There are many misconceptions surrounding vegan eating. Some the diet is too expensive (which is false) or lacking in vital nutrients like protein (also false). Others claim that veganism is just too darn restrictive. The truth is that, with a few clever recipes and pantry staples in tow, vegans can enjoy a variety of nutrient-packed meals that are simple to make and surprisingly budget-friendly. In fact, it’s easy to create a multi-course dinner without meat or dairy—and we promise you won’t miss either. From apps and mains to sides and dessert, here’s what you need to know for pulling off a world-class vegan meal.
What Is Vegan?
Not to be confused with vegetarianism, veganism is a diet and lifestyle in which you abstain from eating or using all animal-based products. This belief extends to dairy, eggs, and all animal byproducts. Some vegans even avoid using animal-derived clothing items (like those made of leather) and beauty and personal care products that may include animal-based ingredients. Learn more here.
Vegan Cooking Tips
There’s more to eating vegan than chowing down on salads day after day. Here are a few key tips to get the most out of every meal.
- Plant-based protein is a must! Opt for high-protein grains like farro, legumes like lentils, or seeds like quinoa for more well-rounded dishes.
- Choose non-dairy alternatives. Think almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, cashew milk, and cashew cheese.
- Stock up on nuts. They make it easy to add crunch, texture, and more protein to just about anything.
- A can of beans can add up to a lot. Not only do beans add extra nutrients to a meal, but they can help thicken both sweet and savory recipes (even smoothies).
- Oil trumps butter. Skip the dairy and get a dose of healthy fat with olive, coconut, or macadamia oil.
Vegan Eating 101
What’s vegan and what’s not? Here’s a quick rundown.
Is honey vegan?
This topic is a bit controversial, but strict vegans generally avoid honey since it’s produced by bees.
Is ketchup vegan?
Yes. This coveted tomato-based condiment is vegan-approved.
Is soy sauce vegan?
Yes. Soy sauce is allowed on a vegan diet.
Is beer vegan?
Most beer, made with hops, barley, yeast, and water, is vegan. However some beers include finings for clarity, an ingredient that can include animal byproducts like gelatin. So you might want to do your research on your favorite beers. (This site keeps a running list of many vegan-friendly breweries.)
Is hummus vegan?
Most often, yes. Traditionally, hummus only includes garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, so it fits the vegan diet.
Is pasta vegan?
Usually. Dried pasta that’s made with semolina and whole wheat flour is vegan, but fresh pastas often have eggs added to the dough.
Is peanut butter vegan?
Yes (as are most nut butters). Check the ingredients to make sure the product is just a mixture of peanuts, oil, and salt, without any dairy-based items.
Is dark chocolate vegan?
Most dark chocolate is vegan, but you’ll need to check the ingredient list to make sure milk and/or whey have not been added.
Vegan Cooking Staples
Keep these pantry essentials on hand for easy vegan meal prep.
Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk
Rich in fiber and minerals, our organic coconut milk adds creaminess to sweet or savory dishes without dairy.
Whether you use it to stir-fry veggies or add it into smoothies, you’ll get tons of use from this multitasking must-have. Each jar is crafted in Southeast Asia where fresh coconuts are cold-pressed immediately after harvesting and never bleached, refined, or deodorized.
Perfect for adding a nutrient boost to breads, pancakes, cookies, and cakes, this finely ground flour is made from whole almonds with the skin on and nothing else.
Want the salty flavor of soy sauce without the soy? This coconut-derived condiment is gluten-free, low-glycemic, and pairs perfectly with veggies, grain bowls, or your favorite tofu marinades.
Get a whopping 7 grams of protein without artificial dyes, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup in every jar of this creamy almond butter, which is made with just one ingredient: organic almonds.
This egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free dressing isn’t missing a thing in terms of taste. In fact, it’s full of flavor—and a healthy dose of omegas thanks to fatty acid–rich avocado oil.
No meat? No dairy? No problem! These vegan recipes won’t leave anyone hungry.
Start your meal off on a high note with vegan small bites and shareable plates.
Start your next dinner party with this show-stopping, Mediterranean-themed platter of stuffed grape leaves, artichoke hearts, quinoa tabbouleh, and creamy hummus.
Fan of finger foods? Try this easy app, in which you combine chili lime jackfruit with shirataki noodles and roll it all together in rice wrappers.
Give tofu a fresh spin by baking it in sesame oil and dunking the crispy morsels in a sweet and pungent tahini dipping sauce.
These are “nacho” ordinary chips! Instead, this vegan take on the Mexican classic drizzles baked kale chips with spicy cashew queso and tops it all off with diced avocado, tomatoes, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Get the party with a cheese plate (yes, cheese!). This dairy-free log spreads has a texture similar to goat cheese but is made of cashews, probiotic powder, lemon juice, and sea salt. It’s animal-free and has the perfect tang.
Vegan Dinner Recipes
Five plant-based main courses that don’t skimp on flavor.
Comforting and hearty, this creamy vegan pasta will get forks twirling with a medley of cremini mushrooms, marinara, fresh rosemary, diced onion, and garlic.
This raw version of ravioli sandwiches soft cashew cream cheese in thinly sliced beets for a unique and sophisticated Italian dish.
You don’t need meat to make this retro favorite delicious. Our vegan version is nutrient-packed thanks to seasoned onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and walnuts.
Little ones and adults alike will love this non-dairy mac and cheese in which chickpea shells are topped with a creamy cashew-based cheese sauce and chopped broccoli.
This sweet and savory meal piles meaty jackfruit and a tropical salsa of mango, pineapple, and jalapeño over a bed of fluffy basmati rice.
These supporting players are so good, they almost steal the show.
This Thai-inspired side coats ribbons of carrots and cucumber in sesame oil, ginger, and nut butter for a crisp and refreshing bite.
This crunchy combo will earn big praise and couldn’t be more simple. Just toss together shaved Brussels sprouts, radicchio, dried cherries, and mixed seeds.
Enjoy the sweet and spicy flavor of wings sans chicken with this cauliflower alternative, made with sriracha, ginger, and apricot jam.
Here’s a multi-textured salad that’s easy to make and easy on the eyes. The combination of tri-colored quinoa, cilantro, dried cranberries, almonds, and zucchini adds a pop of color to your table.
We’re sweet on these vegan treats. (Psst: Find even more vegan desserts here.)
This chocolate bark has bite thanks to goji berries, cranberries, almonds, pecans, and a fermented superfood boost from maca powder.
This decadent chocolate cake holds a surprising secret: The luscious buttercream frosting is made from ripe avocados rather than butter for a moist, rich texture without dairy.
This five-ingredient ice cream combines a few of our favorite loves into one icy-sweet dish. Just blend cold brew coffee with banana, ground coffee, coconut cream, and sea salt and leave it to set in the freezer.
Vegan and Paleo-friendly, this confection comes together with cassava flour, coconut sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, carrots, raisins, and shredded coconut and is finished off with a rich, cashew-based cream cheese frosting.