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15 Tips To Cook Tastier Vegetarian Food

27/07/2012

One of the lingering misconceptions about vegetarian food is that it is boring.

This wide-spread belief stems from the unappetizing stodge that some hippies cooked in the 70s. The veggie food bad rap is fortunately disappearing and we are living an exciting vegetarian revolution with delicious recipes published on the web every day.

Now that I mostly cook vegetarian, I realize how it is far more creative than the bog standard meat-two-vegs-one-carb dish. It does require more effort but it’s more satisfying in many ways.

Here are a few tricks that I use to keep my vegetarian food interesting and tasty:

1. A few drops of green gold.

Sprinkle a dash of “the good olive oil” before serving; it brings the flavours together. This is a trick I learned from the Spanish. You can have normal quality olive oil for everyday cooking but have a bottle of the good one for “special occasions.” Alternatively, you can add a small chunk of butter; this, I learned from being French!

2. A sexy spice rack.

Have a good selection of spices in your cupboard. Learn how to combine spices to ingredients; carrots and cumin are a Moroccan match made in heaven, Spanish smoked paprika can jazz up an otherwise bland veggie rice. Caraway seeds are great in homemade coleslaw. Nutmeg goes well in vegetable lasagne.

3. Lemon or lime on the side.

Citruses are a natural taste enhancer and a good way to add a zest of vitamin C in your diet. For example, you can garnish your veggie rices or quinoa pilaffs with a lemon slice; and your Thai or Vietnamese soups and chilli sin carne with lime.

4. Roasted seeds and nuts.

They give nuttiness and texture. They are packed with omega 3 and 6, and also iron in the case of poppy seeds. Roasting seeds brings out their flavor.

5. Cool beans.

There is more to pulses than lentils and chick peas. There are some other nice legumes to play with: butter beans, split beans, mung beans, turtle beans. Beans of all shapes and colors are wonderful in salads, and they also make a good base to prepare homemade veggie burgers.

6. Local, seasonal and organic vegetables.

They just taste better. The key to any good cooking is the ingredients. Eating South American tomato in December makes very little sense. They are hard and watery. It’s really worth waiting for summer to see what your farmer’s market has to offer.

7. Bring on the grass.

Chopped fresh herbs or spring onion dress up a dish and bring a pungent, spicy and tangy taste to it. They provide surprising amounts of vitamins and iron, especially in the case of the French cuisine favorite parsley. Chopped parsley, steamed potatoes and a chunk of butter is one of my favourite side dishes.

8. The power of tomato concentrate.

Dishes that are cooked in a lot of water can be insipid. A few teaspoons of tomato concentrate really revive pulses stews and soups. It’s a wonderful substitute for tomato during winter.

9. Make it hot.

Have a few chili options in your cupboard. Chili flakes and powder are very handy, but you can add Portuguese piri piri or cayenne pepper to your spicy repertoire.

10. Get cheesy.

A bit of grated parmesan cheese goes a long way. Why not also try to cut of few slices of brie in your tomato spaghetti, or melt some goat cheese on a nice piece of toast to accompany your summer salad.

11. Grate the garlic.

The finer chopped the garlic is, the better its taste infuses in your dish. I grate mine with a Japanese ginger grater, it saves me some chopping too!

12. Use a pressure cooker.

Dishes are cooked in liquid so all the minerals and vitamins—and the flavors—are preserved in the process.

13. Hearty veggies.

Choose vegetables with meaty textures—squashes, cabbages, potatoes, mushrooms, aubergines, beetroots—and combine them with lighter greens such as spinach and leek, as well as tasty reds: peppers and tomatoes.

14. The perfect dressing.

Sometimes a tasty salad is only as good its dressing. The right sauce can give the final touch that will make it all happen. I’m quite partial to homemade vinaigrette, but you can style your salad by personalizing your dressing. You can make a simple quinoa and lentil salad taste Mediterranean by creating a honey and cumin dressing. Or, you can bring an Asian flavour to a cold noodles salad by serving it with a satay type dressing—garlic, soy sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil.

15. Mucho mezze.

One of the wonders of vegetarian cooking is that there are a lot of cultures and traditions to find inspiration from. Mediterranean cuisine is especially attractive when it comes to preparing simple but delicious veggie dishes and dips to share. The Spanish constantly create mouth-watering tapas; from patatas bravas to tortilla or pimientos de padron (grilled baby green peppers). The Italians have a great tradition of antipasti. Then further south, the Greek, Lebanese and Turkish cooking have bundles of delights to offer: baba ganoush, hummus, tzatziki and tabouleh. They’re all easier to prepare than you might think, and are a great accompaniment to summer barbecues and picnics.

141 Comments leave one →
  1. 28/07/2012 20:53

    This is a great post for me — I’ve been toying with the idea of gradually becoming more “vegetarian” but I just love meat too much! Slow progress though… That’s what it takes!

    • 30/07/2012 18:49

      Thanks a lot. Weekdays vegetarianism is working wonders for us. There’s a Ted talk about it somewhere.

  2. 30/07/2012 13:18

    GREAT POST!!!

  3. 30/07/2012 13:33

    This is great, I’m not vegetarian but I love cooking veggie food.

  4. 30/07/2012 13:56

    Consider roasted some root vegetables, garlic. No, not leafy veggies, it’ll burn.

    Or roasting certain harder fruits –peaches (after pitting them), pears, apples.

    Use a dab of chili paste when stir frying veggies…at beginning to infuse the flavour more deeply.

    • 30/07/2012 18:51

      Thanks for the extra tips! I will try this. We are big fan of honey roasted parsnips here.

  5. George permalink
    30/07/2012 13:59

    genuine parmesan isn’t vegetarian as producers have to use animal rennet

  6. Floyda Foley permalink
    30/07/2012 14:00

    Great tips..thanks! By the way..congratz! Freshly pressed..

  7. 30/07/2012 14:00

    This is a lovely post, and as a vegetarian it’s given me some new ideas to try out :)

  8. 30/07/2012 14:01

    Great post! And I agree, everyone needs a sexy spice rack. ;)

    • 30/07/2012 18:54

      Thanks! I need a new cupboard for my sexy obsession. I bought homemade Ras-El-Hanout the other and I’m thrilled.

  9. 30/07/2012 14:10

    Great posts – thanks for the fantastic tips. Will definitely try the tomato concentrate, never thought of that before!

    • 30/07/2012 18:55

      Thanks a lot Carla. I’m glad you liked them. I can’t live without tomato concentrate. I buy organic one here. It’s a great cheat.

  10. gnovember permalink
    30/07/2012 14:11

    I eat a lot of vegetarian dishes since I stopped eating red meat and so these little tips definitely go a long way. Congrats on the FP.

  11. 30/07/2012 14:33

    Thanks for the tips. The “green gold” is necessary on all! :)

  12. 30/07/2012 14:34

    Excellent post, and so true, when I tell people I’m vegetarian they often say “What do you even eat? Just lentils?” This post shows how versatile vegetarian food can be (and it’s made me crave tapas)!

    • 30/07/2012 19:47

      Thanks Rosey. Veggie food is everything but boring these days. I’m going to Madrid in 3 weeks, I can’t wait for tapas!

  13. 30/07/2012 14:35

    Hello! Thank you so much for these tips, since I am a vegetarian that was a valuable info to me, will try to follow as many of them as possible.

  14. 30/07/2012 14:37

    Great tips! I often use vegetable stock instead of water to braise vegetables, or add a bit to rice, quinoa etc. to give it extra flavor.

    • 30/07/2012 19:49

      Thanks Kelly. That’s true about veggie stock. I need a bigger freezer to have some always handy.

  15. 30/07/2012 14:43

    Have you tried Indian cuisine?

  16. 30/07/2012 14:56

    Great tips, and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  17. 30/07/2012 15:00

    As a primarily vegetarian food blogger, and a cancer health educationist for a major UK charity, this post really resonates with what I try to teach. But, you have made it beautifully succinct. One of my biggest tips is one that you have highlighted – a good homemade dressing can make a salad. Lovely post. Congratulations on being FP’ed. I got FP’ed in February and it was amazing. Enjoy the limelight!

    • 30/07/2012 19:54

      Many thanks Kellie. I’d love to help out a UK charity who targets obesity. My dream is to teach people how to cook with a pressure cooker, because if people knew how to cook stews in 30 minutes, they would eat healthy, tasty and cheap food. One day maybe…
      I’ll check your blog soon after I catch up here with all the nice comments!

  18. A Table in the Sun permalink
    30/07/2012 15:25

    Nice line up of tips.

  19. 30/07/2012 15:33

    Reblogged this on razVv.

  20. 30/07/2012 15:35

    This was a wonderful read. I mostly prepare vegetarian meals for myself as well, and I’ve been looking for ways to improve upon my recipes. An interesting one that you posted was the combination of cumin and carrots! I have both of those right now in my kitchen, perhaps I will try that for dinner tonight. A personal favorite of mine is bok choy simmered in sesame oil (when I have onions and garlic I throw that in too. I drop a little canola oil in the pan in the beginning just to get it going). It’s wonderful that you drew upon many cultures and geographical regions as well, I appreciated that.

    • 31/07/2012 09:37

      Thanks a lot. The bok choy recipe seems lovely. I should try it. I love bok choy!

  21. 30/07/2012 15:37

    Fantastic post, although not a vegetarian myself, I appreciated reading your reminders about dressings, spices and herbs. Thanks, now to the kitchen!

    • 31/07/2012 09:38

      thanks. I have several favourite dressings here and should post them in a dressing section, I love fresh ginger and lime lately.

  22. 30/07/2012 16:03

    Amazing! I knew a few of these, but I am not ashamed to admit some other were revelations!! Thank you so much! And congrats on being Freshly Pressed! ♥

    • 31/07/2012 09:40

      Thanks a lot Didiita. A lot of those tips come either from friends’ mums, or my own experience. I found it useful to make a list of what I’ve learnt so far.

      • 31/07/2012 16:47

        I already printed them out and placed them in my recipe book! :)

  23. sholtosmith permalink
    30/07/2012 16:14

    Nice!

  24. 30/07/2012 16:29

    This is all spot on! I especially love the combination of fresh herbs and veggies too. Although sauteed carrots in white wine with dried deal is a heart stealer for sure. Congrats on your freshly pressed!

    • 31/07/2012 09:41

      Thanks. Carrots and dill sounds like a very nice combination. Cooking with wine should definitely be on the list!

  25. 30/07/2012 17:04

    great

  26. 30/07/2012 17:12

    Great post; love the tips. I would add eggplant to your vegetable list. It’s a “meaty” vegetable so it makes a good meat substitute. Tastes great on a grill or battered.

    • 31/07/2012 09:43

      Thanks. Aubergine are a favourite in our home. Roasted, pureed, in tomato sauce, barbecued, or in lasagne.

  27. 30/07/2012 17:34

    Parmesan isn’t vegetarian – it’s made with animal rennet! Please see here for more details: http://www.vegsoc.org/saycheese

  28. 30/07/2012 17:42

    I’ve been veggie all my life and I still found these tips helpful.. Good work!

  29. 30/07/2012 17:49

    My suggestion would be to add meat.

  30. 30/07/2012 18:18

    I will definitely make my mom to read this

  31. 30/07/2012 18:19

    Ohh after reading this blog I definitely need to eat more vegetarian food! Unfortunately, vegetarian food doesn’t quite fill me up as much as meat-filled foods, but I”m always down to try tasty foods so here goes my first dive into vegetarian cooking!

    • 31/07/2012 09:46

      Thanks! When you combine pulses and grains you should definitely feel fuller, and have the proteins you need. Good luck!

  32. 30/07/2012 18:57

    I’m exploring more veggies now, while shying away from meat (at least beef anyways). This is a great post to get someone started :)

    • 31/07/2012 09:49

      Thanks! A lot of people are thinking differently about meat these days, and that’s a really good thing. We enjoy our weekdays vegetarianism a lot, and I’m French and my husband comes from a real meat-eating family. So there is a lot to say about veggie food lifestyles.

      • 31/07/2012 15:57

        I was raised on a farm in Canada, where my family raised cattle, pigs, and grew grains. We always had meat for dinner, sometimes fish. More often than not it was beef. I do love pork ribs, if I do completely give up meat that will be the heartbreaker :)

  33. 30/07/2012 19:06

    Thank you. Great ideas.

  34. 30/07/2012 19:09

    Great tips, I particularly recommend roasting vegetables to deepen their flavours. Roasted veg taste great pureed up into soup.

    • 30/07/2012 19:45

      Thanks Aurora. We love roasted veg too here. We had a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves in the tray as well, or honey in the case of parsnip.

  35. 30/07/2012 19:49

    This is so great and is going to help my own veggie mission!

  36. 30/07/2012 20:57

    Love the post! Cant wait to try some of these!!

  37. 30/07/2012 21:02

    Reblogged this on C'est que c'est and commented:
    This is a great resource if, like us, you’re trying to cook healthier without sacrificing flavor and variety.

  38. 30/07/2012 21:55

    Thank u for your nice tips.

    We need that kind of collections in our kitchen.

    Roasted veggie add better taste.

  39. 30/07/2012 22:01

    Great post. We are toying with the idea of eating meat only once a week, if at all; it is a slow process but still worth a try considering that every day there is a new report on food that is no good for human consumption. Thanks!

  40. 30/07/2012 22:23

    If it hasn’t been said, nutritional yeast. Add it to just about everything for an interesting, savory taste.

  41. 30/07/2012 22:25

    Good stuff! Oh, and ‘Yum!’

  42. 30/07/2012 22:47

    Very healthy. Many thanks.

  43. 30/07/2012 23:09

    I really love these ideas. Can hardly wait to try them out!

  44. 30/07/2012 23:36

    Totally right there with you. As a veggie for 30 years now, I’ve learned the art of creative cooking. It was trial and error in my younger days, but after living in Italy for a few years, I have no apprehension stepping into a kitchen and whipping up something phenomenal. Cooking is so easy and so fabulous. I have the basics like basil, oregano,curry, cumin, paprika, sea salt, nutmeg, sage, rosemary, garlic, and on and on; then other insane mixes with bourbon and apples, garlic and white wine, lemon peel and other infusions. With spice, you just can’t go wrong.

    Just recently a friend gave me a boxload of vegetables from his garden. There was zucchini, squash, eggplant, various hot and sweet peppers, and tomatoes nearly the size of grapefruit! I just ate half of those babies (tomatoes)with salt and pepper, dripping juice over the kitchen sink like the succulent fruit that it is! Eggplant was the guest of honor in my skillet with fresh garlic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It made a nice topping on a bed of tagliatelle (or fettucine) and the homemade pasta sauce the remaining tomatoes volunteered themselves for. Today, I stir-fried the squash,zucchini and sweet peppers in olive oil with red onion, garlic (naturally), a hint of cumin and this smoky barbecue seasoning I found. This dish, meant to complement family dinner,never made it off the stove. I just couldn’t stop eating it.

    • 31/07/2012 09:33

      Thanks a lot for your yummy comment. This all sounds like heaven to me.
      It’s true that when you cook everyday you finally reach the stage of boundless confidence, this really bolsters creativity in the kitchen.

  45. 31/07/2012 00:14

    Though I am not a veggie I appreciate the recipes. Nice ideas here. Thanks! When my seven peas and two peppers are finally grown I’ll start experimenting!

  46. 31/07/2012 00:18

    That’s so funny! My parents and I are vegetarians and my mom just happened to hit every item on this list by accident and her cooking is very good! These tips could work for even non-vegetarians.

  47. 31/07/2012 00:21

    So many delicious sounding options! I can’t wait to try them out. I found the suggestions of caraway seeds in coleslaw and nutmeg in lasagna to be particularly inventive.

    My two suggestions for vegetarian eating: 1) take cue from the many vegetarian and nearly vegetarian societies around the world. Perusing an Indian food cookbook is bound to give you tons of great ideas for preparing lentils, chickpeas, veggies, etc. Ditto thai, etc.
    2) Salads don’t have to be boring. Make them fun and delicious and make them often!

    My summer go-to: mixing mung beans, mint leaves, chunks of tofu and mango and placing it over a bed of micro greens, then finally topping it with a simply peanut butter/coconut milk blend to serve as a dressing. Yum!

    • 31/07/2012 09:30

      Thanks a lot Margaux. Indian cooking is a territory I want to explore a bit more. Being French, our exotic food is Northern African, so I often seem to go with this type of flavours and spices. Mung beans are also on my to-cook list, so thanks for the tip there!

  48. 31/07/2012 00:24

    Reblogged this on Bologna2bethlehem's Blog and commented:
    G

  49. 31/07/2012 00:54

    Good stuff indeed (quoting Pedal Paradise). Not so long ago all I knew about tofu was that vegetarians extolled its virtues. He doesn’t live with me any more but I have a vegetarian son, recently converted. I’m always looking for informative sites and recipes. I’m loving your tips and intend to work my way through your recipes. Do keep it up, won’t you?

    • 31/07/2012 09:27

      Thanks so much Mary. We will keep it up. I do a lot of healthy baking here as well.

  50. 31/07/2012 01:15

    Veggie cooking for me takes food combining to a whole new level. Your creativity must be there to make things super tasty, a mixture of these 15 is essential to get the best dishes. Since becoming vegetarian, I think a lot more about many flavours as opposed to one or two. Great post, thanks for sharing the good message of top veggie food. Happy days, lee@theBHK

    • 31/07/2012 09:25

      Thanks. Creativity is what I love about cooking vegetarian. It’s the challenge of making people forget they are not eating meat, and it’s still delicious.

  51. 31/07/2012 01:19

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! This is a great post : )

  52. 31/07/2012 01:19

    Always looking for new veggie recipes. Thanks!

  53. pondblog permalink
    31/07/2012 02:51

    Nice post! Another tip: I always have fresh ginger in my kitchen. It can add a nice zing to dressings, gravies and even just zested over veggies.

    • 31/07/2012 09:22

      Thanks Shandhya. Fresh ginger has a special place in my fridge too. It’s also our family medicine when we have a cold here: lemon juice, ginger, honey in hot water. Works wonders.

  54. 31/07/2012 02:53

    Awesome!

  55. 31/07/2012 02:58

    Great post – lots of good ideas – thank you

  56. 31/07/2012 04:38

    You hit sooo many nails on the head here! Wonderful post, and long live garlic!!!!

    • 31/07/2012 09:18

      Thanks. My tolerance to garlic is increasing and I need to add more and more now! So addictive.

  57. 31/07/2012 05:14

    As an Indian Vegetarian, I would say no vegetarian recipe is complete without a dash of Turmeric powder :-)

  58. 31/07/2012 05:24

    Awesome post! Thanks for the great ideas.

  59. 31/07/2012 05:53

    This is great! Allspice is my personal all time favorite go-to spice, but this gives me some great ideas.

  60. 31/07/2012 06:23

    Great suggestions. Not just for vegetarians.

  61. 31/07/2012 07:38

    Concise and perfectly to the point. You touched on everything I love about a good veggie meal.

  62. bronyasmolen permalink
    31/07/2012 09:39

    Love this! I’m a veggie and I am constantly trying to explain to meat eaters that veggie food is not bland! This breaks it down perfectly. I have never put nutmeg with lasagne but that sounds amazing I will have to try it.

    • 31/07/2012 09:51

      Thanks. I know what you mean. People don’t really understand how tasty veggie food can be. Nutmeg goes well in veggie bakes: potatoes, cauliflower cheese, anything with béchamel.

  63. 31/07/2012 11:40

    Super conseils! J’essaye de supprimer la viande de mon alimentation mais je suis tellement gourmande que c’est difficile. A la maison, je cuisine végétarien et là les épices font la différence :-)

    • 31/07/2012 14:36

      Merci Cecile. On n’a pas completement eliminer la viande, on en mange le weekend. Mais toute la semaine c’est végétarien chez nous et ça marche très bien. J’ai trouve un deli marocain ici qui fait ses mélanges d’épices maison. Miam!

  64. 31/07/2012 12:01

    Fantastic post. One of the things I found working from a Moroccan style recipe was putting dried fruit like apricots into savory dishes.

    • 31/07/2012 14:34

      Thanks! You are right sweet dried fruits in Moroccan cuisine is fantastic. I did a veggie prune tagine a few weeks ago, really nice.

  65. 31/07/2012 12:20

    Reblogged this on thewhitedish and commented:
    Let me start off by saying that my husband and I are not vegetarian. However, I found this blog and thought it was interesting. It has some simple ways to make your foods tasty with items people normally keep on hand in the cabinets. Tip 14 talks about making a honey and cumin dressing..I’m thinking that would taste pretty good. So many ideas and too little time! I do have some quinoa in the cabinet along with basil…I’m thinking lemony basil quinoa could be in the future……

    • 31/07/2012 14:32

      Thanks a lot for reblogging. You can apply most of the tips to non-veggie cooking. Cumin and honey are lovely together. I really need to get a dressing section started here. Lemony quinoa is great!

  66. 31/07/2012 12:42

    The thought of eating vegetarian food daily make me grimace. But now after reading your article I think I can eat it more occasionally. You sure love your veg food and that’s infectious. Thank you for making it easy for us with carnivorous tastes.

    • 31/07/2012 14:29

      Thanks. I know what you mean about grimacing. This is why we are weekdays vegetarians. The thought of given up meat completely seemed too restrictive and drastic. It’s a change of habits. In our case it took so well that we don’t really fancy meat that much.

  67. katie permalink
    31/07/2012 13:29

    This is really helpful. We’ve cut a lot of meat out of our diets and I’ve found that we’ve fallen into something of a veggie rut.

    • 31/07/2012 14:27

      Thanks Katie. Same here, we are veggie obsessed. I barely visit the meat section anymore.

  68. 31/07/2012 16:22

    Reblogged this on aura and commented:
    Do you think vegetarian food is bland and boring? Try these tips! As people are abandoning meat-centered meals, knowing how to make savory, colourfully flavoured wholesome vegetable and vegan dishes helps to sustain healthy eating choices for any one at any age.

  69. 31/07/2012 23:23

    The book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi is great for many other vegetarian tips….potato tarte tatin anyone??

  70. 01/08/2012 00:21

    These are such great tips! We are trying tonight for sure! Thank you!

  71. 01/08/2012 13:16

    Super contribution!
    I turned veggie about 6 months ago.. And need all the tips I can get!
    Thank you :)

  72. 01/08/2012 15:25

    Thank you for 15 good ideas!

  73. 01/08/2012 21:34

    Great tips, thanks!
    I tend to add some lemongrass to my currys – very good.
    My roommate always enjoys nutmeg in almost every dish!

    • 02/08/2012 09:55

      Thanks!
      Lemongrass is delicious. Do you put Kaffir leaves as well?
      Nutmeg is great in veggie food.

      • 02/08/2012 18:31

        Hi,
        never tried that – I will get some on Saturday.
        Nutmeg is just wonderful – I only knew it in mashed potatoes – but now I even enjoy it in pasta with tomato sauce!

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