil to the vanilla extract into a stand mixer and beat until everything is light and fluffy. Or you can add into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer until everything is fluffy.
- Add in 1 cup of flour and mix in. Add in ¼ cup of flour and mix in. Add flour at 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until it forms soft cookie dough. Don’t add too much flour, as it will become dry and crumbly.
- Add the chocolate chips and fold in until combined.
- Measure dough out using a heaping tablespoon or a scoop and placed on the lined baking sheet.
- Bake for approximately 10 minutes, just until the cookies are golden brown.
- Remove from oven. Let cool on the baking sheet tray for 3 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!
Vegan Banana Bread
This vegan banana bread is utterly perfect! It’s not too sweet, not dry at all, not too moist, and has just the perfect amount of banana flavor. We have tried many different vegan banana bread recipes over the years and this one is the very best. We know you will love it too!
- 1 & 1/3 cups mashed over-ripe bananas (4 medium or 3 large)
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1/3 cup plant milk of your choice (we prefer soy or coconut)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cane sugar or coconut sugar
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1-teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine pink salt
- 1.5 cups light spelt flour
- Toppings: sliced bananas, chopped pecans, chocolate chips, flaked coconut (all optional)
- TPreheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside.
- TIn a large mixing bowl mash bananas until smooth. Measure to ensure there is 1 & 1/3 cups total.
- TStir wet ingredients (flax, milk, melted oil, maple/agave and vanilla) into the bananas until well combined.
- TStir dry ingredients (sugar, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour) into the wet mixture, one by one and in the order listed in the recipe. Make sure to stop stirring when the flour has been incorporated.
- TSpoon dough into loaf pan and spread evenly. Add toppings if desired.
- TBake uncovered for 45-55 minutes until golden brown and firm on top.
- TPlace loaf pan on cooling rack for at least 30-45 minutes.
- TOnce loaf has cooled slice it and serve with vegan butter, jam, or peanut butter. Enjoy!