Vegan tips and simple tweaks

As January is now here, it’s often a time we vow to make dietary changes or even get involved with the crazes that are popular at the time. That could be dry Jan or Veganuary. Here, let’s focus on Veganuary and I want to share a few tips and simple swaps to make it easier if you’re giving it a go for the first time this year.

 

Vegan eating means far more than just ditching the meat, which, in my opinion, is the easy part - you replace it with hearty vegetables and mix up what you’re eating, but it’s easy to forget to opt out of using butter and steer clear of dairy in sauces.

 

Ditch the dairy and let’s put the things in the limelight that deserve to be there!

 

Here are some ideas for savory subs for cheese, cream or cheese sauce. Try one of these out next time you’re trying to change a recipe to be dairy free.

  • Hummus – works like cream cheese and is all kinds of magic. So much more than just a dip. Spread on a sandwich, scooped into a salad or dolloped on top of a baked potato. Replace the feta in a Greek salad with quenelles of hummus and you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t the original recipe. The best part about hummus is that you can flavour it with whatever your heart desires which ultimately makes it better than cheese, take my word for it. In fact, don’t. Try it!
  • Smashed Avo / Guacamole – used as above, it’s pretty much my go-to and also goes nicely hand in hand with hummus for an extra spark. My favourite is making a spicy tomato sauce on the rare occasion I do have a pizza, cooking it with mixed veg and then a spoonful of smashed avocado on top to give it that creaminess that’s missed by the cheese.
  • Tahini – isn’t my favourite but is good for versatility. It’s got a strong flavour of sesame which I don’t love, so will always be sure to make it into a dip with added flavours to tone down the sesame. This works well where you’d normally add sour cream, crème fraîche or melted cheese. Think a five bean chili on rice finished with a dollop (I love that word!) of a coconutty-lime-tahini number.
  • Dijon Mustard – I prefer wholegrain for texture but smooth works too. If I am pushing the boat out and eating a steak, wholegrain Mustard is my sauce of choice. It is delicious spread onto a jacket potato with some rocket and chili. It also makes the best base to a salad dressing. Just whip up equal parts Apple Cider Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, wholegrain Dijon, season to taste and you’re good to go! Also, by the way, a bit of Dijon on some grilled butternut squash, spring onions and crumbled pistachio is the BEST.
  • Egg-Free Mayo – plain and simply can be used anywhere mayo would be. Can be used in place of cream cheese and changed up with some crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon or a pinch of Paprika. The flavour options are endless and the versatility is amazing too.
  • Tomato sauce – no, I’m not talking about ketchup. Never. For some reason, I’m okay with mayonnaise but ketchup, just no. And while it may not be the creamy richness of a cheese or cream based sauce, the deep flavours make the need for that completely melt away. (Pun somewhat) I’m talking a good, homemade tomato sauce. Currently in Italy, I have access to canned cherry tomatoes in abundance that I absolutely love. They are my favourite for this kind of sauce and I love a rich sauce with a splash of balsamic added in. This is my go-to pasta sauce but also works on my quarterly pizza fix, on my beloved sweet potato, on top of nachos, with chicken and a whole lot of other plates.
  • Pesto – this can come in many forms but the most common is a good old basil pesto. Shop bought varieties will usually have Parmesan in, but there are some that don’t. Either way, it’s a super simple sauce to whip up and have on hand for sandwiches, pasta, pizza, potatoes or basically anything. My favourite is a combination of artichoke and parsley. Using the preserved hearts from a jar, blitz them with an equal measure of parsley, olive oil, lemon, some almonds and seasoning and you’ve got yourself a creamy sauce made from a simple, delicious and healthy artichoke!
  • Olive tapenade – rich and flavourful, how about that stuffed inside of a baked sweet potato instead of goat’s cheese? Paired with sundried tomato, fresh herbs and a little olive oil. You’re onto a winner.

This is just a short list of ways I’ve managed to dodge cheese and creamy sauces since going dairy free eight years ago.

 

I hope this brings a little inspiration or hope for anybody that’s going dairy free, giving Veganuary a go, trying to cut out animal products or simply wants a change of scene!

 

Lauren Loudon x

 

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