Vegans are enjoying quite a bit of popularity nowadays. From famous vegan celebrities sharing their lentil burger recipes to world-renowned chefs adding vegan options to their menus. In fact, the rise in plant-based meats has seen the rise of vegan meats at some of the US's biggest fast-food chains.

Needless to say, veganism has definitely gone through some re-branding. At the turn of the century, the diet was known to mainstream media only as a vegetable-filled, flavorless territory.

Today, the vegan diet has shed some light on the delicious world of beans, dairy-free milks, and grains. You'll now be able to find countless vegan recipes online on popular, non-vegan focused websites.

While all of this awareness on the benefits of a vegan diet is incredible, it can be overwhelming for newcomers or vegan-curious consumers to process all the new information and ingredients available on the market.

Now a 12.7 billion dollar industry, the vegan food market is competing with the likes of big-name dairy and meat companies.

This expansion into a worldwide scale can be difficult to navigate. If you're interested in learning more about the vegan diet but aren't sure where to start, your best resource will always be your willingness to conduct your own research.

From chickpea and black bean burgers to butternut squash stir fry, eating vegan doesn't have to be difficult. This guide will walk you through everything you should know about the vegan diet, from where it originated from to what kind of dinner recipes you can try.

rice and vegtables
Veganism is one of the healthiest diets out there (Photo credit: Nadine Primeau via Unplash)

What Does a Vegan Diet Mean?

There are many different reasons people decide to go vegan and the origins of the diet are just as varied. If you're familiar with some religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, you'll know that their followers often advocate for strict forms of vegetarianism that have been associated throughout the years with the vegan diet. Even some famous, ancient Greek academics are thought to have been vegan.

Regardless of who first had the first vegan dish, the diet as we know it today is relatively new. As of the creation of the Vegan Society in 1944, vegan food has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon with no signs of slowing down. From mushroom and cauliflower pot pies to butternut and potato puree, vegan food allows for a high degree of versatility thanks to the influence of the world's food traditions.

While many people tend to think of vegans as only consuming salad and pasta, going vegan can actually mean discovering food that you had previously never heard of or would have tried. While ingredients like chickpeas and lentils are typical in the standard American diet, the ways in which they are cooked vary in every country around the world.

Some of the reasons why people decide to go vegan revolve around climate change, worker exploitation, animal rights, health concerns and more. There tends to be a major difference between a vegan lifestyle and a vegan diet. While many people choose to follow both, some people only choose one or the other.

A vegan diet involves purchasing food that doesn't contain animal products, while a vegan lifestyle strives to cut out animal products in all aspects of life, including clothing, furniture and more.

Vegan Cooking: Where to Start?

Knowing where to start when it comes to cooking on a vegan diet can be difficult. With ingredients such as tempeh, tahini, and seitan, finding ingredients for vegan food can sometimes seem like a game of scrabble. Depending on where you live, many vegan ingredients might or might not already be incorporated into your community's food traditions.

From curried, meatless couscous and tofu to white bean stir fry, cooking up a delicious vegan meal starts with finding a great recipe to follow and buying a range of ingredients. While not a complete guide to buying vegan food, there are some tips you can follow to ensure your vegan recipes are affordable.

If you're the type of person that has a busy lifestyle, whether that be from work, school or family obligations, finding the time to meal prep each week can be a great solution. This involves making all your meals in advance and preparing them for the week ahead. There are plenty of online tutorials and websites dedicated to vegan meal prep.

If you want to buy some basic vegan ingredients, some of the staple ingredients you can have on-hand are:

  • hummus
  • cashews
  • lasagna, pasta risotto
  • granola
  • black beans
  • white or brown rice
  • tofu

Of course, there are many different cities in the US that don't have access to fresh produce, nuts or some other common vegan ingredients. Your priority should be meeting your daily nutrition values, which means making the best out of what's available to you is perfectly acceptable.

Make sure to treat yourself whenever possible with some vegan sweets, like vegan chocolate or cookies, when you're on your vegan journey. Veganism shouldn't feel like a life restriction. On the contrary, the experience should open you up to new experiences, cultures and, of course, food.

vegan tacos
Making tacos while vegan is easy (Photo credit: Edgar Castrejon via Unplash)

A Vegan Recipe for All Palates

If you're looking for ideas on what vegan meal to make, there are plenty of recipes you can follow from online vegan platforms. From blogs like the Minimalist Baker to YouTube channels making vegan-friendly recipes, such as Tasty - there is an endless amount of content to sift through.

Finding ideas for a vegan dinner, breakfast or holiday meal shouldn't be too hard. The hard part is deciding what to actually make! If you're looking for satiating meals that fit your tastes, you can try some of these recipes at home:

  • sweet potato veggie burgers
  • cumin red lentil soup
  • edamame and pea salad

Vegan food should be adapted to your particular tastes and your culture. There are plenty of vegans out there dedicating their days to crafting the vegan equivalents to traditional foods from around the world.

"Accidentally" Vegan Food

Whether you're searching for vegan dinner recipes or simply want some more ideas for your vegan meal plan, going vegan doesn't necessarily mean you have to sacrifice the foods and snacks you already eat.

While dairy-free products such as vegan cheese and faux meats that are plant-based diet-approved have been satisfying vegans and vegetarians for years, "accidentally vegan" food is equally as delicious.

"Accidentally vegan" food are ingredients or dishes that are vegan but typically aren't labeled as vegan. One example can be found in food that people often mistake as non-vegan when, in reality, it is.

This includes things like bread, peanut butter, ramen, miso soup and more. Another example can be seen in food that just happens to be vegans, such as Skittles, Nutter Butters and more.

Incorporating these types of food into your vegan diet can make the transition to a plant-based diet easier and more sustainable over the long term. Some other vegan foods you may already be eating can include vegetable soup, such as lentil soup, meat-flavored chips, Oreos and more.

Ideas for Making Vegan Meals

Finding easy vegan recipes has been simplified thanks to the internet. Today, finding free recipes has never been easier. If you're interested in making some healthy vegan recipes that go outside of your standard white beans and brown rice dish, you can try some of these recipes:

  • vegan agua chile
  • portobello steaks
  • roasted cauliflower pizza
  • quinoa salad with black beans, corn, and tomato
  • vegan macaroni with carrot, potato, and nutritional yeast cheese sauce

The great thing about vegan dishes is that they are rarely ever boring to make. From tofu scramble to peanut butter soba noodles, it's hard to get uninspired in the kitchen once you go vegan.

Check out this guide for more information on the health benefits of going vegan.

vegan pizza
Treat your taste buds with some pizza (Photo credit: Rustic Vegan via Unplash)

Baking with Zero Animal Products

While meal ideas for the vegan diet can be easy to find, searching for advice on baking on a plant-based diet can be a bit more difficult. While many recipes tend to follow standard dessert recipes, there is a lot of room for creativity - and error - in a vegan dessert kitchen.

If you're interested to know everything about cooking and baking without animal products, make sure to do your research. Not every flax egg is created equally!

Some ideas of the desserts you can make as a vegan include:

  • beet fudge brownies
  • raw cheesecake bites
  • maple bundt cake
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