Going vegetarian or vegan? Vegify it!

Going vegetarian or vegan? Vegify it!

Going vegetarian or vegan? Vegify it!

When I mention that I’m vegan, the first question is, “What do you eat?”

Vegan "Chicken" Caesar Salad with Oven Fries

Vegan “Chicken” Caesar Salad with Oven Fries

With any dietary change comes the inevitable, ‘what will I eat?’ question. You immediately think of all the things you’ll have to give up in the face of preserving your health. At times it may even seem like your cravings will win out over your health. “Who really wants to give up their favorite cheesy comfort food dish? Better to just leave this world happy.” Thoughts like that crossed my mind in the beginning too.

I was inspired by my Thanksgiving vegan remake to put together a list of common foods & ways to make them vegetarian and vegan. Yes, sometimes the flavor or texture isn’t exact, but you can come close and satisfy those cravings while caring for your health (and the health of the planet).

I am a VERY food oriented person, as Phillip can attest to. I am completely unwilling to give up my favorite foods. I simply recreate them. It is easier than you think, and it is a great creative outlet.

This is a quick guide. I’m not very big on recipes. I tend to get ideas from cooking shows or cookbooks and then go all rogue on my own tossing around ingredients & spices with abandon. Hence, I can’t give you specific measurements or instructions. I can encourage you to become a rogue on your own.

I can guarantee there is a vegetarian or vegan version of what you want to eat on the web. I usually make my grocery list in front of the computer so I can browse sites, get inspired and find inspiration for recreating my favorites.

Most supermarkets carry a wide variety of meat substitutes. With these you can recreate almost anything. Just check labels because they are processed foods that tend to be high in sodium. They are OK to add to your diet every now and again, but I include lots of nights that are simple meals of rice, beans & steamed veggies, big salads or homemade soups.

Also, nutritional yeast is something you can find in your seasonings aisle at the grocery store; it has a “cheesy” flavor that adds a special something to sauces & other recipes.

Remember to check with your doctor before making any permanent dietary changes.

“Chicken” Caesar Salad

  • Vegetarian: Make sure the dressing you use doesn’t include anchovies. Replace the chicken with a store bought fake out version. Trader Joe’s has a great one in the deli aisle. Add some romaine lettuce, tomatoes and sourdough croutons and you’re good to go.
  • Vegan: Get the fake chicken as above. For the dressing, I combine veganaise, a splash of Braggs liquid aminos (substitute with low sodium soy sauce), minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, a touch of Dijon mustard and a drop of vinegar. Romaine, tomatoes, crotons, toss and done.


  • Vegetarian: Swap meat sauce for simple marinara and add in sauteed mushrooms & spinach. Keep the ricotta & mozzarella the same.
  • Vegan: Same as above, but swap ricotta & mozzarella for mashed super firm tofu seasoned as you like it. I’m fond of the tofu ricotta recipe from Veganomicon. After the last layer of noodles spread on the marinara and sprinkle with dried breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. This creates a “crust” just like cheese would do.


  • Vegetarian: Swap out the beef or chicken filling for: black beans or fake meat strips or crumbles. Keep the toppings the same.
  • Vegan: Filling of your choice as above. Swap the cheese and sour cream toppings for guacamole or vegan sour cream. Makes it luxurious.


  • Vegetarian: Replace the meat filling with sauteed veggies of your choice. I like peppers, onions, mushrooms and zucchini. Keep the rest the same.
  • Vegan: Include the sauteed veggies instead of meat. Replace cheese and sour cream with guacamole or vegan versions.

Spaghetti with meat sauce or meatballs

  • Vegetarian: Use store bought ground vegetable protein crumbles or fake “meatballs” found in the freezer aisle. You can also get a meat sauce texture by adding some cooked quinoa to tomato sauce.
  • Vegan: Same store bought vegan replacements. Be sure to also replace any Parmesan cheese with a vegan version. To make your own “Parmesan,” grind up some walnuts with nutritional yeast & sprinkle away.

Pesto Pasta

  • Vegetarian: Same as original.
  • Vegan: Make homemade pesto with basil, olive oil and pine nuts. Instead of Parmesan, add in a splash of lemon and some nutritional yeast.

Crab Cakes

  • Vegetarian: Replace the crab with Spohie’s Kitchen seafood replacements. I use the prawns ground up in the food processor. You can also use canned hearts of palm ground up in the food processor to replicate flaked crab. Follow the rest of the recipe of your choosing.
  • Vegan: Same as above to replace the crab. Most recipes also use an egg binder. I replace this with either ener-g egg replacer or chia seeds soaked in a bit of water until they get gooey. The rest of the recipe should be okay. Remember to sauté in olive oil or earth balance buttery spread.

Tuna Sandwich (this was one of the hardest replacements for me to recreate)

  • Vegetarian: Crumble super firm tofu into a bowl. Add mayo, small diced onion and celery, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and…kelp powder. The kelp power gives it that certain “from the sea” taste. Mix until combined & spread on sandwich bread, top with pickles, lettuce and a slice of cheddar.
  • Vegan: Same recipe as above, but swap the mayo for Follow Your Heart Veganaise and nix the cheddar.


Ranch Dressing

  • Vegetarian: No issues.
  • Vegan: Make your own ranch by combining Follow Your Heart Veganaise with Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Sour Cream in a 1 to 1 ratio. Season with garlic salt, pepper and a ton of herbs (your choice.) I also add in a splash of vinegar.

Breakfast Hash

  • Vegetarian: Replace eggs with tofu. Replace chorizo with soyriso. Add in extra veggies & herb seasonings.
  • Vegan: Same. Replace any cheese with a vegan version or a scoop of guacamole.

Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

  • Vegetarian: Replace the Canadian bacon with a slab of grilled tofu or a slice of tomato. Add some sauteed spinach to the English muffin for good measure. The rest can stay the same.
  • Vegan: Spread the English muffin with Earth Balance instead of butter. Here’s the recipe I use for hollandaise sauce: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/asparagus-with-vegan-hollandaise/ It is great with a steamed artichoke too. The recipe in Veganomicon for Tofu Florentine is a good craving satisfier for eggs Benedict also.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Vegetarian: Same as the delicious original.
  • Vegan: Here’s my favorite vegan macaroni and cheese recipe. I’ve got some leftovers in my fridge right now. Dinner anyone? Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.

Baked Potato, Broccoli and Cheese Sauce

  • Vegetarian: Same.
  • Vegan: I always make extra cheese sauce from the vegan Macaroni and Cheese above. This is what gets lovingly poured over the broccoli and potato.

Super Nachos

  • Vegetarian: Go meat-free by replacing the beef or chicken with store-bought fake-out replacements or some black or refried beans. Keep the cheese sauce the same. Remember to add in all the goodies: guacamole, sour cream, salsa, olives, green onion and jalapeño.
  • Vegan: Ditch the meat. I use the same cheese sauce from the macaroni and cheese recipe for this too. I seriously make a pot full of this stuff at a time; it keeps great in the freezer. Be sure to add all the dairy-free condiments from above.

Paella & Gumbo – replacements are the same

  • Vegetarian: Replace all of the claws, things with shells, chicken and sausage with lots of extra veggies. Remember to cook your rice in veggie stock instead of chicken.
  • Vegan: Same as vegetarian.

Meatloaf with Gravy

  • Vegetarian: My favorite fake-out meatloaf is Field Roast. http://www.fieldroast.com/ I top this with homemade mushroom gravy. To make the mushroom gravy, sauté some mushrooms with onions and garlic. Add to this four and butter to make a roux.  I pour in a combination of veggie and mushroom stock and let that thicken. Season with herbs, salt, pepper and a touch of Dijon mustard. If you want you can add in a splash of soy or almond milk to finish it.
  • Vegan: Same as vegetarian.


  • Vegetarian: Forgo the meat in favor of a rainbow of veggies.
  • Vegan: Same veggies as above, go no cheese or replace the cheese with Daiya mozzarella style “cheese.”

Creamy Refried Beans

  • Vegetarian: At a restaurant, you’ve got to ask to be sure these weren’t cooked in lard. At the store, buy vegetarian refried beans. For added flavor and creaminess heat the beans up with a splash of enchilada sauce. Yummy!
  • Vegan: Same.


  • Vegetarian: Forget any meat fillings, go all cheese or a combo of cheese and veggie.
  • Vegan: You’ve got a choice, go all veggie, or try these amazing Cashew Cheese and Kale Enchiladas from Healthy, Happy Life! They were do-a-dance good. Cashew Cheese and Kale Enchiladas Recipe.

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup

  • Vegetarian: Same as original, just make sure the soup is make with veggie instead of chicken stock.
  • Vegan: Replace the butter with Earth Balance and the cheese with Daiya Mozzarella or Cheddar shreds. I’m a big fan of sourdough for the grilled cheese bread. Again, make sure the soup isn’t made with chicken stock or includes cream.

Beef & Broccoli

Sloppy Joes

  • Vegetarian: You can swap the ground beef for vegetable protein crumbles or, get this, lentils. The lentils are delicious. You can even get some pre-cooked from Trader Joe’s which makes this dinner super easy-peasy. I tend to add in extra veggies to the mix: carrots, zucchini, celery and onion. This is great on a bun or over brown rice.
  • Vegan: Same.


  • Vegetarian: Replace the meat with tofu.
  • Vegan: Same.

Burgers & Fries

  • Vegetarian: I use Boca Vegan Burgers, they tend to be the most satisfying to me. Top with lots of favorites: tomato, lettuce, avocado, onion, etc… The fries I make baked. Wedge a russet potato, toss with olive oil & seasonings, spread on a baking sheet and pop into a 425-degree oven until they are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • Vegan: Same.

Chocolate Shake

  • Vegetarian: Head to the drive thru and think of me.
  • Vegan: Here’s a great knock off that made me close my eyes with joy. You do need a powerful blender for this one…or remember to soak your cashews before you want to make this. http://www.vegancoach.com/vegan-dessert.html (scroll down to the recipe)


  • Vegetarian: Pretty much the ones you grew up with.
  • Vegan: Replace butter with Earth Balance. Replace eggs with a “flax egg” or ener-g egg replacer. I love this oatmeal cookie recipe because you don’t have to do any of that stuff: http://www.healthy-endeavors.com/2009/02/21/recipe-vegan-oatmeal-cookies-wagave-nectar/ I usually make thumbprints out of it & fill them with some apricot or strawberry jam. You could also toss in some vegan chocolate chips to the batter.

Condiments I use:

  • Earth Balance Buttery Spread: Replacement for butter. Tastes exactly the same. It works great for baking and you can buy it in sticks now for easy measuring. Who feels like a biscuit?
  • Veganaise by Follow your Heart: The mayo replacement. It is better for you & does exactly what mayo should do.
  • Follow Your Heart Cream Cheese: It works if you’re really craving a bagel with the schemer, but isn’t exactly the same as the dairy original.
  • Follow Your Heart Sour Cream: Pretty darn close replicate. Super good in mashed potatoes.
  • Daiya Cheese: Cheese is tough to replicate exactly. This does a good job. It has a “cheesy” flavor and it melts. It is a bit sticky when melted and reminds me most of the plastic American cheese slices. Best when cooked into something. I don’t use a ton of fake cheese.

There it is. No more questions about what to eat if you take the plunge and give up animal products. You eat exactly the same as you did before…just vegified!

Are their favorite foods you’ve recreated to help you stick to your healthy intentions?