I was young when I cut meat out of my diet completely. Many of the meals I’ve learned how to make include some kind of dairy, particularly cheese. As a kid, I learned how to make a grilled cheese sandwich or a bean and cheese taco, and I haven’t branched out much with cooking since.
In the past, I have considered going vegan but always talked myself out of it because of the extra effort that comes with a vegan diet and the distinct lack of cheese. I also hate salad.
Some of the most common perceptions about vegan eating are that it is prohibitively expensive, that being vegan limits you to eating bland salads and that cooking vegan meals is too difficult and time-consuming.
This week, I went on a mission to prove to myself–and you, reader–that making vegan food can be affordable, easy and delicious. I tried these five recipes during a busy week with a limited grocery list. Here’s how it went.
Burnt Leeks and Cannellini Beans
This meal takes about an hour to prepare, as long as your oven works well. While your leeks are roasting, make the sauce base from garlic, oil, oat milk, white wine and flour.
Then, add the leeks and cannellini beans. I seasoned it with lots of Italian herbs and pepper.
I wasn’t a fan of how much of the leeks ended up going to waste, but I loved how the dish tasted. I recommend adding extra garlic and using an immersion blender after adding the leeks. I didn’t blend them, and I was bothered by the stringy texture.
Smashed Avocado and Tomato Sandwich
If you only have 20 minutes to make and eat lunch, a sandwich is usually your best option. This one doesn’t require meat, cheese or a real recipe that you need to follow.
I smashed avocado and sliced tomato on mine. I added some dijon mustard and pesto to my sourdough slices for a kick and topped with pickles, cress, lettuce and pickled onions.
I tossed the whole thing in the air fryer for a couple of minutes, but it would be great cold too. For more protein, try adding a mashed chickpea salad.
Chocolate Strawberry Chia Pudding
Chia puddings are perfect for a light breakfast, a snack or a post-dinner treat. It’s hard to mess it up, and you can personalize it as much as you want.
This one has only four necessary ingredients: chia seeds, oat milk, honey and cocoa powder. The recipe calls for sliced almonds, but it would also be great with bananas or raspberries.
This chia pudding couldn’t be easier. Just combine the ingredients and leave them in the fridge for a few hours, then top with strawberries.
I will always love a one-pot meal. This recipe is a loose, vegan take on Tuscan chicken.
It’s a tomato sauce with chickpeas, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. Don’t skimp on the onions and garlic, and make sure to add coconut milk or oat milk to make the sauce creamy.
Instead of using sun-dried tomatoes in a bag, I used the ones that come in oil, and it was delicious. Top with extra nutritional yeast and pair with pasta or bread. I recommend doubling this recipe if you want leftovers, which you probably will.
Sometimes, white beans can be used as a heartier alternative to pasta. They’re also high in protein and fiber, and luckily, I had an extra can from the burnt leeks dish!
Keeping a can or two of these in the pantry is always a good idea. These beans are another great tomato sauce-based dish that keeps pretty well in the fridge.
I tweaked this recipe to make it vegan by using oat milk and nutritional yeast instead of dairy products. I paired this fast and simple dish with fresh basil leaves and sourdough.
There are some great vegan restaurants in town, but eating out as a vegan in college can get very pricey. Recipes like this can help you get through the semester without draining your bank account. If you’re new to vegan cooking, or if you’re new to cooking in general, give one of these recipes a try. You might find your new go-to dish.