Vegan recipes and vegans, in general, have come a long way. We as communities tend to forget that technology has opened the door for communication passed all things digital.

Regardless of where you live, 21st-century technology has brought that delicious salad, black bean burrito or lentil soup to your table.

Advancements in agriculture and transportation have made it possible for people to access ingredients all-year-round and have been the catalyst for sharing and experiencing other people’s cultures through delicious cuisine.

Restaurants, cafes, and diners around the world have benefited from this global phenomenon and vegan-specific restaurants are no exception.

The vegan food market in the US now a 12.69 billion dollar industry, where the majority of the market is dominated by dairy and meat substitutes.

Needless to say, veganism has become mainstream and - with the revolution of vegan meat alternatives - there are no signs of it slowing down. If you’re interested in understanding more about veganism - you’ve come to the right place.

While eating vegan chickpea wraps, vegetable soups and fried beans are amazing - understanding where veganism came from can make those meals even more fulfilling.

From the history of the vegan diet to the best vegan food recipes - here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the plant-based world.

vegan breakfast
Oats are a great breakfast food, along with toast and fruit! (Photo credit: Jannis Brandt via Unplash)

What is a Vegan Diet?

For centuries, people have been accustomed to the vegetarian diet - after all, there are many countries in the world whose diets consist predominantly of vegetarian ingredients such as lentils, chickpeas, butternut squash, corn and more.

While vegan cooking is a bit more difficult for some to wrap their heads around, some reports suggest that consumers' tastes are starting to shift from vegetarian to vegan food - as long as they’re labeled in a certain way that is.

Whether or not you’ve tried a vegan recipe on your own, it’s worth delving into what veganism is and how it all started.

The origins of veganism are somewhat contested. While it is generally agreed upon that the word vegan was coined in 1944 by the Vegan Society’s founder Donald Watson, the agreement on the first recorded instances of veganism is less unanimous.

Some historians have posited that Pythagoras mentioned a strict form of vegetarianism some 2,500 years ago. However, the life of Greek academics is generally so contested no one will ever claim that this is 100% accurate.

Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism have tended to advocate for a more plant-based lifestyle, which is why you’re likely to find many Buddhist chefs skilfully crafting dishes out of ingredients like seitan, tempeh, and tofu.

In general, vegan meals were more likely to be found everywhere else but America - ingredients we associate with veganism today in the US have been commonplace for centuries in territories within modern-day Bolivia, Taiwan, and India.

There was a rise of strict vegetarian diets in the 18th century in countries like the UK, but it tended to be restricted to religious sects or academic circles.

Watson’s Vegan Society had 25 subscribers in 1944 - by the time of his death in 2005, there were over 2 million vegans in the US alone.

That figure stands at 6.5 million in the US today and will undoubtedly continue to grow - along with the number of recipes online involving tahini, butternut, cashews, and hummus.

Some of the reasons people choose to become vegan are vast and varied. Below, you'll be able to find some of the reasons why you or someone you know may decide to follow a vegan diet.

Health Conditions

Over the year, and for a wide range of socio-economic and cultural reasons, the US has become one of the countries with the highest percentage of deaths related to obesity. Around the world, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity claim a spot in the conditions that cause the top 5 number of deaths.

For this reason, many people turn to a vegan diet for both the short and long term. Veganism can help with a range of different health problems because of the fact that it cuts out high-fat, high-calorie foods contained in many animal products.

Environmental Concerns

Popularized by meatless Mondays, the general public has been looking for ways to cut back on meat and dairy products for dozens of years. One of the reasons for this can be seen in the rise of global warming.

There are many animal products that use up many of the earth's natural resources, from their production to their distribution. One solution to reducing each person's contribution to climate change has been cited as eating less meat and dairy products.

Worker Exploitation

It's no secret that the animal product industry exploits its workers, disproportionately affecting immigrant families and poor farmers.

While this isn't exclusive to the animal industry, the amount of exploitation that happens in the creation of items such as leather, beef, and dairy can be enough to turn anyone away from the idea of continuing their support for those products.

Animal Rights

Animal rights is another reason why many people decide to go vegan. While some people believe eating animals is simply wrong, others argue with the methods modern farm factories use to slaughter animals.

No matter what your reason for going vegan, keep in mind that the community tends to differentiate between a vegan diet and a vegan lifestyle.

While they're not exclusive categories, there are many people who choose to exclude animal products from their diet but don't exclude them from other products such as clothing, shampoo and more.

vegan spaghetti
Use a variety of different noodles for your recipes, such as soba (Photo credit: Toa Heftiba via Unplash)

The Basics of Vegan Cooking

From curried veggie burgers to couscous and cashew salad, making a vegan meal can enable you to get creative in the kitchen. Vegan cooking has been facilitated by both the growth in popularity in the vegan diet and by the internet.

There are now countless video tutorials and blogs dedicated to making vegan dinner, desserts and more.

If you're just getting started with a vegan diet, finding new recipes to make can be overwhelming. The sheer amount of vegan chocolate or white bean stir fry recipes out there is enough to discourage anyone from trying out a new meal.

The best place to start with vegan cooking is to keep the ingredients simple and affordable. You can shop for vegan food in regular grocery stores.

Even if your grocery store doesn't necessarily carry veggie burgers or dairy-free ice cream, there are plenty of other delicious ingredients for the plant-based diet.

A Vegan Recipe for Every Taste

If you're looking for vegan dinner recipes, the best place to find a new meal idea is online. Some simple ingredients you can find to get you started are:

  • lentils (like orange or red lentil)
  • rice (risotto, brown rice)
  • pasta products (lasagna, spaghetti)
  • vegetables (any vegetable like edamame, broccoli, bok choy)
  • beans (white beans, black beans, chickpeas)

When going vegan, you'll probably end up learning to cook a ton of new recipes from all over the world. Veganism can be made easier with ingredients such as nutritional yeast, non-dairy milk, and tofu.

Vegan Food You Might Already Eat

While your meal plan may be made easier with things like vegan cheese, portobello mushrooms, lentil soup, granola and more - there are many foods you may already be eating that are "accidentally vegan" that can make going vegan a lot easier.

Spices, like cumin and paprika, are of course vegan. Here are some snacks and sauces that are not obviously vegan:

  • vegetable soup like miso or ramen
  • potato fries and chips
  • Starbursts
  • Lindt excellence chocolate bars – 70%, 85% and 90% Dark Chocolate
  • Pringles
  • Hershey's chocolate syrup

Examples of Vegan Meals

Finding free recipes online has never been easier. Whether you're looking for easy vegan recipes or healthy vegan recipes, vegan dishes are diverse and delicious. Here are some meal ideas to get you started:

  • Roasted cauliflower pizza
  • Tofu scramble
  • Peanut butter soba noodles
  • Mushroom soup
vegan smoothies
Smoothies can be a great way to pack in your daily serving of vegetables! (Photo credit: Brooke Lark via Unplash)

Desserts Without Animal Products

If you're a vegan or want to go vegan but don't know how to cook or bake desserts without animal products, here are a few tips on how to make a plant-based dessert or dish.

  • Have non-dairy milk on hand
  • Bake with baking soda and baking powder
  • Understand egg replacements should be made according to what you're baking
  • Try using non-traditional ingredients for better flavor, color, and taste, such as beet or cauliflower

Vegan Recipe Resources

The best friend of vegans and vegetarians alike is the web. Browse through countless recipe ideas with:

  • Vegetarian Times
  • Vegan YouTube channels
  • Vegan recipe blogs and websites
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Danica