Plant-based meals are fantastic for your health and have virtually no negatives—except for maybe one: it’s incredibly challenging to come up with a flavorful and satisfying meal! This is especially true for beginners who may feel like they’re stuck with steamed vegetables and salads, wondering what other options there are for more delicious recipes.
Getting the essential nutrition you need from a plant-based diet shouldn’t hinder you from enjoying yummy, flavorful food. Enjoying your food is an integral part of eating well, after all!
Experience and creativity come a long way when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of plant-based recipes. These pack a punch with more complex flavor profiles that you’ll soon start to wonder what you’ve been missing out on all this time. To paint a clearer picture, here are some ideas on how to add more flavor to your plant-based meals.
Remember FASS: Fat, acid, sugar, salt
If your food is tasting a little bland, it’s probably missing one or more of these components: a fatty food item, an acidic taste profile, or some kind of sugary or salty note.
Depending on the dish you’re making, you can add complementary sweet and sour flavors together seasoned with a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper. One example would be when you’re making a peanut sauce for vegan Thai spring rolls. You can also drizzle a bit of lemon-honey dressing over an avocado and arugula sandwich with cherry tomatoes.
Play around with the flavors from some of these vegan FASS sources:
- Fat - Avocado, Nut butter, Coconut shreds
- Acids - Lemon, Lime, Vinegar
- Sugar - Dried fruit, Plant-based syrups, Fruit purees
- Salt - Sea salt, coconut aminos.
Switch up the flavor factor
One way to add variety to dishes with the same ingredients is by changing up the flavor factor. Switching up the seasoning and sauces you use can significantly transform your dish. For instance, a combination of tahini, kale, and tempeh will taste very different with a mix of lemon, salt, and pepper, as compared to using a vinaigrette or some buffalo sauce.
Although it takes experience and some experimenting, you’ll become more familiar with the combination of flavors that work best with your plant-based favorites. It’s entirely possible to fall into a rut the more you get used to certain combinations and tastes, so looking up different food that offers vegan nutrition regularly is crucial to making your meals creative and delicious.
Variety in texture is key
Taste isn’t the only important factor in making a meal more enjoyable. Texture matters too, since it gives food a more exciting feel when eaten, making it a more enjoyable dining experience.
Try adding various textures to the meals you have, like having a soft sandwich bun with a mix of crispy vegetables and gooey puree flavor notes in the middle. By trying out different food options, such as seeds, healthy fats (like avocados), and vegetables with different textures (think kale, lima beans, tofu, cucumbers), you’ll be able to get the most interesting texture combinations with each bite.
The way you prepare food will also contribute to the variety of textures available on a dish. Experiment with running some zucchini through a spiralizer or just chopping your vegetables in a different direction. Blending up purees and sauces can also add another layer to the textures in your dish.
Think of your favorite restaurant ingredients
Change up the ingredients you use to cook at home by trying something out of one of your favorite restaurants. For instance, if you’re a big fan of pasta and one of your favorite restaurant dishes is their version of vegan macaroni and cheese, nailing the vegan “cheese” sauce can be your focus. Focus on one component of the dish that’s challenging enough but not too complicated that you have to learn a handful of new cooking techniques just to pull it off.
At the end of the day, the best part of learning this process is discovering and learning how to create something entirely new. If you’re a starting vegan, it’s a whole new world of plant-based flavors and textures that taste and feel just as whole and satisfying. Learning how to cook your own meals also gives you a great sense of accomplishment! Remember, when it comes to vegan nutrition, the flavor doesn’t always have to be last—all it takes is some creativity and a lot of experience.
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