Going vegan? We asked some of our authors of vegan cookbooks for their tips on going animal product-free this year and beyond. From taking it easy and being kind to yourself to not going cold turkey (if you’ll pardon the expression), here’s all of the advice you need to successfully make the switch.
How to go vegan this year – Key Points:
- Be kind to yourself and realise you don’t have to be perfect all of the time
- Get familiar with the best substitutes for meat, dairy and eggs
- Research vegan recipes for your favourite dishes
- Get to know what’s available in your local supermarket
- Keep things simple
- Think about cooking food that’s naturally vegan like lots of Indian, Italian or South East Asian recipes
Stephen and David Flynn, authors of multiple cookbooks, including Recipes for Happiness, Vegan Cooking for Everyone, and latest release The Happy Health Plan, and owners of The Happy Pear Cafe in Ireland
Becoming a vegan isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Many people jump straight in and they throw away their leather belt and shoes and stop eating honey, but we’ve found it works best if you choose to be kind to yourself and take it easy.
We have been eating this way for about 20 years so start slow and if you do slip up that’s okay because you don’t have to be perfect. By becoming a vegan, you are not part of some elite club or VIP section – just try to do your best. The very nature of being human is that you’re imperfect.
When we first started to eat this way, we certainly didn’t achieve perfection. Our Irish granny shared love through the food she made, and she would often make these apple pies, baked with butter and eggs. We used to say no to her pie because we were vegan, thus rejecting her love and making her feel a little offended.
It didn’t take us long to figure out that if we took just a little bit of pie and ate it, we really enjoyed it and she felt good too. Now we were okay with a little butter and eggs but we wouldn’t have eaten a meat pie or some meat, so it’s just about finding your own boundaries and what works for you.
The main thing is to try to eat as much vegan as you can most of the time. If you can do it all the time that’s fabulous but if you do have the occasional slip up that’s okay too, just do your best.
Nowadays there are lots of substitutions so it’s much easier than when we first started out. Our favourites include:
For milk: these days there are a huge number of milk alternatives. Oat milk is our go-to favourite – it’s creamy and great for everything.
For baking: if you want to replace an egg then ground flaxseeds work great (1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds to 3 tablespoons of water, left to sit for 5 minutes). Also, chickpea water is often used as a substitute for egg whites – it whips up wonderfully and you can create vegan meringues, which are fabulous.
For meat: Jackfruit is a nice one if you’re looking for something savoury like pulled pork – just cover it with BBQ sauce and bake it!
For cheese: Finally, nutritional yeast is hard to beat – it adds that slight cheesy note and yeasty flavour to everything it’s added to.
Lauren Toyota, author of Vegan Comfort Classics
If you’re wanting to make the switch to vegan I always encourage a transition into it, not going “cold turkey”. Continue to use up things in your fridge that aren’t vegan ie: milk, butter, mayo, cheese etc. then the next time you go to the store intend to replace those products with a vegan substitute. There are plenty of amazing products to replace butter and mayo on the market now. Swapping for a plant-based milk is easy too! Try things and be open to using these as you normally would. It’s a small adjustment that you won’t have to fuss about too much.
Find vegan recipes online that could replace what you’re typically eating. If you love spaghetti in a meat sauce, then look for a vegan version that uses lentils, TVP, or mushrooms. If you like tuna salad sandwiches for lunch, then start making a chickpea tuna sandwich instead. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for your meal plan, you just to need to start learning about easy swaps.
Another step would be to change up your food shopping routine. Familiarise yourself with your supermarket. You probably have a routine when you go in and haven’t explored half of what’s available there! There are lots of vegan friendly snacks plus a ton of fruits and vegetables you’ve probably also never bothered to experiment with. There is so much variety of plant foods and it’s now about being open to incorporating more of that into your diet rather than relying on meat and dairy products.
Lastly, if you find yourself trying to stick to these changes when you have a busy social calendar and are worried about slipping up just be sure you come prepared! Bring a dish or two to the dinner or gathering that you know you can eat but that you can also share with other guests. Everyone will ALWAYS be nosy about what the vegan is eating at the table and the only way to make yourself seem totally normal is to share what you’re eating and show people that it’s delicious and easy to prepare. You could even volunteer to make the mashed potatoes or a couple of the other side dishes on the table so that you can make them with vegan ingredients like nut milk and vegan butter. They’ll still be delicious and then everyone can enjoy them together.
Inspired to try more of Lauren’s comfort food? Get Vegan Comfort Classics for just 99p for a limited time only.
Rukmini Iyer, author of The Green Roasting Tin
Think about cooking food that’s naturally vegan – lots of Indian, Italian or South East Asian recipes which you might have thought of as regular vegetarian dishes don’t contain eggs or dairy, so they’re already vegan friendly.
You can make all sorts of warming curries and fried rice with almonds or cashews for easy weeknight dinners, and get creative with lime-spiked broths, black pepper tofu and greens. Closer to home, so many amazing pasta dishes – mushroom bolognese, orzo with tomatoes, spaghetti with a tangle of slow cooked leeks – need nothing more than a drizzle of very good olive oil or a squeeze of lemon juice, so you won’t miss the Parmesan.
In this weather, I’d cook off a massive tray of pearl barley with tons of veg in the oven, then keep it in the fridge to top with interesting bits and pieces and different dressings during the week. Think about adding fresh herbs for flavour, a sharp lemon or lime dressing for acidity, and something crunchy for texture. Toasted almonds or peanuts are an easy topping, or for pasta, I’d fry off a handful of breadcrumbs with lemon zest and chopped parsley, perhaps pine nuts too if you’re splashing out.
Denise Smart, author of Veganeasy
Make life easy for yourself and don’t make food too complicated– I like to use spice pastes as these pack lots of flavour into recipes with minimum fuss.
I like to sprinkle my pasta and risotto dishes with nutritional yeast flakes, which add a cheesy, nutty savoury flavour . They are a good source of protein and are fortified with B vitamins.
There are now a wide variety of packets of cooked mixed grains available, which make great bases for salads or accompaniments to curries and stews.
Keep your cupboards stocked with tinned tomatoes, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds– then you will always be able to make a tasty meal in minutes.
Any leftover vegetables can be used to make a hearty vegetable soup. Add a couple of teaspoons of Thai or Jerk curry paste and a little coconut milk and your vegetables will transform into a delicious meal.
Always have a lemon or lime handy– a squeeze over a salad makes a low calorie dressing- roasting lemons with a tray of butternut squash or sweet potatoes makes the lemons extra juicy. Squeeze over the warm juice and add pinch of dried chilli flakes, then mop up the juice with crusty bread.
Inspired to go vegan for good? There’s plenty more inspiration in this collection of the best vegan cookbooks.