***As part of my Veganuary journey in 2020 I’ve decided to share some information that I’ve discovered on veganism over the month. It’s important to note that I’m no expert – I’m still very much in the learning stage of veganism and have included sources below for any scientific claims. My main goal is to help others should they also decide to try the lifestyle out!***
If you’re vegan or taking part in Veganuary (or even if you’re not) then you most likely will have noticed a whole host of different food companies bringing out new vegan ranges for January. There’s never been so much choice for vegans! Even if it comes down to profit it’s still a great situation for veganism as plant-based food becomes more accessible.
Apart from the beautiful vegan sausage roll from Greggs and Aldi’s new jackfruit pizza, I haven’t really gone out of my way to try any of these new vegan creations – as wonderful as they are, they’re not always great if you’re going vegan for health reasons as meat substitutes often contain a lot of sodium and/or additives (source: The Guardian). However, that doesn’t mean that your new vegan diet just got more complicated – far from it, because there are already so many ways to create tasty and fulfilling meals using natural swaps instead. Here are seven great ones to start out with!
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Chickpeas instead of chicken in curries and stews
One of our first vegan meals for Veganuary was a chickpea and tomato curry – a curry I’ve had before and have always enjoyed. Chickpeas are an excellent meat alternative in a curry as they’re not too strongly flavoured and work really well with all sorts of different herbs and spices. They’re common in Moroccan food, but they’re also excellent in Indian and other curry and stew-focused cuisines. Chuck in some spinach alongside them and you’ve got a really healthy meal!
Lentils or black beans instead of beef mince
Lots of beef mince substitutes such as Quorn aren’t actually vegan, so sometimes it can be tough finding a suitable alternative. Unless you have lentils or black beans in your cupboard of course, which create a tasty and healthy option that’s packed with protein. Lentils are excellent for roasts and bolognese, whilst black beans work perfectly with burritos and other Mexican dishes.
Maple syrup or agave syrup instead of honey
Honey was an animal product that I was really worried about giving up as I used to use it so much – it was my most common porridge topping, and I’d incorporate it in loads of baked goods and savoury meals. Thankfully there are two great alternatives out there that mean you won’t miss honey ever again. Agave syrup from the agave plant is very similar to honey, except slightly thinner, and maple syrup is just as indulgent. Both are incredibly versatile and make excellent sweeteners.
I wouldn’t describe either as particularly healthy for the amount of sugar (but then I wouldn’t really consider honey as healthy for the same reason), but since purchasing maple syrup I’ve found it a godsend, and I’m totally in love with its sweet, almost nutty flavour.
Coconut milk instead of single or double cream
Creaminess is an important factor in many meals, including curries, soups, and pasta dishes. Alongside milk alternatives such as soya and oat, coconut milk is an excellent way of really thickening up a sauce and making it seem like it’s loaded with cream. Many Indian and Thai recipes already use coconut milk, making it a really easy one to find recipes for, and its mild taste means that it won’t interfere with the flavours of whatever you’re cooking. Always remember to shake the can thoroughly before pouring it into the mixture though!
Baking soda, vinegar, or seeds instead of eggs for baking
The other animal product I was really hesitant to give up was eggs – not only did I used to eat one to three a day, but I also used them frequently for baking. Fortunately there are loads of swaps you can make for eggs when it comes to baking cakes and other creations, such as flax seeds or chia seeds with a bit of water, or a dash of vinegar or baking soda. Even banana works well! I recently made a gorgeous American pancake recipe using baking soda, and you honestly couldn’t tell that eggs weren’t involved.
Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
There’s a reason that I found week one of Veganuary so easy, and that’s because I had a whole bag of dark chocolate salted almonds to hand! Unlike milk and white chocolate, dark chocolate generally contains no animal products whatsoever (although it’s always good to check the label, just in case). This means that you can eat as much as you want, and stores such as Hotel Chocolat, Thorntons, and even supermarkets offer some great dark chocolate options.
The really great thing is that dark chocolate, whilst not the healthiest vegan product, is healthier than milk or white chocolate – it’s a great source of iron, plus you’ll generally find yourself consuming less dark chocolate each time than the other types due to its richness of flavour. It’s a win-win!
Nutritional yeast flakes instead of cheese
This is an alternative I’d never heard of before going vegan but they’re really quite nice! Whilst nutritional yeast flakes don’t have the texture of cheese (I’d describe them as a tasty sawdust) they can really help to add that cheesy flavour – perfect for typically dairy-heavy dishes that feel just a little bit empty without that sharpness that a good-quality cheddar or parmesan can bring. You can generally find them in the free-from section of the bigger UK supermarkets, and they can be added to dishes simply by sprinkling it on top of whatever you’re about to feast on.
What are your favourite food swaps for vegan-friendly food? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!
You can check out my other posts in the Veganuary 2020 series here: