The biggest complaint I hear from people who are transitioning to a vegan diet is that their food is boring!
Here are a few hints that will improve the quality of your results:
#1 Salt gradually as you cook.
Don’t wait until the end of cooking a recipe to season your food. Add salt gradually at every stage of the cooking process and you will probably end up using less and will also have a more complex flavor. Use a good quality say, like Himalayan pink salt or some other high quality sea salt. Whether you are roasting, sauteing or eating them raw, learning how to use salt correctly is one of the most important skills you can acquire.
#2 Listen to your food as you cook.
Don’t allow yourself to become distracted during the cooking process and pay attention to the sounds and smells of your food. Even if you are using a recipe, try to use all your senses so you are more in tune with your food. Eventually, that is how you learn to cook without using recipes.
#3 Don’t overcook your veggies.
One of the biggest mistakes I see made with vegetables is over-cooking them. Remember to stop cooking your veggies when they are still a little underdone, as they will continue to cook when you take them off the heat or out of the oven. I personally like my vegetables to have crunch and color and always err towards less done.
#4 Dress your vegetable sides.
Salad dressing is not just for salads! You can dress almost any cooked vegetables in your favorite dressing while it’s hot and it makes a fabulous side. There are tons of oil-free dressings that are great for this type of thing as well.
#5 Make your own dressings.
One of the easiest things in the world to make is salad dressing, and the difference from store bought is tremendous. One thing that will bring a lot of flavor to your food is using high quality oils from a variety of sources, such as walnut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, coconut, olive, pumpkin seed, etc…
High quality oils are more expensive, but used judiciously in dressings and marinades they are well worth the money.
#6 Have a handful of go-to delicious sauce recipes.
A great sauce can make all the difference with any dish, but especially with plant-based food. Meat carries a lot of inherent flavor, but on a vegan diet you need to play with bold flavors in your sauces. You can really let your imagination go wild and experiment with different recipes until you find a few you really love and return to again and again.
Here are links to some of my favorite vegan sauces:
It’s also great to keep in mind that with a lot of vegan sauces, they work equally well as dips and salad dressings as well. There is the added benefit that they are easy to freeze-just put them in a ziploc bag and stack them on their side in the freezer and they hardly take up any space. Just don’t forget to label them so you can tell them apart later. Salad dressings can be frozen as well, but they tend to last a bit longer than other types of sauces.
#7 Caramelization, baby!
My favorite way to cook vegetables is to sear them in a very hot pan until they develop color and then add a little water or vegetable stock to quickly steam them in the pan.
Roasting in the oven is another excellent way to achieve this caramelization.
#8 Start with quality ingredients.
Using the best ingredients that are at the height of their season will result in the best final result. You just don’t have to do much to them!
#9 Cut your veggies the same size.
Having your vegetables cut consistently to the same size will make them cook more evenly whether you are roasting or sautéing.
#10 Use vegetable stock in place of water in savory recipes.
Whenever you are cooking a savory recipe that calls for water substitute vegetable stock and you will notice a new depth of flavor in your cooking. This tip works for cooking grains, making sauces and even dressings. Speaking of stock, it’s very easy to make your own! Save all your vegetable scraps (onion skins, cilantro stems, tomato seeds, etc…) for this and you’ll be making less waste!