Vegan Caramel Sauce

By Yummy Smellsca on

Link to Vegan Caramel Sauce recipe

GV comments: It's tough to find the right vegan caramel sauce: one that does not require refined sugar (the white kind filtered through animal bone char). There are wonderful recipes for date-based caramel sauces, but to me they work best in raw desserts or with sliced apples. This recipe is closer to classic caramel sauce. 

Timing: About 15 minutes

Affordability: A couple of bucks!

Nutrition: Mostly sugar, with a tablespoon of vegan sugar, so not good for you. 



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Tex-Mex-Style Soft and Chewy Flour Tortillas

Tex-Mex-Style Soft and Chewy Flour Tortillas.jpg

GV comments: Not long ago I was an hour away from dinner and realized I'd forgotten to buy flour tortillas for my Gracious Vegan Vegetable Fajitas. Instead of making a round trip to the store, I decided to try out a recipe for homemade flour tortillas, which always taste better anyway. My internet search quickly surfaced a recipe from Serious Eats that sounded exactly what I was looking for--soft and chewy. I was amazed at how easy the recipe was. There's much more time letting the balls sit than there is hands-on time. Next time I'm going to try using half whole wheat pastry flour. Of course I used vegetable shortening (I use Spectrum brand) instead of lard. These are worth the small effort, and your friends and family will be impressed!

Timing: About 45 minutes, including the time the balls have to sit

Affordability: Super inexpensive -- your purchase of shortening will last a long time.

Nutrition: If you use half whole wheat flour it will help. Otherwise it is mostly processed foods (flour and shortening).

I have not tried this with gluten-free flour.

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Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan

By the New York Times

Link to Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan recipe.

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GV comments: This is a great way to make eggplant Parmesan -- skip the breading and frying. For a long time I've found that broiling eggplant slices is the healthiest and tastiest way to enjoy eggplant. Jamie Oliver puts that approach together with a tomato sauce bursting with fresh basil, with thin layers of Parmesan cheese and a top layer of breadcrumbs and oregano. I use vegan Parmesan, of course. Here are three recipes for vegan Parmesan to choose from. This is a wonderful cold-weather casserole that warms and satisfies. 

Timing:  Total just under 2 hours, including baking

Affordability: Under $10 total

Nutrition: If you use vegan Parmesan, then the oil is the only processed ingredient. I use at most half of the quantities he calls for and it still tastes divine.

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free breadcrumbs

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Vegan Parmesan

By “Yup, It’s Vegan,” Minimalist Baker, and Vegan Richa

Link to "Yup, It's Vegan"'s Parmesan recipe.

Link to Minimalist Baker's Vegan Parmesan recipe.

Link to Vegan Richa's Vegan Parmesan recipe.

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GV comments: I don't have an absolute favorite vegan Parmesan recipe, so I provided three choices. "Yup, It's Vegan" uses hemp seeds as the base. Minimalist Baker calls for raw cashews. Vegan Richa provides a list of nuts and seeds that you might experiment with. They all call for a similar proportion of base-to-nutritional yeast, but you can increase it to taste (I've seen recipes that call for twice as much as these recipes do). Vegan Richa adds spicing beyond salt and garlic powder, and I like what she does, but, again, you might want to try one or more of these recipes to find your favorite. It is wonderful to have vegan Parmesan for recipes and for sprinkling on pasta dishes. The great part about it is that it's whole-food, unprocessed, with lower fat than regular Parmesan. Buon Appetito!

Timing: About 5 minutes. Hooray!

Affordability: Under $5 total

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed


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Pumpkin Tiramisu

By Chef Chloe

Link to Pumpkin Tiramisu recipe.

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GV comments: This is an impressive looking and delicious dessert. It will be hard for your eaters to believe it's vegan. The vanilla cake is a solid recipe in and of itself--only improved by inundation by the espresso soak. But the pumpkin creme is quite divine and will make people forget about pumpkin pie. This was a hit when I made it for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. I have so many great dessert recipes that I have to rotate them. 

Timing: Over 2 hours because of chilling the pumpkin creme. 

Affordability: If you don't have amaretto or instant espresso powder, this one will make more than a blip on the grocery/liquor bill. Probably over $15, at least the first time you make it. Then a lot less the subsequent times.

Nutrition: Only the pumpkin puree is whole food unprocessed. Otherwise very desserty -- i.e., fat and refined ingredients. 

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free flour in the cake

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Pasta With Rich and Hearty Mushroom Bolognese

By Serious Eats

Link to Pasta With Rich and Hearty Mushroom Bolognese recipe. 

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GV comments: This is an extra special way to make a pasta sauce. The textures and flavors of roasted eggplant and sauteed mushrooms merge with tomatoes, red wine, and a dozen other ingredients, plus an hour of simmering time, to create a rich and richly textured sauce for pasta. If you have the time and inclination for undertaking this, you will be richly rewarded. 

Timing: Just over 2 hours

Affordability: Probably between $10 and $15 total

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed, except for the olive oil (I don't use as much as they suggest)

Gluten-free: if you use gluten-free pasta

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Ooey-Gooey Baked Ziti

On One Green Planet

Link to Ooey-Gooey Baked Ziti recipe.

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GV comments: This dish mimics traditional dairy-based baked ziti well, and, as such, might be an excellent dish to serve to meat-eaters who are willing to try plant-based food. I like that the filling isn't just plain tofu -- there are a lots of other flavors added to give it depth. The marinara is simple but tasty. With a green salad and some roasted broccoli or carrots on the side, this makes a fantastic dinner. 

Timing: About 90 minutes total, including the 15 minutes of rest at the end.

Affordability: Between $10 and $15 total

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed, except for the vegan cheeses and refined-flour pasta (unless you use whole-grain) 

Gluten-free: if you use gluten-free pasta

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Vegan Manicotti with Spinach Ricotta

By Ordinary Vegan

Link to Vegan Manicotti with Spinach Ricotta recipe.

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GV comments: This is a great way to make manicotti -- use lasagna noodles and roll them up! That's so much easier than trying to stuff filling into a wobbly wet noodle tube. The filling is made not just from tofu and spinach but lots of spices, other vegetables, and nutritional yeast as well, so it's super-flavorful. And the tomato sauce is rich and tasty, so much better than jarred sauce. This is a great dish for omnivores who like traditional stuffed manicotti but who want to try vegan food, since everything looks and tastes so much the same. 

Timing: About 90 minutes

Affordability: Around $10 total

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed. If you skip the oil and if you use whole grain noodles, it would go to 100% whole-food unprocessed.

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free noodles.


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Mushroom Soup With Cashew Cream

Featured on PopSugar

Link to Mushroom Soup With Cashew Cream recipe.

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GV comments: I look long and hard, high and low, for a great vegan mushroom soup recipe. It's hard to get the right creamy texture. Cashew cream is definitely the way to go (rather than non-dairy milk). I also like the use of dried porcini mushrooms for their earthy depth. I'm not a big fan of oyster mushrooms and others with strong flavors, so I stick to button, cremini, and portabella. 

This makes massive amounts. Even a half-recipe serves 6 comfortably. I also skip the oil and soften the onions in the microwave instead. Because of the cashews, there is still a ton of richness to the texture. 

Timing: You have to soak the raw cashews for at least 4 hours. Once that's done, it's 45-60 minutes to make the soup, including vegetable prep.

Affordability: Given all the mushrooms, it's likely to be close to $15 total.

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed (if you leave out the oil, then it is 100% whole-food unprocessed)


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Vegan Tempeh Reubens

By Vegetarian Times

Link to Vegan Tempeh Reubens recipe.

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GV comments: What screams "Reuben" in a Reuben sandwich is the combination of rye bread, sauerkraut, and salty cheese. So vegans can substitute tempeh for corned beef and vegan cheese for dairy cheese, and you still get that scream. I love this recipe because it boils the tempeh in a rich oniony, galicky, soy broth, so you get a depth of flavor from the tempeh layer of the sandwich--it's not just filling up space.  

Timing: About 45 minutes, including cooling time for the tempeh, but you could make the tempeh the day before or earlier in the day, then the sandwiches would come together in less than 15 minutes at dinnertime.

Affordability: Maybe around $10, given you need tempeh and rye bread.

Nutrition: With vegan mayo, ketchup, and cheese, this isn't whole-food unprocessed. Look for whole-grain rye bread (many are made with refined rye flour, and some have refined wheat flour mixed it).

Rye has gluten.

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Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce

By Mark Bittman

Link to Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce recipe.

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GV comments: This recipe offers the best of two approaches. Authentic falafels are made with soaked but uncooked chickpeas, and Mr. Bittman reproduces that here. But authentic falafels are deep-fried, and I don't deep-fry at home for health and safety reasons (I almost started a kitchen fire once). The only downside to this recipe is that the chickpeas have to soak for 24 hours to get them nice and soft. But pre-planning is a small price to pay for this ingenious solution to homemade falafel. 

I prefer tahini sauce with lemon juice and garlic added, not just tahini and water. Mr. Bittman uses just tahini and water. 

Timing: 24 hours to soak the chickpeas, then about 15 minutes to prepare, then about 30 minutes in the oven. 

Affordability: Under $10 total

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed except for the oil.


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Vegan Sloppy Joes

By Hell Yeah It's Vegan

Link to Vegan Sloppy Joes recipe.

Vegan Sloppy Joes.jpg

GV comments: Sloppy Joes were served every Thursday in our elementary school cafeteria. Although my mom packed our lunches every day, we sometimes got to buy our lunches on Thursdays. Sloppy Joes are now a bit old-fashioned, and made from beef they're not very healthy, but I still like vegan versions of the sandwich. The sweet/salty/spicy combination is winning, and if you get good-tasting buns, the texture is fun in your mouth. I like this version using textured vegetable protein (TVP), because I think tofu- and lentil-based versions are too mushy. You could go for frozen meat-like crumbles, but TVP is so much less expensive, and the results are the same by the time you add the sauce. If you're under 40, serve these to your older relatives and make them smile.

Timing: 35-40 minutes, including prepping the vegetables

Affordability: Very affordable--under $5 total

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed (TVP is processed, as is oil, although you could microwave or water-saute the onions and peppers)

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free buns

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Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup

By Madhur Jaffrey on the Food Network site

Link to Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup recipe.

GV comments: I discovered this recipe many years ago when I borrowed one of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks from a friend. I have loved this soup ever since. It takes a bit of vegetable peeling and prepping, but the results are worth it. (Here is an easy version of mulligatawny by Jaffrey, but it's based mostly on legumes, while this one is almost all vegetables.)

I don't use a teaspoon of black peppercorns: way too spicy for me. I use a scant 1/2 teaspoon. Just beware... 

The preface to the recipe says that a quarter-cup of red lentils can be added to the recipe--sounds good.

The recipe says to blend the soup and then put it through a coarse sieve if desired. I just use an immersion blender right in the soup pot; I don't put it through a sieve.  

Doubling this and having it all week is a good way to make it worth the time and effort.

Timing: Around an hour and a half, including 50 minutes of cooking

Affordability: Less than $10

Nutrition: Except for the coconut milk, it's entirely whole-food unprocessed.


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Oven Baked Vegetarian Samosas

By Sharon123 on

Link to Oven Baked Vegetarian Samosas recipe.

Oven Baked Vegetarian Samosas.jpg

GV comments: Samosas and pakoras are my favorite Indian restaurant appetizers, and they make great side dishes with a curry for a home dinner. I don't deep-fry at my house (almost started a kitchen fire the only time I tried it...), and I endorse a minimal-oil approach to cooking. Luckly baking works really well for samosas.

Making the outer dough from scratch takes a lot of time and, to me, the taste isn't that much better than shortcuts. This recipe calls for using store-bought pie crust. I prefer (vegan) spring roll wrappers, phyllo dough, or puff pastry. The good thing is that the filling is completely cooked, so when you are baking them you only have to worry about browning the crust to the right degree. I don't use an egg white on the crust, of course. If you want them shiny, you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of cold water, then mix in another 1/2 cup of water, then microwave for 1-2 minutes or until thick. 

You can even avoid the 1 tablespoon of oil in this recipe by microwaving or water-sautéing your vegetables. Otherwise I love the spicing and proportions of this recipe, and it's worked really well for me.

Timing: About 45 minutes

Affordability: Under $10 total

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food (white flour and, if you use it, oil are the culprits here)

Gluten-free, if you use a gluten-free pie crust for the outer shells

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Zucchini Bhaji

By Maple Spice

Link to Zucchini Bhaji recipe.

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GV comments: These hand-held fritters are very much like pakoras, only larger and baked. If you aren't an Indian food fan (yet), you may not know that pakoras are scrumptious deep-fried morsels of vegetables, spices, and chickpea flour offered as appetizers in almost every Indian restaurant in the U.S. I was amazed after I tried this recipe that I got the same essence and joy as from the restaurant appetizers. It helps to have tamarind or mango chutney to slather on top. These make a great meal with a curry and rice. 

Timing: About 45 minutes

Affordability: Around $5

Nutrition: Almost entirely whole-food, except for the coconut oil


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Homemade Vegan Vietnamese Pho

By the Viet Vegan

Link to Homemade Vegan Vietnamese Pho recipe.

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GV comments: I have yet to try this recipe, but it looks the most authentic of the vegan recipes I've found. 

Timing: She says it takes 2 hours

Affordability: There are some specialized ingredients, so likely in the $10-15 range

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed except for the noodles are made from white rice flour, not brown rice flour


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Vegan Pad Thai

By Kim Campbell (PlantPure Nation) on

Vegan Pad Thai.jpg

Link to Vegan Pad Thai recipe.

GV comments: Kim Campbell is an exceptionally talented recipe creator. All of her recipes are whole-food unprocessed, but they don't taste like they are, unlike many "healthy" recipes. This one is Exhibit A. This Pad Thai is incredibly tasty, but you don't miss the oil that most Pad Thai recipes use a lot of. It's full of vegetables, but no single vegetable dominates. The balance is fantastic.

Timing: About an hour, but you could do the prep a day or more ahead of time and need less than 30 minutes right before dinner.

Affordability: Around $10 total

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Gluten-free can be accomplished with her substitutes

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Vegan Mu Shu Vegetables

By Food52

Link to Vegan Mu Shu Vegetables recipe

Vegan Mu Shu Vegetables.jpg

GV comments: I adore mu shu vegetables, although I'm never sure how to spell the name (moo shu? moo shoo?). The hoisin sauce is the critical element--that sweet, fermented, spicy (not too spicy), salty combination creates a depth that makes these truly satisfying. I remember ordering mu shu vegetables all the time in the 1990s at The Bean Curd restaurant in Chatham, NJ. They were delish, but half the enjoyment came from watching the waiter make them in front of our eyes so quickly with a spoon in each hand.

Timing: with the vegetable prep, a little over 30 minutes. If the vegetables are already prepped, then likely only around 20 minutes.

Affordability: Less than $10

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed (especially if you use whole grain tortillas); otherwise it's just the oil that keeps it from being 100% whole-food

Not gluten-free because the hoisin sauce may be made from regular soy sauce. 

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Cashew Ricotta Cheese

By The Simple Veganista

Link to Cashew Ricotta Cheese recipe.

GV comments: This ricotta-like cashew cheese features a rich mingling of sharpness (from vinegar), cheesiness (from nutritional yeast), and garlic/onion. It takes only a few minutes to create in the blender (after a couple of hours soaking the cashews), and you're ready to use it. I like to use it on pizza and in vegan lasagna, baked ziti, or other casseroles. It gets slightly darker than dairy ricotta when cooked, but the taste is excellent. 

Timing: Less than 10 minutes (after you soak the cashews for a couple of hours)

Affordability: Should be around $5, depending on cashew prices

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed


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New York-Style Pizza Sauce

By Serious Eats

Link to New York-Style Pizza Sauce recipe

GV comments: I lived in New Jersey for over 30 years and now realize how incredible the pizza is there and in the rest of the "pizza belt" (from Philly through New Jersey to New York City and up to Boston). Nineteenth-century Italian immigrants brought pizza from Italy to the east coast, and the tradition has stuck. Elsewhere in the U.S. the tradition got compromised or diluted. Even without cheese or with vegan cheese, this sauce on a good homemade crust, with perhaps a few roasted vegetables, is incredibly delicious. This takes very little effort and is worth the time. I like to use canned San Marzano tomatoes. I use vegan butter instead of dairy butter, and it works well. 

Timing: About an hour and 10 minutes (10 minutes is the active time; the rest is simmering and reducing time)

Affordability: Very affordable; less than $5 total, unless you have to pay a lot for the basil sprigs.

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed (except for the oil and butter)



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