These 33 Vegan Comfort Food Recipes Might Be Even Better Than the Originals
Whether they’re childhood favorites, restaurant staples, or party snacks, so many classic dishes we grew up eating and loving seem inaccessible to those eating a strictly plant-based diet. It’s easy for the herbivore at the table to start feeling left out, unable to partake in what’s supposed to be a bonding experience over everyone’s most beloved foods.
Photo: Minimalist Baker
1. Basic Vegan French Toast
Chia seeds aren’t just a thickening agent in this eggless take on a breakfast classic; they also provide your morning dose of protein, calcium, fiber, and omega-3’s, packing in a nutritional punch and yielding the same fluffy-yet-chewy texture as the traditional version. Check out the link for the basic recipe, plus ideas on how to top your toast, such as peanut butter, berries, or an airy coconut whipped cream.
2. Chickpea Flour Omelette with Spinach, Onion, Tomato, Bell Peppers
It resembles that greasy-spoon staple we all love, but this fresh, veggie-packed meal is actually made of folate-rich and gluten-free chickpea flour instead of beaten eggs. Just like regular omelets, feel free to customize it with whatever produce you’ve got on hand, from spinach and mushrooms to onions and tomatoes. Sure, it may not taste exactly like a typical omelet, but with its subtle nuttiness and savory bite, this is a tasty (and cholesterol-free!) AM treat in its own right.
Photo: Girl Makes Food
3. Vegan Quiche
Usually made with eggs, milk or cream, and cheese, there is absolutely nothing vegan about a standard quiche. This recipe takes all that out while using ingredient swaps that preserve the creamy texture, classy appearance, and satiating substance of the traditional dish. It’s an inventive yet simple preparation that calls for pureeing tofu for “custard” and using tortillas instead of pastry for the crust. Perfect for impressing guests at your next brunch!
4. Spring Crepes Three Ways
Crepes can give off the air of being too fancy to attempt at home, but with just a few ingredients and the handy how-to video embedded in the link, they go from eggy intimidation to easy-peasy vegan. Check out the blog’s instructions for the crepe “template” and, once made, fill ‘em up with one of the three sweet or savory suggestions (or your own favorite ingredients). Bonus: There’s a recipe for a yolk-less Hollandaise sauce!
5. Tofu Avocado Benedict
If you assumed that going vegan meant never being able to enjoy this quintessential brunch favorite again, The Sweet Life’s recipe will urge you to think again. Tofu replaces the egg, while a vegan take on Hollandaise gives the dish its familiar “Benedict-y” flavor. Take it a step further by topping the whole thing with sliced avocado for a pop of green color and healthy fat.
Photo: One-Ingredient Chef
6. (It Can’t Be!) Vegan Caesar Salad
The idea of making an anchovy-studded, cheese-and-egg-yolk-infused Caesar salad vegan seems inconceivable, but this whole-foods-filled version suggests otherwise. Satisfyingly salty Kalamata olives step in for the anchovies and blended cashews provide the creaminess of the missing yolks. Whisked together with other classic Caesar Salad ingredients, it’s now this blogger’s go-to salad dressing. Try it out and it could become yours, too!
7. Vegan Cobb Salad
Make lunchtime your most fun meal of the day with this vibrant, produce-packed Cobb Salad. Hearts of palm tossed with superfood turmeric make a clever imitation of chopped hard-boiled eggs; crisped tempeh mimics the savory bite of bacon bits; and mandarin oranges add a refreshingly juicy twist. Line them all up on a bed of spinach for a kaleidoscope of colors and nutrients.
8. Amazing Vegan “BLT”
Thinly sliced and marinated tofu masquerades wonderfully as bacon for a meat-free but still high-protein version of this deli classic. The rest of the recipe is nothing but an assembly job that comes together quickly and easily. Use whatever bread, lettuce, and tomato varieties you like best for a sandwich that’s forgiving and flexible, but still “soy, soy good” (Sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Photo: The Simple Veganista
9. Mashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Nothing beats a simple but satisfying sandwich for lunch, and this one, reminiscent of a brown-bag staple, more than fits the bill. Using chickpeas instead of chicken, the low-glycemic legumes are mashed with hummus or tahini, carrots and celery for a filling that’s part smooth, part crunchy. Lather a generous layer between slices of thick whole wheat bread for a hearty and super-tasty midday meal.
10. Vegan Avocado Melt with Coconut Bacon
Another effortless and fairly fast preparation for busy weekdays. Mashed avocado spread onto bread and then browned in a skillet not only gives this sandwich its “melty” factor, but racks up its nutritional profile as well with fiber, potassium, and skin-softening monounsaturated fats. The roasted red peppers this recipe calls for can be found in the pickle section of most grocery stores. Add some “coconut bacon” (essentially seasoned and toasted coconut flakes) for some crunch and added satiety. The result is unique, wholesome, and almost too pretty to eat!
11. Homemade Veggie Dogs
This blogger forgoes soy substitutes more commonly found in veggie dogs, opting instead for vital wheat gluten and flax (both found in the organic aisle) to serve as binding agents. Wheat gluten is 75 percent protein, so you can rest assured that your body won’t be missing the meat. Oatmeal, beans, and a variety of spices round out the ingredients for a tender yet substantial filler for your hot dog bun. All you need next is tickets to a baseball game.
Photo: The Vegan Road
12. Vegan Street Tacos
Take street food in a new direction with this vegan version of tacos. Fiber-filled black beans, cubes of lightly roasted butternut squash, and pico de gallo are folded into soft corn tortillas and topped with a tofu-based cilantro cream for a dollop of protein. It’s a colorful, powerfoods-loaded way to quench a craving, especially when food trucks are out of reach.
13. Eggplant Parmigiana with Cashew Ricotta
A popular stand-in for cheese, heart-healthy cashews go for a spin in the food processer to form the “ricotta” in this non-dairy eggplant parmigiana, giving the dish an uncanny resemblance to the look and flavor of the original. Make it in the summer when fiber-rich eggplant and vitamin-E-rich tomatoes are in their prime, or save it for a warming meal in colder months.
14. Vegan Lasagna with Basil Cashew Cheeze
Lasagna is a comfort food favorite for many, but with tiers of veggies nestled between the pasta sheets, this one is a winner in the nutrition department, too. The ever-reliable cashew steps in yet again for the cheese, this time infused with lemon and basil for even deeper flavor. Try crumbling in some pre-cooked veggie burgers (even better if they’re homemade!) between the layers, as the blogger suggests, for some extra protein.
15. New Age Vegan Pasta Carbonara
From the bacon to the peas to the silky texture, all the bases are covered for a classic Carbonara while keeping it vegan. Gluten-free penne and smoked, pan-fried tempeh (a meat-replacing soy protein) are swathed in a sauce built from cashew butter, tahini, and almond milk instead of Parmesan and eggs. It may even rival the original.
Photo: Vegan Yumminess
16. Mushroom Ravioli with Garlic Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Sautéed mushrooms make a meaty filling for this occasion-worthy ravioli dish, and are a welcome departure from cheese. (They also contain polysaccharides, which boost immune system function.) When the whole shebang is blanketed in a luxurious, coconut-milk-based sauce, there’s no missing the dairy here! Make an event of it by rolling out the pasta from scratch (the link includes step-by-step directions), or, if you’re in a pinch, spoon the mushroom mixture into store-bought pasta shells instead.
17. Dairy-Free Stuffed Shells
First, blend superfood spinach with calcium-rich tofu for a dose of iron, then gently pack the mix into jumbo conchiglie pasta. Slather with a tomato sauce that’s brimming with cholesterol-fighting lycopene and vitamins for optimal eye health, and these may just be the most nutritious stuffed shells out there. Don’t forget to flavor them up with plenty of inflammation-beating garlic for even more healthful tastiness!
18. Eggplant Bolognese
We love this awesome alternative to Bolognese so much that it’s the second time we’re featuring it! This version takes advantage of summer’s produce bounty, including eggplants and the “holy culinary trinity” of carrots, onions, and celery. Not feeling the sauce over pasta? Enjoy it atop brown rice, or amp up its protein content by serving it over quinoa.
19. General Tso’s “Chicken”
In the time it takes to pick up the phone, place an order, and wait for your delivery, you could whip up your own delicious Chinese food at home. Pieces of seitan act as the soy-free meat substitute here; they’re lightly dusted with ground sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast, then fried up and added to a sweet and slightly sour sauce to resemble the typical take-out meal. If General Tso actually existed, we’re thinking this could’ve turned him vegan too.
20. Vegan Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce
Firm tofu holds up impressively well in these herbivore-friendly enchiladas, which are accompanied by black beans and spinach for a multicolored trifecta of iron and fiber. Use whole-wheat wraps (or corn tortillas for gluten-free eaters) and top it all off with a homemade enchilada sauce that’s as easy as it is all-natural—it even contains a spoonful of cocoa powder for a kick of taste and antioxidants! Easily doubled for a crowd, this is a perfect party recipe.
Snacks and Apps
Photo: My Whole Food Life
21. Super Easy Vegan Nachos
No scary meat substitutes or processed cheeses here! These plant-based nachos are actually a wholesome option for snack time, stacking tomatoes, black beans, and corn onto baked tortillas. Drizzle them with a vegan sauce that looks as fluorescently yellow as the regular stuff, but is made with the natural goodness of cashews and B-vitamin-boasting nutritional yeast. We’d recommend taking the blogger up on her suggestion to serve these up with diced avocados for additional creaminess.
22. Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip
This blogger surprised even herself with how authentic her take on this bar food favorite tastes, despite ditching the mayo, cheese, and sour cream. A combination of almond milk and—you guessed it—cashews lends itself to a velvety, almost gratin-like consistency into which the artichokes and the spinach are gently mixed. Couple that with the knowledge that you’re getting a hefty dose of antioxidants in each serving, and it’s irresistible to scoop up a second helping of this dip.
23. Heart-Loving Stuffed Mushrooms
An old potluck standby, stuffed mushrooms get a nutritional makeover as tofu replaces cream cheese and chopped pecans sub in for the Parmesan topping. Both swaps increase the whole-foods factor while preserving the dish’s nostalgia-inducing flavor. Bake them up for a batch of miniature pre-dinner morsels that are tasty, not to mention pretty adorable.
Photo: Vegan Richa
24. Baked Jalapeno Poppers
It’s nutritional improvement enough that these poppers are baked instead of fried, and contain no eggs or dairy. But it doesn’t stop there—free of, corn, soy, and yeast, and including the option for gluten-free breadcrumbs to coat the jalapenos, a notoriously unhealthy appetizer is turned into one of the most allergy-aware recipes on this list. Pair them with the blogger’s dip recipe for a snack that’s as addictive as its non-vegan counterpart.
25. Cookie Dough Dip
We’ve all eaten cookie dough straight from the mixing bowl, salmonella be darned. But the best thing about vegan cookie dough is that there’s no risk of adverse effects from consuming raw egg. And while most cookie batters are baked into a final product, this one, as the blogger puts it, “you’re supposed to eat by the spoonful.” Better yet, by using chickpeas (don’t worry, you can’t tell!) and nut butter as its base, along with only a modest amount of sugar, this sweet treat provides a mid-afternoon fiber-and-protein-boost instead of a sugar high.
Photo: Life in Iowa
26. Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake
You read that right—cheesecake. It really can be made vegan! Unlike some other recipes, which can contain unrecognizable filling ingredients that make us squeamish, this one uses the trusty, no-bake combo of cashews and coconut cream. Don’t be afraid of the saturated fat in coconut; the lauric acid in coconut oil has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Swirl in some blueberries (Frozen works just as well as fresh!) for a gorgeous, purple-tinted “cheese” layer atop a traditional graham cracker crust that’s just waiting to be sliced into.
27. Cake Batter Milkshake
Few cravings are as strong as one for an old-fashioned milkshake—even vegans aren’t immune to it. Next time it strikes, go all out with this dairy-free, cake-batter-flavored version. Frozen bananas, coconut butter, and coconut milk combine to create that thick, spoonable texture and offer healthy fats for staying power. A splash of vanilla, a spattering of rainbow sprinkles (because let’s be honest, everything is better with sprinkles on top), and you’re on your way to slurp-tastic satisfaction.
The conventional espresso-soaked tiramisu may offer a quick pick-me-up, but the crash from all that sugar could end up compromising the coffee’s impact. This recipe turns to agave syrup rather than refined sweeteners, the heartiness of assorted nuts instead of ladyfingers for the cake layer, and a cashew/coconut milk mixture to take the place of mascarpone. Tiramisu is intended for dessert, but with ingredients like that, this one is healthy enough for breakfast!
Photo: Ruby / Half Full Travel
29. Four-Ingredient Chocolate Orange Mousse
Four little ingredients are all that stand between you and this luscious mousse. Antioxidant-packed dark chocolate (try for 60 percent or darker—remember, the bitterer, the better for your blood flow) and the brainpower-boosting powers of avocado are whipped with shavings of orange zest and a touch of non-dairy into a glossy, citrus-tinged concoction. With this in your repertoire, dessert is always a good idea.
30. Homemade Twinkies—The Healthy Version
They’ll bring back childhood memories, but these Twinkies are all grown up when it comes to what they’re made of. Wheat flour is traded in for spelt, a grain dense with iron, fiber, and phosphorous. Pipe the cakes with a banana-macadamia pastry cream and you’ve got yourself a sophisticated upgrade on a snack from the good old days.
31. Homemade Snickers Bars
Paying homage to a beloved candy bar, this vegan spin on Snickers looks strikingly like the real deal and contains all-natural ingredients to boot. Dates are an ideal replacement for the caramel; coconut oil and peanuts form the nougat; and the sticky, sweet, and chewy layers are encased in a thick coating of flavonoid-filled dark chocolate. Our mouths are watering just looking at the pictures.
Photo: Inspired Edibles
32. Homemade Orange Creamsicle Popsicles
In this registered nutritionist’s playful (and pretty!) update on a signature summer drink, coconut milk plays the starring role yet again—and why wouldn’t it? Its richness is perfect for achieving that fluffy-yet-silky ice cream consistency without the fuss of a machine. A burst of freshly squeezed, vitamin C-laden orange juice and a squirt of maple syrup provide a sunny sweetness without being cloying.
33. Vegan Oatmeal Cream Pies
Another retro treat is revisited in this recipe, where buttery Earth Balance (vegan “butter”) and powdered sugar create a vegan “cream” sandwiched between two chewy oatmeal cookies. Despite swapping in healthy whole-wheat flour and flaxseeds, these crème pies’ looks and taste stay true to the originals—people won’t be able to tell the difference!
It was once known as the diet of hippies and extreme animal lovers, but not anymore. Veganism is slowly becoming mainstream as professional bodybuilders and celebs from Mike Tyson to Bill Clinton — not to mention some normal folks — transition to the vegan lifestyle.
The vegan diet means eliminating all animal products on the plate. So most vegans steer clear of meat, dairy, eggs, and even honey. Some vegans are motivated by humanitarian concerns, but the vegan diet has some potential health benefits, too, like a reduced risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Craig, W.J, Mangels, A.R., American Dietetic Association. Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009;109(7):1266-82.. Still scared to try the V-word? We’ve rounded up 21 delicious substitutions that can help ease the blow.
1. Tofu (firm or extra firm): One of the most common substitutes for meat, tofu has a light, fluffy texture. Half a cup packs 10 grams of protein, about half the quantity of protein in the same amount of chicken. (So make sure to add some nuts or sesame seeds when replacing meat with tofu.) Tofu stars in a range of recipes, from vegan lasagna to this summer salsa dish, but there are a few cooking tips to keep in mind to avoid a tasteless meal.
2. Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan has almost as much protein and less fat than the same amount of ground beef. Even though seitan doesn’t pick up flavors as well as tofu, the texture is more meat-like. It’s a great replacement for meat in beef and chicken main dishes — try this vegan teriyaki recipe.
3. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): TVP doesn’t exactly sound appealing: It’s basically defatted soy flour (meaning the oils were removed during processing) that comes in the form of granules. But a lot of people find TVP quite tasty — and nutritious. It’s not only a good source of protein, but it’s also rich in fiber, a key nutrient for digestive health. And no need to forgo tacos and chili — TVP’s a great substitute for ground beef or ground turkey!
4. Tempeh: Tempeh is made from whole soybeans, meaning it has a pretty bumpy texture. The meat substitute is packed with protein (about 15 grams per half-cup serving), fiber, and all sorts of antioxidants. The next time a BLT craving hits, skip the bacon and opt instead for a “TLT.” (That’s tempeh, lettuce, and tomato.)
5. Chickpeas: Also known as Garbanzo beans, chickpeas are rich in protein (12 grams per cup) and folate, important for red blood cell production and proper brain function. Some great vegan chickpea choices include falafel and “Tu-no,” a vegan tuna recipe that may leave you free of the sea forever.
6. Nutritional Yeast: Another meat replacement that’s way more appetizing than it sounds, nutritional yeast is a good source of protein and vitamin B12. Plus it’s a good option for those watching their blood pressure, with about 9 mg of sodium per ounce compared to about 428 mg in the same amount of Parmesan cheese. Still dreaming of Parmesan-covered spaghetti? Sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for some cheesy flavor on pastas and in sauces, like mac and cheese!
7. Soy Cheese: For vegan cheese lovers, this food is almost like magic. Soy cheese melts, spreads and tastes like the real thing — without all the saturated fat! Use soy cheese in all traditional cheese dishes, like fancy fondue. But keep in mind soy cheese doesn’t usually provide as much protein or calcium as most types of milk cheese, so add some nuts or another protein source to a cheese-free meal. Abracadabra!
8. Soy Milk: One of the most common milk substitutes, soy milk is a nutritional superstar. Some brands pack protein, vitamin D, and 15 percent more calcium than skim milk. With its light taste, soy milk can replace cow’s milk in almost any dish — even doughnuts!
9. Rice Milk: Made from the liquid of ground rice, rice milk is a light-tasting, low-cholesterol alternative to cow’s milk, with about the same amount of calcium. Try it chilly in this ice cream recipe.
10. Almond Milk: Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is about equal in calories and even higher in healthy fats and antioxidants. This thick milk is great for baking goodies, like this marbled banana bread.
11. Hemp Milk: Yes, hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, marijuana’s cousins. But the high we get from drinking this stuff is from the awesome nutrients. Hemp milk is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. (But bones, beware: Hemp milk doesn’t have as much calcium as whole milk, so be sure to get extra calcium from other non-dairy sources.) Pour it on cereal or in a mocha latte for a delicious milk-free delicacy.
12. Oat Milk: Surprised to hear there’s such a thing as milk made with oats? Don’t be. Oat milk can improve hair and skin health and provide a ton of fiber and iron. It’s lighter in taste than cow’s milk, can replace milk in a variety of recipes, and anyone can make it! Try the cashew version for an extra kick.
13. Coconut Milk: Go cuckoo for coconut milk. This low-calorie liquid packs protein plus vitamins and minerals like magnesium, which aids the muscular system. (The only downside is coconut milk doesn’t have quite as much calcium as cow’s milk.) Coconut milk is great in creamy sauces, especially curry sauces.
14. Tofu (silken or soft): Just like an egg, tofu is a great source of protein. (A half-cup serving of tofu has 10 grams of protein; one large egg has 6 grams.) Tofu tastes great in heavy egg dishes like quiche and omelets. Or scramble tofu with some veggies for a nutritious breakfast.
15. Apple Sauce: Using unsweetened apple sauce in vegan baked foods is not only a creative way to replace eggs, but also cuts down on cholesterol. Use ¼-cup applesauce for every egg the recipe calls for, like in raspberry truffle brownies.
16. Flax Seeds: When it comes to baking, flax seeds are a great, if unexpected, substitute for eggs. The seeds turn baked goods from sweet treats into awesome sources of Omega-3 fats and fiber. Remember to ground the flax seeds or buy flaxseed meal before baking. (If not, prepare to eat some chunky muffins.) Then give this gingerbread flax muffin recipe a try.
17. Mashed Bananas: An egg and a banana might look pretty different, but they’re both great binding agents (the stuff that holds all the ingredients together). Use mashed banana as an alternative binding agent in different baking recipes for some potassium-rich cakes or chocolate chip muffins.
18. Coconut Butter: A nutritious, delicious butter alternative, coconut butter has absolutely no cholesterol. (Regular butter has about 33 milligrams per tablespoon.) Coconut butter’s also packed with nutrients that aid in brain function, immunity, and weight loss. Craving chocolate? Try this mouthwatering fudge recipe.
19. Soy Margarine: This spread might as well be called, “I can’t believe it’s not dairy!” Soy margarine’s as versatile as regular butter and tastes strikingly similar. And unlike regular butter, soy margarine contains no whey, lactose, or casein (all animal products). These crepes require soy margarine or another vegan spread.
20. Agave Syrup: Even though it’s made from the same plants responsible for tequila, agave syrup won’t give us that happy-hour buzz. Still, as a honey substitute, it doesn’t disappoint. Agave syrup is sweeter than sugar and thinner than honey — but it can also be filled with fructose and calories, so use it sparingly. Agave syrup’s a great sweetener for teas, juices, desserts, and dressings.
21. Maple Syrup: It’s the secret Aunt Jemimah’s kept for too long: Maple syrup is a great alternative to honey. It’s full of antioxidants, zinc, iron and potassium, nutrients that help boost heart health and the immune system. Plus it’s usually lower in sugar and calories than honey. And flapjacks won’t be the only treat doused in sweet goodness: Maple syrup can also replace honey as an oatmeal topping and even sweeten up blueberry pie.