Following a vegan recipe can sometimes seem like ingredients gymnastics. While some vegan meals keep it simple with mainstream foods like butternut squash, lentils, tempeh, seitan, and tahini - some vegan food can seem like obscure illnesses (xanthan gum, anyone?).

However, shopping for vegan food has never been easier - regardless of whether or not you’re on the hunt for some of the more unusual ingredients.

Online shopping has become easier, cheaper and quicker thanks to tech giants and advancements in transportation. However, not everyone has the ability to take advantage of plain-old food delivery, let alone the fledgling drone delivery services soon to be available to consumers.

From the most populous cities in America to the most rural corners of Appalachia, shopping for vegan food shouldn’t be restricted to buying ingredients for your vegan diet online or in overpriced health food stores.

From the humble potato to a meatless stir fry, there are plenty of ways to design a lifestyle without animal products based on the ingredients you have at your disposal.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about healthy vegan recipes, from where vegan dishes originated to where you can go shopping for delicious vegan ingredients.

curry soup
Vegetable soup can make for a cozy winter meal! (Photo credit: Taylor Kiser via Unplash)

Reasons for Following A Vegan Diet

Cutting out animal products from your diet can be a difficult transition. The standard American diet is made up of many ingredients that are not exactly vegan-friendly, which can make it difficult to translate any hobbies related to food over to a plant-based lifestyle.

Bodybuilding, for example, is as dependent on nutrition as it is on exercise, meaning some people need to spend a little bit of extra time adjusting to a vegan diet.

Luckily, with the help of the internet, finding out how to do things like bodybuilding while enjoying a vegan diet has never been easier.

With ingredients like butternut, hummus, cashews, vegan chocolate, tofu and more - practicing veganism doesn't mean having to forego all your favorite foods and pastimes. There are many different reasons why people go vegan, which include:

  • health reasons
  • environmental concerns
  • animal rights
  • worker exploitation

The Basics of Cooking Without Animal products

Cooking and baking without dairy products come with a bit of a learning curve. Many of the vegan dessert recipes out there follow the standard rules of baking, along with the traditional ingredients that come with it such as margarine, sugar and non-dairy milk.

Because of the restrictions involved in veganism, however, these recipes also leave room for the creativity of the cook.

From beet brownies to cookies with cauliflowers, easy vegan recipes for desserts don't just have to follow classic formulas. Vegan desserts can often be paired with ingredients you won't typically find in traditional dessert recipes.

If you're a beginner at cooking and baking desserts without animal products, here are some helpful tips you can follow.

Egg Replacers: if you're going to be using an egg replacement in your dessert recipe, be aware that different egg replacers work better in some desserts rather than others depending on whether you're using it for texture, leavening or flavor.

Non-dairy milks: there are plenty of dairy-free milks out there and, depending on what flavor you're going for, you may want to use either cashew, almond, oat, soy, rice milk and more.

Healthy Vegan Cooking

There are tons of free recipes available online that can help you create a vegan meal plan that's both healthy and delicious. The great thing about vegan food is the versatility in the ingredients and the cuisine you're able to make with them.

Here are some ideas of the vegan dishes you can make if you're aiming for a healthy diet:

  • curried lentils and brown rice
  • tofu scramble and toast
  • tofu and bean tacos

There are many different health benefits to a vegan kitchen! After going vegan, people often find themselves feeling better both inside and out.

veggie sandwich
Vegan lunches for work or school can be simple and delicious (Photo credit: Pille Riin Priske via Unplash)

Where to Shop If You’re Making a Vegan Recipe

Now that the difference between vegetarians and vegans is becoming more and more known by the minute, buying food for a plant-based diet is becoming easier every day.

In fact, because going vegan is becoming increasingly popular, the meat and dairy-free industry have exploded in the US.

The possibility of crafting vegan dinner recipes has never been easier; the vegan food market has now expanded into a 12.7 billion dollar industry.

Replete with vegan cheese, miso or vegetable soup and plant-based burgers - it has never been better to be a vegan or to start trying veganism in today's food environment.

However, out of 157 countries analyzed by the CIA World Factbook, the US is the 39th worst in terms of the Gini coefficient, which measures the degree of income inequality in a country.

One of the richest countries in the world, the US is also one of the most unequal in terms of the distribution of that wealth. You may be wondering why this has anything to do with your vegan meal plan.

Well, the fact is, depending on where you live, you may have more or less access to certain types of vegan foods at affordable prices, such as fresh produce, granola, veggie burgers, red lentil or lentil soup and edamame.

Veganism isn’t inherently more expensive than other diets - but when it comes to limitations on certain foods, it’s obvious that any diet with restrictions can become expensive or even impossible in areas where dietary flexibility isn’t an option financially or physically.

There are approximately 23.5 million people in America, or roughly 7% of the population, who live in food deserts, which are geographic areas where access to affordable healthy food is either nonexistent or limited.

This number is generally recognized to be underestimated because, within this calculation, many smaller grocery stores primarily selling packaged food are considered to be on the same level as some of the nation’s supermarket giants.

Again, this isn’t to say that a vegan meal is inherently more expensive than those found in any other diet. However, veganism can be impractical for many households, not because of faults in veganism itself, but because of faults in the country’s infrastructure and distribution of equality.

While some of these vegan grocery shopping tips will cover the most basic, healthiest and affordable vegan products - any vegan would be remiss if they didn’t mention that it’s entirely acceptable to adapt vegan ingredients and recipes to whatever is most accessible to you or your family’s financial, geographic and social situation.

Here are some vegan ingredients you should be able to shop for regardless of location:

  • beans (white beans, black beans, chickpeas)
  • pasta (spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni)
  • rice or grains (risotto, brown rice, white rice, couscous, bulgur)
  • non-diary milk (coconut milk, soy or almond milk in powder or liquid form)

For those with a bit more flexibility, ingredients you can get are:

  • vegetables and vegetable products (broccoli, collard greens, edamame)
  • mushrooms or mushroom products (dried portobello, mushroom soup)
  • veggie burgers or meatless products (vegan sausage, chickpea or black bean burgers)
  • plant-based dips (hummus, salsa, white bean dip)

Some of the things that you can keep on-hand in your fridge or pantry are:

  • spices (cumin, paprika, rosemary)
  • add-ons (nutritional yeast, salad dressing, agave syrup)
  • base products (bread, tortillas, nori, rice paper)

When buying ingredients to make a vegan meal, whether it be a vegan dinner or a dessert, you should prioritize nutrition. Understand your specific body's needs and plan around what nutrition goals you should be meeting daily.

Take a look at some of the recipes you'll be able to make on a plant-based diet!

vegan waffles
From oats to waffles, vegan breakfasts options are diverse and healthy (Photo credit: Brooke Lark via Unplash)

Vegan Food Recipes for the Week

Whether you're looking for vegan food recipes for the holidays, or simply want to spice up your weekly meal plan, there are plenty of vegan food guides online to help get you cooking. Here are some ideas on recipes you can make at home.

Vegan Meals and Desserts

If you want to make some delicious vegan recipes for lunch and dinner, try:

  • lentil and mushroom Shepard's pie
  • peanut butter pasta or soba noodles
  • roasted cauliflower pizza

For vegans looking for the perfect dessert dish to bring to a party, try:

  • no-bake, candy cane brownies
  • vegan snickerdoodles

Find Vegan Recipes Online

It's easy to go vegan when you have dozens of meal ideas at your disposal. If you want to find vegan recipes that are easy, simple and affordable, make sure to check out some of the many vegan food blogs online. This can include:

  • The Spruce Eats
  • Veganuary
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Danica