If you’ve decided to give Veganuary a go this year – good on you!
Whatever your motivations are for taking veganism for a spin this January – be it ethical, environmental, or financial – it will definitely be an interesting little experiment to challenge yourself and try something new, and hopefully help to spice things up in the kitchen.
You might discover some simple plant-based ingredients or recipes that you absolutely love and quickly get incorporated into your weekly repertoire, even if you don’t carry on with full-time veganism once January has been and gone. Even if you’re the most carnivorous of carnivores, meat isn’t always mandatory at every meal and food can be a beautiful adventure with the power of plants!
I used to be a huuuge meat eater, and when I was in my teens I could not possibly picture a world in which I didn’t eat meat. I thought that even if I attempted to be mostly veggie, I’d still have to have the odd sneaky KFC or Meatilicious Domino’s pizza on the sly. Because reasons.
I definitely had to wean myself off meat – it wasn’t a cold turkey type situation (no pun intended). I’d go a couple of weeks without meat, then have a Big Tasty with Bacon from Maccies, then go another couple of weeks, then end up grabbing a chicken caesar wrap from the food-to-go section of the supermarket just for convenience and because I didn’t know what else I might like. Repeat this process for about ten months. Now I’m fully veggie and basically never crave meat at all. A huge reason for that is that veggie/vegan faux-meats have come on leaps and bounds since I started my veggie journey around early 2017.
Brands like Vivera, Quorn, Beyond Meat, Moving Mountains, Wicked Kitchen, Plant Chef, Tofurkey etc. provide so many incredible and satisfying options for veggie/vegan-curious meat-lovers. When it came to meat, I got almost all of my fulfilment from fast food and there was probably a slight element of addiction there. Going through periods of being purely plant-based to test the waters definitely broadened my horizons in terms of my cooking skills and my diet, especially when it came to things like vegetables and grains.
I’d consider myself to be a pretty good and creative cook nowadays – which would honestly blow the mind of my seventeen-year-old self. I feel like I owe a lot of that to exploring what is actually out there in terms of ingredients, flavours, recipes, etc. When I started out, I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing or how to utilize, prepare and combine basic foods to create simple, tasty, healthy recipes.
SO… if you’re in the same position I was a couple of years back, then you’ve stumbled onto the right blog. I want to just give you a rundown of the top nine staple ingredients that me and my plant-based partner always have on hand that form the basis of the majority of our meals.
(Also I just want to clarify – I still eat Domino’s pizza (they have veggie and even vegan options now!) and fast food from various other chains and local restaurants, and I love it and enjoy it because it’s all about balance baby! I don’t want to demonize “”junk”” food or label foods as Good or Bad in a black and white sort of way because that’s pointless, restrictive and boring AF (but that’s another conversation for another day).
Okay, enough rambling, here we go…
1) PLANT MILK
A pretty essential household item if you ask me. When it comes to plant milk, there are literally so many options and if you’re new to plant milk then it will probably just be a matter of trial and error until you find the type that you vibe with the most. It’s all down to personal preference! In my opinion, cashew milk is THEE superior plant milk and I find that it tastes just like cows milk in a cup of tea which helped my plant-based transition massively. A proper cup of tea is something that can actually be so personal. Almond and oat are also really popular options, especially when it comes to making coffee (the backbone of life). As well as tea and coffee, plant milk is also pretty vital for any kind of vegan baking, smoothies, porridge oats, cereal and sometimes making pasta sauces. A must have.
I cannot speak highly enough of these funky little nuts. They are so useful and versatile! As well as providing lots of protein and making for a tasty snack, they also blend really well after being soaked in the fridge for a while to make salad dressings and pasta sauces such as the classic creamy vegan mac and cheese sauce, or something a little more fresh and zesty like this recipe right here which is one of our absolute favourite pasta dishes to make. They are a great substitute for any recipe with a creamy base or texture, and they open up a world of possibility and creativity for things like pasta dishes, dips, and anything that tends to be quite dairy-heavy. I also like to add crushed cashews to noodle dishes and salads for extra crunch and extra protein!
Most vegans ride-or-die ingredient: the humble soy bean curd. We are very much tofu people in this house. Tofu is so versatile, protein-packed and widely regarded as the OG meat substitute due to its chewy texture. It’s brilliant because it absorbs the flavours of whatever you cook it or marinade it in so you can get creative and use it as a vehicle for whatever particular flavours you’re craving. We often pair it with a soy sauce, tahini, peanut butter, sriracha and garlic marinade for our go-to noodle dish, but I’m also partial to a good smoky marinade that sort of imitates bacon like this incredible recipe that has brought so much joy and happiness to my lazy Sunday mornings! (Liquid smoke is my secret tenth essential vegan item on this list – it is a game-changer). Another great thing about tofu is that you can prepare it in a variety of different ways – fry it up, bake it, have it raw in a salad with a solid dressing. Cook it (or don’t!) in a way that maximizes whatever flavours you’re trying to bring to the table.
It really is all about that versatility when it comes to staple vegan ingredients! You don’t want to feel bored or stuck in a rut with the plant-based recipes you’re creating. That’s why chickpeas are another amazing and malleable essential: mash and season them to create a sexy sandwich filling, blend them up to make your own hummus, spice and roast them to give them a good crunch, simply drain, rinse and throw them in a salad. I like to roast them in olive oil, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper, and have them as a starring character in my beloved buddha bowls. But there are plenty more chickpea-based recipes out there to explore!
I feel like avocados are a bit like Marmite in the sense that people either love them or hate them. I happen to be somebody who loves them and recognizes their beauty, grace and nourishing deliciousness. Again – they’re versatile! They go beautifully with bagels (the secret eleventh essential ingredient), sandwiches and toast, they add character, creaminess and nourishment to smoothies and smoothie bowls, they form the base of various pasta sauces, pestos and salad dressings, are a tasty and filling addition to buddha bowls/quinoa bowls, the star of the show when it comes to vegan sushi, and of course…guacamole. Guac was my gateway drug into avocado life. Such a wonderful invention.
Oats are another versatile gem. Mother nature really came through with oats. You don’t have to just make carefully curated aesthetic porridge bowls with a thousand super expensive sweet toppings comprised of obscure berries and seeds. Although…I do do that sometimes. What I love about oats is that they invite simplicity, and you only have to add a few other ingredients like maple syrup, chocolate chips, blueberries, etc. to make something super tasty and exciting! You can make breakfast oat muffins like these ones here in no time at all. You can blend up oats to make oat flour and use that for all kinds of vegan baking, you can add them to smoothies for a thicker texture, you can even create savoury oat recipes with veggies like spinach and courgette, seasoned with turmeric, cumin and garlic, for a sort of risotto-like dish (that’s how I think of them anyway). There are tonnes of savoury oat bowl recipes online and on YouTube! Maybe I’ll share some of my own one day.
Lentils are great for adding volume to vegan dishes. They generally taste like beans but can also have quite a chewy, meaty bite to them which makes them great for things like vegan bolognese or chilli. They can be the linchpin of things like stews and soups, making for a really hearty, satisfying and filling veggie meal! If I ever make a lentil stew, I always give it a little cayenne kick and serve it with a generous spoon of mash potato (made with vegan butter and plant milk) – it is so delightfully warming in the colder months. For lighter dishes, you can also add them to salads (I like them with vegan tuna, either actual branded Vegan Tuna soy pieces or makeshift vegan tuna like chickpea-avocado-lemon mash) or a Greek-style salad or tabbouleh.
Pasta is a universal love language. Personally, I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like pasta in one form or another. It’s delicious hot and cold, and it’s generally quick and easy to make! I’m not a massive fan of really tomato-y based pasta dishes and sauces so I generally prefer basil pesto-based pasta (you can get vegan pesto in most big supermarkets – but a homemade pesto is always a winner and you can get creative with it! I generally like to keep basil as a staple ingredient because it is SO fresh and delicious – but kale and walnut is also a great vegan substitute) OR creamy and tangy pasta dishes (a la the cashew-lemon recipe I shared above). Whether you fancy something hearty like a spaghetti bolognese or pasta bake (like this recipe or that recipe!) or something lighter and fresher like a summery pasta salad, there’s plenty of opportunity to adapt and create something super tasty and filling! I’m one of those people who swears that pasta tastes different based on its shape. Tagliatelle tastes better than spaghetti – that’s just an objective scientific fact.
Be aware that fresh pasta is made with eggs whereas dry pasta tends to be 100% wheat, so do check the ingredients before you buy in the supermarket or online to save any mistakes!
If I had to choose a specific food to worship as my god, it would be the potato. I love both white and sweet potato and incorporate both of them into my diet pretty much equally. Potatoes are the queens of versatility (take a shot every time I say versatile in this post). Make your own chips or wedges with your choice of seasonings, dice them, bake them and add whatever fillings you please (make double baked potato and literally add more potato, or try the old classic of beans and a sprinkle of vegan cheese), mash them (my fave), roast them, make them into savoury pancakes or waffles, add them to soups, stews, casseroles, vegan shepherds pie – the list is endless! Garlic and paprika roasted sweet potato in salads and quinoa bowls is a go-to of mine because it’s just easy and simple and fresh and delicious. All great things.
I tend to make pretty straight forward, compartmentalized meals rather than complicated recipes which is why I love things like buddha bowls/rice bowls/quinoa bowls etc. It’s just like grains *BAM*, veggies *BAM*, source of protein *BAM*, delicious saucy dressing that ties the whole thing together *BAM*. It’s no-nonsense and it works for me, but finding and managing a way of eating that is sustainable and fulfilling is a deeply personal and individual journey that may take some time and experimentation! Sometimes your mind might think it knows your body’s needs better than your body knows your bodies needs, but don’t ignore the signals your body is sending you in pursuit of something your impressionable mind (diet culture is everywhere) thinks you should do instead. Eat chocolate, eat sugar and fat and carbohydrates. It is okay. It is not morally superior to avoid them, nor is it morally wrong to eat them.
That’s going to be my closing message for this post. Maybe you’ll find veganism is your new calling! Maybe you’ll incorporate animal products back into your diet – that’s chill too. Maybe you hate all of the foods I’ve listed here and want to avoid them completely! That’s fine. This is a list of my essential staples which I hope might bring you some inspiration but you are absolutely not bound to it! You are your own individual person and body with your own needs and tastes. Be mindful and be kind to yourself and others.
Good luck with your Veganuary journey and here’s to 2021! You’re going to smash it <3
(Also this is my first blog post ever, going up on January 1st! One resolution checked off already!)
Happy new year!
Hi cherubs, I’m Pip ✨
Matcha and solar-powered eclectic witch from the north coast of Wales.
Welcome to my digital living room, pour yourself some tea and get comfy. This space is all about spiritual wellbeing, self care & lifestyle for magically-inclined misfits ☕🌙✨