Essential Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Plant-Based Meals

Sometimes, all it takes is a dash of hot sauce, an extra crispy piece of tofu, or a sprinkle of umami-rich tomato powder to push a dish to the next level. Simple additions and techniques can completely transform a meal, but where can you find these useful culinary insights?

Meatless Monday enlisted the help of our culinary advisory council—which includes chefs, food bloggers, and experts in plant-based cooking—to share some simple ways to elevate your cooking. Whether it’s buying a new non-stick skillet, picking the perfect avocado, or upcycling your aquafaba, this collection of tips and tricks can add new dimensions to your plant-based meals.

This Monday, try experimenting with some new ingredients and techniques to keep every bite interesting.

 Add Some Texture

A little bit of creaminess, crackle, or crunch can do a lot for an ordinary plate of food. To add some texture, try sprinkling salads with crumbled tortilla chips; adding chopped nuts to quinoa bowls or fried rice; or layering your sandwich or wrap with cool, crispy coleslaw. Garlic-chile crunch, fried onions, Italian-style bread crumbs, coconut flakes, or Indian madrasi mix can also bring some extra texture and seasoning.

 Freeze Your Tofu

Tofu is a great canvas that can easily be transformed into many of your favorite comfort foods. Freezing tofu before you thaw and press it results in a meaty texture that’s perfect for pan frying or even grilling. And remember to purchase tofu that’s labeled as firm or extra firm.

Get Saucy

Keep your meals interesting by keeping a stock of sauces in your pantry and refrigerator. A dash of hot sauce, a sprinkle chimichurri, or a tablespoon of tahini can go a long way in adding heat, brightness, or umami to any vegetable, grain, or plant-based meat. Need some inspiration? Check out our list of must-have sauces.

Invest in a Non-Stick Pan

A non-stick pan makes cooking (and cleaning) a breeze. Vegetables, stir-fry, and plant-based patties can all get a good char without sticking to the pan. There’s a lot of solid non-stick skillets available for $20 or less!

Keep Dried Mushrooms in Your Pantry

Dried mushrooms and powdered tomato are great to have on hand to make a quick, flavorful broth or add extra umami flavor to your dishes, says Ayindé Howell of the Meatless Monday culinary advisory council. These are both great in soups, stews, curries, noodles, beans, or this vegan mushroom Bourguignon from Making Thyme for Health. The possibilities are endless and they keep forever, making these ingredients excellent pantry staples.

Make an Easy Coconut “Whipped Cream”

If you like airy, fluffy, plant-based desserts, then you have to try this recipe for coconut whipped cream, from Ayindé Howell of the Meatless Monday culinary advisory council. To make the whipped cream, use a chilled can of coconut milk and remove the solid coconut cream that has risen to the top and spoon it into a bowl. Beat on high speed until it starts to thicken and form peaks form (if it’s too thick, you can add the remaining coconut water a teaspoon at a time). Be careful not to over whip the cream as it can soften and turn back to liquid. You can fold in vanilla extract and maple syrup for sweetness. Use it right away or store it in a metal or glass bowl in the fridge.

Pick the Perfect Avocado

Avocados add a creamy unctuousness to plant-based cooking, but picking a ripe avocado is an art in itself. To find an avocado that’s ready to eat, peel back the small-cap at the top of the avocado and look at the color underneath, says Ivan Castro of the Meatless Monday culinary advisory council. If the cap comes away quickly and its green underneath, you’ve found yourself a winner; if it’s a brownish color, the avocado is overripe; if the stem doesn’t come off at all, it’s probably not ready to eat.

Quickly Cut with an Egg Slicer

An egg slicer can be used for much more than just eggs. Use it to quickly slice through mushrooms, strawberries, chunks of avocado, and other soft fruits and vegetables. You can layer these slices on toast, pizza, or these crunchy avocado tacos with pineapple salsa.

Save that Chickpea Water (AKA Aquafaba)

Aquafaba, the liquid within a can of chickpeas, can be used in a variety of plant-based recipes, including plant-based mayo and other creamy sauces and dressings, says Eddie Garza of the Meatless Monday Advisory Council. It is also a great egg white alternative that can be whipped into plant-based meringue or used to make this strawberry coconut almond coffee cake.

For more ways to improve your plant-based meals, click here.