Why Vegan Cooking Tips?
It’s true that many cooking techniques transcend cooking all types of foods. However, vegan cuisine creates the need for some unique to plant-based food prep. You can use our vegan cooking tips for all types of cuisine, of course. But ours focus on the needs of vegetarian and vegan cooking.
Have you read our Culinary Tips and Techniques?
And Now, Our Vegan Cooking Tips
Store spices in a cool, dark place.
- While storing them above the stove keeps them close when cooking, they last much longer when kept elsewhere. Humidity, light, and heat cause herbs and spices to lose flavor quickly. Consider keeping them in a little caddy in a cooler location. The caddy makes them easy to transport to the cooking area when needed. Our family actually has four caddies. We arrange spices by type, making it easy to find the one we need.
Keep flavored vinegar nearby so you won’t always reach for the salt.
- Acid enhances flavor. Select a few of your favorites and use them frequently.
Cook in large batches
- Instead of those microwave meals from the store filled with fats, sugars, salts and more, make your own. Cook double, triple, or even more batches. Freeze for those times you need a quick meal.
- Prepare soups, stocks and sauces ahead, too. Freeze or can in sizes you need.
Don’t overcrowd the pan when you’re sautéing
- Overcrowding makes food steam, rather than sautéing. Also, food takes longer to cook and may not reach the desired texture.
Perfect vegetable soup starts with a bit of oil.
- To caramelize the natural sugars, sauté your diced carrots, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in a tiny bit of oil. Caramelizing the vegetables first brings out the taste without adding extra ingredients. Then, add your broth and other ingredients to create a full bodied vegetable soup.
Slice garlic to sauté.
- Sautéeing your garlic in slices, rather than minced, prevents burning and retains the sweet garlic flavor.
Smash garlic cloves inside a resealable plastic bag.
- Using the back of a knife, smash garlic cloves inside a plastic bag. This saves your cutting board and knife from smelling like garlic.
Keep an onion together while dicing.
- Keep the root on the onion while slicing or dicing. The video below shows how easy it is to slice, dice, and julienne an onion.
Caramelize onions very quickly.
- Cook them in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. They will caramelize beautifully in a lot less time than with traditional methods.
When you use raw onions in a salsa or guacamole, rinse first.
- Raw onions emit sulfurous gas that will ruin fresh salsa and guacamole quickly. To avoid this effect, rinse the diced onions under cold running water first, then blot dry.
Cook pasta one minute less than instructions.
- Cook the rest of the way in the sauce. This marries the flavors while helping the sauce stick to the pasta.
Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta.
- It keeps the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta.
Remove some of the pasta-cooking water just before draining.
- When you add the sauce of your choice to the pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid. This helps the sauce to amalgamate; the starch in the water adds body and a kind of creaminess. An old Italian friend of mine instructed me in this finishing touch early on, and I would never, ever leave it out. It makes all the difference.
Plunge vegetables in ice water.
- After boiling or blanching vegetables, dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking and retain their bright color.
To get nice, crispy caramelization on roasted vegetables, use heat.
- Simulate the intense heat of an industrial oven. Bring your oven up as hot as it goes, then put an empty roasting or sheet pan inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, seasonings, if you like. Then put them on the hot pan. This provides the high heat you need to caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.
- Try this with carrots or Brussels sprouts for a special treat!
Perfect mashed potatoes are easy to create.
- After you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. The potatoes will dry out so they’ll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the seasonings easily.
- Alternatively, bake them (on grill is great!), then peel and mash. (Yukon Gold potatoes taste buttery sweet this way!)
Use the entire herb
- When using fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley, add whole stems to salads and sandwiches, and chop and stir leaves into salsas and guacamole.
Get the most juice.
- To optimize the juice you get from a lemon or lime, roll it hard under your palm for a minute before juicing.
Keep the zest in the bowl.
- When a recipe calls for zest, instead of grating it into a separate container or onto parchment paper, hold the zester over the mixing bowl and zest directly into the mixture. The aromatic citrus oils that are sprayed into the bowl will give the dessert or other food a zesty finish.
- Make sure the handle of your sauté pan is turned away from you so you don’t hit it and knock it off the stove. It happens all the time.
Don’t dress the salad when having a big party.
- Leave it on the side and let the people do it themselves. Soggy salads are not fun!
- As a bonus, you might prepare three different versions and allow guests to select their favorites.
- When cooking eggplant, I like to use the long, skinny, purple Japanese kind. These don’t need to be salted to pull out the bitter liquid like you do with the larger Italian variety.
Reduce the heat!
- Reduce the heat of chiles by removing the seeds. My method is making four straight cuts down the sides. This creates four long slivers. The cluster of seeds remain in the center of the chile. This results in less heat and more great flavor.
- Chefs know that many people toss the best part of celery, the tender light green leaves in the stalk’s center. Some chefs consider them among the most underused ingredients.
- Toss celery leaves into a green salad and dress with olive oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Serve on top of pasta or as a side salad.
Use colors from flowers
- Nasturtiums, Calendula, Mums, and other edible flowers provide color and interest to salads. Use them as an edible garnish, too! Of course, make sure your flowers have no pesticides and have been raised organically.
Enjoyed reading our vegan cooking tips? Consider putting them to use with our recipes!