A plant-based diet is rich in healthy ingredients like whole grains, produce, nuts, legumes and soy. A vegan diet excludes all animals and animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, honey and gelatin. It's easy to go vegan when the recipes taste as good as these do. It's entirely possible to enjoy a vegan diet and also reap the benefits of some absolutely exceptional flavor. If you're planning to go vegan, stock up on versatile ingredients like jackfruit, avocados, coconut oil, and nut milks.
Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos
This flavorful fiesta-on-a-plate involves an unlikely main ingredient: fruit! Jackfruit is an extremely versatile ingredient because it absorbs and takes on the flavors of spices and other ingredients incredibly well, which helps lend these tacos their authentic flair. The fruit itself is pale in color and has a flaky, meaty texture, which makes it the perfect meat substitute for a vegetarian or vegan dinner option so everyone can enjoy it.
A range of textures--crunchy peas, tender vegetables, and silky coconut broth--makes this cool-weather main incredibly satisfying. The chickpea mixture can also be a delicious gluten-free snack: After baking, toss with a little kosher salt, ground cumin, and ground red pepper.
Millet Amaranth Buddha BowlsImagine a classic Asian-style rice bowl, but with a risotto-like blend of millet and amaranth as the base. At Vital Root in Denver, chef-owner Justin Cucci tops the grains with loads of vegetables and tofu, then drizzles on a silky tahini sauce.
White Bean and Jackfruit Chili
The jackfruit brings a great texture while the supporting flavors lend an unforgettable quality that simply proves that a meatless chili can be very satisfying.
Tahiree Vegetable and Rice Casserole
This ancient dish traces its roots to India's Kayastha community, who developed it as a unique variation of biryani. In tahiree, rice and other elements cook together, while biryani rice is cooked separately and then layered with meat and vegetables. Saran uses Royal Chef's Secret basmati--available at Asian markets--because it has the longest grain. He fluffs gently with a carving fork to keep grains intact.
Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
Featuring cranberries, wild rice, toasted pecans, and scallions, this salad is full of fall flavor.
Indian Chopped Salad
Combining chopped vegetables with lime juice, ground cumin, and other seasonings give this Indian-style salad a unique flavor.
Quinoa Salad with Apples, Almonds and Dried Cranberries
Toss quinoa with diced apples, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries and serve with a large lettuce leaf.
Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash
Coat acorn squash slices with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, and paprika before roasting them until tender.
Cashew-Lime Cilantro Hummus"Invited to a party at the last minute, I invented this hummus from what I had on hand," says reader Maria August, of Boulder. "To my surprise, I liked it better than the traditional tahini version." Serve with fresh-cut vegetables, such as jicama, carrot, red pepper, and celery sticks.
Grits with Creamed Cashews"I tell people to use true grits, rather than polenta," says Oakland cookbook writer Bryant Terry, author of The Inspired Vegan, because he likes the grits' coarser texture. "I also prefer yellow grits for both color and flavor."
Barbecue Slawpy Jacks
This hearty vegan entrée is essentially a cross between a sloppy Joe and a barbecue sandwich and a creative way for vegans this traditional classic.
Eggplant Involtini with Grilled RatatouilleFaux cheeses made with nuts are key to vegan cooking. To stuff these involtini, chef Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley re-creates the flavor of ricotta by combining pureed raw cashews with nutritional yeast, which has a very savory, almost cheese-like flavor and is available at well-stocked specialty and natural food stores.
Can't-Believe-It's-Vegan ChiliThis dish is sure to make it into your regular rotation: completely satisfying chili that cooks in a fraction of the time it takes to make traditional meat chili. This recipe makes plenty; freeze leftovers for up to three months. Vegan sausage varies widely in taste and texture; we liked the meatiness and mild heat of the Field Roast brand, Mexican Chipotle flavor.
Farfalle with Artichokes, Peppers, and AlmondsGround almonds take the place of pasta's usual parmesan, making this a good vegan choice. Trim raw artichokes down to the very tender hearts and slice them quite thin, so they're crisp but not chewy.
Red Lentil SoupSoupCycle in Portland, Oregon, offers soups with wacky names ranging from Flemish Farm (a vegan take on French onion soup) to Who Framed Ginger Rabbit (carrot soup with ginger). Owners Jed Lazar and Shauna Lambert call this lentil soup Pot of For Goodness Sake! because the ingredients are so healthy.
One-Pan RatatouilleThis classic vegetable stew is simple to make and loaded with nutrients like Vitamins C and A, potassium, fiber, and folate. You can serve it over pasta, polenta, or bread to create a hearty, complete meal in one bowl.
Pad Thai with TofuIt's easy to eat your vegetables when you feast on this popular Thai dish. Light coconut milk, tofu, and peanuts add plenty of protein while bean sprouts, carrots and green onions top flavored noodles for extra crunch and flavor.
Rye and Butternut Squash DressingCube the bread a day or two ahead and leave it out on the counter to dry, so it will fully absorb the flavors of the dressing. (If you forget, you can dry it in a 375° oven for a few minutes.) For a moister dressing, use the larger amount of broth. This makes a good main dish for vegans (use kosher rye, which excludes dairy).
Portobello FritesThis spin on the bistro staple steak frites offers plenty of umami satisfaction in the form of juicy, meaty portobello mushrooms and a savory wine sauce. Finishing the sauce with a touch of vegan butter gives it luxurious and velvety consistency.
Quinoa and Brown Rice Bowl with Vegetables and Tahini"While in Los Angeles filming the second season of Top Chef Just Desserts last year, I discovered Café Gratitude, a vegan café with a cult following," Gail Simmons says. "For me, its fresh, simple food was the perfect antidote to all that sugar. I became addicted to aptly named dishes like I Am Fortified—a bowl of whole grains with lots of cooked vegetables. When I got back to New York, I developed my own version."
Grilled Polenta and Radicchio with Balsamic DrizzleChef Ryan Poli of the soon-to-open Tavernita in Chicago became interested in vegan cooking because his girlfriend follows a mostly vegan diet. "It was difficult to cook for her at home," he says. "I couldn't just open the fridge and make something. I had to really think." This relatively simple dish of grilled polenta and radicchio proves it's possible to create something deeply delicious, substantial and vegan with just a handful of ingredients.
Grilled Baby Eggplants with Green Onion SalsaIf you can't find the type of eggplant we used, go for small, slender Japanese eggplants instead.
Tofu MarsalaFor a vegan twist on the traditional marsala, substitute tofu for chicken. Thyme, bay leaves, and black peppercorns create a rich and aromatic sauce while green onions and fresh parsley add a burst of color and flavor.
Black Bean TacosFill these vegan tacos with black beans and seitan (wheat gluten) for a generous dose of protein and fiber. Seitan has a chewy, meat-like texture and can be found in health food stores or Asian markets. Top the tacos with tangy avocado salsa for a zesty kick.
Open-Faced Falafel BurgersA falafel is a Middle-Eastern specialty made by deep-frying ground chickpea patties. This recipe cuts the fat by pan-frying the patties in a small amount of oil. Serve the burgers open-faced on a pita, top with veggies and drizzle with the tangy sauce.
Hummus-Veggie Sandwich on Whole GrainHummus, veggies, and a hint of garlic and lemon are a sandwich lover's dream. Hummus-Veggie Sandwich on Whole Grain is hearty and satisfying, and a cool break during a day on the beach.
Veggie Burgers with Pomegranate KetchupEating vegan for a month led Richard Blais to examine his pantry more closely. He discovered that ground porcini mushrooms add a meaty flavor to dishes like his veggie burger.
Marinara Sauce Over RotiniCapers add a tangy boost to this quick and easy marinara sauce. Use any shape pasta and finish off the meal with a side salad and warm bread.
Vegetarian West African SoupA long-time staple in the Middle East, the chickpea, also known as the garbanzo bean, is a great source of protein and is easy on your budget. Peanuts and sweet potatoes pack this dish with fiber and Vitamin E creating a nutritious and flavorful meal.
Coconut Pan-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sesame SeedsVirgin coconut oil is unrefined and cold-pressed, like extra-virgin olive oil, and isn't hydrogenated. It has a clean, slightly nutty taste that's delicious in this dish. Deborah Madison, who adapted this recipe from one in a new revision of her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (1997), likes to use a mix of sweet potatoes, but it's fine to go with just one kind. Paler sweet potatoes tend to be drier, so if you use them, add more oil.
Slow-Cooker Veggie ChiliThis comforting classic warms you up and curbs your hunger with fiber-and protein-rich beans. Instead of using 4 cans of the same beans, mix and match pinto, red kidney, great Northern, and black beans to give this chili even more variety. Finish with fresh chopped green onions and a dash of hot sauce for a flavor boost.
Bow Tie Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Capers, and BasilMake use of garden fresh tomatoes and basil with this Mediterranean-inspired pasta dish. Serve warm with a crisp side salad and garlic bread or chill and enjoy at an afternoon picnic.
Carrot "Tabbouleh"Fresh carrots stand in for bulgur in this no-cook, gluten-free side dish. You can use white wine vinegar in place of lemon juice.
Spicy Asparagus-Tempeh Stir-FryA heart-healthy and protein-rich alternative to meat, tempeh is a soy cake that's made by fermenting and pressing cooked soybeans. Its chewy consistency is complemented by the crunchy asparagus while red pepper flakes add heat.
Hummus and Grilled-Zucchini PizzasPrepared hummus that comes with a scoop of chopped garlic on top (like the kind sold by Sabra) is the secret here: The garlic gets mixed with oil to marinate the zucchini, while the remaining garlic and hummus flavor the whole pizza.
Quick Vegetarian PaellaThis Spanish classic is simple to prepare and easily doubled to serve a crowd. Artichokes, bell peppers, mushrooms and olives cooked with nutty brown rice make this a hearty one dish meal. The blend of exotic spices including saffron and tumeric give an extra special flavor.
Lentil-Edamame StewDouble the protein and get more bang for your buck by combining two types of legumes, lentils and soy beans. Both are inexpensive sources of protein that are commonly used in many exotic cuisines. A variety of fresh herbs and spices adds a deep, rich flavor.
Two-Tone Potato SaladPickled onions and cucumber relish add a tangy kick to Emilee Gettle's blue-and-gold potato salad. Because she and Jere Gettle don't eat eggs, they opt for vegan mayonnaise.
Billy's Vegan Egg RollsBilly Ngo, now chef at Kru, a Japanese restaurant in Sacramento, shared this dish inspired by his previous restaurant, Red Lotus. He deep-fries these, but at home it's easier to brush them with oil and bake them until they're crisp. If you're short on time, you could buy plum sauce instead of making the vinegar-pink peppercorn sauce.
Spiced Lemon QuinoaBack home in South India, Sunset reader Kavita Aiyar's mom made traditional lemon rice scattered with channa dal (a yellow, lentil-like legume). At her home in Silicon Valley, Kavita cooks quinoa instead of rice and adds spinach or other greens, "basically California-izing it," she says. She suggests split peas instead of the dal because they're easier to find. You can serve the recipe as a side dish or a vegan entrée.
Nutty Almond-Sesame Red QuinoaWe love the color and texture of red quinoa, but regular quinoa also works well.
Peanut-Broccoli Stir-fryStir-fry is an easy go-to meal option for vegans because of its versatility. Create a new recipe each time you cook simply by combining different vegetables or throwing in extras like tofu and nuts.
Chunky Vegetarian ChiliIt's no wonder why our readers love this recipe. Not only is it a fiber-rich alternative for vegans, it's so flavorful and hearty that even meat-eaters enjoy it. The juicy tomatoes, bell peppers, and spices pack in tons of flavor.
Curried Red Kidney Beans and Cauliflower (Rajma Masala)This Indian-inspired curried bean dish makes for a hearty vegetarian meal, especially when served with a helping of brown rice. The red kidney beans boast a host of nutritional benefits; the ginger helps your body make the most of those benefits.
Roasted Whole CarrotsRoasting carrots whole makes the prep easier and also offers a pretty presentation.
Marinated Tofu with Sticky Rice and AsparagusWho needs steak? Tofu can have just as much flavor with the right seasoning. Brown sugar and hoisin sauce add a bold sweetness to the thick, barbeque-like marinade. Even though the word "hoisin" translates to "seafood" in Mandarin, this sauce is made from sweet potatoes and does not contain fish.
Mixed Vegetable and Farro SoupEataly's vegetable counter specializes in vegan dishes—specifically, vegan dishes that people might not suspect are vegan. One is this thick, hearty soup made with a colorful mix of carrots, peas, leek and onion. Mario Batali also adds borlotti beans and farro, which make the soup hearty enough to be a main course. The crunchy grissini on the side aren't vegan; they're sweetened with honey.
Stir-Fried Vegetables and TofuUnlike traditional stir-fry dishes, this one uses white wine to bring out the flavors of the vegetables. The mushrooms, carrots and squash are great sources of vitamins, fiber, and potassium and combined with tofu, make for a nutritious and filling meal.
Tofu with Red Curry Paste, Peas, and Yellow TomatoesThe red curry paste adds a punch of heat to this dish but you can add more or less depending on your preference. Serve on a bed of long grain or jasmine rice and finish with a squeeze of lime. The tartness of the lime juice contrasts nicely with the heat of the curry.
Chili Garlic BroccoliniChili garlic sauce can be found on the international aisle of most supermarkets. Add to stir-fries or marinades, stir into ketchup for a spicy kick, or top scrambled eggs.
Chilled Corn SoupThis recipe for chilled corn soup yields an incredibly sumptuous, velvety concoction—but it’s vegan—and nearly fat-free—and uses one of summer's best and cheapest vegetables. Use corn at the peak of freshness as this simple preparation will highlight corn’s natural sweetness.
Orange-Jicama SaladJicama offers a hearty crunch while orange slices balance out a sweetness to this great side dish.
Carrot Osso BucoIn Richard Blais's playful vegan take on osso buco (braised veal shanks), he braises very large pieces of carrots in red wine and mushroom broth until tender. Ground dried porcini mushrooms give the dish rich, meaty flavor.