Sauces: When it comes to sauces, you have the common four sauces (tomato, creamy, alcohol based and stock based). For tomato, it’s naturally vegan unless you put animal products into it, and for alcohol (ale, red wine, white wine) and stock you just need to make sure that you’re using a vegan friendly version. Some stocks have dairy or animal products in and some alcohol is processed using animal ingredients (gelatin and isinglass).
For creamy sauces, it’s a little more challenging, but you have a lot of variety of base. To my knowledge, the bases for a creamy sauce include cashews, cauliflower, artichoke, avocado, plant milk and coconut milk. In terms of flavouring, see my previous article for information on that to make it cheesy (See Here).
Dressings: The only dressings that aren’t vegan friendly are those with dairy included, but those can all be made vegan. Ranch dressing, Caesar dressing, and other similar dressings typically aren’t vegan, but there are some vegan versions being released in supermarkets. Until that happens, it’s easy enough to make your own.
Gravy: You can buy gravy granules that will make vegan gravy, or you can easily make your own. This recipe is the most delicious gravy I’ve ever tried, but there are plenty of other recipes you can try that are vegan friendly. If you’re using a roux to thicken, just make sure it’s with vegan butter and your stock is vegan friendly.
Curry: Possibly the most versatile dish which is most commonly vegan friendly, especially where it originates from. The main component of a curry is the spices which make it up, which is good because spices are vegan. You have the veggies, the beans, the lentils, the rice, the tomato sauce, the coconut milk sauce, all still vegan. The only times curry isn’t vegan is if you use non veggie stock, dairy milk or creams, or a meat. The most common non vegan curries tend to be the milder ones, like tikka masala and korma, due to including dairy, and also store bought naan breads aren’t often vegan due to using yoghurt powder. These can so easily be made vegan by just subbing an ingredient or leaving it out.
Lasagne: Perhaps one of the more complex things to make for vegans due to having both a meat and a sauce which isn’t normally vegan. Luckily, both are easy enough to make. I’ve used lentils and mushrooms with garlic and onions, paprika and liquid smoke (along with other flavours) to make the ‘meat’ part, but you can buy textured soy/vegetable protein to act as the meat, or think of other creative solutions. In terms of the bechamel sauce, there are plenty of ways you can make one that’s vegan, usually using plant milk as a base, though you can blend up silken tofu. I’ve tried both and much prefer to start off with a roux and adding plant milk. Using the tofu version creates a texture I don’t personally like when baked in the oven.
Chilli: One of my favourite meals and actually one of the most commonly veganised meal you can find in restaurants. You can make a chilli using beans (usually 5 bean chilli), or you can do similar to what I mentioned for the lasagne, with lentils and mushrooms, or textured soy/veggie protein.
Pizza: If you make the dough yourself, you can easily make it vegan friendly, which then typically leaves the toppings and the cheese. For the toppings, personally I never even use the meat alternatives and instead stick to toppings like mushroom, sweetcorn, spinach and balsamic sun dried tomatoes, and most vegans will be happy with that. You can if you want have meat alternatives on the pizza, but it might not make sense if you only get a vegan inquiring every few months. The cheese is a different story and not one I have a good answer for. Zizzi’s in England have started offering vegan cheese on their pizza, which is some form of coconut cheese ordered in from Italy and Pizza Hut are also now offering vegan pizza full time after trialling it and it being successful. Personally, I don’t even put cheese on my pizza and I enjoy it all the same.
Salad: I’m hesitant to suggest this because so many see salad as cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. Salad can be so much more and I always think of my salads in a similar way to tabouleh, which will have a at the very least cous cous, quinoa, barley, or rice – Some kind of substance to it. Then adding tomatoes, red onion, or other veggies to it so it has veggies that would be found in a salad and a dressing on top of that. This can be used as a starter or a main, depending on your portions and if you want to make it a main, you can add little extras, for example chickpeas roasted and tossed in spices. This is the last salad I made, which I would happily eat as a main in a restaurant.
Wraps: Most tortillas are vegan friendly and then all you need to consider is what you should put inside it. Like with the salad, depending on what you put in and the portion size can affect whether it’s a starter or a main. You could do hummus and veggies as a starter, and beans plus rice as a main (obviously not just beans and rice, but you see the point.
Pasta Dishes: If you use pasta made from durum wheat or semolina, it’s almost always vegan. If you make the pasta yourself, you can certainly make it vegan also. With that out of the way, that leaves the sauces, the toppings and the fillings. As mentioned above where I talk about sauces, all sauces can be made vegan, whether that’s a mushroom and wine tagliatelle, macaroni cheese, tomato and basil penne, or pesto pasta. When it comes to fillings for pasta dishes like ravioli, tortellini or agnolotti, you can easily veganise these too using blended mushroms/squash/aubergine, combined with nuts and spices, or whatever you like. The toppings obviously can be veggies instead of meat.
Burgers: Other than chilli, the other meal I’ve seen more than once is a vegan burger, which usually takes the form of a black bean burger. I’m fine with that, black bean burgers can be delicious, though you should really make your own. Black bean burgers ordered in typically are dry and not particularly full of flavour on their own. You can make burgers from all sorts of plant foods like chickpeas, beetroot, lentils, mushrooms etc. I’ve personally settled on a BBQ beetroot and lentil burger which is cooked in the oven so it has a nice crisp outside and juicy inside, but you can make it in whichever way you like. You can even use seitan covered in breadcrumbs and spices to make a ‘chicken’ style burger.
Risotto: Honestly, I’m surprised most restaurants don’t have a risotto on their menu, possibly because it’s easy to mess up. Forget about it cooking and it’s easy to get a risotto that has the texture of wallpaper paste that I’m sure Gordon Ramsay would have something to say about. In terms of making it vegan it’s so easy, seeing as you can make a risotto with very few ingredients. My favourite is a mushroom risotto made with a healthy (a bottle) dose of white wine. That was a joke, I don’t use that much wine, at least in the cooking. The only thing with risotto you might need to change is the stock used, the wine (make sure it’s vegan), and if you use butter you should make sure it’s plant butter. Skip the creme fraiche if it’s not Oatly’s plant version, or your own plant based version.
Sushi: I’m not going to claim I know how to make a variety of sushi enough to open a sushi restaurant, but I do know that you can easily have vegan friendly sushi. My favourite is avocado, apple, carrot, radish and paprika, which is a blend of creamy sweet smokey peppery goodness. Whole foods are now doing a vegan sashimi made from tomatoes, which I would have never even considered, but apparently it sells well.
Jacket Potatoes: Always a winner in my book, which you can top with all sorts of things from curry and chilli to baked beans. Just make sure your butter is plant based and as mentioned above, your chilli and curry are vegan friendly, or whatever it is you like to top it with is vegan, you’ll do fine. I’ve never seen this served anywhere in the world, but I always have my jacket potatoes are home with pickle, sweetcorn, nutritional yeast, butter and black pepper.
Pies: I can understand why you might not have a pie on your menu that’s vegan friendly, seeing as a lot of restaurants order them in and even if the filling is vegetables, the pastry is almost certainly not vegan. If you’re making your own pastry and pies in house however, you can easily make vegan pastry like this recipe. I’ve tried the pastry myself and it’s perfect, though I used stork butter specifically for vegan baking rather than making my own in the recipe, it still turned out great. Shortcrust and filo can be bought in store and made vegan easily also, so that just leaves the filling, which after the tips I’ve already mentioned with stock and butter being vegan and using veggies, you’ll be sure to think up something delicious.
(OS) Jackfruit: Jack fruit is a fairly common substitute for pulled pork, but using it in other recipes is just a matter of waiting for someone to do it. Due to it’s texture it would be perfect to use in place of beef in recipes like steak and ale pies or casseroles. I’d also imagine with the right kind of ingredient mixes you could use it as a burger. Currently jack fruit burgers are just pulled pork burgers, but I’ve not yet seen anyone make it into a patty.
(OS) Seitan: Besides using soy, this is one of the most common meat substitutes and can be used to make things like ‘chicken’ nuggets, burgers and barbecue ribs. You can buy it, or you can make your own, seeing as it’s made from vital wheat gluten. You have the freedom to change the texture by changing how long you knead the dough for. I’ve not made it myself by you can make seitan steaks, which I imagine taste similar as regular steaks, but the texture would be the most noticeably different quality about the steak.