Plant Based Eating Help | 18 Ingredients to Plant Based Eating with Examples

I feel you. 

When I started vegan cooking, I felt lost and intimidated. 
I just wanted to find the most simple recipes to get started. 
What worked for me, was that I started with breakfast. 
Then, I started making more of my lunches and dinners plant-based. But breakfast was the easiest to transition to plant-based. The success early in the day gave me the sense that I could do it.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few more things about cooking plant-based. Now it’s not as intimidating. 
I want to pass on the knowledge to you! You’re in for a treat.
So, wherever you’re at in your plant-based journey, I hope some of the tips I share will help you feel more inspired to cook and continue your journey. 
The extensive list below is full of recipes that I love to feed my non-vegan family. (Picky Eater Approved)
If you save this page, you could probably make a month of meals from this post. 
Enjoy it as much or as little as you like! My gift to you. 
I admit that I am not a full time vegan. I would consider myself 80% vegan. So, I’m not judging you. You have to find the diet that works best for you. Every body is made differently. 
Gaiam Performance Collection
Chef Joanna

18 Ingredients for Plant-Based Cooking

1. Tofu

Replacement for eggs? This is it! You can crumble up tofu to make a stir-fry, similar to scrambled eggs. Add a dash of turmeric for color. You can even blend up some tofu and make a vegetable frittata that bakes in the oven. I like to eat some eggs, so I scramble eggs with tofu for my version. 

2. Cauliflower

If you’re looking to replace cream in your soups or purees, cauliflower can do it. I love to steam cauliflower and puree it with some garlic powder and splash of non-dairy milk. This way its like mashed potato and it can be a base for sautéed salmon or crispy tofu. Cauliflower steaks are always delicious, too. Top “steaks” with harissa, or chermoula to flavor them. 

3. Nutritional Yeast

If you are 100% vegan, you need to be sure to get an adequate amount of vitamin B12, only naturally found in animal foods. But, you can get it from fortified cereals and nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast should be in your cupboard if you’re vegan. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on soups or breakfast bowls for a slightly savory flavor. I love making dairy-free pesto with nutritional yeast. 

4. Miso

Miso is the best. It’s often a secret ingredient for big time chefs because one spoonful gives incredible depth to dishes. Miso is the ultimate replacer for Parmesan cheese. It has that umami, salty flavor that will make incredible broths and make a tasty vegan risotto. If miso is new to you, start simple and make Homemade Miso Soup from Scratch. Add your favorite veggies to make it a meal. 

5. Potato

Can you believe the humble potato can make a vegan nacho cheese? As chefs, we were taught to NEVER put potatoes in the blender because they become gummy. But, this very mistake makes the most delicious vegan nacho cheese. How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese

6. Cashews

When I started cooking more plant-based, there was nothing that I dreaded more than soaking cashews. I just didn’t want to do it. After some years, I realized you don’t have to soak them! With a vitamix (or high powered blender) you can blitz raw cashews with some water and get dairy-free sour cream. Add some lemon juice and garlic powder, and you have a great dip. Adjust the water and get different results for different uses. 
i.e. How to make Dairy-free sour cream for Vegan nachos

7. Aquafaba

Funny name, but simple ingredient. This is the bean “juice” that come in the can of chickpeas. Don’t throw it out. There is a ton of protein in it. If you whip it with sugar, you can make meringues like they do with egg whites. You can even make vegan macarons too. Aquafaba is usually used with Cream of tartar to whip them and make sure they stay stiff, like egg whites.

8. Oat milk

Oat milk is my favorite non-dariy milk to bake with. Even more so than soy or almond milk. The slightly higher sugar content (even in unsweetened milk) allows baked goods to brown more and get that golden color. 

9. Coconut Oil

Not only is coconut oil a great oil to stir fry with because it can withstand high heat, but its also great for baking. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it is a great replacement for butter. You can make pancakes, cookies, pie crusts and more with refined coconut oil and they won’t taste coconut-y at all. 

10. Earth Balance

When I don’t have coconut oil on hand, I go for Earth Balance margarine. The vegan margarine makes especially good pie crusts, and galettes, like this one.

11. The Incredible Mushroom

If you’re vegan you probably have had a Portobello Burger. But, there are so many other uses for mushrooms. If you chop them up small, they can be a great replacement for ground meat dishes, like Vegan Armenian Lahmajoun. Add different mushrooms together to get a complex, delicious flavor like enoki and shiitake mushrooms in this vegan dumpling recipe.  And here’s a Grilled Portobello Pita I love. 

12. Squash

I am an American and love squash!! This incredible vegetable is sweet and one of my favorites. It adds bulk to your meals, making you full faster. You can roast, grill, or puree them for so many recipes. My favorite way to eat butternut is in this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Arugula, Pomegranate, Walnuts, and Feta. 

13. Beans and Lentils

Legumes are a must in a plant-based diet. They are inexpensive and a major source of protein. Did you know that adding ½ to 1 cup of legumes to your diet a day can add 4 years to your life? But, more importantly adding legumes can make you healthier today. I can’t say enough good things about beans. You just have to find the ones that work for you. 

14. Carrots

I feel that carrots often get forgotten and just used as a base in soups. When you realize you can shred them and add them to stir fries or in a breakfast bowl, you start to enjoy these orange ribbons more. They have a natural sweetness that adds a nice touch to dishes. 

15. Your Favorite Green

It’s important to make dark leafy greens part of your daily habit. They are the healthiest veg out there, packed with the most nutrients. Favorite green? My toss up is between baby spinach and baby arugula. But, others I love are napa cabbage, and sometimes kale. Find the green that you love and make it a staple in your meals. 

16. Herbs

Fresh herbs are essential for making stellar plant-based dishes. As a chef, I think the three things that make any dish amazing are: something crunchy, something saucey, and something fresh. If you have these three components, you’ll be enjoying a restaurant-quality dish at home. Herbs are that fresh touch that lift dishes that are grilled or roasted. They not only give a burst of freshness but have tons of antioxidants and detoxifying elements. Chef Tip: If you’re herbs start to wilt, make a sauce with them and you can have a sauce for the week. 

17. Quinoa

I didn’t know that quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain. So, that means its gluten-free! If you aren’t familiar with quinoa and are plant-based, this little seed will become your best friend. It is the most complete protein of any starch and it can be flavored and served like rice. I especially love it in breakfast bowls. 

18. Nuts and Super Seeds

Almond Butter is my favorite and makes the best snack. Just 1 Tbsp. of almond butter is full of healthy fat so it can fill you up quickly. But, you can go nuts with sunflower butter, or peanut butter. For seeds, you got to get chia and flaxseed. They add protein and fiber to your meals. 

Not included Ingredients

I know full time vegans love cooking with tempeh and seitan but I just haven’t mastered them yet (or enjoy them). They also make my stomach really uncomfortable. So, I’m not the best to speak about these. 
I also am not a fan of plant-based “meats”. Maybe I will be one day, but they are too weird for me. I rather just eat vegetables and beans in their whole, unprocessed state. 


Hopefully, you feel more confident after reading this to continue your plant-based journey. 
I am here to share in your successes! 
If you try these tips or recipes, please tag me @chefjoannas so I can celebrate with you!

Need more help?

Join the ‘Cook to 100’ program to learn more about plant-based cooking basics. Or check out 80% plant-based meal plans. 

Related Articles: 

This post contains affiliated links. Please read my disclosure page.

Leave a Reply