Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find. But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can just replace the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.
You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already. The toast and cereal you have in the morning, the pasta salad or crunchy wrap you munch on at lunch, or the bean chili or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan – or at least contain a good number of vegan ingredients.
Let me tell you this: anything you eat can be made vegan. There are cruelty-free, delicious alternatives to anything you can think of from dairy-free spreads, to plant milk and yogurt, to vegan meat alternatives and cheeses. Becoming a vegan isn't about limiting or depriving yourself so make sure you start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.
On your next trip to the supermarket, why not look out for soya milk instead? You can gradually try all the different brands to find your favourite – it will take a while because are hundreds of options these days but it’s an exciting experiment. If you don’t like soya or want a change, try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice next.
Your cereal or oats are likely already vegan, so simply replace cow’s milk with any of the plant milks mentioned above and top it with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Your toast will happily accept dairy-free spread instead of butter, or you can have it with peanut butter, jam or mashed avocado.
Think scrambled eggs can’t be replaced? Google ‘scrambled tofu’ and have your mind blown by a nutritious, cholesterol-free breakfast. Full English can be made with vegan sausages and include all the other usuals.
Here’s a surprise. Not all vegans actually eat salads – I, for one, can’t stand them. But for those of you who do like salads, it’s really easy to pack them with fresh vegetables and serve with fresh fruit on the side.
If you’re having a wrap, replace the meat with falafel or beans and add houmous, while you can make curry or soup creamy with coconut milk or vegan cream (available in major supermarkets).
Vegan lunch on the go has become easier, with major high street sandwich shops serving a range of vegan options, supermarkets selling vegetable wraps and onion bhajis and vegetable samosas. Last night’s leftovers are a good lunch option too.
There are so many ideas for vegan dinner – where do I start? Use the versatile soya mince (available in supermarket frozen sections) in chilli, bolognese, lasagne or shepherd’s pie.
You can use wraps as pizza bases to top with vegetables and vegan cheese (available in supermarkets and health food stores). Stir-fries don’t need any meat in them – just add a good mix of vegetables to your noodles or rice and dinner’s ready.
For a Sunday roast, why not try a mushroom wellington (just search for a recipe online and hundreds will turn up) or a vegan meat alternative, together with vegetable gravy? To make mashed potatoes creamy, use dairy-free spread (such as Flora Dairy-free, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk.
It’s so easy to find vegan snacks in every supermarket that you don’t even need me telling you about this! Bourbons, ginger nuts, rich tea, digestives, any many crisps and tortilla chips are vegan.
Just pick up some of your favourites and see if they qualify too. All it takes is a quick scan of the label – look out for whey powder, milk, eggs or gelatine. Take it slow and learn as you go. And don’t forget fresh fruit is also a snack, one that we should be having more of!
As you can see, the formula is not so complicated; all it takes is thinking of what you usually eat during the day and how to replace the non-vegan ingredients. Remember that most vegan products are available in all the major supermarkets.
There are lots of really helpful vegan online forums and Facebook groups to join. It’s a good idea to search Facebook for a local group in your area, e.g. ‘Vegan London’. The community is very welcoming and helpful so ask away if you have questions.
I hope you have a great month and that you’re inspired to start making changes to your lifestyle that are better for the animals, the planet and our own health. As any vegan you meet will tell you, we only wish we had done it sooner…
World Vegan Month was started by The Vegan Society in 1994 to celebrate its 50th anniversary and the growth of veganism. If you’re not yet vegan, you can sign up to the 30 Day Vegan Pledge at vegansociety.com/pledge and challenge your friends.
Quick tips for ‘veganising’ dishes (for a box-out)
- Swap the cheese on pizza vegan cheese (available major supermarkets and health food stores) and top with lots of vegetables and olives
- Swap meat, fish or paneer in a curry for chickpeas or lentils
- Cashew nuts can be used to add protein and flavour to stir-fried vegetables and rice noodles
- Dairy-free spread (such as Flora Dairy-free, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk can be used to make mashed potatoes creamy
- Vegetable soup can be served with a swirl of soya cream, or for an indulgent option, you can create one using coconut milk
- Garlic bread can be created using dairy-free spread or olive oil
- Dairy-free spread and other vegetable fats can be used in baking, and there are many foods that can replace eggs, including banana, jam, apple sauce and tofu
- A lot of ready-made roll-out pastry is vegan, just check the ingredients do not include animal fats or dairy products. If you glaze it using soya milk, the dish can easily be made vegan.
By Dominika Piasecka, The Vegan Society