Your Ultimate Guide To Vegan Cooking

Welcome to the Vegan Coach guide to vegan cooking. Ready to play with your food?

Are you looking for tips on working with and cooking basic vegetarian whole foods like vegetables, beans, and whole grains? If so, then you will love the information you'll find here.

It's like your very own virtual cooking school. :)

Do you like to cook? Or is it a necessary evil?

Before I went vegan back in 1994, I was the worst cook I knew; my friends actually joked about my lack of skills in the kitchen (boo-hoo). I just really HAY-AY-ATED cooking.

It wasn't until I went vegetarian (and later dropped the eggs and dairy) that I was forced to learn how to cook for myself and hubby Jeff.

And what I have learned over the years is that cooking is the best way to relax, let all the stress float away, and let your creativity flow.

But cooking CAN be stressful too, especially when you first head down this path and you really don't have a clue what to cook. Or you get bored with the same few recipes you make over and over again.

Let's begin with the main ingredients, followed by a few tips to help get you started...

Vegan Cooking Guide
These whole foods are the foundation of your meals.
Click on each one. Get to know them!

Highly recommended: Be sure to review the easy-to-understand Vegan Cooking Guide Tutorial to learn how to make use of all the information you will find after clicking on the following food groups. (This will open in a new window so you can go back and forth as needed.)

Vegetable Cooking Guide
We'll show you how to cook veggies! Click to learn more about fresh vegetables, like asparagus, broccoli, kale, and spinach.

Whole Grains Cooking Guide
Here we'll teach you how to cook whole grains from scratch. Click to learn more about cooking with whole grains, like brown rice and barley, and pseudocereals like quinoa and buckwheat.

Protein Cooking Guide
Here you'll learn all about cooking the higher protein vegan foods including all kinds of beans, large and small. We also cover tempeh, nuts and seeds.

Guide to Fruit
Fruit! Good! Eat!
Click to learn more about fruits of all shapes and sizes


The most important thing you can do is to get familiar with the main ingredients you will use the most when cooking.

This is vital to your success as you learn to cook 100% plant-based vegetarian dishes.

Because if you don't know how to work with each ingredient individually, how can you hope to mix them together to make a yummy meal?

Take a look again at the list above and you will find fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans (and other foods loaded with protein).

As an example, if you click on The Vegetable Cooking Guide you will visit an article that lists some of the most popular veggies out there. Click on any of the veggie links, and you will find detailed tips and advice that will teach you how to shop for these ingredients, how to prep and cook them, and how to flavor them, plus links to nutrition information.


Now, Step 1 helped you to get familiar with how to make each whole-food main ingredient on its own.

And when you have these basics down, you can begin to put them together to make easy meals.

For instance, let's say you learn how to cook broccoli. You also tried your hand at making some quinoa. And you have discovered how to cook black beans. What are you going to do with this information?

Here are some ideas for how you might use the three ingredients above to whip up a healthy and delectable meal:

  • Cook, season, and serve each of the main ingredients individually on the plate. Instant super easy meal. And since you have learned how to cook and flavor each one, they can stand on their own to make the meal sing;
  • Mixing grains and beans is always a good option because they usually compliment each other in flavor, consistency, and nutrients. So go ahead and mix the beans and quinoa together, and serve the broccoli on the side;
  • Wrap your main ingredients into a warmed tortilla and munch away. Or pop the wrap under the broiler, and make a tasty sauce to drizzle over the top. Or make fun tortilla bowls to spoon the ingredients into.
  • Heat a large pan and add vegetable broth to nearly cover the bottom. Slice some onions, garlic, red pepper, bok choy, and any other veggies you like, and add to the pan with the raw chopped broccoli. Heat until the veggies are slightly tender, and add the beans to the mix. Flavor, using the "Vegan Flavor Matches" you learned about in the Cooking Guide Tutorial. Spoon over a mound of cooked and flavored quinoa.

Really, the possibilities are limitless. Become comfy with the main ingredients for your meals - refer to the categories of delicious foods above to guide you.

Also, take a peek at Cooking From Scratch where you will find lots of dishes I created on-the-fly using the same techniques you're learning here.


Now that you have an idea of how to cook your main ingredients, and how you can get started making these ingredients into a meal, it's time for some cooking tips to help you along:

  1. When you look through the list of Flavor Matches for the various veggies, whole grains, and beans, you might see some ingredients you aren't familiar with. Don't get hung up on them. Choose to focus on those ingredients you already know and love.

    For instance, if you see "Tamari" as a flavor match -- which is a soy-based condiment much like soy sauce but richer and less salty -- but you only have traditional soy sauce on hand, then go ahead and use what you are familiar. Over time, as you continue to cook, you will naturally become more curious about the "strange" ingredients and you can investigate them at that time;

  2. When cooking 100% vegetarian food, you'll be chopping, slicing, and dicing veggies. Be sure to chop each down to about the same size cuts so they cook evenly. Also, keep in mind the relation to the rest of the dish -- for instance, if I am making a rice dish, I will chop veggies on the smaller side to so they don't overpower the grain; if I am making penne pasta, I might choose to keep my veggie chops or slices on the larger side;

  3. Fresh herbs are fun to play with, but they can also freak some new cooks out.

    So you can go ahead and use dried herbs, just remember that they should be added earlier in the cooking process so they can begin to rehydrate and release their flavors.

    Be sure that you rub dried herbs between your thumb and forefinger or between the palms of your hands before adding them to your pot or pan to give the herbs a boost of energy so they can do their herb-y thing. Fresh herbs should always be added toward the end of cooking to enjoy their full flavor effect because they are more fragile;

  4. If your dish seems a little blah, add lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking to perk up the flavors. Especially helpful when reheating a soup, stew, or grain-based dish. (By the way, NEVER use distilled white vinegar in your cooking.);

  5. Wondering which flavors to add to your dish? Always let "THE BIG 4" guide you: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Add some of your favorite flavors, then taste. What do you think it needs? (There is no right or wrong answer. That's the beauty of cooking because YOU make the rules.)

    Does your dish taste like it needs a sweetener? Then add a little bit of maple syrup, some raisins or chopped dates, coconut nectar, or Sucanat (a natural sugar). Does your dish need a bitter edge? Add some unsweetened cocoa, olives, or spices like freshly ground black pepper or chili peppers.By the way, if you use salt be sure you know the difference between table salt and sea salt;
  1. Nuts and seeds contain vital enzymes your body needs so always buy them "raw". However, toasting them in a dry pan or 400-degree F oven (watch carefully!) greatly brings out their flavor and can add much to a dish. The solution? Toast half of them, and leave the other half raw so you get the best of both worlds;

  2. When working with beans and grains and veggies, you can sometimes have a challenge with consistency and texture. I mean, if everything is cooked as it should be, it's all tender, right? So do your best to add ingredients to the dish to "up" the crunch factor such as nuts, seeds, fried onions, or lightly crushed crackers or tortilla chips;

  3. Think color! The more color a dish has, the more visually appealing it is, and often the tastier and more nutritious too;

  4. Perhaps most importantly, celebrate and appreciate that you are so fortunate to have such a gorgeous bounty of whole foods to cook with, like Tina C. in Quincy, Illinois. I just love what she has to say, don't you?

  5. Before we move on, be sure to take a gander at the Vegan Nutrition Guide.


Get to know the Vegan Food Pyramid so you have an understanding of which food groups you need to eat on a daily basis. This will help to guide you in choosing your main ingredients with which to make your meals.

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-- Carol Radike, San Luis Obispo, California

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