How to have a successful Veganuary
Start the year with a vegan bang — and a yummy plant-based mac and cheese recipe.
Whether it’s an annual tradition, a new way to detox after the holiday season, or your first attempt to switch to a vegan diet, Veganuary is a great time to turn your kitchen into a food laboratory and experiment with new plant-based meals and combinations.
But first, here’s a refresher: Veganuary was launched in the UK in 2014 to promote a plant-based lifestyle for the first month of the year and beyond. Since then, more than one million participants have joined the challenge, saving over 100,000 tons of CO2e and millions of animals.
If you’ve never tried this challenge before — or if you couldn’t stick to it for more than a few days — here are some simple tips for a fun and successful Veganuary. To start off on the right foot, come in with an open mind, let your creativity flow, and enjoy exploring new ingredients. You’ll be mesmerized by the immense variety of flavors that vegan cooking has to offer.
5 tips for a successful Veganuary
Stock up on alternative proteins. As you won’t have any animal foods for a month (or hopefully longer!), it's a good idea to buy a substantial amount of protein-rich alternatives such as legumes, nuts, seeds, minced soy, fortified malted yeast (to replace cheese), and anything else you may need. This way, you can rest assured you will have enough healthy ingredients to prepare delicious and balanced vegan meals every day. And of course, make sure you’ve got plenty of fresh vegetables in your fridge.
Start easy. Remember: It’s never too late to become a three star Michelin chef, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Think about some of the meals you usually cook the most, and simply replace any animal ingredients with plant-based proteins like soy, tempeh, seitan, or legumes. If you miss meat, you can also pick from a wide range of fake meat options available on the market: You may find that some of them taste as good as the animal alternatives. To sum up: Begin with a few easy meals, and see where your creativity takes you.
Familiarize yourself with plant-based ingredients. If you’ve never tried a vegan diet before, you may feel disoriented at the start. Vegan cooking uses a large variety of ingredients that omnivores or vegetarians may have never even heard of. So, understanding which ingredients you will need is the stepping stone to a successful Veganuary. The internet offers countless resources for this: Check out this pantry list of plant-based ingredients to start with.
Plan your meals and give batch cooking a try. Visualizing your recipes in advance and cooking in larger quantities can release the stress of not knowing what to buy at the grocery store and which meals you should prepare during the week. Write down a few menu options for the upcoming days, and buy enough ingredients so you can cook a few extra portions. If the fridge is full, just pop your meals in the freezer. This way, you won’t need to constantly think about what you’re going to whip up next.
Start a diary. Write down the meals you liked the most so you can cook them again. This way you can even share your signature recipes with your friends and family, and who knows, you may even start your own vegan cookbook!
Make sure you get all the nutrients you need. Grains (especially whole grains) and vegetables are super healthy and delicious, but make sure you integrate a variety of plant-based proteins into your diet, too. Humans should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (which means 56 grams of protein per day for an average man, and 46 grams for an average woman). So as long as you eat plenty of different vegetables, legumes (like soy, beans, or lentils), nuts, and seeds, you should be good to go. Lastly, don’t forget vitamin B12: Although some foods like fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts contain vitamin B12, it’s safer to take supplements, especially if you’re a newbie to the vegan universe.
Involve your friends. Getting your friends on board is a fun way to make Veganuary even more enjoyable. You can experiment together, try out each other’s recipes, and encourage each other to keep going — perhaps while indulging in some homemade vegan cookies.
Looking for your first vegan experiment for January? Here’s a yummy and creamy recipe that we’re sure you and your friends will love.
Pumpkin vegan mac and cheese
This recipe was adapted from Les Idées Claire. Most of the ingredients can be found in your local grocery store. If you’re struggling to find nutritional yeast, look online! It stores for months and adds a vegan umami kick to all kinds of foods, from popcorn to pasta and beyond.
Ingredients for two people:
150g of pasta
150g of roasted butternut squash purée
70g cashew nuts
1 tbsp of nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp chili powder (optional)
½ tsp paprika (optional)
100mL of pasta cooking water (to be adjusted according to the texture of the sauce that you want to obtain)
Toppings: Chives, green onions, sprouts, hot sauce, or whatever you like (optional)
The day before, soak the cashews in water or cook them for 10 minutes in boiling water.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per package directions.
Drain and keep 150mL of pasta water for the sauce.
Pour the hydrated cashews in a powerful food processor with the malted yeast, squash puree, lemon juice, garlic powder, chili powder (if using) and half of the pasta water.
Mix until you obtain a perfectly smooth sauce. If you want a creamier sauce, add more of the pasta water until you reach your desired texture.
Pour the sauce over the pasta, mix, and add your toppings. Voilà, your vegan mac and cheese is ready!