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Vegan Recipes That Prove Meatless Doesn't Have to be Joyless

Eating more plant-based or vegan foods doesn't mean giving up comfort foods like mac and cheese and nachos.
January 3, 2018, 8:00pm

There are plenty of reasons you might be considering a plant-based diet right now: It might be cheaper and easier to stock up on a bunch of canned beans and frozen vegetables; you might be concerned over meat shortages as meat factories are disrupted across the country, or by the environmental impact of animal products. At the prodding of your boomer relatives, you might have finally watched a Netflix documentary or two that put the fear of god in you, or maybe "Veganuary" lingered a few months longer. In any case, you're leaning vegan—maybe not always, but sometimes.

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We have good news: Contrary to the outdated (and frankly, dumb) idea that all vegan and vegetarian food is "rabbit food," cutting your meat consumption doesn't have to mean cutting delicious things from your diet. Skipping meat, milk, and cheese doesn't have to mean giving up the dishes you know and love; it just means getting a little more creative and open-minded with what you're eating.

Whether you're figuring out ways to make vegetables tastier or trying to recreate nacho cheese with potatoes and cashews (it can be done, and it's a keeper!), we've got the recipes you need to make going plant-based, even just for a few nights a week, easy and tasty. These are our favorite vegan recipes, with no "rabbit food" in sight.

Peanut Butter Tofu Recipe

Some people think they don't like tofu, but we bet most of them just haven't had good tofu. This peanut butter tofu recipe uses cornstarch to make it crispy and peanut butter to make it delicious. And if your pantry is limited or if you're strictly vegan, the fish sauce in this recipe is optional.

Vegan Squash and Coconut Soup Recipe

If you're cooking more plant-based, it's time to stock up on coconut products. Coconut cream, which can be whipped into a sweet topping, is a most promising alternative to dairy whip. Coconut milk, meanwhile, is a back-pocket ingredient that'll make any soup, like this squash one, rich and silky.

Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe

Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe

Its name might make you think "vegan" or at least "vegetarian," but the spicy, tingly Sichuan dish mapo tofu usually contains meat. This vegan mapo tofu recipe will hit the spot just the same, with plenty of face-melting spice but no animal products.

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

A Caesar salad without eggs and anchovy? You might say it can't be done. But we've got just the recipe to prove you wrong. This vegan Caesar salad uses a fish-free Worcestershire sauce, capers, lemons, and soaked cashews for a creamy and umami-rich dressing that you'll want to make all year-round that's perfect for vegans and anchovy haters alike.

Vegan Pulled Mushroom Barbecue Sandwich Recipe

Sometimes you get a craving for something sloppy, satisfying, and covered in barbecue sauce. Try this vegan barbecue sandwich, which relies on smoked, shredded mushrooms instead of the usual pork. Be sure the store-bought sauce you’re picking up is vegan, too.

Caramelized Onion and Cauliflower Casserole Recipe

Silken tofu and nutritional yeast are what binds this comforting casserole together, and you won’t miss eggs or cheese even a little bit. There’s hardly a better combination of winter veggie flavors than caramelized onions and roasted cauliflower, and this is guaranteed to leave you satisfied.

Spicy Bok Choy Salad Recipe

Easy Bok Choy Salad Recipe

A disclaimer: This spicy bok choy salad recipe calls for honey, which many vegans choose to avoid. If honey doesn't fit within your eating ethics, feel free to sub in something plant-based, like agave syrup.

Vegan BLT Recipe

The hardest part about sticking to a food-related resolution is that some days you just don’t wanna cook anymore. This vegan BLT recipe is for those days when spending an hour and a half in the kitchen is not in the cards. Whip this up in 20 minutes, and you’ll feel better that you didn’t cave and order takeout.

Blueberry Chia Pudding Recipe

The best way to prevent the desperate mid-afternoon purchase of some cheese powder-covered snack from the office vending machine is to start the day with a solid breakfast. This chia pudding is packed with protein and fiber, anti-inflammatory turmeric, and "super-foods" like blueberries and goji berries.

Spiced Porridge Recipe

This winter-worthy spiced porridge could be breakfast or lunch, but either way, its super easy to make and guaranteed to be filling. Top it with homemade applesauce, granola, or your favorite fresh fruits, and it gets even better.

Spanakorizo (Greek Rice) Recipe

When it comes to Greek food, most Americans might think of a big, meaty tray of grilled meat. According to chef Mina Stone, though, homestyle Greek cooking is much more focused on the vegetables—like her take on spanakorizo, Greek rice with greens.

Shiitake Bacon Recipe

Use these bacon-like strips in a sandwich, on a veggie burger, or crumbled on a salad or mac and cheese like good ol' bacon bits. If fully dehydrated and stored in an air-tight container, these shiitake bacon bits will keep for about a month in the freezer, or two weeks in the refrigerator.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Nothing is homier on a crappy night than a heaping shepherd’s pie. The mashed potato topping on this vegan version gets a perfect golden crust, and you can soothe yourself from your stressors for days with these leftovers.

Grilled Cabbage Wedges Recipe

Charring the hell out of these cabbage wedges and adding a herby, spicy dressing takes the humble head of cabbage to a whole new level.

Vegan Potato and Pea Curry Recipe

Most long-time vegans probably have a dozen back-pocket vegetable stew recipes that they can throw together with whatever’s lying around. If the concept is new to you, this quick and easy curry recipe serves as a great template. If peas aren't your thing, use whatever veggies you have on hand for this meal prep-friendly stew.

Crispy Onion Rings Recipe

You might not know what else is sharing the fryer with your order at your closest fast food joint, so save yourself the worry and make your onion rings at home, where you can see every step of the process.

Vegan Flautas Recipe

Vegan Flautas Recipe

No, don't give in to the 7-Eleven taquitos—no matter how well they pair with your Slurpee. Make these vegan flautas instead, which swap out meat and dairy for seitan and vegan mozzarella, but you'll never know the difference.

Ramen Peanut Butter Noodles Recipe

When you want something a little nicer than instant ramen but also you don't feel like going back and forth over the phone trying to make sure your pad thai order will absolutely not have any animal ingredients, make these peanut butter ramen noodles instead.

Chickpea Egusi Recipe

The seeds of the egusi melon are used for a lot of culinary purposes in West African cooking, but especially for egusi stew. This comforting dish is hearty and full of vegetables and plant-based protein. Even better, it comes together in just 40 minutes.

Vegan Lasagna Recipe

If you're looking to tackle a cooking project on a Sunday afternoon, it’s the perfect time to give something as labor intensive as homemade lasagna a go. This vegan lasagna from Cro-Mags frontman John Joseph skips the animal products, but it's not lacking in melty cheese goodness.

Vegan Vegetable and Grain Bowl Recipe

The "high-grade" sauce in this vegan grain bowl has a lot of ingredients, but it comes together easily and it'll turn any assortment of vegetables into something instantly delicious. Keep this sauce in your repertoire and assemble grain bowls with whatever vegetables come into season.

Easy Red Lentil Dhal Recipe

Going vegan might already be enough of a lifestyle change for you to tackle, but if you’re up for a bit of meal prepping, chef Bruno Loubet suggests making a big batch of this lentil dhal that you can portion out and store in the freezer.

Harmony Congee Recipe

Congee, the stick-to-your-ribs rice porridge dish eaten all over Asia, is perfect for a warm January meal that’s hearty but not overly heavy. Perfect for any time of day, this congee recipe is garnished with a satisfying mix of sweet potatoes, squash, and collard greens. Skip the soft-boiled egg to keep it vegan.

Easy Okra Stew

Easy Okra Stew Recipe

Whew, to say that people have very strong feelings about okra would be an understatement. We at MUNCHIES, however, totally dig an underdog. Our new favorite way to eat okra? Cooked into this easy vegetable-packed stew.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese with Coconut Bacon Recipe

Cashews and coconut cream make a decadent base for this vegan cheese sauce, while miso, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste are the key to approximating that savory cheese flavor. Add noodles and coconut-based "bacon" bits, and you've got a comforting vegan mac and cheese to lift your spirits on a sad, cold winter day.

Vegan Teriyaki Chik'n Burritos Recipe

Full of vegan cheese, stir-fried veggies, and satisfying teriyaki-glazed faux chicken, this takeout-inspired vegan burrito recipe will help you stick to your animal-free goals. But when you realize plant-based eating is easier than you think, they just might become your new weeknight staple, too.

Easy Vegan Nachos Recipe

We're not here to tell you to give up the junk food—just to prove that you can still eat good food without all that meat and cheese and dairy. The secret to these easy vegan nachos is a cheese-like sauce made of cashews, carrots, and sweet potatoes, and even queso lovers will want to eat it by the spoonful.

Vegan Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

There is no shortage of vegan baking substitution hacks out there in the world, so yes, you can still indulge your sweet tooth. This vegan spin on the classic British dessert uses vegan margarine, nut milk, and coconut milk to recreate the spongy, golden, syrupy perfection.

Easy Buñuelos Recipe

Of course, it would be much harder to go vegan if you couldn't have a good dessert. Luckily, there's now a big world of you'd-never-guess-it's-vegan ice cream, and all of it makes a perfect topping for these cinnamon sugar buñuelos.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Aquafaba Recipe

Joe Yonan, food editor and noted bean enthusiast, has done the unthinkable: turned Julia Child's classic chocolate mousse… vegan. He uses plant-based butter and whips aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, instead of egg whites. The result is so creamy and light you'd never guess it's not dairy.

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