It’s time for a meatless makeover!
Why? Because eating less meat (and dairy) can protect your health including your arteries, help you lose weight and even reduce your risk for death.
If you’re new to eating a whole food plant-based diet you may be missing some of your favorite meals and wishing you could have that mac and cheese, creamed spinach, chicken divan, French fries, onion dip, pizza and more!
It can be especially difficult when you’re confronted with the holidays or someone else’s eating habits like when they eat bacon or sour cream.
But, what if you learned how to transform any dish into plant-based PARADISE? You’d be jumping for joy. Let’s not pine over what’s missing. Take joy and celebrate the amazing abundance of delicious WHOLE FOODS that are available. AND, be happy that with a little skill and knowledge, you can retool your favorites TO BECOME A MEATLESS MASTER! This, of course, includes dairy, too.
Let’s take these recipe babies apart and retool them into plant-based goodness.
Although there are vegan “meat” choices at the market, most of them have A LOT of oil so we’re sticking with better choices here. However, if you’re new to eating a plant-based diet and need a quickie that will save you time…. there are many store-bought substitutes for just about any type of meat you need for a recipe.
1. LEAVE OUT THE MEAT:
Easy enough. A lot of dishes can be just excellent on their own without the meat. Take Chicken Divan. It has lots of veggies so leave out the meat or add in a meatless alternative such as sausage, tempeh, or baked tofu. Here’s my take on one of my most popular recipes, Cheeze Veggie Divan.
In a dish that has bacon, you can substitute tempeh bacon, either store-bought or homemade. Make a list of your favorite meals and see if you could just leave out the meat… Here are a few to get you going: spaghetti, tacos, burritos, fried rice, chili, curries, or lasagna.
2. REPLACE THE DAIRY:
Use one of the many plant milk or make your own. For the cream, pump up the creaminess of any non-dairy milk by adding a few raw cashews to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth with a little liquid. Or, use a can of cannellini beans which adds creaminess. Often, cheese can just be eliminated, but if it seems crucial, a little nutritional yeast can substitute.
There are many tutorials online on how to make your own vegan cheese and in a pinch, you can use store-bought vegan cheese, but I haven’t been impressed (except for a few artisanal kinds of cheese like Treeline brand).
3. REPLACE THE EGGS:
Here are some easy replacement choices. If you’re baking and need something to rise, 1 egg = 3 Tablespoons water plus 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds.
If you need something to stick together, use 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch + 2 tablespoons of water. And, here’s an odd one, use the left-over brine from a can of chickpeas. I know, it sounds strange, but this magical juice can actually be whipped. The proteins from the chickpeas must pretty closely mimic egg whites. Really, watch this video.
4. REPLACE THE OIL & BUTTER:
OK, this one can be a little more difficult depending on the recipe. Here are some tips.
- Sautéing: use water, wine, or veggie stock or water flavored with soy sauce. It works really well with any vegetable, including mushrooms. They will be the most outstanding and flavorful mushrooms you’ve ever had because you won’t taste the oil. Just the true essence of the veg. Mmmmm, so good!
- Thickening sauces: use flour or cornstarch.
- In a baked recipe: use a fruit puree like applesauce or bananas, but only use about half what’s called for in the recipe. Apparently, vegetable purees work too, like pumpkin.
Potatoes Au Gratin: What’s cheesier, creamier, and meatier than potatoes au gratin with bacon? Substitute the cream or milk with non-dairy, the cheese with a little nutritional yeast, and the bacon with tempeh bacon. Sounds easy, right? Here’s the recipe for Potato Gratin with Jalapeño and Bacon.
Cheese Sauce: Substitute cashew or cannellini beans and a roasted or raw red pepper, a little mustard, lemon, and nutritional yeast, and voila… pretty good substitution for the cheese sauce.
Yes, it won’t taste exactly like cheese, but boy, if you can get around to liking it, you are one inspired plant-based eater. Here’s an amazing Chili-Cheese Dip with Beans for dipping your baked tortilla chips into… yum.
I may have left out something, so I’d love to hear how you’re transforming YOUR recipes. Let me know in the comments below.
If you’re looking for a good reference, try this: Plant-Based Substitutions