For many, comfort food is a heaping plate of mom’s lasagna, diner meatloaf or big bowl of chicken soup.
Yet the world of comfort food goes far beyond blue plate specials. In Egypt, for example, a combination of pasta, dal, rice and chickpeas known as Koshari is the taste of home.
Across numerous cuisines, there are psychological reasons why classic gut stuffers make us satiated. Foods high in fat, sugar or salt set off a rush of dopamine in our brains. Memorable scents also dovetail into nostalgic emotions - just consider the bouquet of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.
Now if you’re vegan, a lot of traditional comfort foods, like that bucket of fried chicken, aren’t in the meal plan. In fact, getting away from too much fat, sugar, and salt is the part of the reason many people stop eating meat and dairy. With the right recipes and careful substitutions, you can get all of the warm fuzzies of comfort food. It helps to keep the following ideas in mind.
For this recipe, the ricotta cheese is made out of tofu blended with miso, sautéed onion, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. The rest of the recipe is fairly close to the original: Combine cooked pasta, marinara sauce, peas (and/or other veggies) and vegan mozzarella. Bake until it’s gooey and satisfying.
The “meat” for these enchiladas is a combination for sautéed onion and garlic along with crumbled tempeh, black beans, paprika, cumin, soy sauce and liquid smoke. The enchiladas are made by rolling up the meat along with vegan cheese in enchilada wrappers and placed in a casserole dish with enchilada sauce on the top and bottom.
Start by soaking cashews, which will be used as a thickener later on. Sauté cubed carrot, onion, zucchini and celery until soft. Seasonings include bay leaves, garlic, bay leaves and dried spices. The liquid comes from vegetable broth and canned tomatoes. While it’s simmering, blend the soaked cashews and water into a cream. Remove the bay leaves and smooth out the soup with the cream. You can puree the ingredients with an immersion blender or food processor.
If you want to make a vegan brunch, there are plenty of options to choose. Amazing vegan breakfast recipes include a breakfast smoothie made from fruits and all organic almond milk. To make waffles, start with make a “buttermilk” created out of almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Rolled oats, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt are ground together in a blender to create a fine flour.
The “buttermilk” is added to the dry ingredients along with vanilla and maple syrup. After another blend, rolled oats are folded in for some texture. Then waffles are made in a waffle-maker. Drizzle fresh berries (or frozen, if necessary) with maple syrup, vanilla extract and fresh lemon juice.
Maple syrup and almond butter are whisked together and then combined with rolled oats, salt and almond flour. Once everything is incorporated and a thick paste is formed, you can work on the berry filling. Drizzle strawberries, blueberries or whatever berries you like with maple syrup, vanilla, and fresh lemon juice. Spread it into a baking dish, drop the crumble on top and bake until the crumble is crispy.
Mac and Cheese
Like most mac and cheese, this recipe starts with boiling dried pasta. However, the sauce is quite different than what you might expect. You blend raw cashews, boiled carrots, nutritional yeast, vegan butter, vinegar, salt, onion powder, pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg, vegetable broth and water — an amazing number of ingredients to replicate the taste of cheese sauce.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
As you might expect, this recipe starts with boiled, peeled and diced russet potatoes. Then garlic is sautéed with vegan butter and added into the potatoes with almond milk. Sprinkle on the seasoning salt, onion powder and black pepper. Mash by hand or blend with a mixer. Finish with a dash of dried parsley on top.
The “buttermilk” in this cornbread is made form almond milk and apple cider vinegar. The dry ingredients are similar to many other cornbreads: cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Things get a little more interesting when you combine the wet and dry ingredients. Not only do you add the “buttermilk,” but also applesauce, melted vegan butter and mix. It’s baked in a greased pan at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.
You probably wouldn’t expect fried chicken to even be attempted by most vegan cooks. This isn’t going to be exactly like the Colonel’s, but if you’re vegan, you really can't expect perfect fried chicken. To start, cut a large portobello mushroom cap in thirds and trim off the scaly underside. Then the mushroom is bathed in apple cider vinegar, washed and dried. The wet batter is a mix of flour, cajun seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and almond milk. The dry batter is flour, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Each mushroom piece is dipped into the wet batter and then the dry and then fried. It comes out golden and crispy.