Do you think most American vegan recipes are bland, and if so...why are they like that?

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Replies

  • estherdragonbat
    estherdragonbat Posts: 5,283 Member
    I'm working my way through the 1,000 Vegan Recipes cookbook, one recipe at a time. Pan-seared seitan with artichoke hearts bottoms, black olives, and capers is anything BUT bland!
  • mbaker566
    mbaker566 Posts: 11,233 Member
    no i do not. my area has lots of delicious vegan food.
    and on a rare occassion i cook vegan, it is also good and flavorful
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,878 Member
    edited January 2019
    apullum wrote: »
    What's an "American" recipe? A lot of things we eat are adapted from other cultures. For example, most people would say that spaghetti with tomato sauce is pretty American, even though it clearly has Italian origins. That dish is also vegan, unless you're adding something like cheese or butter to your sauce.

    Most of the time when food is "bland," it isn't seasoned well. When cooking savory vegan food, salt, spices, and/or oil become especially important because you aren't relying on animal fat for the flavor. Last week I made blackeyed peas in my crock pot. I used black and red pepper, vegan chicken flavored broth powder, garlic, onion, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, and salt. I added a lot of spices because I wasn't adding pork, as blackeyed peas are often cooked. They were delicious. We ate them with cornbread and garlic sauteed spinach. All of those things are vegan or easily made vegan. That's also a pretty American meal; it was a meatless take on traditional Southern US New Year's Day food, even though blackeyed peas aren't originally from North America.

    I also use a lot of low calorie sauces. Most people don't want to eat a plain, unseasoned chunk of protein, whether that protein is tofu or boiled chicken. But if you season that protein, cook it well, and serve it with a complementary sauce, it becomes part of a good meal. That's just as true for meatless proteins as it is for meat.

    I absolutely did not have a good understanding of seasoning food before I stopped eating meat. My family almost never used spices. Since then, I've become much more aware of other, lower calorie methods of seasoning besides animal fat.

    This reminds me that last week I asked my OH if he wanted to pick the ethnic meal of the week and he said pizza, which lead to a light hearted disagreement over the meaning of ethnic food. He got his pizza on Sunday and I made a Thai-ish stir fry earlier in the week.

    (I've since redefined my definition of "ethnic" to mean "includes spices his mother never had in the house.")

    I received a good foundation in the versatility of spices when I was responsible for cooking lunch in a tiny yoga retreat center in Costa Rico with a rather limited selection of foods, heavy on the rice and legumes, but lots of spices.
  • cassyblack86
    cassyblack86 Posts: 5 Member
    I am a vegan chef, and I'm American. And I can assure you that my food is not in the least bit bland.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,902 Member
    It's not clear from your OP: Are you relatively new to vegan cooking/eating? (I know you said you've eaten mostly whole foods for quite a while; how long you've been entirely plant-based isn't as clear to me.)

    Others have talked about ways to add flavor, and I totally agree, but I also want to comment on the issue of getting a handle on sources of umami ("meaty") flavors in plant-based cooking as one aspect of that. If someone is coming from a diet that includes more meat (etc.), that can be a useful thing.

    There are a bunch of ways to add umami to plant-based dishes: Some foods work well (mushrooms immediately come to mind, toasted/roasted nuts (possibly ground so invisible), some seaweeds), cooking methods help (pan-browning/cararmelizing onions/garlic, roasting veggies, long slow-cooking plum tomatoes), and there are lots of amendments that move a dish in a more umami direction (tamari, miso, unsweetened cocoa powder (try it in chili!), nutritional yeast).

    I'm not a recipe cook - rarely use non-baking recipes for anything other than new flavor combo ideas - so I don't know about the recipes. (And I'm not vegan: I've been ovo-lacto vegetarian for 44 years, cooking during all of that, so I've done a lot of experimenting with plant-based cooking. Many of my meals are vegan-friendly.)
  • apullum
    apullum Posts: 4,838 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    It's not clear from your OP: Are you relatively new to vegan cooking/eating? (I know you said you've eaten mostly whole foods for quite a while; how long you've been entirely plant-based isn't as clear to me.)

    Others have talked about ways to add flavor, and I totally agree, but I also want to comment on the issue of getting a handle on sources of umami ("meaty") flavors in plant-based cooking as one aspect of that. If someone is coming from a diet that includes more meat (etc.), that can be a useful thing.

    There are a bunch of ways to add umami to plant-based dishes: Some foods work well (mushrooms immediately come to mind, toasted/roasted nuts (possibly ground so invisible), some seaweeds), cooking methods help (pan-browning/cararmelizing onions/garlic, roasting veggies, long slow-cooking plum tomatoes), and there are lots of amendments that move a dish in a more umami direction (tamari, miso, unsweetened cocoa powder (try it in chili!), nutritional yeast).

    I'm not a recipe cook - rarely use non-baking recipes for anything other than new flavor combo ideas - so I don't know about the recipes. (And I'm not vegan: I've been ovo-lacto vegetarian for 44 years, cooking during all of that, so I've done a lot of experimenting with plant-based cooking. Many of my meals are vegan-friendly.)

    Trader Joe's has a new mushroom-based seasoning that might be a good source of umami in good in meatless meals: http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/2019/01/trader-joes-mushroom-company.html. I haven't tried it, but it seems to be getting good reviews. Plus, you can return things to Trader Joe's if you don't like them.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,902 Member
    apullum wrote: »
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    It's not clear from your OP: Are you relatively new to vegan cooking/eating? (I know you said you've eaten mostly whole foods for quite a while; how long you've been entirely plant-based isn't as clear to me.)

    Others have talked about ways to add flavor, and I totally agree, but I also want to comment on the issue of getting a handle on sources of umami ("meaty") flavors in plant-based cooking as one aspect of that. If someone is coming from a diet that includes more meat (etc.), that can be a useful thing.

    There are a bunch of ways to add umami to plant-based dishes: Some foods work well (mushrooms immediately come to mind, toasted/roasted nuts (possibly ground so invisible), some seaweeds), cooking methods help (pan-browning/cararmelizing onions/garlic, roasting veggies, long slow-cooking plum tomatoes), and there are lots of amendments that move a dish in a more umami direction (tamari, miso, unsweetened cocoa powder (try it in chili!), nutritional yeast).

    I'm not a recipe cook - rarely use non-baking recipes for anything other than new flavor combo ideas - so I don't know about the recipes. (And I'm not vegan: I've been ovo-lacto vegetarian for 44 years, cooking during all of that, so I've done a lot of experimenting with plant-based cooking. Many of my meals are vegan-friendly.)

    Trader Joe's has a new mushroom-based seasoning that might be a good source of umami in good in meatless meals: http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/2019/01/trader-joes-mushroom-company.html. I haven't tried it, but it seems to be getting good reviews. Plus, you can return things to Trader Joe's if you don't like them.

    Good to know! Nearest is about 90mi from me, but I'll put it in my mental file to check out when I'm there.

    Someone here suggested food-processor-ground dried mushrooms in a rich tomato sauce (with lentils); that was really good. Thinking the TJ's seasoning might have a similar effect.

    Thanks! :)
  • lilithsrose
    lilithsrose Posts: 752 Member
    I'm not vegan, but I do enjoy some vegan foods. I've had good vegan food and bad vegan food. Usually the bad food is stuff I attempted to make myself. :p

    There is a nice vegan cafe near me called Fortutea that has delicious food (plus coffee beans and loose-leaf tea). Some of my favorites that they serve are their cashew mac & cheese, apple & cheddar panini, sweet potato hummus with homemade chips, and their vegan oreo cheesecake. They also have "The Impossible Burger," which is surprisingly good and meaty. Even my fiance liked it.
  • tracybear86
    tracybear86 Posts: 163 Member
    Vegans make their food tasty in the same way as non-vegans, they just use non-animal based products and/or substitutes. The below might help you to figure out what is missing if the food you make is bland.

    https://food52.com/blog/20286-daniel-patterson-s-7-dials-of-taste
  • zeejane03
    zeejane03 Posts: 993 Member
    I eat a lot of plant based foods now and spices and condiments make things taste great, with little fuss :) I now use salsa for a lot of things (Aldi has a fresh salsa in their cooler section that's amazing-I use it to top mushroom dishes, asparagus, in salads, on potatoes etc etc). I throw different spices with beans and rice, use different low calorie dressings as marinades for grains and veggies etc.
  • shaumom
    shaumom Posts: 1,003 Member
    Thanks for some ideas for good flavors to add. Some I knew, some sound like some great new ones. Wish I could try them all as the majority sound lovely (got some food allergies that interfere with my ability to enjoy them all, sadly).

    And for folks who gave some ideas for why vegan food might be bland: thank you. That's kind of what I was looking for.

    Interesting point about 'why' people go vegan, and how that might affect the importance of cooking vs. the importance of ethical considerations.

    And also good point about Americans and cooking and how little so many Americans, by and large, know about how to cook well without a few key ingredients. Thinking about almost everyone I know, that actually correlates pretty well. I mean, I have a few friends who are good cooks and they typically went out of their way to learn about cooking more than they were taught by their parents (not more practice cooking, but actively sought out methods and tricks of cooking a good meal that were different than what they were taught).

    Everyone else I know follows recipes, but doesn't really know a lot about techniques that involve flavor, etc... They may still have good food, don't get me wrong, but take out a few ingredients, and it all falls to pieces.

  • shaumom
    shaumom Posts: 1,003 Member
    I am a vegan chef, and I'm American. And I can assure you that my food is not in the least bit bland.

    Any recipes you'd recommend, then?
  • shaumom
    shaumom Posts: 1,003 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    It's not clear from your OP: Are you relatively new to vegan cooking/eating? (I know you said you've eaten mostly whole foods for quite a while; how long you've been entirely plant-based isn't as clear to me.)

    I am not new to vegan cooking/eating in terms of making dishes (maybe 10 years now?) although I am not entirely plant based. Can't be, at the moment. One major hurdle (although there are more than one) is that I'm allergic to soy, and also I cannot have wheat, but have such a high sensitivity to wheat that I cannot have foods that are processed on the same equipment lines and get contaminated. So most grains, most pseudo-grains, and most legumes, nuts, and seeds are all processed on lines that process wheat. There are some brands here and there that are not, but they are typically so costly that I just can't afford to get even close to enough protein to stay healthy. My daughter is in the same boat, although my son is currently vegetarian edging toward vegan.

    If I were independently wealthy, and could eat whatever I want, I'd be perfectly happy to be vegan. Don't care one way or the other about meat flavor, although umami is definitely one of the flavors that I find tricky to add to veggie based dishes (especially without soy sauce).

    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    There are a bunch of ways to add umami to plant-based dishes...

    Thanks for the ideas. Many I sadly cannot use (stupid allergy and other issues, again), but my son might be able to utilize, especially the cocoa powder and seaweed. Thanks! Forgot about cocoa in things like mole and such!
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    I'm not a recipe cook - rarely use non-baking recipes for anything other than new flavor combo ideas - so I don't know about the recipes...

    i used to be a recipe cook, then stopped for a while because the family had so many allergies pop up that I just couldn't find recipes that fit, and then slowly started trying to use recipes again because I have discovered that I just cannot accurately remember flavors enough to mix them together myself well. If I try something in a recipe that goes together, I can remember that. If I have two flavors I have tried separately, though, I literally do not seem to be able to figure out if they would be good together or not on my own until I try them. If there was such a thing as 'flavor challenged,' that'd be me.

    It's one reason this issue is of interest to me, because our ingredients are almost ALWAYS expensive because they have to be free of many allergens. So a recipe that is terrible is a financial blow, and not being able to tell if something will have a lot of flavor, before I make it? Really ends up being a handicap in trying to find good food!
  • AmandaDanceMore
    AmandaDanceMore Posts: 298 Member
    I don’t tend to cook based a lot on recipes (some, but usually only when I want something really special), but the recipes and cookbooks I’ve used have never lacked in flavor. That being said, PARTICULARLY with cooking (versus baking) there’s no hard and fast rule that you have to follow it to the letter. If something you’re making isn’t to your liking, then adjust (one of my favorite go to recipes is far too salty for my taste if I follow it exactly, so I cut the salt way back). This is why it’s good to taste along the way (pro chefs do), and season to taste as you go. Don’t be afraid of salt, especially.
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,426 Member
    I'm not vegan but sometimes eat vegan or vegetarian meals. I don't think the recipes I have used have been bland.
    Can you post an example of some American vegan recipes you thought was really bland?

    Diet recipes that have very little fat, salt or sugar can be less good tasting but that is not just vegan recipes.
  • laurenq1991
    laurenq1991 Posts: 384 Member
    edited January 2019
    My plant-based dishes except vegetable soup are typically bland because I never learned how to cook (I can cook enough to eat healthy food, but not enough to be confident that I can serve other people my food and they will enjoy it). However I've eaten enough vegan food at restaurants to know that there are many flavorful vegan recipes out there.
  • tlpina82
    tlpina82 Posts: 229 Member
    Depends.
    You gotta remember that Americans are the ones that put Raisins on Potato Salads.
    Your food may be bland by nature...
    hehehehehehe Just kidding.

    I find that people who follow recipes to the letter, end up with bland dished, because the ingredients vary in quality, origin and most importantly.... The creator's taste may be different to yours.
    They may like the bland taste.
    I know that some people find salty, dishes i think are tasteless.

    Keep in mind that Walmart iodized salt is different than Himalayan Pink Salt.
    Same for Canned beans vs fresh beans. Soaking beans vs raw cooking also changes the flavor profile.
    Things like that.
    Dark/Black Kale is very bitter, while Cavolo Nero is sweeter. The difference is where they're grown.

    So, to summarize. If you follow a recipe and it sucks, try changing some things around.
    Adding more salt, adding fresh garlic, Herbs etc.
    Take notes and who knows, maybe you'll find your groove.

    I find cooking to be a very relaxing process.
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,426 Member
    You gotta remember that Americans are the ones that put Raisins on Potato Salads.

    I have never seen or heard of potato salad with raisins. Gross. Who does that?

    I think you are right that everyone has different tastes and when you cook you should adjust seasonings to match your own tastes. If you are used to eating more spice, fat, sugar, salt or fresh herbs, etc and trying out diet vegan recipes it might seem very bland because it is missing something you are used to.