Cooking Vegan 101: The Secrets It Took Me 12 Months To Learn

I’m really excited to have Taylor from Lifting Revolution here today to share some tips on eating vegan. Taylor is a fellow Fitfluential Ambassador and I had the pleasure of meeting her at Fitbloggin’ in September and I’m looking forward to seeing her again at BLEND in May! She’s here to share tips on eating vegan and incorporating more plants into your diet which I definitely could use some help with!

vegan cooking 101

First off, thanks Christine for allowing me to pop in and take the stage! I love reading Love, Life, Surf. It’s always a refreshing way to start the day. I also love being able to walk up to my husband and announce the line up or leader board for a surf competition… wife brownie points!

So really, I should be thanking you for making me “appear” cool to my husband.

But since the truth is I know nothing about surfing, but a lot about loving life, I thought I would share some of my lifestyle tips today. More specifically, tips on eating vegan.

I’ve been a vegan now for just over a year, and while I would never tell someone to completely change their life around and join me in this plant eating journey, I do suggest incorporating more plant-based meals into your life.

I have to say, this can be an intimidating challenge for some! I’ll admit that my first few vegan meals were simply steamed and roasted veggies tossed on a plate. I’m sure you can imagine my husbands “delight” upon seeing a plate full of brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.

I had to learn how to cook all over again. How could I create our favorite meals but vegan versions?

It took a bit of practice, but now we enjoy the same dinners that most people do, just with a few small tweaks to the recipes. And those changes are what I want to share with you. If nothing else, perhaps you can get inspired to play around in the kitchen!

What’s the worst that can happen? You make something that no one likes? Big deal, toss it out, whip up some pb sandwiches and start thinking about a new dinner.


1. Vegetables Are More Than Sides

I think there is this misconception that a vegetable has to be the side to something else… a chicken breast, a fillet, or a pile of pasta. The truth is, the vegetable can be the star of the meal.

Here are a few vegetables that have the ability to take center stage: portabella mushrooms, eggplant, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes. I encourage you to buy one of these and try just one dinner this week where it is the meal. If you need some help, here’s my favorite mushroom recipe, my favorite squash idea and a delicious vegan lasagna!


Vegan lasagna

Vegan lasagna

2. Nuts Make Great Burger.

No, I am not going nuts here. Whenever we’re craving tacos or anything else that calls for ground burger, I turn to walnuts. Soak chopped walnuts in hot water for about 10 minutes, drain them and cook them up as you would normal ground burger.

For tacos, that normally means sautéing some onions on a skillet, then adding the “burger” and taco seasoning. Seriously, this is amazing… try it!

Perfect for nachos too!


3. Meatballs Like Grandma Used To Make

I think a meatball dinner was the first successful full vegan meal I figured out, thanks to canned beans. Drain out some black eyed peas, and in a food processor pulse them together with onions, garlic, bell pepper, basil, bread crumbs and kale… you’ve got meatballs! Just ball them up and toss them on a skillet or in the oven.

The first time I made these Dan (my husband) walked in, looked at the skillet and asked what was I going to eat for dinner? I’ll take that as a victory. Plus, they have no saturated fat, are a great source of fiber and pairs perfectly with a bowl of spaghetti.


4. Baking Can Go On

I know the idea of living without eggs and butter can sound miserable, in fact scary. You might wonder, will I ever be able to eat a cookie or slice of cake again? The answer is a big fat yes!

Vegan baking is not only possible, it’s delicious. For eggs, chia seeds and flax meal can be used in place. All you have to do is add 1 tbsp of either to 3 tbsp of water, and you’ve got an “egg”. What about butter? Oils, apple sauce, bananas and even avocados work perfectly!

Just because I’m vegan, doesn’t mean I have to give up cookies. If I did, I wouldn’t have lasted a day… seriously.

Vegan cookies

Or cake like this Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake!

Vegan Chocolate Lava Cakes

Vegan Chocolate Lava Cakes

These are just 4 of many tips and tricks I use on a weekly basis. Dan and I don’t eat out during the week and I don’t make pb sandwiches for dinner (though there is nothing wrong with pb), so that’s a lot of planning and cooking. Good thing I love it. The kitchen is the one place where I can just let go, not worry about what everyone thinks and create.

I encourage you to do the same.

Get out of your comfort zone and attempt just 1 day this week being vegan. Again, I am not pushing the lifestyle… but going vegan for just a day or even a single meal each week can help you to get more nutrients, vitamins and plant benefits. Plus, what’s wrong with a little challenge?


Taylor Ryan is a certified personal trainer, fitness fanatic and vegan foodie. She blogs about all things fitness, nutrition and healthy living at Taylor lives in Charleston, SC with her husband Dan where together, they run a women’s only boot camp! Check her out and say “hey!”. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.



  1. says

    The “meatballs” look great. Love how you added kale to them. Going to give it a try.
    I think the success is probably planning when transitioning to a vegan diet. cuz I know, it took me some time to search recipes and think outside the box to get past fixing sauteed veggies for dinner every night.
    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl recently posted..Erasing Bad Habits. Not so EasyMy Profile

  2. says

    While I’m not strict vegan or even vegetarian, the majority of my meals tend to follow that. I just prefer it. I love when my parent or in laws are visiting and they say “Where’s the Meat?” or “We’re only have vegetables?” for dinner.

    Can’t wait to try the “meatballs” and the cake. Yum!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..LatelyMy Profile

  3. says

    Great post! I’m not vegan, or vegetarian even, but I am a big supporter of people eating more fruits and veggies. So much healthier in the both short term and long term. It’s so important to understand HOW to eat them too. Many people cook out all the nutrients :(

    BTW, those meatballs look delicious!
    Sue Harrell recently posted..Farmer Mike LottMy Profile


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