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Last updated: January 24, 2024

The ultimate vegan cooking guide

Ready to spice up your vegan cooking game? Let me tell you everything I’ve learnt about vegan cooking throughout my chef career and beyond.

Lucy cooking vegan food in a vegan cafe

No matter your cooking level, you will benefit from this ultimate vegan cooking guide. I will take you through some easy-to-follow steps that will help you to become a confident vegan cook. Make sure to bookmark this page and come back to it when you are ready to take on a new step!

When I went vegan back in 2015 I was completely clueless about vegan cooking. I knew that I no longer wanted to contribute to the meat and dairy industries, but I had very little knowledge of what I could eat. Want to find out why I went vegan? Read my full vegan story here.

I was also completely on my own. No one around me was vegan and if I told anyone that I had made the transition it would be met with never-ending jokes and judgement. What I did have were books and the Internet.

Unfortunately, the resources that were available at the time were a bit muddled and there was no complete guide to vegan cooking that provided me with absolutely everything that I needed to know. So, it was definitely a huge learning curve with a lot of slip-ups and horrific-tasting food. 

However my vegan transition led me on a magical cooking journey that got me incredibly excited about the possibilities of plant-based food. So much so, that I changed my career path and became a vegan chef. This eventually led me to where I am today, a full-time vegan food blogger.

Now that I know everything that I do about vegan cooking I want to share this with you. No matter whether you are a vegan newbie or a confident home cook looking to increase your plant-based meals, this vegan cooking guide will help you to become more confident cooking with plants!

Why trust my vegan cooking guide? I have years of experience working in fully vegan kitchens, running my own vegan supper clubs and creating my own vegan recipes. My professional chef career has allowed me to fine-tune my own vegan cooking skills. I’ve also been vegan since 2015 so have a lot of experience with cooking plant-based food in my own kitchen at home.

Figure out what food is vegan

This may sound like a really obvious step to some people, but it can be confusing at first to know what foods are suitable for vegans and what ones aren’t. Especially since there are many products that you can buy that aren’t particularly clear about their ingredients.

What food isn’t vegan?

Let’s start by focusing on the food that isn’t suitable for vegans. It may appear like a large list, but there is much more food that vegans can eat than they can’t. In this list of non-vegan foods I’ll also explain why they aren’t suitable:

  1. Meat and poultry: These are obviously not vegan, as they come from animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, etc.
  2. Fish and seafood: Similarly, these are not vegan as they come from aquatic animals such as fish, shrimp, crab, etc.
  3. Dairy products: These include milk, cheese, butter, cream, etc. They are not vegan because they come from animals, specifically cows and other mammals.
  4. Eggs: These are not vegan because they come from chickens and other birds.
  5. Honey: This is not vegan because it is produced by bees and is taken from them.
  6. Gelatin: This is a protein derived from animal collagen and is commonly found in jellies, candies and desserts
  7. Some processed foods: Many processed foods contain animal-derived ingredients such as whey, casein, and albumin. These are not vegan as they come from animals.
  8. Some alcoholic beverages: Some alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, may be processed using animal-derived ingredients such as isinglass (made from fish bladders), gelatin, and egg whites.
  9. Some types of sugar: Some types of sugar are processed using bone char, which is made from the bones of cattle. This type of sugar is not vegan.
  10. Some fortified foods: Many fortified foods like cereals will use animal sources of vitamins, like lanolin which comes from sheep wool for Vitamin D.

It’s worth noting that many of these foods can be substituted with a vegan alternative, such as plant-based milk, meatless meat, and vegan cheese. I will go into finding vegan alternatives shortly.

What food is vegan?

Okay, now on to the good stuff. What food can vegans eat? There really is a lot that we can eat and the possibilities of cooking with these all are endless.

  1. Fruits and vegetables: These are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  2. Whole grains: These include items such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, etc. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  3. Legumes: These include items such as beans, lentils, and peas. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  4. Nuts and seeds: These include items such as almonds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  5. Mushrooms: These include all types of edible mushrooms. Why not check out the nutritional powerhouse, Lion’s Mane mushroom?
  6. Plant-based milk: These include items such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products. Discover all my favourite plant-based milk here.
  7. Plant-based meat alternatives: These include items such as tofu, tempeh, jackfruit, and seitan. There are many brands creating these like, THIS Isn’t Bacon and Moving Mountains Burger. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  8. Plant-based butter and cheese alternatives: These include items such as margarine, soy-based cheese, and nut-based cheese. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products. Discover all my favourite vegan cheese products here.
  9. Vegan bread and pastries: These include items such as bread, pasta, and crackers that are made with non-animal-based ingredients such as vegetable oils, flours, and sweeteners.
  10. Vegan sweets and desserts: These include items such as cakes, cookies, and ice cream that are made with non-animal-based ingredients such as vegetable oils, flours, and sweeteners.
  11. Plant-based oils: These include items such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. They are vegan because they come from plants and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products.
  12. Some types of sugar: Some types of sugar are processed without using bone char, which is made from the bones of cattle, and is vegan.
  13. Some types of chocolate: Some types of chocolate are made without using milk or other dairy products and are vegan.
  14. Some cereal products: Despite most cereal products being fortified with animal-based vitamins there are also plenty of 100% vegan cereal brands. Discover all my favourite vegan cereals here.

These foods are vegan because they are all derived from plants, and do not involve the use or consumption of animal products. This means that they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients, such as meat, dairy, eggs, or honey, and are not processed using any animal-derived ingredients such as bone char, gelatin, or isinglass.

Learn how to veganise dishes you know & love

Veganising the dishes that you already know how to make is a great place to start! It allows you to start experimenting with food whilst still being in your comfort zone. The more confident you become with veganising these dishes, the more you will want to cook new recipes.

It is getting easier and easier to veganise dishes nowadays thanks to there being so many substitutions for non-vegan ingredients. So, just make sure to follow this process and you’ll be creating vegan versions of your favourite dishes in no time.

1. Highlight the non-vegan ingredients in your recipes

Have a look through your recipes or think about the dishes you usually make in your head, and try and highlight all of the ingredients in them that aren’t suitable for vegans. 

If you have a physical copy of your recipe it can help to actually circle these ingredients.

2. Find suitable vegan substitutions

Go through and find suitable alternatives to each ingredient. The most common non-vegan ingredients will be meat, egg, fish or dairy. Utilise these guides on vegan alternatives to find the substitutions you will use:

Now that you have your vegan substitutions, you should experiment with using them like-for-like with their non-vegan counterparts in your recipes. It’s not always an exact science so do be prepared to make some dishes a few times before you succeed!

Get the right kitchen equipment

Having the right kitchen equipment is crucial for vegan cooking, as it can make the process much easier and more efficient. For example, having a high-quality blender or food processor can make it simple to create smoothies, soups, and sauces, while a good set of knives can make it easier to chop and prepare fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, having a pressure cooker or slow cooker can make it easy to prepare legumes and grains, which are staples in a vegan diet. Investing in the right equipment can also make it easier to prepare meals in advance, which can be especially helpful for those who lead busy lives.

Overall, having the right kitchen equipment can help to make vegan cooking more enjoyable and accessible, which can make it more likely that you will stick to your plant-based diet!

1. The best kitchen appliances for vegan cooking

When it comes to making delicious plant-based food there are a few kitchen appliances that will make your life a lot simpler and more fun! For instance, having a high-quality blender will make it much easier to create vegan recipes, especially if you plan on making your own vegan cheese and vegan desserts.

Take a look through some of my favourite kitchen appliances:

You will also benefit from having good cooking equipment like pots and pans. Check out my favourite eco-pan by Prestige.

2. The best knives for vegan cooking

There are many different kinds of knives that you can buy and use, but many of them won’t be necessary for vegan cooking. For example, a meat cleaver really won’t be needed. This does mean that there are knives that are definitely better for vegan cooking.

The right kind of knife will make vegan cooking an enjoyable experience that you will want to continue! It will also make prepping for your meals a lot quicker and simpler.

3. The best vegan cleaning products for kitchens

Veganism isn’t just about food, it is about avoiding animal products in everything you buy and use. This includes the cleaning products that you use to keep your kitchen clean! 

I probably don’t need to tell you how important it is to clean your kitchen, but I think it is important to note that the following vegan cleaning products will leave your kitchen and your conscience sparkling clean!

Get inspired with vegan recipes

Now that you have tried out substituting ingredients in the recipes you already know well and love you will find cooking fully vegan recipes a breeze.

Vegan recipes come in all shapes and sizes, meaning that some can be quite complicated and full of large tasks, whilst some will be super simple. You may well find that vegan baking recipes are a little bit more technical whilst vegan main courses can be a lot easier to get right.

I create all of my recipes with all skill levels in mind, so you can attempt all the following vegan recipe categories with ease.

A tray of vegan buckwheat chocolate chip cookies

1. Try recipes for vegan baking

Creating tasty vegan baked goods is entirely possible. I am here to prove to you that eggs and dairy aren’t necessary in order to bake light and fluffy sponges and chewy cookies.

I have an array of vegan baking recipes, some using vegan substitutes like vegan milk and vegan egg, and some don’t replace the non-vegan ingredients whatsoever because quite often they aren’t even needed!

So, get ready to have your mind blown trying out these vegan baking recipes:

Vegan beef wellington served up with other vegan food

2. Try recipes for vegan main courses

For many years I was served up plates of steamed vegetables as a vegan main course. Both in restaurants and in people’s homes. If I was lucky, it would include a side plate of chips. But I knew that there was so much more to savoury vegan food than this.

Even without fake meats, we can create so many incredible things out of vegetables and mushrooms.

So, today I’m on a mission to show you just how incredible plant-based food can be and I promise it really is quite simple. Check out my vegan main course recipes to create some exciting dishes for your dinners:

Lucy johnson founder of Edible Ethics holding vegan side dish from her recipe blog

3. Try recipes for vegan side dishes

Vegan sides don’t just mean side salads and plates of chips. As the saying goes, anything you can do we can do vegan! And it really is true. There are so many exciting dishes you can create to liven up dinner parties, date nights, and solo eating sessions.

The great thing about side dishes is that they are usually quite quick and simple to make so you can experiment with these whenever you fancy it. I have a bunch of vegan side dish recipes that you can get started with:

vegan hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream and marshmallows

4. Try recipes for vegan beverages

Veganism doesn’t just apply to food but also to your drinks. So that means finding new recipes to recreate your favourite hot chocolate or your go-to latte.

Thanks to vegan alternatives like plant-based milk, vegan beverages are just as good as the ones you’ll remember. So you won’t feel like you are missing out! Make sure to check out all my vegan beverage recipes below:

Maple syrup being poured on top of vegan buttermilk pancakes

5. Try recipes for vegan breakfasts

Breakfast is one of the most exciting meals of the day. But a lot of the breakfasts you may already know and enjoy are probably not vegan-friendly. From cereals to pancakes, there are many animal-based ingredients that may be used.

That being said, it is incredibly easy making fully vegan breakfasts that are both tasty and nutritious. No matter whether you like to eat savoury breakfasts or something sweet. Take a look through all of my vegan breakfast recipes to find something to suit you:

Enrol in a vegan cooking class

When it comes to vegan cooking it is always important to keep on learning. The more you learn the more exciting your food will be, ensuring you continue cooking tasty and nutritious plant-based food.

One way to continue your learning is through a vegan cooking class, of which there are now many!

You can split these into two categories: online vegan cooking classes and in-person vegan cooking classes. There are pros and cons to both! Let me take you through these now.

Lucy learning how to cook vegan with a vegan cooking course

1. Online vegan cooking classes

Taking a vegan cooking class online is both really easy and extremely convenient. You get to access all the know-how of chefs from around the world in the comfort of your own kitchen. This is particularly good for anyone who lacks the confidence to cook in front of other people, or if you’d simply prefer to cook in your pyjamas. No judgement here!

There are so many online vegan cooking classes to choose from meaning you can learn A LOT. You can discover how to veganise food from your favourite cuisine and you can even learn how to make delicate vegan French pastries. There really is something for everyone.

The downside of a lot of these classes is that you can get instant real-life feedback from a chef. That being said, they are great fun and you can take the classes whenever you fancy. So, why not take a look at my favourite online vegan cooking classes that you can enrol in today:

Lucy learning how to become a vegan chef at a cooking course

2. In-person vegan cooking classes

Getting some real hands-on learning experience at an in-person vegan cooking course can really accelerate your cooking. I’ve been to quite a few myself and I have loved learning to make food like vegan pasta, sourdough, and kimchi.

By attending in-person cooking courses like these you will be able to learn directly from a professional chef or cook who has loads of experience in cooking vegan food. That means you can tap into their knowledge and learn handy tips direct from the source!

There are many courses you can take but the one I really recommend is by Demuth’s Cookery School. Read my review of them below:

Follow a vegan meal plan

One reason why many people struggle to follow a vegan diet, in the beginning, is because they don’t have a plan. When you aren’t used to cooking vegan food it can be really difficult to come up with ideas of what to cook on the spot. This comes with time and practice!

It may also be difficult for long-term vegans, especially ones who work a lot and can’t do loads of meal prep for the week.

With a proper meal plan you can organise your food shop properly and cooking your meals will feel that bit easier. However, this does require some planning. I recommend doing it at the weekend or whenever you have a day off. Get a list of all your favourite vegan recipes and write down the ones you will make the coming week into a calendar or notebook.

Vegan meal plan by nutriciously

Try out this pre-made vegan meal plan

If you really don’t have any time to meal plan then you can actually get a pre-made vegan meal plan. This comes complete with a recipe library and your weeks planned out ready for you.

It doesn’t get easier than that! Take a look at the meal plan using the link below:

Lucy holding a vegan recipe box in her hands that has been opened up

Enlist the help of vegan recipe boxes & ready meals

There is no shame in getting help every so often, especially when it comes to cooking! I love to buy the occasional recipe box or vegan ready meal. These really can simplify your evenings or lunchtimes and there are plenty of nutritious and tasty options out there.

This is really useful for any of you who may be new to veganism as it can give you a break from cooking. Something you may need if you are tiring yourself out learning new foods and dishes every evening!

It is also useful for anyone who lacks time in the evenings to cook properly.

1. Vegan recipe boxes

If you love the idea of cooking for yourself but you would like some assistance in planning some of the recipes you’ll cook, then you’ll love vegan recipe boxes. They send out subscription boxes with a few recipes for you to make alongside the ingredients needed to create it.

There are a whole bunch of options, including one-off recipe boxes for special occasions and long-term subscription boxes with weekly changing menus. Take a look through these vegan recipe boxes below:

2. Vegan ready meals

These aren’t the ready meals you’re probably thinking of, these vegan ready meals are nutritious and tasty. They are really handy to keep in your freezer for the evenings when cooking vegan food from scratch just doesn’t appeal!

There are many vegan ready meal companies and even brands offering vegan options. So there is plenty to choose from in my guide:

Lucy the founder of Edible Ethics vegan food blog eating vegan noodles in a plant based restaurant

Lucy Johnson