When you’re raised eating animal products, there are certain food items and recipes that naturally become familiar and comforting diet staples.
For me, one of those items was definitely cheese and all the yummy recipes that you can create with its gooey goodness. In fact, cheese was the last and hardest thing for me to decide to give up. But once I made the decision I realized how amazingly easy it is to get along in life without cheese. I joyfully discovered lots of tasty non-dairy alternatives.
I really did not experience any strong cravings for animal products until I was pregnant. –An experience that often entailed feelings of just wanting to eat everything in sight.
Luckily my husband Dave helped me practice restraint while at the same time helping me satisfy all those weird desires. It was during pregnancy that we began to purchase store-bought cheese like Daiya and Follow Your Heart because grilled cheese sandwiches was one of my cravings. I also had random craving for hotdogs, corndogs and donuts.
So the following list is a roundup of common craving and some good plant-based alternatives.
Let’s start with my favorite category.
Cheese, Cheese and More Cheese Please
As I mentioned, there are all types of cheese substitutes available to meet your cravings. When I first became vegan one of the most thrilling discoveries I made was raw ricotta cheese made with macadamia nuts. It was in a recipe for raw lasagna that Dave and I created on a date night.
Our next big discovery was nacho cheese made from raw cashews. We initially found this product on store shelves, but were curious to see if we could make it at home. We found a simple recipe online and, after a few minor modifications, now this in regular rotation.
Later we tried a nacho cheese recipe made from carrots and potatoes. It’s a cheaper way to create the recipe, but the results are slightly different. I felt it was more of a cheese sauce that would be good for covering vegetables like broccoli.
Nutritional yeast, an ingredient in both of these recipes, is a staple in our pantry as a nutrient dense and slightly cheesy tasting supplement that can be sprinkled on everything from pasta to popcorn. Read more about it here.
We absolutely prefer making cheese at home with simple plant-based ingredients. Here are some more ideas via OneGreenPlanet.org that you can explore with other varieties of cheese.
Pizza Makes My Heart Go Pitter Patter
Pizza, one of the first traditional dishes I explored sans cheese, is also why I was initially hesitant to give up this dairy product.
As a bread and veggie lover, I can honestly eat pizza every single day. There are so many varieties. As a matter of fact, my husband and I had vegan collard green pizza on one of our first dates.
I just want to assure everyone that pizza can still be loved and enjoyed, whether cheese-free or with a non-dairy alternative. We have been grateful to find many restaurants that are accommodating to our requests to hold the cheese, butter and Parmesan.
It’s also very easy to throw pizzas together at home. For a super quick fix we like to pick up fresh dough from Whole Foods, they also have some in the frozen section. I have seen dough in the refrigerated section of Trader Joes, but haven’t tried it yet.
If you desire something meaty on your pizza we suggest veggie crumbles, sun dried tomatoes, or portabella mushrooms. There are also assortments of substitutes you can find on store shelves.
Here are some recipes to get you started: Ultimate Vegan Pizza Guide via FreeFromHeaven.com.
Burgers: Let Me Count The Ways
Burgers are a regular rotation in our household’s daily menus. We enjoy making our own patties and trying out store-bought brands. We recently tried a product called Beyond Meat. Since I was never really into beef products I wasn’t really excited about its resemblance to an actual beef patty, but I think it would be a great option for anyone who is into recreating that experience.
When it comes to veggie burgers the options are quite impressive, I’ll bet you could plan a month’s menu of veggie burgers of different varieties if you’re into burgers like that. I love burgers and sandwiches so I just may be down for that challenge! Here’s some recipes from Foodgawker.com to show you the sky is the limit.
Barbecue — Go Ahead Fire Up The Grill
BBQ lovers rejoice with me, you can still enjoy a cookout with a plant-based menu. There are so many delicious options you can throw on the grill to satisfy your taste for a savory smoked meal.
My personal favorites are grilled portabella, corn and eggplant. However, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. For hamburgers and hotdogs you can throw any plant-based items on the grill, add your favorite toppings and get the same mouth-watering results. There’s also pulled pork BBQ sandwiches made with jackfruit, veggie kabobs, potato salad and plant-based sausages.
When you get ready to plan your next BBQ meal or fiesta, check out some of these vegan barbecue ideas.
The good news is that chocolate (cocao) is in itself vegan – it’s all the added ingredients that can make a chocolate product nonvegan. We love using raw cocao powder and cocoa nibs to make chocolate smoothies. Dark chocolate usually does not contain milk – but always read your ingredients when you’re shopping. If you’re looking for a good milk chocolate Enjoy Life Foods makes a creamy bar made with rice milk. My personal favorite is the Boom CHOCO Boom Ricemilk Crunch Chocolate bar. Enjoy Life also makes a variety of chocolate that’s perfect for your vegan baking needs.
Here’s some more information on vegan chocolate options.
Southern Fried Chicken
When I first became a veggie this was one of the main products I used to shop around for substitutes. I was the queen of Boca and Morningstar Farm patties. (*This was many moons ago before I began to deeply read and understand ingredients.)
However, now I know that you can enjoy less processed plant-based alternatives like cauliflower. One of our favorite items to make is cauliflower nuggets. We love the chicken fried califlower nuggets the best, but there are also delicious “buffalo wing” versions.
How about you?
What have you been craving? Need help finding a plant-based alternative? Leave us your questions and thoughts in the comment section below.