When I first went vegan ten years ago, there weren’t nearly as many substitutes for things as there are now. And that meant a lot of experimenting in the kitchen.
This led me to discover some foods that I used to turn my nose up at—but are now staples in my diet.
In fact, here are three things I thought I’d never touch but now make regular appearances on my plate:
Are you even vegan if you don’t like tofu?
I didn’t start out a fan of the stuff. I thought it was bland, mushy, and just kind of weird. But now…I love it!
The main thing I use it for is tofu scramble and I can’t imagine a fry-up without it! In my opinion, it’s tastier than egg ever was and a lot healthier. Plus, there are so many ways to make it—you can add anything from kale to peppers to onions to mushrooms, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to cooking tofu scramble, this recipe will help you see why people rave about it!
I’m also a massive fan of using it to add protein to meals, I sneak it into pasta sauces, on top of meals, and even in smoothies. My current meal with tofu that is in weekly rotation is this vegan spaghetti bake with tofu ricotta recipe. It’s a must-try!
The second food I discovered I actually love since turning Vegan, is mushrooms.
Before ditching meat, I used to avoid this vegetable at all costs. Now, I use them all the time—they work as an amazing stand-in for beef!
A perfect example is this stew recipe by Rachel Ama. In it, she uses shredded oyster mushrooms as beef, and the result is so rich and hearty, it’s hard to tell the difference!
I’m also going to let you in on a little secret: I still prefer portobello mushroom burgers to all the meat replacements available nowadays. I know, shocking, but it’s so juicy and versatile and it can take on the flavour of anything you marinade it in.
And if you haven’t already tried dicing up mushrooms as a mince replacement, let me tell you: You’re missing out. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s so easy to make! Simply dice up the mushrooms and cook them like you would meat, job done!
I’ve saved my favourite vegan food discovery for last: pulses.
Aside from baked beans before going vegan, I wouldn’t have included them in my diet. But now, I eat them all the time and I’m so glad that I took the plunge into the world of pulses!
There are so many varieties, and they’re just so versatile! You can put them in soups and salads, or use them to make hummus or falafel. They’re a great source of protein, too—and super cheap.
One of my favourite pulses is chickpeas—and if you haven’t tried chickpea tuna yet, you must!
Another great pulse-based recipe is this shepherd’s pie made with lentils. Lentils are a great way to get extra protein and nutrients into your diet, plus they’re packed with fibre so they’re super filling too!
Aside from my favourites, there are hundreds of other healthy recipes online using pulses that are sure to keep you satisfied. Have fun experimenting!
Before I sign off and leave you to explore these amazing vegan recipes, I must touch on another food I discovered a surprising use for after turning vegan: Nuts
I didn’t include them in my top 3 as I was a big fan beforehand too, and can often be found eating nut butter out of the jar—but aside from eating them by the spoonful or spreading them on toast, since going vegan, I discovered nuts are an amazing replacement for cheese. Yes, cheese!
Cashews are my go-to nut to use in place of dairy in all sorts of recipes. They’re a great way to get your cheese fix without having to use the real thing.
Recipes I love include:
1. Vegan Parmesan — Just toss some cashews with nutritional yeast and salt, blitz up, and you’ve got yourself a great topping for salads or pasta dishes. It’s similar in texture to the real deal, but it’s dairy-free!
2. Cashew Cream Cheese — If you’ve never tried cashew cream cheese, you’re in for a treat! It’s made by blending soaked cashews with some oil and lemon juice to create a creamy spread that can be used on bagels, crackers, or toast. It’s super easy to make and is delicious.
3. Cashew Cheese Sauce — This sauce is creamy and dreamy and perfect over veggies or pasta dishes. You’ll never guess it’s made from cashews! There are so many different variations of this recipe, ranging from simple to more complex but for a base, all you need to do is mix water, cashews, lemon juice, and garlic in a blender or food processor, and voila! You’ve got yourself a delicious creamy sauce to use as you please.
So as you can see, going vegan opens up a whole new world of food possibilities. It’s not just about avoiding meat or dairy—it’s about discovering new ways of eating and cooking.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it helps you try foods you wouldn’t normally- because they might surprise you!