So many ways of cooking; so little time. We'll break it down so you can choose the one that fits your cooking skills, lifestyle, and budget.
If you ever feel confused about which cooking technique out there is the best one to use, you're not alone! I mean, there's sautéing, steaming, pressure cooking, slow cooking, and more...man alive!
While you CAN own every kitchen tool under the sun, you don't have to. Instead, we'll help you zero in on which foods you want to cook and the best ways to cook them so you can pick and choose to find the tools that work best for you.
Here we'll talk about each technique individually so you know when to use it and why, which foods work best using that technique, and finally some helpful links for further instruction.
Let's get started...
Perhaps the most popular way of cooking vegan food is with a steamer. It's definitely my long-time fave.
If you own a countertop steamer you can do a LOT with it.
For example, you can steam veggies. You can cook grains like brown rice and organic corn on the cob. You can also make lentils and other small legumes in a steamer. Everything turns out perfectly cooked.
Plus, most counter-top steamers are relatively inexpensive.
Other benefits? You cook with NO added fat. Also, you just set the timer and walk away, so no watching anything boil on the stovetop or making sure something doesn't burn in the oven.
If you're a busy person, it makes it easy to multi-task -- so while something cooks away in the steamer you can toss a salad together, clean your house, or just put your feet up with a glass of wine. :)
So if you are new to cooking, or for some reason you just want to choose ONE TECHNIQUE to use in your kitchen, I would recommend you steam your food.
Steaming is best for cooking: Vegetables, Whole Grains, Lentils/Small Legumes, Tempeh
Steaming is not the best for: Large Beans
You'll see the "steaming technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
My second favorite way to cook is to simply sauté, although most refer to it as braising. I mean, how much easier can it be than to pull out a pan and get cooking?
It's a quick and flavorful way to cook vegetables and that's because all you need is a little veggie broth (no oil required). As the veggies become tender, they soak up the flavor of the broth. You can, of course, use water or oil, but I prefer to cook with broth.
Vegetables actually cook a little faster sautéed with a lid on the pan than in a steamer. But the only drawback is that it's a little more hands-on than a steamer because you should stir it at least once halfway through the cooking process. In addition, you might have to add a little more broth to ensure the pan doesn't get too dry.
I am also lumping "frying" into this category, specifically frying soy foods like tofu and tempeh (always buy organic or non-GMO soy).
All you need to pull it off is the right pan with a lid. I say "the right pan" because frying soy foods can be a pain in the bleeeeep if you don't use the right kind of pan. I cover this in the link below, how to fry soy foods.
I like to sauté the more delicate grains, such as buckwheat and quinoa. However, this is really considered "boiling" more than sautéing, and you will find more info about this later.
Sautéing is best for cooking: Vegetables, Soy Foods
Sautéing is not the best for: Beans, Hearty Whole Grains (like Brown Rice and Barley)
You'll see the "sautéing technique" throughout our website represented with this little image. When you see it, you'll know that sautéing or braising works beautifully for that particular ingredient.
If you're not too familiar with pressure cooking, let me just say it's an important technique for Vegans to learn.
Because you can make beans, one of the most important sources of protein in a vegan diet, in mere minutes.
I always thought pressure cooking looked so scary and confusing, and if this sounds like you than let me reassure you that it is easier than you think. The instructions are really straight-forward too. And it's one of those techniques that you don't have to sit and watch so it's less hands-on.
You can cook beans from scratch. It's also a quick way to cook just about any grain out there, like brown rice and barley. And you can make a tasty soup in short time as well. In fact, just toss the beans, grains, and veggies in all at once and your soup is ready in mere minutes.
While you CAN pressure cook vegetables, I don't recommend it. By the time the cooker comes up to pressure, the veggies cook for a minute or two, and then the pressure comes down, you've invested a good 20 minutes. And veggies can cook much more quickly in the steamer or sautéed in a pan. PLUS, your veggies usually turn out completely overcooked.
Pressure cooking is best for: Beans, Whole Grains, Soups
Pressure cooking is not the best for: Vegetables which do not make an appearance in a soup or stew
You can use a stovetop pressure cooker or an electric to get the job done. And you'll see the "pressure cooking technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
Boiling is so simple. You just need a pot -- or a large pan -- with a lid.
One of the best reasons to use this cooking technique is to make whole grains. But let's chat about this for a second...
Firstly, the BEST AND EASIEST way to make whole grains is in a steamer or pressure cooker. But if you don't have either of those, then you're going to boil them.
Boiling grains can take a really long time, or a fairly short amount of time, depending on whether you have pre-soaked your grains first.
And everything I just said about whole grains goes for beans, lentils, and small legumes. Best in a pressure cooker or steamer, but boiling works too.
You might think that a pot is best for boiling, but not always. I much prefer to make quinoa, buckwheat, and millet in a large pan with a lid instead. They are fairly quick-cooking grains, and the wide pan makes it all cook even faster -- ESPECIALLY if they've been pre-soaked (we're talking instead of 12-15 minutes they cook up in 2-5 minutes).
But don't worry if any of this sounds confusing. We explain how to do it all in our helpful articles below.
By the way, never boil vegetables unless you plan on eating the cooking water as well, such as when making soup. That's because unlike the grains and beans where the cooking water gets soaked into the food, with vegetables the nutrients simply leech out into the water.
Boiling is best for cooking: Whole Grains, Beans
Boiling is not the best for: Vegetables (except Sweet Potatoes)
You'll see the "boiling technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
I'm a product of slow cooking -- my mom slow cooked foods all the time when I was growing up. She would add the ingredients to the cooker, set the timer, go to work, and when she got home dinner was ready to go!
People turned their backs on slow cooking their food for a while because of the fear that cooking foods too long means the nutrients go out the window. And that's really true, for the most part...
Unless you're making soups and stews. Here is where slow cooking shines.
Because not only can all your vegetables, beans, and grains cook to perfect mouth-watering tenderness, but you then also consume the nutrient-filled broth. The explosions of flavor eating foods which have been slow cooked together for hours is really unmatched.
You can also cook beans all by their lonesome in a slow cooker because when your beans are done cooking there is always "broth" leftover.
But cooking grains all by their lonesome in this manner is not a good idea because when grains are done cooking there is no residual broth left -- everything should be soaked into the tender grains.
Slow Cooking is best for: Soups, Stews, Beans
Slow cooking is not the best for: Vegetables or Whole Grains which do not make an appearance in a soup or stew
You'll see the "slow cooking technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
There's something special about roasting or baking your food, isn't there? Yes, it's usually more time consuming but the results are almost always worth the time you took.
For years, it was thought you could only roast vegetables using oil. But times have changed. Because you can roast your veggies with OR without oil and the results are delicious no matter how you slice it.
Cooking anything in the high heat of the oven is going to provide a "seal" on the outside of your food so the inside can cook but remain fairly moist even as the outside gets crispy and crunchy.
In the world of vegan, it's easiest to use other cooking methods but if you DO want to roast/bake it's most helpful for cooking specific foods as shown below.
Roasting/Baking is best for: Vegetables, Tempeh, Tofu, Nuts, Baked Goods
Roasting/Baking is not the best for: Beans, Whole Grains, Seeds
You'll see the "baked/roasted technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
When you go vegan, it's easy to think your grilling days are done. I mean, most people are used to grilling non-vegan foods! But grilling is a fun way of cooking your food when the time and season is right.
You can grill vegetables of all kinds including and most especially corn on the cob and portobello mushrooms. Tempeh is another fun one. And for a real treat get a grill basket and toss sliced onions and peppers with some marinated seitan.
Grilling is surely one of the easiest vegan cooking methods there are. You'll find examples below to play around with but be sure to use your creativity and have fun with your grill. Wahoo! :)
Grilling is best for: Vegetables, Tempeh, Seitan
Grilling is not the best for: Beans, Whole Grains
You'll see the "grilled technique" throughout our website represented with this little image.
I hope this guide has given you a good jumping off point in your cooking adventures.
Thanks so much for being here with us!