1. Plan properly
There’s no denying that being prepared can be the thing that makes or breaks this experience, so plan ahead for at least the first few weeks. Writing a menu for each day can help with shopping, but it also means you’ll be able to spring into action when you get hungry and avoid caving for something containing animal products. Stocking your fridge with lots of fresh fruit and veggies also means you’ll be encouraged to use them up before being tempted by anything else. Apply the same principles to plant-based cooking that you did to cooking previously. If you like batch-cooking, do that here too. Curries, soups and pasta sauces can all be made in bulk and frozen, so you’ve you’ve got something on hand when you’re feeling uninspired. And if inspiration is your biggest concern, follow a couple of plant-based chefs online for their tips and recipes.
2. When cooking plant-based food, consider textures
The one thing about animal products is that they often have a fattier mouthfeel that can be satisfying or filling. Keep this in mind when cooking without dairy or meat, and try to replicate that as best you can. Beans are great for vegans because of their protein properties, but they also provide a wonderful texture to dishes. When using items like beans, chickpeas and grains, think differently to how you would normally cook with them. Roasting and frying are two great ways to add interesting textures, but even mashing them roughly works well. For vegetables, it’s safe to say that you’re at risk of abandoning Veganuary a few days in if all you’re eating is steamed broccoli, so remember to vary textures here, too. Roasted broccoli or cauliflower will always be a winner, but don’t go overboard and roast all the elements on the plate. If you’re roasting one thing, try sautéing another and serving the dish with a raw, crunchy ingredient. Remember that nutritional yeast can be used for texture, just as much as replicating cheesiness, and you can use it to generously top veggies straight out of the oven for a satisfying result.
3. How to stock your pantry
While plant-based diets seem foreign to some, there are many cultures across the world that embrace them. For a successful Veganuary, look at using some of these flavours in your own cooking. Asian food in particular is very vegan-friendly and each of the nations that make up the continent has some clever ways to amp up flavour without adding any animal products. Sesame oil, soya sauce, miso paste and hoisin sauce, for example, are all vegan and add rich flavour in their own way. If you’re using the loose formula outlined above and making a rice bowl topped with roasted broccoli and shredded cabbage, a mix of sesame oil, rice vinegar and soya sauce can take everything to the next level. Even things like sriracha and chilli crisp are mostly vegan and can add a satisfying hit of heat to otherwise mild foods, such as beans and rice. Miso paste has long been our flavour-boosting secret, but when it comes to plant-based cooking, it’s really worth investing in a tub. A pot of veggie stock enriched with a tablespoon or two of miso paste becomes a hearty broth that’s the perfect vehicle for steamed greens and noodles. Curry pastes tend to be vegan, so make sure you’ve got a few in the cupboard, along with coconut milk and you’ll be on your way to a delicious curry in no time at all – simply throw in some butternut or sweet potato for heft and top with quick-cooking veg such as corn, broccoli or spinach. We’ve already sung the praises of nutritional yeast above, but it’s a great way to add that cheesy or creamy note you might miss. When melted into soups or pasta (and then used to top said pasta), nutritional yeast can be used in the same way you’d use grated Parmesan.
4. It doesn’t have to be perfect
At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts and enjoying a plant-based diet might be something that’s more of a process than simply sticking to Veganuary. Don’t punish yourself for wanting that piece of dairy chocolate, just have it and make an effort to find an alternative vegan-friendly version for the next time the craving hits. If you’re somewhere with limited vegan options and you need to eat, just have the cheese toastie and remember to pack snacks in future. By making these mindful notes, you won’t end up in a situation where you feel like you’ve failed, which might encourage you to find alternatives you didn’t even know existed.
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