Vegan and Gluten Free, from Scratch
How to put together a half-decent basic GF vegan dish
Who says vegan food can't be delicious?
Okay I admit, when I first began adopting a plant-based diet, I was convinced food was going to suck. Add going gluten free for health reasons to that, and I was certain my future deliciousness would be pretty grim. Lucky for me, I was wrong!
So the way I see it is, gluten and dairy containing food items are pretty darn delicious. Some would say meat is delicious, however unethical; others think it's just plain gross, any which way. In any case, we need some yumminess (unless we're talking diet food) to take the place of those carby, fatty flavour punches. Yes I spell flavour with a "u", I am Canadian. :)
To be darn tasty, food needs fat, salt, acid, and heat (like the book of the same name describes). To me, and many others, the "heat" part is optional. There are plenty of amazing raw vegan dishes to be made and eaten.
In vegan cooking, we're obviously not using butter, or—heaven forbid—animal grease or lard, as our fat. My personal favourites are avocado oil (virtually tasteless), coconut oil (especially where the flavour matches, like a curry. You can use refined coconut oil for a near-flavourless experience), and a good old standby, olive oil. Olive oil would be my choice if I'm not heating the oil (like in a salad dressing).
Salt seems obvious, but there are many types of salt, including the always delicious Himalayan, or the eye-catching Black Hawaiian (the black comes from volcanoes—how awesome is that?) There's also options for people with sodium-reduced diets, many of which utilize herbs in conjunction with potassium chloride, like Herbamare's Natural Salt Substitute. Sometimes I do half Herbamare, half Himalayan salt.
Of course, you'll need the main stars of your dish, which most commonly includes vegetables (sometimes fruits), legumes (lentils, beans, etc) and gluten-free grains (unless you are grain-free). My favourite gluten free grain is rice. If regular or brown rice is hard for you to digest or you're just over it, check out wild rice, which is technically a reed. As far as protein, it's not TECHNICALLY necessary for a dish, but it's highly recommended. Luckily, nuts and legumes are good sources of protein. If you eat soy, tofu is a great staple and takes on flavours from your dish, in a good way. If you don't get a lot of protein in your diet, try a good quality vegan protein shake or powder to add to smoothies, etc. For the dish you are preparing from scratch, you're also probably going to want fresh or dried herbs and spices, because yum, and spices are the spice of life. Also mushrooms are incredible, I love adding them to dishes.
My personal favourite acids are lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar. Be sure if you use soy sauce that it is gluten-free. Alternatively, try tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce. Keep in mind that soy sauces/aminos contain sodium, so try your dish before adding additional salt at the end.
To make a delicious gluten free vegan dish, I usually start off by heating up my oil in a large frying pan. I then add my spices if using, and then add garlic and onions. I HIGHLY recommend garlic and onions for vegan cooking; it brings in the tasty and familiar flavours associated with savoury dishes. After the onions become soft, I'll add the hardier vegetables (not greens). If you use tofu, tempeh, or another protein (I love chickpeas), I'd add it next. Then I add what I'd call a sauce, whether it's vegetable broth, coconut milk, tamari, tomato sauce, a pre made sauce (this is a no-judgment zone!), vegan cheese, or some other homemade sauce, or just water. After cooking until everything is as soft as I like, I'll put in my greens. I love spinach and kale most—typical, amirite? Then I'll usually add a squirt of lemon or vinegar. On to a final taste test. If you use sugar, you can choose whether or not to add some here. I don't use cane sugar, but I do use coconut sugar; this helps to prevent the huge spikes in blood sugar that can come from eating the cane stuff.
Depending on the dish and if you like, prepare some rice, quinoa, spiralled vegetables, riced cauliflower, or gluten free noodles in another cooker/pot/bowl. You'll have to time the preparation of this to match your main dish. I'd definitely get rice going before I began a curry or stir fry. If I'm making a soup, I don't typically use a separate grain. I'll either blend it in a high speed blender, or serve as is, with the addition of pepper and maybe herbs on top, especially if you used them previously within the dish. Green onions make a delicious topper for almost anything.
For plating most dishes other than soup, I get my grain or noodles in first, and ladle my prepared dish on top (usually a curry of some sort). 🍛
I'll pepper my dish at this point, and adjust seasoning as necessary (usually I like to add a bit more lemon). If I'm feeling wild, I like to add more salt and oil on top, maybe some fresh herbs. If I'm feeling fancy and I have it on hand, I like to add sprouts to the top, and/or shredded carrots and beets. If I feel like it, I might even add another sauce on top, like a drizzle of peanut sauce or Buddha bowl dressing, or vegan gluten free gravy from a package because yum and because I don't make everything from scratch all the time!
I'll tell you, vegan gluten free poutine is a gift to this world. Maybe I'll share my recipe one day...
Anyways that's how I make things from scratch, gluten free and vegan! Fairly straightforward once you get the hang of it. And don't get me wrong —I love recipes too. This is just a template I use for the times when I can't be bothered to go out of my way and do something new. Besides, I almost always have the three ingredients I need to throw a little sumthin sumthin together.
Thanks for reading, and if you try any of my tips, I hope you enjoy!