Delicious vegan meals are easier than you think

The one thing I am constantly asked is: “Priyanka, how can I regularly cook vegan meals at home?”

At first, this question frustrated me because I thought, “Why does everyone find it so difficult to cook vegan? I mean, what’s so hard about eating vegetables? »

But as I grew older, wiser, and more patient, I realized that upbringing, environment, and culture play a huge role when it comes to a person’s perspective on food. For example, I was born and raised in New York, but as a first-generation Indian-American, my perspective on food is heavily influenced by my Indian roots and the fact that I have traveled about 40 countries.

I leverage my culture and life experiences to create a broad perspective on food and develop original vegan recipes. So, to anyone who asks me now, I say eating vegetables is a lot easier (and tastier) than you might imagine.

As a self-taught vegan and sustainable chef, here are my top tips for making your kitchen vegan, eco-friendly and tasty.

Spice up Your Life

If I had a megaphone, this would be the first thing I would shout: Use whole, dried spices in your food – it’s the easiest way to literally make anything taste amazing. You can cook with whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, chili peppers…the list goes on.

Whole dried spices are bursting with natural oils, flavors and textures. Adding your favorite vegetables to a pan with hot oil, whole spices, salt and a little garlic will make a perfect stir-fry. Many spices also have natural medicinal properties, including fennel, turmeric and mustard seeds.

Don’t always try to imitate meat

Imitation meat has flooded the vegan market in recent years. While I wholeheartedly support these products and efforts, which are created with sustainability in mind, I don’t think you should constantly use fake meat to make a healthy meal. Having grown up as a pure vegetarian, I can tell you that the possibilities for vegan cooking are endless. If you need something “meaty” to chew on, consider a whole eggplant blistered in a miso glaze; a cauliflower steak marinated in turmeric; or a falafel pita if you fancy a hearty sandwich.

Use leafy greens in sauces

Some of my favorite pasta sauces are made with vegetables, including one of my most popular recipes – spinach and jalapeno pesto. Sauces are a great way to cook and eat leafy greens, which are high in fiber, iron and other essential nutrients. The key is to blanch your greens for two to three minutes first, place them in an ice bath, and toss them with your favorite aromatics, such as garlic, onion, chili, and lemon.

Texture is key

Double-textured spicy puffy eggplant in a peanut sauce.

Monotonous dishes are boring and will not satisfy complex palates. Texture is a huge reason why people won’t miss meat, so make sure your dishes have a variety of styles. For example, if you’re making a softer or fluffier dish, consider garnishing it with chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or a sprinkle of pomegranate for a bit of crunch.

Buy local

Buying local means you’re supporting the community and getting seasonal produce. It’s better for both the environment and our bodies, as seasonal produce tends to be more nutrient-dense and tastier, too. Shopping at farmers’ markets can also help inspire recipe and dish ideas, as they provide an opportunity to talk to local producers who know best how to use their delicious produce.

Get creative with leftovers

I’m that person who wraps food in restaurants, even the leftovers from the bread basket. Why? Because the majority of wasted food ends up in landfills, producing harmful methane gas.

Packing up leftovers can help alleviate this problem and even a little effort makes a difference. Better yet, leftovers can be turned into tasty options – blend leftover white rice in a food processor with beans, spices and potatoes to make a healthy burger, or turn leftover pasta into a pizza frittata in a hot nonstick skillet.

Incorporate superfoods

Superfoods are incredibly powerful, not only for your body, but also in recipes. Cashews, for example, when soaked, soften and can be tossed into a creamy, dreamy sauce. The same goes for a variety of nuts and seeds (sunflower seed butter, anyone?). Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and when frozen they can be mixed with frozen bananas to create a sweet and flavorful cream. So go ahead and turn your kitchen into creative vegan cuisine.

Priyanka Naik is a self-taught Indian vegan chef, Food Network Champion, Quibi Dismantled winner, television personality and author of The Modern Tiffin. She has concocted a bespoke vegan and sustainable menu for W Maldives, which will be available until October 2023

Updated: October 31, 2022, 04:05