With President Bill Clinton, Ellen Degeneres, and many others changing to a vegan lifestyle, some people may be considering making a change as well, but possibly are unsure if they can commit. Food blogger Sarah Spiegelman of Fritos and Foie Gras says that even hardcore carnivores can benefit from going vegan and enjoy it – even if it’s just once in a while.
What could make someone want to be vegan? There are ethical reasons, health reasons, environmental-impact reasons, but it’s unlikely to hear people say they went vegan because they just don’t care for the taste of meat, dairy, or eggs. The truth is, most people do crave the savory taste of meat, the sharpness of a good cheddar cheese, and the gooey pleasure of a soft boiled egg. Though there is plenty of information out there regarding how to stay healthy and nutritionally sound when becoming vegan, the question that newly vegan foodies need answered is: how can they satisfy their carnivorous cravings without falling off the vegan bandwagon?
Soy based proteins are long heralded as great stand-ins for meat and dairy. Soy-based proteins are very bland naturally, so they take on the flavor of whatever else they are cooked with, and their various textures can often mimic meat. Tofu has different levels of firmness, and can thus be used in different ways. Extra firm tofu can be marinated and grilled like chicken. It can also be crumbled and used like ground beef in dishes like tacos or a meat sauce. Firm tofu is a delicious addition to stir fries and soups, where it takes on a bouncy texture. Try blending fresh or silken tofu in place of cream in desserts or cream based sauces. Tempeh is another soy based protein that is made from fermented soybeans. This results in a nutty, earthy flavor and a firm texture. Tempeh is especially delicious breaded and fried – dip it in buffalo sauce for a mock buffalo-chicken sandwich.
Seitan is a wheat-based protein that, when cooked, has a dense, chewy texture somewhat like beef jerky. It works especially well anywhere that crispness is desired, like in a hash or on a sandwich.
Nutritional Yeast comes in powdered form, and has a cheesy flavor. Use it on pasta or in recipes where an added dose of salt and cheesy tang is desired.
But, as J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats found out when he embarked on a month-long vegan journey, the answer to satisfying cravings isn’t all about using meat and cheese substitutes – at least, not as a substitute for meat and cheese. While Lopez-Alt agrees that these proteins are delicious in their own rights, he maintains that “Faux meats by definition invite comparison. They actively make you think, “Does this thing I’m eating really taste like a bacon cheeseburger?”.” If you think like him, then you will still be craving the flavor of meat.
Umami. That is the reason that your mouth waters when you smell a steak broiling, that you crave the taste of a grilled cheese. It describes the taste simply known as “savory.” It is also something that is available in vegan forms, and that can quell (if not totally silence) your desire for a huge cheeseburger.
To up your umami count, add any of these to your vegan recipes:
- Roasted Tomatoes
- Soy Sauce
- Portabella Mushrooms
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Miso Paste
Lastly, make sure that you balance your flavors. When you can’t just hunker down to a pile of baby back ribs, you want to make sure that your flavors are all balanced and exciting. Salty, sour, spicy, and sweet are the tenants of Thai cuisine, and they suit new vegans well. Make sure that you use ingredients like vinegar, citrus, sugar, chiles, honey, and hot sauce boost up the flavor profiles of all of your foods.
It might not be steak and eggs, but if the food is good enough, it could make anyone want to go vegan.
Here are a few recipes to get you started – carnivore tested, vegan approved.
Sarah Spigelman is a New York City based writer, editor, and food blogger who is a fan of Arrested Development, warm weather, and any food spicy enough to make her cry. She loves Michelin-starred tasting menus, chili cheese Fritos, and everything in between. Her blog, Fritos and Foie Gras, chronicles her cooking, traveling, and dining adventures in NYC and beyond. You can follow her inner fat kid thoughts via her Twitter account.