Vegan recipes for the tofu-averse?
August 21, 2016 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I am a born-and-raised meat eater looking to cook up some tasty vegan meals. Difficulty: tofu/tempeh/fake-meats of various varieties freak me out.

My boyfriend is vegan, & I'd like to expand my arsenal of meals I can cook for the two of us that don't squick me out. Examples of very successful meals:
These portobello fajitas; this cashew cream pasta; and this kale and leek soup. Thanks!
posted by frizzle to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
These vegan enchiladas are marvelous, I've made them and an older version from the same site maybe a dozen times and they're always a hit. Oh She Glows has a good assortment of vegan eats that aren't based around fake meat, tofu, or tempeh.
Vegan Richa has a whole cookbook of amazing Indian food.
Post Punk Kitchen is also a good resource for veganized favorites. I don't think I've made a bad thing from their site.
30 minute coconut curry I make this or something like it a LOT.

Down the road, try giving tempeh another shot--it's great when cooked well and not fake-meaty at all!
posted by sonmi at 5:54 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Kenji at Serious Eats has a feature called The Vegan Experience, and it doesn't involve fake meats at all. There's tofu in some of the recipes, but I've found that if I cut it up into small cubes my vegan tofu-hating stepdaughter is ok with it.

I also make Kenji's Black Bean Burgers and sub vegan mayo, aquafaba for the egg (aquafaba is amazing, seriously) and no cheese... they're killer. I used to get some ground beef to make myself a hamburger when I was making these, but I prefer the bean burger.

But I might put some cheese on mine, maybe.
posted by Huck500 at 6:11 PM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm an omnivore who prefers non-meat recipes.
This is one of my all-time faves- Braised coconut spinach and chickpeas with lemon
If you can do the egg sub, these sweet potato veggie burgers would be vegan, and they're fantastic. I make double batches and freeze them without baking first, and then fry them up for dinner.
posted by quiet coyote at 6:15 PM on August 21, 2016

You are from Texas, right? :-) My two closest Texan expatriates are really weird about texture, and mushrooms / tofu freak them right out.

Could you explain "squick me out" in more detail. Taste? Texture? Smell? Color? Ethics?

Tofu has 1000 varieties, all of which are different from Tempeh, so it's not clear what you are trying to avoid.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:19 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I make this Berbere lentil stew every few weeks. But I make it easier by using two teaspoons of this premade Berbere spice mix instead of mixing the spices myself (I love this mix and also give it as gifts). I don't have a high tolerance for heat, so I use half as much of the spice as they say to.

Once you free yourself from the idea that you need to replace the meat with something that seems meat like (e.g., tofu, fake meat, tempeh), vegan cooking allows for a lot of creativity and also some super simple meals. One of my favorites is mashed potatoes and asparagus.
posted by FencingGal at 6:22 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you don't like tofu but still want to get protein, perhaps look into doing things with beans and lentils? I make a lot of fried rice, and you can often throw in beans/lentils in place of the meat, as long as you add a little something extra for flavour.

As for a recipe: I love Minimalist Baker's grillable veggie burgers. Super easy to make, and quite convincing as a "burger."
posted by stellarc at 6:24 PM on August 21, 2016

Do you want the easiest recipe ever?

Sliced mushrooms
Bag of baby greens or washed spinach/swiss chard/other greens you like, roughly chopped.
Olive Oil
Slivered Almonds
Salt & Pepper

Put the Garlic in the Olive Oil in a wide pan and heat until fragrant. Crank up the heat. Sauté the Mushrooms, get them a little browned. Slide them into a serving bowl. Wilt the greens in the same pan, salt lightly, toss with tongs. Throw the mushrooms back in the pan and toss to mix. Sprinkle with some Slivered Almonds.

Slide it back onto the serving plate. Sprinkle on some more Almonds. S & P.

Sometimes I add Chia Seeds.

It's vegan. It's simple. It's delicious. Enjoy.
posted by jbenben at 6:36 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I keep posting this recipe but it's only because it's so so good and simple to make. Pair with crusty bread.

Red Lentil Soup with Greens

1 1/4 cups red lentils
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds or anise seeds
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 tablespoons grated, peeled ginger root
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
4 cups rinsed, drained, and chopped fresh mustard greens, Swiss chard, or spinach (swiss chard makes the prettiest soup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
Rinse the lentils and drain. In a soup pot, bring 5 cups of water, the lentils, and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the lentils cook, warm the oil in a saucepan on medium heat, add the black mustard seeds, and cover until they pop. Stir in the fennel (or anise), red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the greens and the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens are just wilted. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

When the lentils are soft, stir in the greens and coconut milk mixture and add salt to taste.
posted by charmedimsure at 6:37 PM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Are there particular flavors or types of ingredients you're more interested in? One pot meals, spicy, high or low carb...?

Mujaddara has a million variations and can be adapted as a main or as a part of a meal with, say, hummus and pita bread, grape leaves, tomato/cucumber/onion/sumac salad, grilled eggplant with a lemon tahini sauce, or any combination of the above. Also great: this lentil recipe, which is forgiving of many substitutions (I use bagged spinach and loads more garlic.)

Also good with rice and topped with avocado: the best black beans (but I again triple the garlic or so and simmer it for hours until it thickens.)

There are a lot of excellent cuisines with vegan options: Thai, Turkish, Ethiopian, Indian, Persian-- loads of excellent options and I hope you find some great options.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:49 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been getting really into the lentil/walnut combination for a while now, which is particularly good as a vegan taco filling. Oh She Glows has a recipe, but I generally just toast a cup of walnuts and food process them with an equal amount of cooked lentils, soy sauce and taco seasonings to taste (my taco mix is chile powder, cumin, oregano and cayenne, but the premade should work fine). It is RIDICULOUS good and you can change the amount you pulse depending if you want a crunchier/smoother texture (especially if the meat sub thing is partially a texture thing?)

I will note though that I love tofu as a food in itself even as I am squicked out by its use as a meat substitute (tofu dogs? Ew. Panfried tofu? Yes please!) So as you're poking around, if you're willing to experiment, simple recipes like this dengaku or cold tofu might surprise you.
posted by theweasel at 7:48 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My favorite food is ratatouille. Just google, and you'll find a hundred great recipes. But basically, stew with tomatoes, eggplant, and any other vegetables you like. Eat it by itself or serve on top of a grain.

Also, look into various ethnic foods. Cultures that make a lot of curries and stews tend to be either vegan or easily made vegan. Indian and Ethiopian are my favorites. But tons of cultures eat very little meat or dairy, and so are easily vegan.
posted by decathecting at 9:14 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, the Everyday Yellow Dal recipe on this page from the Smitten Kitchen website is a standard in my non-vegan household (I'm pescetarian and my husband is an omnivore who prefers meat). Pretty simple, freezes well, great over rice and even better on the second day.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2016

Some of my favorites.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:05 PM on August 21, 2016

Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant stew. Similar to ratatouille but much faster to make.
posted by neushoorn at 1:19 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just made these yesterday. They were delicious!
I started a vegetarian diet two weeks ago (and will be keeping it for the next year as part of a more mindful approach to life after stress), and I'm exploring international cuisines both online and in cookbooks. The Guardian's food and drink section is good for inspiration. Italian, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking are all very inspiring, and with plenty of legumes and leafy greens I don't see a need for meat substitutes. I agree with the posters above about aubergines/eggplants, for stews, they give a lot of the mouthfeel and umami you would otherwise get from meat. The other day I cooked lasagna with aubergine instead of beef and all my omnivore guests really loved it (I don't know how one would make a vegan lasagna, but someone here probably does).

About tofu: I really don't like any of those products either, but recently I had freshly made tofu for the first time, and it was a whole different beast - if you live near a tofu manufacturing place, you might give the fresh product a try.
posted by mumimor at 3:11 AM on August 22, 2016

Our family favorite is a delicious, protein-packed, inexpensive and highly customizable Quinoa Bake.

You can customize the veggies and spices to make it Italian (oregano and basil), Greek (lemon and oregano), Moroccan (Ras El Hanout), Japanese (soy, miso), etc.

Crispy Quinoa Bake


1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups stock
1 cup onion, diced (about 1 medium)
1//2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup zucchini, cubed (about 2 small)
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4 ounce can diced green chiles
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup corn
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 lime, juiced

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse throughly with cool water for at least two minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for about one minute. The quinoa should begin to dry out and pop a bit. Add the stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and zucchini and cook 3 more minutes.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large bowl or you can just throw it all into your baking pan. Add onion mixture, beans, green chiles, tomatoes, corn, cumin, oregano, chili powder, lime juice, and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly and transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake 30 minutes.

You can go nuts customizing this with more veggies, red lentils or whatever you want. But I like it because you can make a batch of it and eat it all week long. And there's nothing in there that pretends to be meat.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:12 AM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Gingery coconut stew is incredibly good. Probably more a winter food, if you're in the northern hemisphere.

Sweet potato and black beans are a great combo in mexican style food.
posted by kjs4 at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2016

I love the Isa Does It cookbook, and have made a ton of stuff from there. She definitely has a lot of recipes with tofu, tempeh and seitan, but there are plenty without as well. Some favourites from the book (and you may find some of these on the author's Post Punk Kitchen site):

Harira with Eggplant and chickpeas
Sweet Potato & Red Curry Soup with Rice and Purple Kale
Cheddary Broccoli Soup
Dragon Noodle Salad
Greek diner salad
Korean portobello burgers
Everyday pad thai (this has tofu, but you could add mushrooms or something instead)
Queso blanco

Other vegan things I enjoy making:

Trini style roti
Vegan sushi
posted by backwards guitar at 5:55 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Forks Over Knives web site, cookbooks, and app avoid tofu and similar products due to their high fat/low fiber content, and focus instead on recipes featuring beans, legumes, whole grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and greens, all prepared without oil (another high fat/low fiber product). You can check out a number of their recipes for free on the linked web page. Tofu is sometimes found in a very small minority of their recipes; for example, as an ingredient in nondairy sour cream, but you can avoid those recipes if you don't care for it. These are the China Study /Engine 2 Diet folk--additional terms to use if you are searching for recipes.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2016

Fall isn't complete for me without this butternut squash and black bean chili. So keep that in mind for a couple months from now.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2016

I was also coming in to recommend Serious Eats' Vegan Experience. In particular, this recipe for eggplant and lentils. It's particularly spectacular over brown rice.

Also, lay out $5 for the Forks Over Knives app. Lots of great vegan recipes that eschew meat substitutes and other processed foods.
posted by slogger at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2016

Does seitan bother you? A lot of meat-lovers seem to take to it better than tofu and tempeh because it's fibrous like muscle meats. You can buy it in stores or even make your own from wheat gluten (we make a batch per week in our bread machine).

Otherwise, start with familiar foods that just happen to be vegan and don't use tofu, tempeh, etc. There's a tremendous variety of traditional meals that happen to be vegan, especially from the Indian / SE Asian culinary regions. We use the hell out of Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen. I've recently met my Japanese-French neighbors who have me loving making nasu dengaku (miso-glazed baked/broiled eggplant), and we've made a big ratatouille a couple times this summer.

And the Post Punk Kitchen website is an excellent resource.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:16 AM on August 22, 2016

I grew up eating tofu in an Asian context where 99% of the time it's cooked with meat or seafood. And I find it delicious, despite disliking seitan and tempeh and being meh about many Western preparations of tofu (e.g. "grilled tofu"--so boring and not comparable to meat). So, I'm clearly biased, but I suggest that you try out some Asian recipes where tofu is used as a vegetable rather than a "meat," and try different varieties of tofu like extra-soft (texture is more like a smooth custard), extra-firm tofu curd sliced thin and stir-fried, or tofu skin simmered in a red-braise with potatoes/daikon radish.
posted by serelliya at 11:45 AM on August 22, 2016

I love, love , love the complex flavors and simplicity of Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Food and Afro-Vegan cookbooks. Get one or the other or both and try one or two appealing recipes. And when in doubt, look to the African-American vegan movement for inspiration.

Also, if you're close to a Vietnamese, Thai, or pan-Asian grocery, get some canned green jackfruit (look for jackfruit in brine). You can shred the canned chunks like you would chicken, then throw it in a pan with BBQ or any other sauce, let it simmer for 20 minutes, and voilà! You've got a passable imitation of pulled pork. Serve on a bun with daiya cheese and vegan mayo and go to town.
posted by inky_the_pinky at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2016

Some of my fav meaty-but-not-soy recipes include:
Jackfruit "Tuna" Salad
Oyster Mushroom "Pulled Pork"
Walnut Meatballs

Also, you don't say what squicks you out about fake meats but I have concerns myself about soy protein isolate and vital wheat gluten in large quantities. That said, tofu, soymilk, and tempeh have been consumed by people for thousands of years with no ill effect, so are really not a health issue. And there are some great recipes out there -- here's a "chorizo" filling that is unrecognizable as tofu and will knock your socks off.

Others are giving great recipe advice, but I'll also add Donna Klein's cookbooks, which focus on traditional Mediterranean dishes that happen to be vegan (she never mentions tofu at all).
posted by veery at 5:51 PM on August 25, 2016

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