One of the biggest complaints I hear about vegetarian and vegan recipes is that they just aren’t enough. I mean, how can a plate full of vegetables and legumes be filling and satisfying? Rest assured, it can be. Here are my five tips for making a well-rounded vegan meal.
1. Balance the plate
I think the misconception that vegan meals are all veg and nothing else gets to the issue at hand. I highly recommend having a mixture of grains, protein, and vegetables — it provides a great balance not only with flavor/bulk but also texture. Grains and legumes help keep the meal filling while the vegetables bring everything together.
2. Flavor with herbs and spices
One of the greatest underused assets in plant-based cooking are herbs and spices. While the herbs and spices don’t directly add to the heartiness of a meal, the addition of these flavors makes a meal more appealing and I think it less likely people are going to miss the meat. Why go with simple salt and pepper when you can kick it up a notch with smoked paprika, cumin, or chipotle powder?
3. Take on the traditional
So often I hear people mention, "Oh man, I miss that from my non-vegan days" but honestly, I have eaten my fair share of vegan meals based on traditional foods and when compared, I’d nearly always choose the vegan version. There are so many of these recipes on the internet but I think it's fun to come up with my own!
4. Mix up the cooking technique
Just like you would with non-vegan meals, vegan meals can be prepared in a plethora of ways. Braising, roasting, and grilling are fantastic ways to bring out different flavors from the produce. Break out of a rut and try grilling beets or roasting carrots — so good!
5. Showcase the produce
Don’t rule out what I like to call "fork & knife" meals. While I like to keep balance within my meals (and eat a lot of vegan bowl meals), showcasing a beautiful vegetable or fruit can make a great hearty, vegan meal.
Finally, just a note, many vegetarian meals can easily be made vegan by substituting your favorite dairy substitutions, leaving off the cheese, and/or replacing the honey!
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(Image credits: Erin Alderson)