It’s time for meatless makeovers and dairy-free dining!
If you’re new to a whole food plant-based diet you may be missing some of your favorite meals, wishing you could have your old faves like mac and cheese, fried chicken, burgers, ice cream, pizza and more!
It can be especially difficult when you’re confronted with the holidays or someone else’s unhealthy non-vegan eating habits.
But there’s hope, I’m here to tell you! Enter the “Meatless Makeover” and “Diary-Free Dining.”
What if you could easily learn how to transform any dish into a plant-based favorite? With a little skill, knowledge, and practice, you can retool your foodie favorites to become a “Meatless Master” and a “Dairy-Free Diva.” Let’s not pine over what’s missing – instead, let’s enjoy the amazing abundance of delicious whole plant foods that are available to choose from. Keep reading and you’ll see how easy it is to retool just about any recipe you can think of.
BECOMING A MEATLESS MAKEOVER MASTER AND DAIRY-FREE DIVA
1. FREE TO BE WITHOUT MEAT, FISH or POULTRY!
Easy enough. A lot of dishes can be excellent on their own without any meat or poultry at all. Take chicken divan – it’s so full of veggies that you can either leave out the meat altogether or add in a plant-based protein such as seitan (“wheat meat”), tempeh (fermented Indian soy patties or crumbles) or baked tofu.
In a dish that calls for bacon, you can substitute tempeh bacon, either store-bought or homemade. Make a list of your favorite meals and see when you can just leave out the meat. Here are a few suggestions to get you going meat, poultry and fish-less (is that a word?): spaghetti, tacos, burritos, fried rice, chili, curries, and lasagna.
2. GOT (RID OF!) MILK
There are so many rich and creamy dairy dishes – these can be especially hard to give up if you happen to have a “fat tooth” as I do! But the good news is that there’s an increasing variety of commercial plant-based milk available such as almond, cashew, oat and coconut, that are readily available in most grocery stores.
Or better yet (much better yet!) you can make your own fresh plant-based milk, with substantially more nutrition, easily at home. (See “Three Great Reasons to Make Your Own Almond and Other Plant-Based Milk” and “How to Make Delicious Homemade Nut, Seed and Grain-Based Milk.”) To match the creaminess of half-n-half or full cream, add a few raw cashews to any nondairy milk and blend until smooth in a high-powered blender.
Like other forms of animal protein cheese can often just be left out of a dish, but if it seems crucial for a particular recipe, use a little nutritional yeast as a substitute.
If you’re feeling industrious, there are a variety of tutorials available online which explain how to your own homemade nondairy cheese. In a pinch, you can use store-bought vegan cheese, but I haven’t been especially impressed (except for a few artisanal kinds of cheese such as Treeline brand or Miyokos).
3. DON’T BE CHICKEN: REPLACE THE EGGS
There’s a few ways to replace eggs. If you’re baking and need something to rise, replace one egg with 3 tablespoons water and one tablespoon ground flaxseeds. If you need to bind ingredients together, mix 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water.
Or the latest rage is called aquafaba, a fancy name for the thick, greyish liquid from a plain old can of chickpeas. I know it sounds strange, but this magical chickpea juice whips up to a most excellent froth. The proteins that cook out of the chickpeas must pretty closely mimic egg whites.
If it sounds too good to be true, just watch this video.
4. OIL & BUTTER: YOU’RE UP!
OK, oil and butter substitutes can sometimes be a little trickier depending on the recipe, but it’s still totally doable.
- For sautéing: Use wine, vegetable stock, water or water flavored with soy sauce (tamari). (Steer clear of the soy sauce option if you’re on a low-sodium diet, as it’s quite salty.) These saute options work really well with any vegetable, including mushrooms. I guarantee these will be the most outstanding and flavorful vegetables you’ve ever had. You won’t taste the oil, just the true essence of the vegetable as nature intended. Mmmmm, so good!
- To thicken sauces: Use flour or cornstarch.
- For baking: Use a fruit puree like applesauce or mashed bananas, about half the portion that’s called for in the recipe. Apparently, vegetable purees work too, like pumpkin, but I haven’t tried that, yet.
THREE OF MY FAVORITE MEATLESS MAKEOVERS:
What’s cheesier and creamier than potatoes au gratin with bacon? Replace the cream or milk with nondairy options, the cheese with a little nutritional yeast and the bacon with tempeh bacon. Sounds easy, right? It is! Here’s the recipe for Potato Gratin with Jalapeño and Bacon.
You can make a great substitute for cheese sauce from some raw cashews or canned cannellini beans and some roasted or raw red pepper, a little mustard, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast. Voila – you’ve got cheesy uncheese sauce! And here’s an amazing Chili-Cheese Dip with Beans for dipping your baked tortilla chips into. Yum! Check out my recipe for it here.
Made with beer and plenty of spices, this chili is sure to please your toughest critics.
MORE GREAT RESOURCES
If you’re looking for a good reference book, try this one: “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions.”
You’ve got this! I hope you’ll give it a try with your own favorite recipes and practice being a Meatless Makeover Master. I’d love to hear how you’re magically transforming YOUR favorite recipes into healthier plant-based version. Let me know in the comments below.