Tag Archives: vegan recipes

za'tar flatbread on serving platter

This Easy Vegan Za’atar Manaeesh AKA Flatbread is the Breakfast Dish You’ve Been Craving

Za’atar is the name of a Middle Eastern herb, but it’s also the name of a spice mixture made up of the herb, roasted sesame seeds, sumac and a few other spices. It’s so versatile and can be used in a variety of ways: in salad dressings, meat marinades and sauces. But the most common and traditional way of consuming za’atar is on a flatbread mixed with olive oil. This Can You Vegan It? za’atar flatbread is a Lebanese dish called manaeesh and it’s typically served with breakfast alongside a hot cup of tea. It’s often topped with cheese or labneh (strained yogurt), but you can also top with an assortment of fresh veggies and drizzle with more olive oil. This delicious breakfast is easy to make and the perfect start to the day!

za'tar flatbread on serving platter

Vegan Za’atar Manaeesh

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 13-15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
2 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp flour, divided
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp za’atar blend

For the garnish (optional): cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, onions and/or radish

za'tar flatbread ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Start by mixing together the yeast with the warm water and set aside for a few minutes.

2. In a bowl, add 1 cup of the flour along with the sugar and the yeast mixture. Mix well with a spoon, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes.

Related: Flexitarian Recipes Where Meat Isn’t the Star

3. After 10 minutes, add the rest of the flour (1 ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp), ½ cup olive oil and the salt and mix well until a shaggy dough forms.

za'tar flatbread dough in bowl

4. Using your hands, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, then smooth it out and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes, covered.

5. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Mix the za’atar and ½ cup olive oil together.

Related: This Middle Eastern Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad is Full of Whole Grains

6. Once the dough is ready, separate into 10 equal-sized balls. Using a rolling pin and a floured surface, flatten each dough ball and spread a few Tbsp of za’atar paste on top until sufficiently covered.

za'tar flatbread on baking sheet about to go in the oven

7. Place on a floured sheet pan and bake for 13-15 minutes until the bottom is golden. Top with fresh chopped vegetables of choice and enjoy.

Like Amina’s za’atar manaeesh? Try her roasted cauliflower with tahini or her 20-minute pomegranate molasses glazed salmon.

West African mafe AKA peanut lentil stew - in a bowl

Vegan West African Peanut Lentil Stew: The Comfort Food You Need

This hearty and flavourful stew, also known as mafé, is one of many delicious delicacies that hails from West African cuisine. Traditional West African peanut stew uses ground peanuts and contains beef, but my Can You Vegan It? spin uses natural peanut butter since it’s more accessible, as well as lentils for extra protein. However, the sweet potatoes in this quick 45-minute dish perfectly seal the deal.

West African mafe AKA peanut lentil stew - in a bowl

West African Peanut Lentil Stew

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tsp crushed red pepper (plus more to taste)
1 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
½ tsp ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
2 tsp cumin (optional)
½ tsp cardamom (optional)
5 cups low-sodium vegetarian broth
1½ cups red lentils
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 (16 oz) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
1 cup natural raw peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
Fresh chopped parsley for topping (optional)

West African mafe AKA peanut lentil stew ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger in the hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with the crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, as well as the cumin and cardamom (if using).

Related: Best Vegan Soup and Stew Recipes You’ll Crave All Winter

2. Pour the broth over the mixture. Stir the lentils and sweet potatoes into the liquid and bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low and cover the pot partially with a lid. Cook at a simmer for 15 minutes.

West African mafe AKA peanut lentil stew - in a bowl

3. Stir in the tomatoes and peanut butter. Turn up the heat slightly to medium-low. Cover the pot and continue cooking for another 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with chopped parsley and serve.

West African mafe AKA peanut lentil stew - in a bowl

Like Valerie’s vegan mafé? Try her healthy sriracha-honey oven-fried chicken or her spicy vegan cassoulet.

mushroom plant-based jerky on yellow serving tray

Everyone’s Favourite Snack is Made Vegan With This Spicy Plant-Based Jerky

If you’re craving a delicious plant-based jerky with a kick, this mushroom jerky is for you. This Can You Vegan It? recipe takes traditional mushroom jerky up a notch by adding the flavourful and spicy addition of jerk marinade. All of the delicious flavours of scotch bonnet pepper, thyme and allspice are concentrated in that spoonful of store-bought marinade and make this recipe super, super simple and easy to prepare. Whether you’re plant-based or not, the flavours are sure to make you a fan. The best part is a dehydrator is not essential to get a delicious jerky. All you need is a baking tray and some parchment paper. Serve up this mushroom treat with your grain bowls, breakfast sandwiches, salads or on its own as a snack!

mushroom plant-based jerky on yellow serving tray

Spicy Mushroom Jerky

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 7 hours, 40 minutes
Servings: 2-4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp liquid aminos or soy sauce
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp jerk marinade
1 tsp smoked paprika
8 medium portobello mushrooms

mushroom plant-based jerky on baking tray

Directions:

1. In a bowl, whisk together the liquid aminos, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, jerk marinade and smoked paprika. Then set aside.

2. Clean portobello mushrooms and slice into ½-inch pieces.

Related: Healthy (and Tasty) Snacks to Avoid Getting Hangry

3. Place the mushrooms into a bowl and pour marinade over the slices. Mix to ensure that each slice is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place marinated mushroom slices on the sheet, ensuring the slices are not crowded.

mushrooms in bowl and on roasting pan

5. Bake mushrooms for about 1 ½ hours, be sure to check on it halfway through and adjust time if needed.

6. Enjoy in your next grain bowl, breakfast sandwich or on its own as a snack.

Like Eden’s plant-based jerky? Try her vegan sloppy Joe sliders or her cardamom teff apple muffins.

vegan cassoulet in white dish

This Cozy Weeknight Cassoulet is Given a Spicy Vegan Makeover

A cozy weeknight favourite with a vegan spin, this French-inspired dish is booming with flavour and wholesome ingredients, while topped with a light panko crumb crust to add a nice crunch. While cassoulet traditionally contains meat, this Can You Vegan It? recipe gives the classic a plant-based twist. This recipe calls for harissa paste for a bit of a spicy kick, but if heat isn’t your thing, substitute black pepper in place of the paste. Plus, an added bonus: this meal all comes together in one pot and it takes just an hour to whip up!

vegan cassoulet in white dish

Spicy Vegan Cassoulet

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

3 medium leeks
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 large carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp ground cloves
1-1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp harissa paste
3 (19 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups of water
1 ¾ cups organic panko crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme

vegan cassoulet ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Cut and discard the green part of the leeks, leaving only the white and pale green parts to work with. Halve leeks lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place chopped leeks in a bowl or large strainer and rinse thoroughly until the sandy particles are gone.

2. Place a large Dutch oven pot over medium heat and add ¼ cup olive oil. Once heated, add leeks, carrots, zucchini, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, cloves, salt and harissa. Stir occasionally until veggies are semi soft and golden, about 15 minutes; then add in beans and water. Cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s One Pot Recipes That Will Make Dinner a Breeze

3. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss panko bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic powder and thyme. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes until toasted and light brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside and let it cool.

panko breadcrumbs roasted on cookie sheet

4. When the cassoulet is ready, discard bay leaf and parsley sprigs and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Top with toasted garlic panko before serving.

vegan cassoulet in white dish

Like Valerie’s vegan cassoulet? Try her low-carb vegan ramen or her healthy Sriracha-honey oven-fried chicken.

Vegan Antipasto Skewers Are the Creative Plant-Based Appetizer You Need

Let’s be real: the heart of any celebration is the food. To keep your guests happy, make sure the apps are flowing, which as it turns out, is a bit of an art form: appetizers should look “appetizing,” they should be finger-friendly, mess-free and only take a few bites to consume. That’s why these We Know You Have 10 Minutes vegan appetizers in the form of antipasto skewers make for the best addition to your table. They’re user-friendly, beautiful and a cinch to make! And since dietary restrictions are commonplace these days, it’s important to accommodate with vegan finger foods. These two dairy-free plant-based beauties are the perfect place to start.

Olive, Artichoke, Tomato and Balsamic Skewers

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

Small wooden skewers (or toothpicks)
Artichokes, from a jar
Kalamata olives, pitted
Cherry tomatoes (extra points for multi-colour!)
Basil leaves
1-2 Tbsp balsamic reduction or syrup

Directions:

1. Remove the artichokes from the jar and cut them slightly so they’ll fit onto the skewers and are manageable to eat.

2. In any order, thread the ingredients above through the wooden skewers. We like to ribbon basil leaves between the ingredients to create more vibrant colour throughout and to get that punchy taste of raw basil with every bite.

3. Once all ingredients are on the skewers, take your balsamic reduction and lightly drizzle it over top. You can pour the balsamic on a spoon, hover about 10 inches above the skewers and drizzle away.


Eggplant, Tofu, Zucchini and Pesto Skewers

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 to 35 minutes (if you roast the eggplant and tofu the night before, then the total time will only take 10 minutes!)
Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, chopped into 1 ½ inch cubes
1 brick tofu, patted dry and chopped into 1 ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 zucchini, peeled into ribbons
8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Small wooden skewers (or toothpicks)
2-3 Tbsp pesto

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Chop the eggplant and tofu into cubes, they should be around the same size.

3. Season both with oil, salt and pepper. Place them on separate baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Related: These Are the 5 Best Meatless BBQ Skewers You’ll Ever Eat

4. Roast the tofu for 15 minutes and the eggplant for 20-25 minutes. Both should be lightly crisp.

5. While the eggplant and tofu are roasting, peel the zucchini into thin ribbons and make your pesto, if you’re not buying it pre-made.

6. Once all veggies are prepped, begin threading them through the skewer in any order you desire.

7. Place them on a tray or plate and lightly dollop a few spoonfuls of pesto over areas of the skewers.

Like Tamara and Sarah’s vegan antipasto skewers? Try their easy lemon spatchcock chicken or sumac-spiced roasted delicata.

Published November 30, 2019, Updated December 23, 2020

Vegan Grain-Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi with High-Protein Pesto

Gnocchi is one of those dishes that seems too intimidating to make at home; yet, it’s actually quite simple. What makes this gnocchi particularly special is that it’s high in protein, vegan, grain-free and seriously delicious. You won’t find 00 flour or white potatoes here, instead a blend of sweet potato, chickpea flour and almond flour is the base of this gnocchi.  Regardless if you subscribe to a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle, this recipe is satisfying, tasty, filling and will leave you feeling like an accomplished home cook. It’s paired with a fibre-rich and high-protein pesto, that seamlessly incorporates cannellini beans, along with basil, walnuts and olive oil, for a creamy, smooth consistency.

Vegan Gluten-Free Chickpea Flour Gnocchi with High-Protein Pesto


Prep Time:
 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:

Gnocchi:
2 sweet potatoes (1 ½ lbs)
1 ½ cups chickpea flour + dusting
½ cup almond flour
¼ cup brown rice flour
¾ tsp sea salt

Pesto:
2 cups basil
½ cup cannellini or navy beans
¼ cup toasted walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Water to thin out

Directions:

Gnocchi:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Puncture around the skin of the sweet potatoes with a fork, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
3. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly, then discard the skin and scoop the inside of the sweet potatoes into a bowl.  Add 2 cups of chickpea flour, almond four, brown rice flour and sea salt and start to combine all ingredients together with your hands into a ball.
4. Flour your working surface and place the ball on top, begin to knead it well for about 3 minutes, form it back into a ball and cut it into 4 even pieces.


5. Roll each quarter of dough into a long log, then cut it into 1 inch pieces. Repeat with each piece of dough.
6. If you like, you can roll the gnocchi on the back tines of a fork to create those grooves (optional).
7. Place a large pot of water on the stove, salt it and allow it to come to a boil.
8. Once boiling, add a few pieces of gnocchi with a slotted spoon, careful not to overcrowd. Once they float to the top, take them out with a slotted spoon and place on a plate or in a colander.  If the gnocchis stick together in the water, stir the water (we prefer to use chopsticks when stirring).

Pesto:
1. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Blitz until you have a creamy consistency.

Assembly:
1. Once all the gnocchi is cooked, heat a skillet over medium heat and add a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Toss the gnocchi in the oil so they lightly brown.  Once browned, place in a large bowl with the protein-packed pesto.
3. Scoop out a serving, and enjoy.

For more hearty, good-for-you dinner ideas that still taste indulgent, we know you’ll love these 15 Dairy-Free Pasta Recipes That Are Extra Creamy and these Satisfying Weeknight Recipes Where Vegetables Replace Carbs.

The Ultimate Vegan Pizza Recipe with Almond Ricotta Cheese and Coconut Bacon

If you can’t eat dairy or just want to try out a healthier alternative to cheese-laden pizza, then you’re going to love this vegan weeknight dinner recipe. Making your own dairy-free ricotta “cheese” is easy when you use almonds, which pairs perfectly with fresh, zippy basil pesto, marinara sauce and slivered kale. You’ll really impress everyone with the simple homemade crust recipe, but you can always use a pre-made one instead if you don’t have time to make it from scratch. Take your vegan pizza toppings up a notch by trying out coconut “bacon.”  Even if you aren’t vegan or want to share this dairy-free dinner recipe with your friends, you’ll find the savoury and slightly sweet bacon alternative adds the perfect crunch and a unique smoky taste that everyone will love.

Vegan Pizza with Almond Ricotta, Coconut Bacon and Pesto

Prep Time: 40 minutes (add 8 hours to soak nuts for “almond ricotta” recipe below)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 70 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Almond “Ricotta”:
1 cup slivered blanched almonds
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 small clove of fresh garlic, chopped

Coconut “Bacon”:
2 cups coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
1 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp smoked paprika

Pesto:
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp hemp seeds or pine nuts
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Homemade Pizza Crust:
1 packet rapid rise yeast (or 2 tsp of baker’s yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups spelt flour or whole wheat flour

Additional Ingredients:
2 cups green kale, chopped finely
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

Almond “Ricotta”:
1. Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with water so the nuts are fully submerged.
2. Place on the counter and let sit overnight. Alternatively,  soak the almonds early in the morning and then finish the rest of the steps later in the evening. You’ll want the nuts to soak for 8 hours.
3. After the nuts have soaked, drain them out of the water and rinse off.
4. Place the rinsed off nuts, lemon juice, sea salt, 1/2 cup of water, and garlic in the food processor. Blend for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You can scrape the mixture down the sides of the food processor to make sure it blends evenly.
5. Pour the blended almond mixture into a bowl and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Coconut “Bacon”:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Toss together the ingredients so the coconut is evenly coated in the oil, tamari, maple syrup, and smoked paprika.
3. Spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 5 minutes, check and stir around. Make sure to keep your eye on the coconut so that it doesn’t burn (it can go from fine to burnt really quickly).
5. Once the coconut is beginning to crisp on the edges, remove from the oven.
6. Let it cool for 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.


Pesto:
1. Rinse off the basil well and make sure to dry it with a paper towel or tea towel.
2. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until everything is finely chopped.
3. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste preference.

Homemade Pizza Crust:
1. In a large bowl, mix the packet of yeast in warm water and stir for 1 minute until dissolved.
2. Add in the olive oil and flour. Using your hands, knead the dough until a smooth ball forms. Add extra flour to the bowl if the dough is too sticky.
3. Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit on the countertop for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
5. If you’d like to make 2 pizzas, divide the dough in half to make 2 balls.
6. You’ll need to roll out the ball of dough to make a circular crust. The best way to do this is by placing a large piece of parchment paper on the counter. Sprinkle some flour over top. Then place the dough in the center. Place a second sheet of parchment paper over top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circular shape. Then carefully pull off the piece of parchment paper that’s on top.
7. Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork.
8. Slide or lift the piece of parchment paper with the crust on it onto a large baking sheet.
9. Bake for 5 minutes.
10. Remove from the oven and keep on the baking sheet.

Pizza Assembly:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Spread the marinara sauce out evenly over top of the crust.
3. Sprinkle the chopped kale over top of the sauce.
4. Add dollops of the almond ricotta cheese and pesto.
5. Bake for 15 minutes until the kale is cooked.
6. Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle the coconut “bacon” over top.
7. Serve immediately by slicing into pieces.

As showcased above, making your own vegan cheese is easier than it seems. For another crave-worthy option, check out this Herbed Cashew Ricotta Cheese recipe.

5 Delicious New Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast (And Why it Belongs in Your Pantry)

Nutritional yeast is something of a miracle ingredient: Not only is it jam-packed with savoury flavour, often described as nutty, cheesy and umami – it’s also rich in nutrients. Nutritional yeast is loaded with B-complex vitamins, which help our bodies make energy from the food we eat. The vegan-friendly cheese alternative is also a complete protein and is low in sodium. It can be added to soups and stews, sprinkled on vegetables and stirred into sauces. There’s really no limit to how you use this pantry staple, but here are five delicious places to start.

“Cheesy” White Bean and Cashew Dip

Chips and dip is the essential party snack. But instead of reaching for calorie-laden dips like mayonnaise and cheese-based spreads, opt for this nutritious alternative. Made with white beans, cashews and nutritional yeast, this recipe has a beautiful smooth texture and rich flavour.

In a food processor, blend 1/3 cup roasted, salted cashews. Add in 1 cup canned white beans (drained and rinsed), 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 1/2 tsp salt. Process until smooth. Serve with fresh vegetables or pita bread.

Vegan Cacio e Pepe

One of Italy’s most delicious and simple pastas is Cacio e Pepe. It’s loaded with butter, parmesan and freshly cracked pepper. For this recipe, we swapped the parmesan for dairy-free nutritional yeast, and you’d never know!

Soak 1/2 cup raw cashews and 1/2 cup blanched almonds in water for 30 minutes. Blend with 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Melt 2 Tbsp vegan butter in a pan. Whisk in cashew mixture. Add in 250 grams of cooked pasta and toss. Add in pasta water to loosen as necessary (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup). Crack fresh pepper and garnish with more nutritional yeast. Here, we used rigatoni instead of the classic spaghetti, so choose the pasta noodle you prefer.

Zucchini Fries

This recipe is an amazing way to spruce up standard veggies. The zucchini is breaded in an almond flour and nutritional yeast combo, then baked to resemble French fries. They are jam-packed with flavour, and taste extra delicious dipped in ketchup.

Combine 1/2 cup almond flour with 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cut 2 zucchinis into 1/4 -inch thick “fries”. Toss them in 2 Tbsp of Dijon mustard, then bread them in almond flour mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 425ºF.

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are so fluffy and creamy, but they desperately lack salt and umami. Nutritional yeast is all you need to add a savoury (and healthy) kick to this go-to breakfast. Just whisk in 1 Tbsp with two eggs, 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp of milk (dairy or plant-based). Cook slowly in a non-stick pan over medium heat.

Salad Dressing

Nutritional yeast gives salad dressing an incredible flavour boost. This simple dressing can be used on absolutely anything! Mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp salt. Pour over any salad for a deliciously rich and nutty flavour.

Looking for more delicious health-boosting dishes? Here are the 30 Best Dairy-Free Recipes You’ll Cook on Repeat.

Veganism Made Easy: Lauren Toyota’s Fail-Safe Tips for Eating Plant-Based (And Loving It)

The idea of noshing on a juicy burger or devouring a bacon mac and cheese skillet (okay fine – and a slice of buttercream cake for dessert) is the stuff of comfort food dreams. It’s also the stuff vegan foodie Lauren Toyota, of famed blog and YouTube channel Hot for Food (part of Kin Community), cooks up on a regular basis. “I’m trying to dispel the misconception that, as a vegan, you have to eat raw food, salad or green smoothies all the time,” she says. That’s also the theme behind her just-released cookbook Vegan Comfort Classics, featuring over 100 plant-based recipes that are unapologetically indulgent and drool-worthy. We caught up with the Canadian star to ask about everything from her humble beginnings to her top tips for entry-level vegans.

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Heins

What inspired you to take such an inventive approach to veganism?

When I first became vegan, I thought I had to uphold some idea of health. I thought I couldn’t enjoy the foods I used to eat when I was an omnivore. But I quickly got out of that trap once I realized, if I don’t change what I’m doing, I’m not going to stick to this whole vegan thing. I don’t want to eat cold food all the time.

Comfort food is just a generic umbrella term because it can be anything to anybody. Whatever is comforting to you might not be comforting to me, because it plays off your childhood, your experiences and your senses. I’m always trying to get my recipes to appeal to as many senses as possible.

Was there a learning curve? What did you eat before becoming vegan?

Before becoming vegan, I had just travelled through the U.S. with a family member, driving through states like Florida and Georgia. We were eating a lot of terrible omnivore food, from po’ boys to Cuban sandwiches. I had gone from eating all of this southern comfort food, which plays into what I make now as a vegan, but then not feeling good. And I went on that trip thinking, this is it. I’m just going to go all out and then come back and get healthy. Whatever that meant.

Once I became vegan I eventually started asking myself things like: How can I make salads more satisfying? I think I probably started there, adding creamier dressings and heavier toppings and then thought, well wait, now I want to experiment more: How do I make cheese as a vegan? How do I make bacon as a vegan?

Oyster Mushroom Po’ Boy (Featured in Lauren’s Cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics)

What are your top tips for beginner vegans?

Stick to What You Know: Which foods do you like? Try to substitute a few non-vegan ingredients for vegan ones, but don’t try to cook something you don’t even know how to make or know if you like – start with your favourite meal or something you eat all the time and recreate it without your default ground beef or Parmesan cheese. Make tiny adjustments without reinventing your entire diet.

Start Cooking: You have to start cooking something, even if it’s a very basic pasta with jarred sauce. Get used to cooking, because I think if you’re going vegan, or mostly vegan, it’s so empowering and something everyone can learn.

Don’t Overhaul Your Fridge and Pantry:  It can be a slow transition, integrating one thing at a time, or using up that jar of regular mayonnaise before swapping it for a vegan version. Take the same approach when replacing cheese, and so on.

Shake up Your Grocery Store Routine: Walk through different aisles and start reading labels. Educate yourself and get out of your habitual patterns – if you’re not reading labels, you likely don’t realize that much of what you’re buying probably is vegan. So figure out what you’re already buying that’s vegan, and what you should add to your cart.

Tofu Benny with Hollandaise (Featured in Lauren’s Cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics)

Pantry staples you can’t live (or cook) without?

Raw Cashews: They’re neutral in flavour and don’t taste nutty because they’re not roasted. Vegans like to soak and blend cashews to make thick creams or milk. There’s substance and viscosity to it, and it provides the same texture as whipped or heavy cream in a sauce. I also make Parmesan by grinding cashews into a coarse meal with nutritional yeast.

Nutritional Yeast: I use this ingredient a lot in the cookbook – it’s one of those things people may not know about, but it’s been around forever. There’s nothing weird or processed about it. It has B12 and protein and fibre. I incorporate it into everything because it adds depth, like a cheesiness or nuttiness.

Thickeners (like Cornstarch or Arrowroot): Thickeners are great for soups and sauces. You should always keep one in your pantry because it will never spoil.

Spices: These are important for beginners too because you’re basically trying to season food with spices to taste like meat or other dishes you’re used to eating. Stock up on smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric and onion and garlic powder. Spices are also inexpensive and pretty much last forever, as long as you’re storing them in a dry place.

There seems to be growing interest in plant-based eating, specifically vegan comfort foods. Why now?

At the beginning [in Toronto and elsewhere] we saw more juice and salad bars. Now, in contrast, we’re seeing a second movement: the indulgent side. I think it’s helping people get on board with veganism so they don’t fall into that trap of thinking they have to eat one way. It’s great because you can access both types of food, no matter your diet. I think everyone who’s on the same mission as me in the community realizes this is just how we get people interested and through the door.

Crispy Crabless Cakes (Featured in Lauren’s Cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics)

Where do you see veganism heading? Where will it be five to ten years from now?

In five years, I think we’re going to be at a place where it’s much more normalized. Every restaurant will have more than one plant-based option on the menu, or if not, an isolated vegan menu, which you’re seeing places do now. I hope it’s not so much of a thing to harp on, that it’s just regular food that happens to be made with plants. At the end of the day, the movement is not a trend. It’s really a way to get people adjusted to the fact that this is the future of what you’re going to be eating.

Want more of Lauren’s decadent recipes? Try her Cauliflower Buffalo Wings, Perfect Vegan Lasagna and Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.