What vegans eat

Fairfood's quiche
Image courtesy of Fairfood’s

‘What do you eat?’ is one of the first questions people will ask when they find out you are vegan. It’s pretty difficult to answer because vegans can eat such a wide variety of dishes! Here are some ideas on how to veganise the most popular main course dishes cooked at home in the UK. There are a few recipes below, but this article mainly provides ideas on how to veganise dishes you already know how to cook. If you prefer to follow set recipes, are looking for something more adventurous or want to try something completely different there are loads of websites and books available.

Spaghetti Bolognese, Chilli non Carne, Shepherd’s Pie and Lasagne

These four popular dishes traditionally rely on minced meat as one of their main ingredients. You may have replaced this with Quorn, but this isn’t vegan as it contains egg.

So what’s the animal free alternative? There are many options to choose from. For the most similar tasting substitute you can replace the minced beef with either frozen or dried soya mince, and follow the directions on the packet. Linda McCartney’s frozen mince is vegan and widely available, and some supermarkets have their own brand.

Lentils also offer a good substitute; you can either make the mixture with all lentils or a combination of soya mince and lentils – any type, green, red, or brown lentils all work well. If you are catering for people who want something meaty tasting, an addition of a small amount of red lentils will go unnoticed and will make your dish a little healthier and cheaper. Most dried lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking, but it’s best to cook them separately then add to the sauce.

Image courtesy of What Would Cathy Eat?

Other beans and pulses (either tinned or dried) also work well in any of these dishes, though the recipe will be further away from the original versions.

For example, you could use red kidney, black eye and pinto beans to make 3 bean chilli.

Adzuki beans are really healthy and great in Red Dragon Pie, a vegan improvement on Shepherd’s Pie. You could also try replacing some or all of the mash topping with other root veg such as sweet potatoes, parsnips or swedes (a good source of calcium).

Loads of different fillings, not based on the mince version work well in lasagne, such as ratatouille, butternut squash and chickpea and spinach and walnut – the list is endless!

There are also many different ways of making the white sauce to top this dish; use vegan margarine and soya milk instead of butter and cows’ milk to make the basic sauce. To make it more cheesy, you can either add one of the many vegan cheeses available on the market, such as Redwood Foods’ Cheesly, Bute Island Sheese or Vegusto – the melting versions work best. A healthier option is to use nutritional yeast flakes, a great vegan cheesy tasting product packed full of B vitamins. You can also add some mustard to give more flavour. If you want something really easy, Vegusto sell a delicious ready-made cheese sauce. Fore more information about replacing cheese read Stumbling Block of Cheese Part 1 and Part 2.

Follow our white Sauce Recipe. You can also use this sauce to make macaroni cheese, pasta bakes or pasta with a cheesy sauce (nice with vegan “bacon” such as Redwood Foods.

Roast Dinner

Roast dinnerThe classic veggie alternative for Sunday lunch is nut roast, which may be a cliché but is healthy, tasty and fairly easy to make. You can also buy nut roast mixes in wholefood shops.

There are loads of other options too – try strudels or chestnut pies made with home-made or vegan ready-made pastry, such as Jus roll. Lentil, tofu or bean loaves make a lower fat alternative.

If you want something more meaty tasting Redwood Foods make Cheetin’ Turkey, and Cheetin’ Beef roasts.

Another great ‘meaty’ alternative is to make a seitan roast. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and when cooked takes on a surprisingly meaty texture.

Vegan Yorkshires are also possible, using egg substitute – follow our Yorkshire Pudding recipe . Serve with roast potatoes and other veg roasted in olive or another vegetable oil, and steamed veg.

You can either make your own gravy or many shop bought vegetable gravys such as Bisto are vegan.

Vegan ‘Junk’ Food

pizzaHome-made sausages and burgers can be really healthy and shop bought vegan fake meat products contain less saturated fat than the meat versions. Burgers in a bun, “not dogs” and bangers and mash are easy enough with vegan sausages or burgers such as Linda McCartney (sausages only), Redwood Foods or Fry’s. Home-made vegan burgers can also be made with beans, nuts, tofu, grains (millet works well) and veggies.

Vegan pizzas are also easy, either buy a vegan ready-made base (most are vegan, just check the ingredients) or make your own dough. Top with your favourite veggies, olives and vegan melting cheese (Redwood Foods’ Cheesly or Vegusto). If you want something meaty tasting try adding some Cheatin’ Chorizo from Redwood Foods or other fake meat.

Vegan Baking

Chocolate cakeMost people consider milk, butter and eggs to be baking essentials. So you may be surprised to discover that vegan cakes are easy to make and taste delicious. You can buy specialist vegan products, such as egg replacers, but often ordinary store cupboard basics, such as baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, are all that’s needed to make a light and fluffy animal-free cake.

If you are a frequent baker, these tips will help get you started with vegan baking. If you have not baked before, but enjoy eating cake, perhaps this is the time to start! Nothing will convince your friends and family more that you are not embarking on a path of self deprivation than a delicious-tasting vegan cake! That said, for those who don’t want to bake or for special occasions, you can purchase cakes from vegan bakeries, which are listed at the end of this page.

Cakes, cupcakes and muffins

blackberry muffin
Image courtesy of Chocolate and Beyond

The easiest way to start vegan baking is to find a vegan recipe – whatever cake you want to make, someone will have veganised it!

Our recommended books and websites give plenty of ideas to get you started. You can also adapt non-vegan recipes using soya milk instead of cows’ milk and vegan spread or vegetable oil instead of butter. Eggs are harder to replace but there are many alternatives – see the chart below as a guide for replacing animal products.

Gluten- and sugar-free vegan baking are also possible, and by using wholemeal rather than plain flour you can make more nutritious baked goods.

As many vegan cake recipes are American and measured in cups, you may want to invest in a set of measuring cups, which are widely available and inexpensive.

Icing and Sprinkles

Vegan icing is really straightforward to make: just replace butter with vegan spread. You may need to use more icing sugar to make the mixture stiffer, or you can replace half the vegan spread with hard vegetable fat e.g Trex. Some ready to roll icing is vegan; the Co-op sells one which is labelled as suitable for vegans.

There are some vegan sprinkles available, but you will need to check ingredients carefully. To Happy Vegans give a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid, brands of vegan sprinkles and other suggestions for decorating cakes.

Cookies, biscuits and flapjacks

Following a vegan recipe is a safe bet, but many biscuit recipes, such as shortbread, will be vegan apart from the butter so this can easily be replaced with vegan spread. Similarly, flapjacks will be vegan if you use vegan spread and avoid honey.

Pastries, pies and crumbles

Vegan pastry and crumbles are easy to make by replacing the butter with vegan spread or for pastry, a combination of half spread and half hard vegetable fat (e.g Trex, Cookleen). Jus roll ready-made pastry, croissants and pain au chocolate are suitable for vegans and found in the fridge or freezer section of supermarkets. The following Fairfoods recipe uses oil for a healthier and palm oil free alternative to processed fats.

  • 100g plain white flour
  • 60g plain wholemeal flour
  • 40g gram flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 60 ml rapeseed, sunflower or canola oil
  • 100 ml water

Sieve flours and salt into a bowl and stir to combine. Mix in oil and water with a butter knife. Put your hands in and bring the mixture together to make a soft dough.

Wrap dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour before use.

(Often this pastry is a bit soft to start with – put it on a floured surface and knead a couple of times before rolling out – this should make it easier to handle. Alternatively try using a bit less water.)

Vegan cake mixes

Orgran chocolate cake Orgran chocolate mousse

Orgran make a range of vegan and gluten-free baking products including cake mixes, chocolate mousse mix and egg replacer.

Replacing Animal Products in Baking

Replace… With…
Cows’ milk Soya or other non-dairy milk
Butter Vegan spread (e.g Vitalite, Pure, Suma),Vegetable fat (e.g Trex, Cookleen), Rapeseed (vegetable), sunflower or olive oil
Honey Maple syrup, golden syrup, agave nectar
Eggs Egg replacer e.g Orgran No egg and Ener-G Egg Egg replacer
Mashed banana
Baking powder
1tsp Bicarbinate of soda and 1tsp cider vinegar
Soya yoghurt
1tbsp flax seeds and 3tbsps of water
Silken tofu
Cheese Tofu, regular or silken can be used to make cheesecakes or Toffuti cream cheese

Vegan cake companies

These companies supply cakes either mail order, or they can be bought in health food stores.

  • Fairfoods
  • Ever Fresh Natural Foods
  • Lazy Day Foods
  • Happy Kitchen
  • Mrs Crimbles – Stem Ginger Cake, Dutch Apple Cake and Dutch Fruit Loaf are vegan.
  • Vegan Cake Direct
  • The Heavenley Cake Company

Baking Recipe Websites

Recipe Books

  • Vegan pie in skyThe Vegan Approach to Cooking
  • Animal Aid has a good selection of baking recipe books including:
  • The Cake Scoffer and The return of The Cake Scoffer by Ronny and The Vegan Cake Book. These bargain booklets contain some great recipes!
  • Vegan Pie In The Sky, Vegan Cookies and Vegan Cupcakes by Moskowitz and Romero
  • Vegan Baking by Linda Majzlik