Vegan cookbooks or websites for the Eastern European palate
April 18, 2019 2:09 PM   Subscribe

For health reasons, my in laws need to change to vegan / Mediterranean diet like yesterday. These are folks who are used to schnitzel, potatoes, soups with mayonnaise and sour cream. Help me find some resources (books / websites) that will be easily adopted. Nothing adventurous or with novel ingredients.

Just like it says. They know how to make salads, roast vegetable side dishes and so on.

But what for the main course? Something hearty, familiar, filling but not a fussy recipe, no intimidating ingredients (eg. quinoa, special flours, or uncommon substitutions - even if to you or me it’s not terribly new). Lentils, chickpeas and beans are great. Asian style or curries are not familiar to them. My MIL is a great cook but her repertoire is heart heavy and salty. Thanks for your wisdom metafilter.
posted by St. Peepsburg to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I like Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Not all the recipes are vegan, but many are with small changes.
posted by TORunner at 2:28 PM on April 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I used to have a vegetarian Greek Orthodox cookbook- which made me think, what's the cultural significance of that? Probably obvious to some, but a quick google showed me that the connection between orthodoxy and vegetarian or vegan eating is... Lent! This is just one of the first resources that came up, but there are several useful ideas and search terms in here that might get you started down a specifically eastern european palate path.
posted by Secretariat at 2:57 PM on April 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I got rid of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone when I went vegan because there were so few vegan recipes. I found the statement in the book that most of the recipes work for vegans completely untrue. And there’s no point in buying a vegetarian cookbook when you really want to go vegan, especially as there are so many great truly vegan cookbooks.

A vegan diet is not in itself healthful. What they probably want would be called “whole food, plant-based,” which is also very low in fat and processed foods. Are they following something like Dr. Esselstynn’s diet for reversing heart disease or the Forks Over Knives plan? Recipes that are just vegan will often not follow those guidelines and can be very high in fat and sugar. The Impossible burger is delicious, but it is not a good choice for people trying to reverse heart disease or diabetes.

I find John and Mary McDougall’s cookbooks the best for unadventurous palates. They have a lot of recipes at, which is also a good source in general. Dr. McDougall is a big fan of potatoes. The Forks Over Knives website is also good, as is the Forks Over Knives cookbook. is also a good source for recipes. has lots of general info and recipes.

I moved toward this diet for a long time before I was able to really follow it, and I will be happy to answer questions. One thing that’s important to know is that it takes a while for your palate to adjust. It’s very normal to dislike food so low in fat at first, but your taste really does change and you come to prefer it. Also, the health benefits can be amazing. Feeling better is a great incentive. If they can swing it financially, attending Dr. McDougall’s 10-day program would be a great idea, but it is very expensive.
posted by FencingGal at 3:36 PM on April 18, 2019 [11 favorites]

The Veganomicon covers a lot of these bases, though there will probably still be some unfamiliar ingredients such as nutritional yeast. It's taught me a lot of the basic substitutions and ingredient combos.

(and I hear that Isa Chandra Moskowitz's newer cookbooks are fantastic as well)
posted by runehog at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2019

I agree that many Isa Chandra recipes are for this type of food but I also agree with a lot of what FencingGal says -- that "vegan" is not by necessity "healthful". Also, Isa Chandra mixes a lot of different types of food in her books. If your in-laws aren't great at taking what fits and leaving out what doesn't, I'm not sure about her books generally (which I love! And have suggested more than once on vegan questions here).
posted by freezer cake at 3:44 PM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Most of Eastern Europe had a fasting period during winter, often for religious reasons. Look for “postni” or “posni recepti” (for Lent, for Eastern Orthodox types. Lots of beans, basically). <- not in a cookbook, but online. Although if a Lenten cookbook existed that would be helpful (and it might!)!
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:48 PM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are they vegan and following the Mediterranean diet? If they're okay with dairy still, greek yogurt can substitute for sour cream.
Cauliflower is a popular potato substitute, and many on Metafilter sing the gospel of mashed rutabaga instead of mashed potatoes.
posted by devrim at 3:49 PM on April 18, 2019

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen is a collection of recipes from around the region that happen to contain no animal products, and was a hit when older family members had to change diet to address high cholesterol. Some of those recipes are still in regular rotation after decades. My grandma even came around to them after a couple tries!
posted by momus_window at 4:02 PM on April 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry if this isn't useful, but my dad had to adjust his diet in a similar fashion. We didn't go full vegan.

First we looked at things that he liked already. Herring isn't vegan, but it is good for a lot of different patients. He enjoyed herring so he had it in all forms. A healthy form is baking the fish "en papillote", in paper. Frying herring is a pest, but I did it sometimes. He also had marinated herring on rye bread.
Another thing he enjoyed was rice and curry. What he liked were creamy curries with pork or chicken, not at all Asian. I changed it into Thai inspired vegetable curries with coconut milk instead of cream, and he liked it just fine, that was actually the biggest succes when it came to changing his ways. He also liked pasta and was used to casseroles with bacon or chicken and lots of cheese, I made lighter dishes where I turned steamed vegs into the pasta before serving. There were many of them. Not least different raviolis. But I did use some cheese.
Soups are a huge part of Central and Eastern European cooking and it is no big deal to take away the meat. They are filling and lovely. You can also go Italian here and make different minestrones. At least that worked just fine with my dad. To be honest, he could have lived on different bortschs and minestrones. With good whole wheat bread on the side.
Then I'd make stuffed bell peppers, which I hate, but he loved, and Imam biyildi, which is stuffed eggplant, there are many different recipes, so you can find one that suits your family. Also spanakopita, which you can make with tofu if you are vegan.
Because he was a very disciplined person, my dad taught himself to like salad as a main, so I made variation on Salade Nicoise. Crostini with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and garlic might be a thing, both tomatoes and garlic are food old people should be eating.

What I learnt was that even though there was an adaption period, he just really loved that I was there and cooking for him. It doesn't look like that is what you are doing, but maybe you can get together as a family for some trial dinners, where you introduce the new recipes.
posted by mumimor at 4:22 PM on April 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

I can't think of a standalone book or source that would be all things to their tastes and needs, but Google is my favorite food research tool. Many talented home cooks have retranslated almost every traditional recipe under the sun to fit the vegan diet. You might have luck just googling something your MiL might normally cook ("Vegan [ recipe name ]") to see what comes up, or include an ingredient you're looking for in the search term (eg, Bulgur Cabbage Rolls).
posted by missmobtown at 4:31 PM on April 18, 2019

Reiterating that vegan stuff can be just as unhealthy, and what you really need to do is balance fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber, and adding that this recipe is basically fried stuff:

Vegan chickpea cutlets

This is pretty close to schnitzel for a vegan recipe, and it is really good.

This is from a source (cookbook and people both) that has a lot of recipes that kind of get close to this aesthetic, so it might be worthwhile to mine that site.
posted by amtho at 5:02 PM on April 18, 2019

Chloe Coscarelli has an Italian cookbook that I've had success with.

Not a huge fan of most of her recipes, but I love Minimalist Baker's Mediterranean Sweet Potatoes
posted by backwards guitar at 5:12 PM on April 18, 2019

Lots of vegan options in our Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health cookbook. Of course there is a Borscht, though Bulgarian Lentil and Vegetable Stew and our “Kale Stew” is actually Mushroom, Peanut, Tofu Stew with Greens. Tofu is not essential, we’ve substituted sausage. It’s a good cookbook to “try” tofu as it has some simple baked recipes. There are many Mediterranean options like Polenta domes with garlicky greens, too.
posted by childofTethys at 6:00 PM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check out Vegan Alchemist, I follow the page on Facebook but I'm sure it's on other social media as well. They do some veganized Czech recipes so at least it's a jumping off point.
Also cauliflower breaded like schnitzels is really delicious. Maybe not the healthiest choice but definitely healthier than meat schnitzel.
posted by bluebelle at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2019

You might check out The Vilna Vegetarian, which is a cookbook from a famous vegetarian restaurant in Eastern Europe. There will still be some dairy, but probably a lot that can be made/adapted to be vegan.
posted by brookeb at 8:03 PM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

A lentil loaf with lots of gravy with a side of mashed potatoes and greens would be a great starter meal for them. This magical loaf generator works well and is really fun. I think it would also allow them to begin with familiar ingredients for their first few loaves and then branch out gradually from there.

I love Isa Chandra Moskowitz but Veganomicon is a little advanced so I recommend Isa Does It instead which is a bit simpler.

Finally my favourite very quick and easy meal is to boil whole wheat pasta together with veg like broccoli, kale, peas, asparagus...then serve with black olives and a simple homemade pesto with fresh basil (nutritional yeast substitutes for the cheese). I know it has a "weird" ingredient but It's so easy and delicious it might convert them plus the nutritional yeast contains b12 which they will need.

And by the way, Oatly Barista is excellent in coffee if they drink that.
posted by hazyjane at 10:50 PM on April 18, 2019

I've never had them myself but I've always been fascinated that Karelian pasties don't appear to contain meat in general, but are filled with potato or whole-grain mixtures based on their Wikipedia description, so I wonder if there are vegan versions. (Karelia being a Finnish-speaking region currently split between the territories of Finland and Russia.)

Though come to think of it I guess they might sort of be a larger version of the dumpling-like pierogi of Central and Eastern Europe, often also filled with vegetable-centric ingredients. I've got some onion-filled ones in my freezer right now, though theses particular supermarket-bought ones are probably not vegan. (Glancing at the ingredients list, they contain eggs.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:51 PM on April 18, 2019

Wow - 'The Vilna Vegetarian' could make a good item over on the blue side of Metafilter
posted by BinaryApe at 11:55 PM on April 18, 2019

One of my favorite dishes my grandparents used to make when I was a kid is sauerkraut and meatballs, always served with potatoes. When I went vegan for about a year, I discovered Gardein Meatless meatballs and it turned out they went great with sauerkraut. Just pop the meatballs and sauerkraut in a pan and cook til the meatballs heat through. I serve it with vegan mashed potatoes and applesauce and it does a decent job of satisfying that craving for German food.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:57 AM on April 19, 2019

I love the idea of the Vilna Vegetarian (I'm half Lithuanian), but I looked through as many recipes as Amazon would let me online, and it really doesn't look good for vegans. Every single recipe I looked at relied hugely on eggs, usually in large amounts, and those can be very hard to substitute if you're new at this - and even if you aren't. It seems like it would be a great read and it's obviously historically important, but if you're looking to change to a vegan diet for health reasons, it's probably not a good choice. The recipes also appear to be very high in fat. I think these recipes will have all the same problems you're trying to get away from with the dietary change. To make them healthful, you'll need to do a lot of changes and substitutions, and that doesn't sound like what you're looking for this early in the game.

In my experience, cookbooks that are vegetarian but said to be also good for vegans usually aren't.
posted by FencingGal at 6:32 AM on April 19, 2019

Have they been ordered to go vegan or have they been urged to lower their intake of cholesterol? You can eat a fairly low cholesterol and low sodium diet that still includes some dairy, some meat, some fish. Before you get all worried about what they can eat maybe you need to figure out what exactly their doctors have recommended.

I may be even older than your in-laws and have dealt with this. I've never heard of a doctor telling anyone to all of a sudden to go vegan.
posted by mareli at 9:24 AM on April 19, 2019

Vegan Sandra is Estonian, and I think a lot of her recipes might fit the bill.
posted by gueneverey at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of vegan options in our Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health cookbook.

Moosewood also has its "International" book Sundays at Moosewood, which definitely has an Eastern European section. There is also a "Jewish" section which skews mostly to Ashkenazi traditions.

Moosewood also has Moosewood Celebrates, a cookbook catering to "vegetarian meals for special occasions and holidays".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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