Missing the taste of meat and dairy is the biggest challenge for vegans who are just starting out. Meat and dairy rich dishes have been a part of their lives for too long to be easily forgotten. And while meat and dairy substitutes have existed for a long time, many fall short of being able to satisfy these non-vegan cravings. They just don’t feel or taste like the real thing.
However, the right vegan dishes can be very satisfying, providing suitable alternatives to real meat and dairy products. Here are a few vegan twists to meat and dairy favorites that you should try:
Vegan Carbonara | Serves 4
Many pasta dishes are chock-full of eggs, cheese, meat – and carbonara is no exception. The sauce – the heart and soul of this pasta dish – is made from ingredients that are totally non-vegan. But even though it looks like it’s impossible to make vegan carbonara, some creative tweaks can result in a very convincing and satisfying alternative.
One of the best pork substitutes is king oyster mushroom. They have a meaty texture and the mild flavor won’t overpower the dish and make everything taste like mushrooms. The sauerkraut brine adds a tang similar to that of Pecorino Romano while the combination of tofu, miso, and nutritional yeast simulates the creamy consistency of egg.
- 7 ounces silken tofu
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ cup sauerkraut brine
- Cayenne pepper or red chili flakes (to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh juice from 1 lemon
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces king oyster mushrooms, slices in rough 1/2 –inch cubes
- 1 pound dry spaghetti or penne
Step 1: Combine the following ingredients in a blender: tofu, sauerkraut brine, nutritional yeast, miso, cayenne (or chili flakes), smoked paprika, black pepper, and vinegar (or lemon juice). Blend on high speed until a very smooth and silky sauce forms. Pause and scrape the sides as necessary to ensure a consistent texture. Season with salt and add ¼ cup of the virgin olive oil. Blend on low speed until emulsified.
Step 2: Heat the remaining virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and stir while cooking until browned.
Step 3: Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until just al dente. Drain and transfer pasta to pan with mushrooms. Reserve the pasta-cooking water. Pour enough of the creamy sauce to ensure that the pasta is coated. Add ¼ cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water. Cook on medium-high heat while continually stirring. Once the sauce forms a silky glaze on the pasta, it’s ready to serve.
Vegan Burger Patties | Makes about 2 pounds of vegan burger mix
Vegan burger patties have been commercially available for a long time. However, they can be bland and unappetizing. Thankfully, there are many vegan burger patty recipes available that can be more satisfying than the store-bought patties.
This burger patty has a lot of flavors thanks to the mushrooms and eggplants. A bit of texture is also provided by chickpeas, barley, and panko. Since the panko does give a bit of a crunch, it’s recommended that the patty is cooked within 30 minutes of adding the breadcrumbs, as it gets mushy if left too long. If making the patties ahead of time, hold the panko until before cooking the burger.
- 1 ½ pounds button mushrooms (stems removed)
- ¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 1 small eggplant
- 2 large leeks, finely chopped
- 1 large celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 medium clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater
- ¾ cup dry pearl barley
- 14 ounce garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and pat-dry with paper towels
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon marmite, vegemite, or Maggi seasoning
- 1 cup toasted cashews, pinenuts, or a mix of both
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 ½ cup panko-style bread crumbs
Step 1: Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Coat the eggplant with one tablespoon oil and, likewise, season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap the eggplant in foil. Transfer the mushrooms and eggplant to a foil-lined baking tray. Scatter the thyme over the mushrooms and put the tray into the oven. Occasionally turn the mushrooms and eggplant.
Bake until the mushrooms are dark brown and the eggplant is completely tender. This takes about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. Unwrap the eggplant and set aside to cool.
Step 2: While the mushroom and eggplant are in the oven, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the leeks and celery. Toss and stir until they are tender but not browned (takes around 4 minutes). Add in the garlic and stir constantly until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Step 3: Place barley in a pot and cover with water by around 2 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally until completely tender for around 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a kitchen towel. Roll tightly and press until excess water has been removed. Transfer to a bowl afterwards.
Step 4: Combine half of garbanzo beans in a food processor with the flour, baking powder, soy sauce, marmite, and half of the eggplant (reserve the other half). Process until a smooth paste forms then add to the bowl of barley. Pulse the remaining chickpeas in a food processor until the beans are chopped to small lentil-sized bits. Transfer to the bowl with barley. Process the cashews and/or pinenuts the same way and add to the barley mixture.
Step 5: Stir by hand or with a spatula until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen in an airtight container for 3 months.
Step 6: Once ready to serve, add in the panko and mix until well incorporated. If the patty does not have the texture of a beef patty, you can add a tablespoon of water at a time until it’s the right consistency. You can then cook the patty according to your preference.
Vegan Parmesan Substitute | Makes about ¾ cup
Whether it’s a salad, sandwich, pizza, or pasta, it can be improved with the flavor of parmesan cheese. Vegans don’t have to lose out of parmesan’s unique taste profile and can use this vegan substitute to enhance your favorite meals.
- 3 cups high quality pitted olives, drained and dried
- 5 tablespoons white miso paste
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (from 3 to 4 lemons)
- 1 ounce fresh rosemary leaves
Step 1: Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 225 degrees F. Combine the olives, miso paste, lemon zest, and rosemary leaves in a food processor. Pulse until roughly pureed, scraping down the sides in between pulses as needed.
Step 2: Transfer the mixture to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread it out into a thin layer. Bake until fully dehydrated – this can take 4 to 6 hours. Once done, turn off the heat and leave the door ajar until the mixture cools.
Step 3: Transfer the dry mixture to the food processor. Process until you have a rough powder. Transfer to a sealed container and store in a dark, cool place. It can last up to 2 months.
Vegan “Bacon” Chips | Makes about ½ cup
As previously stated, the king oyster mushroom makes for a terrific pork substitute. This recipe gives you a sweet, smoky bacon substitute that you can use for any dish that requires bacon.
This recipe gives instructions on how to jury-rig a stovetop smoker for the best bacon flavor. You’ll need a steamer insert, as well as a pot and tight-fitting lid that fits the steamer insert. Of course, you can use a smoker if you have one.
- 8 ounces king oyster mushroom, cut lengthwise into bacon-thick slices
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 1 chunk applewood, hickory, or mesquite (for smoking)
Step 1: Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil). Coat the lining with 2 tablespoons of oil and use a pastry brush to evenly spread it. Arrange the sliced mushrooms on the sheet in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Flip the slices and season the other side. Put into the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the slices with a metal spatula. Cook for another 20 minutes. Monitor carefully to prevent overcooking. Remove from oven and transfer to a paper-lined plate to remove excess moisture.
Step 2: In a bowl, toss the mushrooms, remaining oil, maple syrup, sugar, garlic powder, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the mushrooms on the basket of the steamer insert, making sure that they are evenly spaced.
Step 3: Ignite the wood chunk. You can use a burner or a torch. Transfer to a pot. Add the steamer insert and cover with the lid. Let it smoke for 10 minutes and remove from the pot. Once cool, it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. For crispy mushroom “bacon”, return to the baking sheet and bake until the sugars caramelize (around 5 minutes).
Vegan Mayonnaise | Makes about 1 cup
Just like bacon, mayonnaise is one add-on that many miss. Fortunately, mayonnaise is easy to replicate. The surprising part of this recipe is that it uses something that is normally discarded – aquafaba or the liquid you’ll find in a can of beans. Vegans have found that this liquid has properties similar to egg white which makes it the key ingredient in this recipe.
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh juice from a lemon
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons liquid from 1 can of chickpeas
- A dozen whole chickpeas
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup extra virgin oilive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Step 1: In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice, mustard, chickpea liquid, and chickpeas. Blend and slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. Continue blending until you have a smooth, creamy emulsion.
Step 2: Transfer to a bowl. Whisk constantly and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a covered container. This mayonnaise can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week.