Heres how to go vegan: a beginners guide and all the healthy recipes you need. Plant based eating can be affordable, filling and delicious!
Looking to start a vegan diet? Youve come to the right place. Here at A Couple Cooks, were experts in plant based cooking andcookbook authors. Alex and I have devoted our careers to making eating vegetables delicious! While we dont eat a strict vegan diet, the majority of the recipes we eat are plant based! Weve learned all the tricks to making this lifestyle affordable, filling, and most of all: delicious! Heres a crash course in how to go vegan, and all the recipes you need!
What is a vegan diet?
First things first: what is a vegan diet? A vegan diet is a diet that excludes all animal products. Here are the foods that are off limits:
- Fish and shellfish
- All dairy (milk, cheese, sour cream, butter, yogurt)
Dont worry, that still leaves lots and lots of things to eat! Heres what is part of a vegan diet:
- Vegetables (here are the best 20 veggies to eat!)
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Whole grains like rice, quinoa, farro, bulgur, and more
- Soy products like tofu and tempeh
Tip 1: Understand vegan protein & how to stay full!
Heres one of the most important parts of eating vegan:plant based protein is key for staying satiated and full.The most important part of eating recipes without meat and dairy is to make sure theyre packed with plant based protein. If not, well be hungry an hour later! There lots of options for adding plant based protein to your meals to make them filling and nutritious. Heres are the top plant-based protein filled foods:
- Legumes:Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas, and Peas
- Whole Grains:Rice, Quinoa, Barley, Farro, Bulgur Wheat, and Millet (seeHow to Cook Whole Grains)
- Nuts & Seeds:Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds), Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds
- Soy:Tofu, Tempeh. (Stick to 2 to 4 servings per week)*
- Veggies:Some vegetables have protein, but in much lower amounts than the foods above. Some higher protein veggies areCorn,Broccoli, Asparagus,Brussels Sprouts, andArtichokes.
Choose from a variety of sources!
When youre eating lots of protein from plants, its important to get a wide variety of protein sources. The point isnt just to eat a can of black beans every day! According toHarvard School of Public Health, make sure to mix up your sources so no essential components of protein are missing. For more on plant based protein and lots of recipes, go toAll About Plant Based Protein.
Is soy healthy?
According to theHarvard TH Chan School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week. Its likely to provide health benefitsespecially when eaten as an alternative to red and processed meat!
Tip 2: Eat whole foods!
When thinking about how to go vegan, consider this: focus on whole foods and a variety of veggies! Its possible to eat a vegan diet and eat only processed foods: chips, crackers, fries, and the like. Here are a few tips for eating whole foods:
- Try to cut down on packaged foods and make your own instead! Try our crackers, chips, pita chips, nacho cheese, etc.
- Read the labels of anything pre-packaged and make sure that anything you buy has minimally processed ingredients. Try to avoid lots of preservatives and additives.
- This will require more time in your schedule for cooking! See Tip 4 below.
Tip 3: Consider B12.
Dairy, eggs, and seafood have the Vitamin B12, which is important for avoiding anemia and does not occur naturally in plants. If you eat a fully vegan diet, you may need to add a supplement (specifically vitamin B12) to make sure you receive all the nutrients required. Consult your doctor for more.
Tip 4: Make time and space! And find a buddy.
What does going vegan mean? Carving out more space in your life to cook! Are you already in the practice of cooking on the regular? Here are a few things to think about as your make this diet change:
- Baby steps: it doesnt happen overnight! It takes a while to figure out your tastes and what recipes will be your go-tos (see below for all ours!). Give yourself the grace and time to figure it out over weeks and months. Its all about long term sustainability!
- If a recipe bombs: try another! Cooking is all about finding things that work for your life and your personal tastes. If you make a recipe you dont like: find another and try that one! Have the courage to keep trying new flavors and techniques.
- Find a buddy. This is one of our top recommendations: find a buddy: friend, roommate, spouse, partner who can help navigate the change with you. Share recipes with each other! Talk about things you like, and things that didnt work. Food is all about relationship, and having a cheerleader is half the fun.
Tip 5: A few foods to watch for!
When you go vegan, here are a few foods to remember are off limits and what to substitute:
- Honey: Use maple syrup instead!
- Worcestershire sauce: Look for vegan Worcestershire sauce (standard contains anchovies)
- Caesar dressing: Has anchovies and Parmesan; look for vegan Caesar
- Pesto: Has Parmesan: use our Vegan Pesto
- Mayonnaise: Has eggs: look for vegan mayo or use our Cashew Cream as a substitute
And now, our top go-to recipes for how to go vegan!
This vegan lasagna will become your new favorite! It's layered with tangy tomato sauce, savory mushrooms and spinach, and creamy hummus (instead of a ricotta layer). Then it's topped with vegan "Parmesan" made with ground cashews. It's a fan favorite! It saves well, so you can freeze leftovers and enjoy for days.
How to go vegan? Find quick and easy lunch recipes that can power you through the day! This chickpea salad takes only 5 minutes to throw together, and it's a lunch lifesaver. It's full of plant based protein to keep you satisfied for hours. Serve with pita triangles or vegan crackers.
Wow, is this vegan fettuccine alfredo good! The creamy sauce is made with cashews for richness and cauliflower for body, making it a healthy spin. It gets so creamy, you'd swear it had dairy! Serve with standard pasta, or use zucchini noodles or legume pasta for a twist.
Jackfruit is a fun trick for when you go vegan: it truly has the texture of pulled pork! It's magical how a fruit can taste just like meat by adding onion, garlic, cumin, tomato paste, cocoa powder and adobo sauce. Look for jackfruit in the canned aisle, or you can buy it online. Serve withrefried beansfor a filling comfort food meal! Also try: Vegan Jackfruit BBQ Sandwich.
These nachos really are the best! They're topped with our Vegan Nacho Cheese, which is so savory and satisfying you'd swear it has dairy! Top tortilla chips with our Smoky Instant Pot Lentils orLentil Taco Filling, then cover in veggies and dollop with nacho cheese. Feeling spicy? Add Pickled Jalapeos.
You'll never believe the texture of this vegan sour cream! Blend together just a few ingredients and you've got a mixture that has all the creaminess and tang of sour cream, without the dairy. It's a must try! And perfect for...(see below)
Going vegan doesn't mean an end to baking! Vegan baked goods are some of the best out there. You may not have thought cornbread was life changinguntil now. This tender, moist vegan cornbread tastes the Jiffy box, but 100 times tastier. It doesn't matter that this recipe doesn't use dairy. It's SO delicious, you'll never notice, and neither will any of your friends or family members.
You'll be surprised how much a tofu scramble has the flavor and texture of scrambled eggs! It's a healthy, savory vegan breakfast that takes only 10 minutes to whip up. If you'd like, serve it with a veggie saute: red onion, peppers and greens cooked until tender.
Hummus is a lifesaver when you go vegan! This creamy, savory dip is perfect for healthy snacks and lunches. Use it for dipping pita chips and veggies, or in Hummus and Veggie Roll Ups for a quick lunch.
This easy sheet pan dinner is full of colorful vegetables and loaded with flavor! It's a plant-based dinner that roasts up everything on a sheet pan at once: lots ofgood-for-you veggiesand chickpeas for plant based protein. Throw it all in the oven while you cook rice or quinoa. Top with a dollop of hummus,cashew cream, or anothervegan sauce. Dinnertime win!
This chickpea salad sandwich is one of our top vegan lunch ideas: a vegan version of a chicken salad sandwich made using chickpeas! They're smashed and mixed with a touch of vegan mayo (or cashew cream), lemon juice, celery and green onions to make the most savory, delicious spread.
These vegan Sloppy Joes have a zingy lentil filling that tastes just as good as the meaty version. Put it on a toasted bun with some bread and butter pickles, and WOW! Youre going to love this one (promise). They're crowd pleasing and have a cozy, comforting vibe!
If you want to go vegan and eat your ranch too...now you can! This vegan ranch dressing is ultra creamy and rich, using cashews to make a creamy base. It's full of spices and tastes so good! Perfect for dipping veggies.
You don't have to miss burgers when you go vegan: make a veggie burger instead! It's made with sweet potatoes and oats, and then flavored with soy sauce and mirin to mimic a teriyaki flavor. For the topping a few sauteed shiitake mushrooms and sriracha mayo, which makes for a killer combination. And speaking of burgers...
Of course fries are already vegan, but why not have a healthy homemade fry recipe on hand! If you're craving comfort food when you go vegan, this one's for you. The fries come out perfectly crispy after being baked simply in the oven with olive oil and spices. They're salty, crispy and oh so good.
Here's a fan favorite recipe that happens to be vegan: our creamy wild rice soup! It features this healthy whole grain along with white beans, mushrooms, and veggies. They're all covered in a creamy sauce made rich by blending cashews with a bit of the simmered soup. Everyone loves this one! Also try: 25 Best Vegan Soup Recipes
Youd never know these muffins dont have butter or eggs. That was my mother in law, one bite in. And with that, we knew we had a winner in this recipe! These vegan apple muffins are perfectly fluffy and moist. The best part is a crunchy apple streusel muffin topping: it gives each bite a perfectly sweet crunch, without being overly sugary.
An acai bowl is a perfect treat breakfast when you go vegan! It's made from purple acai berries, available as a frozen pulp in most grocery stores. Combine it with pineapple, banana, and mango, then top with sliced fruits and almond butter.
Are you ready for the chewiest, salty sweet, delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies? Theyre made all from whole food ingredients, are downright delicious, and made dirtying only one bowl. Oh and did we mention theyre naturally gluten-free, too? They've got an irresistibly chewy texture usingalmond flour.
If you love baking, there's no reason to stop when you go vegan! This zucchini bread is moist, cinnamon-scented, and the perfect sweetness. Its got just the right texture: its not too oily or dense. And, it's a quick bread that's easy to put together! Also try: Vegan Pumpkin Bread
Here's a tasty granola recipe that's good for you and not loaded with sugar! It's easy to make, featuring oats and a maple pecan flavor. It's perfectly crunchy, warmly spiced, and just the right amount of sweetness. Serve with almond milk or oat milk.
Gotta have sweet treats, too! These vegan peanut butter cookies are soft but perfectly crumbly, and salty sweet. Decorated with the classic criss-cross pattern, theyve got a sparkle of sugar. If you'd like, add our chocolate icing drizzle, which makes them look even more fun.
Last but not least in our recipes for how to go vegan: curry lentil soup! After one bite, we guarantee you'll be sold on this curry lentil soup. Its full of hearty red lentils and root vegetables, and the broth is swirled with red curry paste and coconut milk. With all the texture and flavor going on, it feels rich and luxurious. But at the same time its a healthy,plant basedmeal!
All our vegan recipe collections
Thats not enough? Here are our plant based recipes by category:
- Easy Vegan Recipes for Beginners
- Vegan Breakfast Ideas
- Best Vegan Dinner Recipes
- Vegan Baked Goods
- Vegan Recipes for Kids
- Vegan Comfort Food Recipes
- Vegan Italian Recipes & Pasta Recipes
- Vegan Sauce Recipes
- Vegan Soup Recipes
- Vegan Lentil Recipes
- Vegan Instant Pot Recipes
- Vegan Mexican Recipes