One of the most common requests when I started Vegan Vegan Club was for easy vegan dinners. I um-ed and ah-ed with writing this post because I’m quite a particular cook. I’m notoriously grumpy, snobby (sauce in a jar IS NOT COOKING), and incredibly messy in the kitchen. I despise recipes. Why do they require you to use like four different pans? How big is your hob?! My food is of the “looks horrendous, tastes great, no there’s no recipe and I can’t repeat it” variety. I have the basic ingredients for most of my favourite foods saved in my head and just judge quantities as I go along.
So rather than sharing my non-existent “recipes”, I thought I would just document some of my quickest and easiest dinner ideas. Fear not, recipe fans! Luckily, my Mum is a big time recipe person so I’ve asked her to contribute some actual recipes for a future post. It will include her tuna mayonnaise, nut roast and All-American creamed corn recipe (she’s a yank). In the meantime, here are my top easy dinners and a couple of general rules.
GENERAL RULES FOR VEGAN COOKING
- You can make almost any dish in the world vegan by either removing or substituting the ingredients. Don’t be scared of trying things out!
- Internet recipes are good but there’s no accounting for taste. Personal taste that is! Mess around with quantities until you find something that tastes good TO YOU. Why do you think there’s 5000 recipes for the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie? If we all found the same thing to be perfect we would have stopped bothering to find new ones long ago.
- Ask yourself: what is the function of this product in the recipe? Are these eggs acting as a binder or a mixer? Are the anchovies adding salt or texture? This will help you pick a good substitute.
- Supermarkets are not your friend for international ingredients! If you live in an urban area, and it’s possible to shop local and support local businesses whilst also saving money then totally go for it.
Also: a quick note on substitutes. If you read my post on going vegan, you might remember that one of the easiest is to just buy the vegan option in your weekly shop. There you are, picking up a plastic tub of lard when HEY LOOK on the next shelf down is a cruelty-free sunflower option! You pick it up and BOOM: one step closer. So, I’m assuming that you have stuff like vegan butter instead of dairy butter and vegan cheese stocked instead of dairy cheese. Please note whenever I say “add butter” I mean vegan butter and I see no need to re-clarify that each time.
Lastly sauces in a jar are horrific and I was so shocked how many people use/rely on these. I promise you it’s quicker and easier to make your own, and if you can save some in a leftover jar and freeze it then in the long run it also works out cheaper. I have a whole post on sauces to come in the next couple weeks. For now we’ll focus on easy meal IDEAS rather than specific recipes!
Stir-Fry – about 5 minutes
Substitutes: Vegan meat for meat
Removal: Egg noodles – get egg-free noodles such as rice, spelt or wheat instead.
Both of these ones above are satay variations because basically I have an obsession with peanuts. So to make a stirfry, you chuck all your ingredients into the pan apart from tomatoes, milk, and some vegan meat substitutes*. This is normally a combination of oil, spices, beans chopped veg, nuts, lemon/lime juice and meat I find. Don’t make the sauce separately unless you’re a psychopath. Heat everything for about five minutes and then add the tomatoes and some substitutes** if you haven’t already. Milk (coconut or oat is best) is the last thing to go in and it wants to be just at the point that the spices look like they’re burning into the bottom of the pan. Trust me! I’ll be covering some basic sauces in my next post (including satay and Pad Thai) so shout if you have specific suggestions.
*Full Pan Time susbtitutes include: Cheatin’ duck/chicken pieces, Fry’s chicken chia nuggets, anything by Quorn, anything by Tofurky, any form of plain tofu (cubed, strips, block).
**At The End Of The Day substitutes include: Cheatin’ bacon/maple bacon rashers, Fry’s prawn nugget things (seen in the photo), those godawful Quik-Fry Tofu Selection things you get in supermarkets. But please for the love don’t buy them, you may as well just fry up some paint and eat that. That is how pants they are.
Pesto Pasta – 15 minutes
Substitutes: Egg pasta (does pasta have egg in? Just check as not all brands use egg in pasta), in the pesto – cheese and milk
Removal: Egg pasta (?!) – Google is giving me different answers on the pasta front. I rarely ate pasta before going vegan so christ knows what standard pasta has in, but obviously make sure there’s no egg or milk or hidden pork dust or something. I normally get “spelt” pasta which I know is vegan-friendly. A quick label read and you should be fine.
So to make pesto you want to chop up basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic cloves, then chuck ’em in a bowl with olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Mix together like crazy. It probably won’t look like pesto in a jar unless you’re over 35 and own a blender/food processor. That’s a good thing, because pesto in a jar looks like snot-coloured PVA glue. If you have time to finely chop everything, that will help, but to be honest it tastes good even if it’s a bit chunky. I rarely spend more than 5 minutes on the pesto-making. TOP TIP: Make way more than you need and store in jars – it’s freezable as well!
Elsewhere, cook your pasta however you choose and add in any vegetables or “meat” sources you might want to add. Lemon to taste! I quite like chopped broccoli or cashews in mine. Once the pasta is cooked, mix all together and there you go. I normally throw in liberal amounts of noosh at this point for fun.
Chicken Noodle Soup – 20 minutes
Substitutes: Er chicken mate. I go with the Tofurky plain Chick’n which is the most smashing all-rounder of vegan chicken
Removal: I suppose you could just remove the chicken altogether if you’re a psychopath
This is hands down the best sick food. I don’t know if it’s the American blood in me or just growing up with a crap immune system but there’s nothing more comforting than chicken noodle soup. I make it any day I’m feeling a bit rundown and it totally does the trick!
So fry chopped onions and chopped celery just a tiny bit until they’re kind of soft, then whack them in a pan with loads of water, some salt and pepper, and a veggie stock cube. I recommend the Knorr ones, or do what I do and make your own (damn easy). Chuck in some “chicken” (again, I recommend the Tofurky chick’n) and a noodle nest (I recommend Biona Spelt Noodles) and then leave it for 5-10 minutes until it starts to smell amazing. I normally go for a quarter/third of the packet of chick’n for every one noodle nest, but if you want to put more in then you do you babe. You can add a bit of basil, or carrots. I like to chop some fresh basil and a single spring onion and lob that in but that’s just me. When the top inch of water has boiled off, it’s done! You’ll know it’s soup because it will look like soup and not just stuff in water.
Other Kinds Of Soup – 25-30 minutes
Substitutes: Non-dairy cream if you’re that way inclined (I recommend the Oatly stuff)
I realise the above soup looks grim but I make it when I actually am ill. It’s a cross between an incredibly spicy curry (chilli is excellent for your immune system) plus noodle soup. So you start off the same as Chicken Noodle – basically fry your “hard” vegetables, then chuck them into a pan of hot water and wait. Just adapt the spices and vegetables to get a different flavour! The above is a lot of turmeric, a lot of chilli powder, some cinnamon, some garlic and some tamarind, spice wise. Veg-wise you’re looking at a lot of potato (why are potatoes so comforting? what is that?) and some tomatoes and some carrots #classiccurry.
Jacket Potatoes – 40 minutes
Substitutes: Arguably butter or cheese
These aren’t that quick but they are easy, and you don’t have to much for about 35 minutes of the prep time. Fork your potato and bang it in the microwave for ten minutes, then whack it in the oven to crisp. Ryan drizzles oil, salt and pepper on his potatoes so they’re quasi-roasted which I’d recommend! Then take out your crispy potato and fill it with whatever you like. I like butter, grated cheese and vegetables but beans/chilli/veg would all make good substitutes. If you want to stir fry something and then chuck that on the potato then you do you (although that adds time so nope).
EVEN EASIER VEGAN DINNERS
In case you don’t own a pan. WHAT CAN I SAY GUYS I’M CATERING FOR EVERYONE HERE (literally catering geddit I’ll see myself out).
Substitutes: Cheese/Meat/Butter – bread is vegan as standard but you will need a substitute for cheese topped rolls, brioche, or anything else involving dairy.
OH COME ON PEOPLE I’m not going to tell you how to make a sandwich. We’re big fans of the toasted open sandwich, mostly because we have free sourdough on tap #thrifty and it takes about 40 seconds to make and eat. Vegan ingredients include: hummus, peanut-butter (and any other nut butter), guacamole, tahini, vegetables, mustard, herb nuts, spices. Also: any kind of veg dip (e.g. broadbean and mint as seen above, beetroot and aubergine, whatever). And finally obviously any vegan cheese or meat substitute is ok. The vegan beef slices above are from Cheatin’ and whilst I’ve never eaten real beef, it tastes pretty damn good. Get creative! You can be as wanky as you like with presentation; use a wooden board and “drizzle” sauce if you’ve got guests, eat it straight from the counter if you’re home alone and hungover. Win.
Grilled Pitta Pockets – 5 minutes
Honestly this is like student-level easy (no offence students) and when I was a student a date once served me dinner that was plain rice with chopped tomatoes on top. I make this by chopping a load of veg and mixing with whatever sauce is leftover from another meal. Then toast a pitta bread, shoving the contents in the pitta bread with shredded lettuce and wang the whole shebang under a grill for five minutes. So easy, yet so good.
Chicken Nuggets/Fish Fingers + Chips – 20ish minutes
Substitute: Obviously the nuggets/fishfingers. I recommend Fry’s chicken nuggets and Cheatin’ Fish Fingers (available Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Planet Organic)
Look I didn’t say this was a healthy post. Easy Dinners. It doesn’t get easier then taking something out of freezer and putting it in the oven for 16-18 minutes, does it?! It may not be healthy, but also I think sometimes people have an image that vegans only eat organically sourced hemp seeds with a black poppy and miso glaze or something. And that’s all well and good but also, CHICKEN NUGGETS. Team with potato smileys for that full-on primary school experience.
Ice-Cream Sundaes – 5 minutes
Substitutes: Ice-Cream, Raspberry/Strawberry Sauces (most include red food colouring aka beetle)
Ok it’s not a meal but consider this a bonus round. Obviously making a sundae is just a case of putting ice-cream in a bowl and adding whatever sugary shiz you want on top. But I guess I include this just to say it’s possible y’know? I eat just as much ice cream now as I did before, and if you read my previous post you’ll know that was kind of a big deal for me back in the day.
So YEAH. I hope that’s given you some ideas for the much-asked “so what do vegans eat”. Normal food mate, normal bloody food mate. It just tastes better and is cheaper. I’m aware this is hardly a recipe post but would you like to see more of these in the future? And if so, WHAT? Tweet me or drop me a comment ok cool bye happy cooking! 🙂 Don’t forget to follow @veganveganclub on Twitter for recipes/facts galore.