What In the World Do Vegans Actually Eat?

Terri Carr

When you remove the meat, there's plenty to eat besides soup and salad


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

If you’ve ever gone out to eat with a co-worker, friend or family member who follows a vegan diet you might have been a little surprised at home many restrictions they follow.

In addition to avoiding all meat as vegetarians do, vegans also avoid eggs and dairy products. Those last two ingredients are included in most baked goods, breads and many other foods.

With so many common dishes off limits, you might wonder what’s left for vegans to eat besides salad and veggie burgers.

When ordering takeout with co-workers, a vegan will be lucky to find one acceptable dish on most restaurant menus.

Vegan choices might be limited to french fries, a basic salad, or unseasoned sauteed vegetables. Since this was, my choices were even more limited than usual. Many places offer a tomato or vegetable soup, but not seafood restaurants.

Since so many menu items are off-limits for vegans, you can be forgiven for wondering what they actually eat (besides salad and Beyond Meat Burgers, of course).

Reassuring others that you're healthy

I’ve been vegetarian for over thirty years. When people used to ask me where I get protein in my diet or how I make sure I eat a balanced diet, I would respond that I ate eggs and cheese.

Since I’ve shifted to a vegan diet, I hesitate a bit attempting to answer the question of what I actually eat. I fear that saying I eat robust salads and soups and stews sounds a little boring.

Sometimes I’m not sure what I eat myself! Though I know I eat a heck of a lot of hummus.

Benefiting from the R & D of many vegan chefs

A diet of only plant-based foods could indeed be boring considered from the perspective of ‘what’s left when you take away so many familiar foods like meat, eggs, and dairy?’

Left to my own culinary instincts I would be pretty disappointed with a 100% vegan diet. I’d try to get by with bulked up salads and grain bowls, supplemented by frozen veggie burgers and plant-based substitutions for meat.

But I prefer cooked food more than raw and veggie burgers get old pretty quick.

Thanks to recipes from vegan bloggers like Kris Carr, Angela Liddon, and Dustin Harder, I’ve come to realize that vegan food can be absolutely fabulous. With a few good recipes, a new vegan can expect to feel fully satisfied. All cravings met!

Vegan does not mean boring

You might not guess it from restaurant menus, but the truth is that vegan meals are not at all inferior to mainstream foods. They just require a little innovation, the same attitude that was used to come up with so many popular omnivore recipes.

One ingredient that contributes to so many rich non-vegan dishes is dairy, in the form of cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc. But it turns out that there are plenty of ways to create equally satisfying tastes and textures without using dairy products.

Want a dense but creamy pie filling without the cheese? Cashews will create a cheese-like base which can be sweetened and flavored any way you want!

Want a thick, creamy salad or grain dressing? Tahini or cashews can serve as a base while nutritional yeast and other seasonings will add a rich, savory taste

Many vegans are not naturally talented in the kitchen (myself included!), but thanks to the recipe development of others, we can put together some pretty fantastic meals.

What Is A Typical Vegan Menu?


- fruit smoothie

- handful of nuts

- bowl of oatmeal/quinoa w/ fruit & maple syrup

  • dairy-free flavored yogurt (Cocojune is a favorite brand)

Lunch or Dinner:

  • Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala
  • Grilled Stuffed Pinto and Swiss Chard burritos
  • Vegan chili topped with avocado chunks
  • Thick, creamy squash soup or lentil stew with a hunk of sourdough bread (this is one of my favorite comfort foods)
  • Apple, Pecan, and Arugula Salad

Plant-based convenience foods

Nutritional advice articles often stress the idea that everyone who eats a vegan diet is not necessarily eating a healthy diet.

A quick glimpse at the ingredients in some brands of fake meat products will show you what this concern stems from.

(Hint: *anything* protein isolate is not a food your great grandparents ate.)

Still, there are some pre-packaged vegan products that are of high quality.

I buy prepackaged burgers and meat substitutes from time to time but I try not to use them as mainstays in my diet.

Once you dive into vegan cooking and try inviting recipes, you’ll probably develop an appreciation for the incredibly delicious possibilities waiting to be discovered and devoured!

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I write fun, inspiring stories about food, travel and yoga.


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