With each year, and as more people make the switch to a vegan diet, there are more and more amazing plant-based food options available. Today, supermarket shelves stock lots of vegan substitutes for dairy foods like cheese, yogurt and mayonnaise, for example, which just a few years ago were not that easy to source.
But one fun thing about going plant-based is experimenting in the kitchen. When I went vegan, I had few vegan substitutes available to me, so I tried making my own cheese, yogurt, cheesecake and mayonnaise! What I discovered was that the homemade versions of these vegan foods usually taste much better than store-bought!
Making your own homemade vegan staples is also a way to avoid processed foods, which are usually high in fat, sugar, salt, and full of ingredients you can’t even pronounce.
Here are five easy-to-make homemade vegan staples that I always have in my fridge:
1. Cashew milk and parmesan
Cashew nuts are one of the top vegan staple foods because of their versatility. They’re my favourite ingredient for homemade plant milk because of their neutral but slightly sweet taste. Just soak a handful of cashews overnight before blitzing them in the blender with some water and watch them transform into a foamy white milk.
One thing I always have in my fridge is a jar of cashew parmesan. There’s no need to pre soak the cashews, and the other indispensable ingredients include nutritional yeast (which adds a cheesy flavour), garlic powder and salt. For an idea of proportions to make this yourself, see Eat With Clarity’s recipe for vegan cashew parmesan cheese.
I keep a jar of the stuff in my fridge and sprinkle it on pasta dishes and aubergine parmigiana, but it’s also fantastic in salads!
2. Chickpea flour mix
Another homemade essential I always have in my fridge is a jar filled with a chickpea flour mix.
Chickpea flour omelettes is one of those dishes I quickly whip up when the fridge is close to empty or I don’t have other ideas for lunch. It’s easy to just quickly sauté a few vegetables like spring onions, red peppers, mushrooms or spinach and once cooked, mix them into the chickpea batter. The same mix can also be used for Spanish tortilla or oven-baked quiches.
I’ve been using this recipe by Fat Free Vegan for chickpea omelette mix for ages. I throw all the ingredients into a jar, put the lid on, and give it a good shake before popping it into the fridge.
3. Homemade hummus
Hummus has been a staple for me since my pre-vegan days. In those days, I would just pick up a few tubs at the supermarket. I turned vegan while living in India and hummus was not something I could just pick up at the shops at the time (it might be now). So I would make my own! I have never gone back to store-bought hummus since!
It was also a challenge to find tahini, so I would just throw a handful of sesame seeds along with the cooked chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in the food processor. A final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil provides the perfect finish to this DIY kitchen essential.
However, there’s no perfect recipe for hummus. Everyone has their personal preference. So just fiddle with the ingredients until you find the perfect hummus for you!
Another jar in my fridge is filled with a cloudy, pale yellow liquid. This is aquafaba!
If you don’t know about this wonder vegan staple, aquafaba translates as ‘bean water’ and is the name for the liquid that’s left over after cooking chickpeas. Aquafaba can be used as a binder in recipes (to replace eggs) and is amazingly versatile.
Whenever I cook up a batch of chickpeas to make hummus, I always make it a point of saving the leftover cooking water. (Note: I don’t add salt to the cooking water.) After the chickpeas are soft, I turn off the heat and let them sit in the water until they cool off. The result is a more viscous liquid and a better quality aquafaba!
If you use canned chickpeas, don’t pour the liquid down the drain! It’s too precious!
I stir in aquafaba to my chickpea flour mix to make the perfect omelette! It also works extremely well as an egg substitute in cakes, and recipes that usually call for egg whites, like meringue. It can take a bit of time, but when beaten, it turns white and fluffs up and peaks!
The leftover water from any cooked beans will do, but aquafaba made from chickpeas has a neutral taste that you won’t be able to detect.
5. Homemade vegan mayonnaise
Cashews are once again the magical ingredient in this vegan staple food. Making your own homemade vegan mayonnaise is ridiculously easy. All you need to do is add four ingredients to a food processor for two minutes! An immersion blender works the magic too.
My favourite recipe is deceptively simple, using only four ingredients. The base here is (once again) cashew nuts. I add half a cup of soaked cashews to two tablespoons of lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard, and salt to taste. Two minutes in the food processor is all that’s needed to create this vegan mayo!