Basic staples to get the creative juices flowing…
When you go vegan, your mind opens to food you wouldn’t normally try. So how do you incorporate these new foods into your diet?
Here’s a quick run-down of the most commonly mentioned and purchased vegan foods. They’ve been chosen as they’re common at most supermarkets, and easy to turn into a meal.
Think you’ve got this covered already? You’ll be interested in a more advanced selection of foods to try.
Please note: prices are given as an average, so you can get an overall picture. They vary between brands and stockists, so check before purchasing.
Also known as bean curd, tofu is essentially mashed up soya beans, and can be an acquired taste. It’s high in protein but low in fat, so worth getting into your diet. You can buy tofu in larger supermarkets (usually Cauldron brand) or Holland and Barrett (Dragonfly brand) for approx £2 per pack. It most commonly comes as plain in a block, or marinated in pieces.
Some people can eat tofu out of the packet, no prep. It might not suit your taste though! It’s definitely something to play around with, to see what style suits. With no prep it is pretty bland, but that does mean versatile too.
You can get 4 portions from a pack of tofu, so grab some and prepare it 4 ways to experiment. Scramble it up and fry it with preferred seasonings like paprika or garlic, then pop on toast for breakfast. Or chop into cubes and fry, bake, or grill. You can marinate the cubes or just use salt and pepper. I like to drizzle with a little soy sauce and olive oil… and bake.
Note – I’m talking about firm tofu above, found in the fridge section. Don’t mistake it for silken tofu, which is found in the cupboard or ‘world foods’ section. Common uses for silken tofu are creamier or blended foods, like desserts and sauces.
Houmous / Hummus
So… houmous. You either love it or hate it. But, if you dislike regular houmous, try red pepper houmous, caramelised onion houmous, chilli houmous… the list goes on! The point is, you can buy many different types now. It’s also ridiculously easy to make at home (recipe below),
and you can add anything to it. I love mixing in a little peri-peri sauce.
So what is houmous? It’s cooked and mashed chickpeas, with added tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Those last few ingredients can be left out, or substituted for a different flavour. As described above, you can get many different variations to suit! You can even buy houmous and spruce it up at home, if you’re feeling particularly lazy. Most use houmous as a dip for crudités, or in pitta/sandwich with salad for an easy lunch. It’s a good source of dietary fibre, healthy fats and B vitamins, as well as the all-important protein again. It’s around £1.20 for a 200g pot (4 servings), so a cheap and easy filler!
Here at Learner Vegan HQ, I’ve met ZERO vegans that dislike falafel. So don’t let me down here! But what’s in those little mushy things?
They’re usually made from chickpeas, onion, coriander and other seasonings. Falafels are diversifying now though – you can get Moroccan-style, sweet potato falafel, or make your own at home from various recipes. Falafels are great, as they’re high in fibre and protein, but unfortunately fat too, so stick to 3 or 4 per portion!
You can buy them pre-packed, and eat hot or cold, so there’s no excuse to have a non-vegan lunch. Dip them in houmous, throw in a salad or wrap, or serve as an appetiser.
Most supermarkets sell the Cauldron brand refrigerated (£1.50 for 8). Some stores even do their own brand now for a little cheaper! If you’re a little more adventurous, try making your own.
Check out an easy falafel recipe right here.
Avocado is the healthy fat I talked about on my basic nutrition page. If you can get it into your diet, DO! Grab them from the salad section of the supermarket – it’s around £2 for 4, but you can get them a little cheaper if you’re willing to ripen them at home. Try to use them when slightly ripe – you’ll be able to feel when they’re a little soft rather than rock solid. Slice open lengthways, remove the pit and scoop out the green. If the green part is difficult to slice, it’s probably not ripe enough yet. However, if it’s turned brown, you’re too late! Avocados are a tricky little thing until you get the hang of them.
The good news is you can freeze avocado. If you can’t use them in time, mash up with a little lemon juice and freeze in foil. Just defrost when needed – it makes lovely guacamole for dips or tacos!
But what else can you do with them, apart from guacamole? Try avocado sliced on a sandwich or salad. They’re also tasty blended into pesto pasta. Some people like them in a smoothie, too.
Wow… where to start? The meat substitute market has exploded in recent years, thanks to the rise in veganism. HOORAY!
You can now buy anything, from simple burgers, to prawns, to gourmet steak. Fake meat can be made from soy, mushroom, wheat gluten, or other proteins, so even if you have dietary requirements or allergies you’ll most likely find something to suit.
Most supermarkets sell their own vegan freezer range at an affordable price, such as 8 burgers for £1. If you feel like splashing out, try the Fry’s brand at Holland and Barrett, or Vivera and Oumph! at Tesco. Their products are pricier, for example 2 steaks for £2.99.
Or, try making your own seitan! It’s a wheat gluten ‘meat’ that’s fun, but trickier, to make. Take a peek at this beautiful recipe for Seitan Steak.
Couscous is really popular among vegans as it’s so versatile. It’s a light and soft alternative to rice, made from steamed and dried durum wheat. You get a good dose of selenium and protein from it too. Find it in the cupboard section of supermarkets – approx £1.20 for 1kg plain and dried. You can also buy couscous ready-seasoned in a packet and just add water – it’s around 50p for 1 serving.
Couscous is ridiculously easy to prepare. Pour just enough boiling water to cover it and leave for 5 minutes to soften. Of course, it’s quite bland like this, so you can add a little vegetable stock, sweetcorn, peas, pepper, garlic – whatever suits! I enjoy it with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, a dollop of cream cheese and falafel on top.
And of course, don’t forget to use all of the ingredients you’re already familiar with to spruce it up – a range of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and dressings.
Now, these are real basics for you to start using and experimenting with. They are all versatile foods that can be found in any good UK supermarket. Let me know below what you think of them – have you tried any before?
Tired of these basic food items? Ready for something different? Check out my advanced food staples.