“Whoops.” “Oh, THAT didn’t work.” “Maybe I need to start over.” “Is it supposed to taste like this?” Mistakes in the kitchen happen. Especially when you are dealing with vegan recipes and vegan ingredients — possibly ingredients that are unfamiliar to you. You can easily get confused, lose your way, and basically mess up. So whether you are just starting to experiment with vegan or vegetarian recipes, or are a long time vegan cook — here are 21 common cooking mistakes: vegan edition! And yes, many of these are pulled from mistakes that I have made in my cooking adventures. Hopefully I have made these mistakes so now you don’t have to!
Neglecting to use the right egg replacer while baking 1 of 21
When veganizing a recipe that traditionally contains eggs — like cookies and cakes — it is not only important to use an egg-replacer, but to use the right one. Ingredients like flax seeds, chia seeds, and vital wheat gluten can help with binding. Extra baking powder can help with rising, and silken tofu, applesauce, mashed banana, and grated or pureed veggies can help with moisture and body.
Learn how to veganize a baking mix and make bluebird bread
Trying to sear tofu in oil that is not hot enough 2 of 21
If you want to get a nice bronze sear on the edges of your tofu, you will need to place the tofu in hot-enough oil. Heat oil and test it with a few drops of water. It should sizzle when ready. And be sure to press and dry the surface of your tofu too — this also helps you get a nice sear!
Make easy tamari maple seared tofu
Skimping on produce quality 3 of 21
Good produce can really make or break a recipe — especially a vegan recipe where the veggies are the star of the show! Seek out fresh, local, mostly organic produce whenever possible. And shop at your local farmer's market — the freshest possible produce may be your best culinary secret weapon for delicious meals.
Make a spring forward salad with poppyseed dressing, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Being impatient with your chia seeds 4 of 21
So you've added the chia seeds to your soy milk. Now what? They are just sitting there. Where is the magic plumping power? Where is the pudding? Well, give it time. Those chia seeds will work their magic.
Make chia seed pudding
Mixing cold ingredients with coconut oil 5 of 21
You have successfully warmed your coconut oil to room temperature. It is nice and soft — easy to blend in your blender, by hand, or with a mixer. But then you go and add a cold liquid to the blend and oops — coconut oil beads everywhere. Coconut oil firms up very quickly, so if you want a smooth blend, only mix with warm or room temperature liquids and ingredients.
Make cacao coconut butter spread, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Using vanilla soymilk in place of plain 6 of 21
Would you like some vanilla-flavored vegan mac and cheese? Probably not. I've made this mistake before and it is not a pretty outcome. Make sure that if a recipe calls for non-dairy milk (soy, almond, hemp, etc.) you are using original or plain flavored. Only use vanilla in sweet recipes or if the recipe specifically calls for it.
Make fake-out cheese sauce for vegan mac and cheese
Banning fat and oil from your pantry 7 of 21
There is nothing wrong with cutting back on the fat and oil you use in cooking. But banishing all fats and oils from your vegan pantry probably isn't a smart idea. First off, many vegan fats and even oils may be quite good for you — rich in healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids. Most American diets are lacking in omega 3's. Seek out oils like flax oil, virgin coconut oil, walnut, safflower, canola, EVOO, and more. Secondly, with a moderate amount of oil, your recipes can have a greater diversity of preparation methods — and you may be less likely to get bored (or start craving some french fries!) on your new vegan cooking spree.
Make peanut butter cacao coconut oil fudge, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Not soaking your nuts long enough 8 of 21
If you're soaking nuts for recipes like cashew cheese, almond milk, pies, and more — be sure to soak your nuts until they are soft. Usually overnight is the standard — one hour just won't be enough time for the water to saturate the nut flesh. Softer nuts make for creamier processing, and if you are straining your recipe (like for almond milk), you will have less fiber and more milk in the end.
Make a 5-ingredient pumpkin pie, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Outsourcing the hard stuff 9 of 21
Sure, it may seem a whole lot easier to simply pick up that vegan pie shell you saw in the freezer section at Whole Foods — but give homemade a shot! You will never learn and grow in your cooking if you don't give a few of the hard recipes a try, like pie crust. Maybe your crust will be perfection or maybe it will barely be edible. The point is that you tried, and your next attempt will probably be much more successful. And vegan pie crust — totally doable — and so much better than frozen!
Make fresh blackberry pie, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Forgetting that not all soy cheese is vegan 10 of 21
You see the label "soy cheese" and you get all excited. But don't rush into things. Check those ingredients. If the cheese contains casein — it is not vegan since it contains a milk-derived ingredient.
Make vegan jalapeno poppers using vegan cheese
Leaving out small but important ingredients 11 of 21
"Oh, I don't really need 'nutritional yeast' and those few drops of liquid smoke are probably not important." Wrong. Much of vegan cooking is in the details. That small splash of liquid smoke in the stew is what will give it a smoky flavor. And forgetting nutritional yeast means missing out on a lot of cheesy-delicious flavor and thickened texture. Don't be afraid to try and buy new ingredients — you never know what new faves you will discover.
Make smoky senate bean soup
Not pressing tofu before cooking 12 of 21
Taking your watery tofu straight from the package to the skillet is a bad idea. You will likely water down your recipe — the flavors and tofu texture will seem wilted. It takes just a few seconds to wrap your tofu in some paper towels and press out some surface moisture. You could also use a tofu press.
Check out these 15 ways to prepare tofu
Not using enough liquid in your green smoothie 13 of 21
Thick green smoothies can be a bit intense ... and poorly blended green smoothies are just not very appetizing. When blending green whole foods like large handfuls of kale, chard, spinach, and more — it's important to use enough water or other liquids during the blending process. This helps the texture thin out and ensures you get a silky, hydrating blend.
Make a green smoothie, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Not massaging your raw kale salad 14 of 21
My friend Gena of ChoosingRaw.com taught me about "massaging" raw kale. It infuses each leaf with tons of flavor and helps to soften the texture a bit. Massaged kale salads taste amazing and are an easy technique to master.
Check out Gena's kale massaging video on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Depending too much on the microwave 15 of 21
I love sweet potatoes, and when in a bind, I will gladly microwave them. But when I have the time to bake them in the oven, I always notice how incredibly magical the flavors and texture become. Microwaves are helpful tools, but when preparing delicious veggies like sweet potatoes — try to make time for the oven.
Make a sweet potato hummus tartine
Trying to use rice milk in your latte 16 of 21
I always hear baristas comment that "soy milk just doesn't foam up the way dairy milk does." Well overall, I think it does a pretty nice job. But rice milk is quite tricky for use in creamy beverages. If you are seeking a creamy latte, go with soy — or even almond or hemp milk. Rice is usually too thin. (And remember, all non-dairy milks vary by brand/variety — be sure to try a few of them before deciding on your faves.)
Make a pumpkin soy latte, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Using too much water for fluffy quinoa 17 of 21
Everyone wants light and fluffy quinoa — but if your quinoa is turning out a bit on the heavy and wet side, you are probably using too much water and not following the proper "sit and wait, lid on" time. Directions in link below!
Learn how to make fluffy quinoa, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Overwilting your greens 18 of 21
Greens are delicate, and if you overcook them, they can become soggy and chewy. Remember, if you are not using an ice bath to shock your greens cold — they will continue to cook even after you have turned off the heat. So try stopping the cooking process when the greens are a bit under-cooked and in a few minutes they should be perfect.
Make spicy peanut kale, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Using under-ripe bananas in smoothies 19 of 21
The natural sugar in ripe bananas is what contributes much sweetness to smoothies. The soft texture of a ripe banana helps make the smoothie creamy. So using a starchy, under-ripe banana will mess with the flavor and texture of the final product. Look for bananas with a few black spots for a sweet blend. You can even freeze ripe bananas for later use — frozen bananas create a milkshake-like texture!
Make a strawberry banana soy smoothie, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Skimping on spices 20 of 21
Those year-old, lid-half-on, bought-on-clearance spices that have been sitting in your cabinet should probably be tossed. Instead of loading up on tons of low quality spices that you will probably use once or twice — invest in high quality favorites. A small amount of high quality seasoning can really bring a dish up to superstar status.
Make a sprout lover's sandwich, recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life.
Failing to fully dissolve or strain agar agar 21 of 21
The first time I made agar agar-infused pie, I ended up with dozens of tiny beads in each bite. Not good. Make sure you fully dissolve the agar — or even better, strain the final product liquid just to make sure no beads get through. You can also use agar powder for less clumping.
Make vegan Jell-o
Read more from Kathy on her blog, Healthy. Happy. Life!
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