Unsure About Vegan Food? Try These 5 Vegan Dishes for First-Timers!

In honor of Veganuary Month - let's talk quickly about 5 vegan dishes you can easily make if you're unsure about giving it a try!

Victoria Hicks
Created by Victoria Hicks
On Jan 26, 2023
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Did you know the word "Vegan" is just under 100 years old? It can all be credited back to Donald Watson an animal rights activist in the 1940s. The word explores the idea that whether for food or lifestyle purposes, etc. animals should remain unharmed and left alone. There are many different levels to Veganism and what it means to everyone, you will get a different answer from each person in your life you ask and how they prepare foods and what is allowed for them and what isn't. If you've always wanted to give a vegan dish a try maybe once a week or maybe a lifestyle change, but are unsure if you want to have a meal without those animal products, here are some delicious dishes that are easy for your first time!

1| Vegan Lentil Meatballs (Gluten-Free)

Though these meatballs are vegan - they're packed with protein and rich in nutrients, according to Britt of "The Banana Diaries"! It takes just 30 minutes and works well for everyone of all ages and even the picky eater in your life.

Ingredients you'll need include:

  • Lentils (*the color is up to you)
  • California Prunes (*perfect as a vegan egg replacement)
  • Ketchup
  • Herbs (*Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, or a mixture of what your tastebuds are craving)
  • Oat flour
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Salt and Pepper (*as much as you desire for taste)
  • Sauce of your choice for Meatballs

Instructions are simple, you could do this with your eyes close, so prepare to enjoy!

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F/204C
  2. In a food processor, place all of your ingredients to make your meatballs.
  3. Blend everything until smooth.
  4. Now the fun part, roll your meatballs into about 2" balls and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and place to the side.
  6. Heat your sauce in a medium saucepan and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Lower saucepan heat low - add in your meatballs.
  8. After about 5 minutes, turn it off and enjoy!

You can have these just on their own or you can serve them with pasta, veggies, or mashed potatoes. Good on Britt because California prunes are a great replacement for eggs because they're high in fiber, Vitamin A, K, B6, potassium, etc.

2| Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara

Carbonara is usually pasta with bacon, eggs, and parmesan cheese. It's a savory Italian dish that comes from central Italy. Jasmin shares her awesome vegan twist on this recipe to pay homage to it via her blog.

Ingredients include:

  • Spaghetti, zoodles, or GF Spaghetti (*if needed)
  • Aquafaba
  • Coconut Bacon (*more on this later)
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk (*or another vegan milk can be used)
  • Vegan Parmesan
  • Tumeric
  • Sea salt and pepper (*to taste)

Before we get into the ingredients, what exactly is Coconut Bacon and why is it a bacon substitute people are looking towards these days? Coconut bacon is made with unsweetened coconut flakes. People typically mix in spices and bake them all together to get something that tastes like the real thing. Recipes differ and some people use liquid smoke. Jasmin uses Liquid smoke in her recipe when she made hers from scratch, but you can use smoked salt or chipotle powder instead. Or honestly purchase coconut bacon from a local store to save you some time for your first pass at this recipe.

Now back to the instructions for this pasta:

  1. Take a medium-large pot and boil water for your pasta
  2. Prepare the coconut bacon and shred your vegan parmesan
  3. Remember you can purchase coconut bacon or take some coconut flakes, mix in spices and use liquid smoke or smoked salt to imitate smoky bacon flavor.
  4. Mix the Aquafaba with the spices
  5. Which is the liquid leftover from Chickpea preparations. Which if you don't have that you can use the liquid from a white bean can or vegetable broth.
  6. Drain the pasta and pour Aquafaba mixture over it.
  7. Stir in parmesan and milk until you achieve the creamy consistency you desire or that of carbonara.
  8. Sprinkle coconut bacon on top and more vegan parm.
  9. Enjoy!

You can serve a green salad on the side if desired!

3| Spicy Vegan Thai Potato Curry

This delicious bowl is budget-friendly, and vegan, but also spicy and protein-packed. The ingredients are super accessible and will leave everyone wanting more. We can thank Alena for this recipe, posted on her website: Nutriciously!

Here are the ingredients you'll need:

  • Poatotes (*you can use sweet potatoes too if you'd like!)
  • Peas (*for essential nutrients)
  • Chickpeas
  • Veggies (garlic, onion, broccoli, spinach, and red bell pepper)
  • Vegetable Broth or coconut oil
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut milk
  • Curry paste (you can use whichever color you'd like or you can sub it all for a curry powder!)

There is plenty of curry pastes out there that aren't vegan and include fish sauce etc. so be careful and double-check the labeling when you're out shopping!

Instructions on how to prepare this savory spicy dish are as follows:

  1. Over medium heat, place a medium pot
  2. Add onion, garlic, and a splash of coconut oil (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
  3. Stir frequently while sautéing for 5 minutes.
  4. Be sure to add in liquid to prevent veggies from sticking
  5. Cut up potatoes into cubes and wash and season them.
  6. Add potatoes turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, and cook for 3 additional minutes.
  7. Add in the rest of your coconut oil or broth.
  8. Add coconut milk, peas, curry paste, chickpeas, and bell peppers.
  9. Stir to combine and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Add your spinach and broccoli to your pot and cook for another 5 minutes and turn off.


4| Creamy Baked Vegan Mac & Cheese

One of the things Jessica talks about (via her blog Jessica in the Kitchen) that keeps people from trying Vegan dishes or fully going Vegan is our beloved, cheese! She shares one of her favorite ways to make vegan cheese for this yummy mac and cheese.

Ingredients you'll need:

||Vegan Mac & Cheese||

  • Elbow macaroni (*you can use a different pasta, but make sure it can hold a creamy sauce)
  • Nutritional yeast (*more on this later)
  • Oil
  • Carrot
  • Garlic (*can be subbed for garlic powder)
  • Yellow Onion (*can be subbed for onion powder)
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Raw cashews (*soak overnight, drain, and rinse, before cooking)
  • Dry ground mustard
  • Lime juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Paprika
  • Ground Nutmeg
  • Vegan Milk (*any variety will work, but full-fat coconut milk is a great go-to for this recipe for its creaminess)

||Breadcrumb Topping||

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Melted vegan butter or oil

Before we move forward, what exactly is nutritional yeast? It's an ingredient commonly used in vegan dishes to bring forth a natural cheese flavor. Because B12 is hard to find in plant-based foods, nutritional yeast provides B12 and is a nice source of protein too!

Instructions for you:

  1. Preheat your oven - 350F/180C works perfectly!
  2. Cook your pasta according to the packaged directions if you're using boxed pasta.
  3. Now time for the veggies: oil up your pan and put it over medium heat. Be sure to add the onions, garlic, and carrots. Stir.
  4. Reduce your heat to medium-low-ish and cover and let it steam until the carrots are tender!
  5. It's blender time! Let your veggies cool and toss them into a blender with the cashews. Don't forget your:
  6. Salt
  7. Pepper
  8. Lime juice
  9. Soy sauce
  10. Ground mustard
  11. Nutritional yeast
  12. Paprika
  13. Ground nutmeg
  14. Vegan milk
  15. Blend it all on high speed until completely smooth. Season with salt.
  16. Add the pasta to a baking dish and stir the sauce in, covering it evenly.
  17. Stir together your breadcrumb ingredients and sprinkle it over the mac and cheese in your baking dish.
  18. Bake for 15 minutes and then broil for 5-7 until the top is a nice crisp, golden brown!

Don't forget to let it cool before you enjoy it!

5| Flavorful Vegan Thai Vegetable Stir-Fry

Another hit from Alena over at Nutritiously - this recipe takes only 20 minutes! We all love a good stir-fry and what better way to step into the vegan world other than trying something you've had before, but with a twist!


  • Pumpkin
  • Veggies: Mushrooms, eggplant, baby corn, broccoli, and sugar snap peas
  • Tofu
  • Winter Squash
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Vinegar
  • Rice (optional)
  • Cashews or sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Chop up your tofu and set it to the side.
  2. Combine all of your sauces in a container and shake with a closed lid or cover.
  3. Pour the mixture over your tofu and let that marinate for about 10 minutes.
  4. Wash all of your veggies, but only chop up your squash, mushrooms, and eggplant. Set them all to the side.
  5. Sauté the squash in water or oil (your choice) in a medium heat pan.
  6. After 5 minutes, when the squash is soft, add all of your other veggies. Sauté everything until nearly tender. Stir frequently.
  7. Remember your marinating tofu? Grab it and let's pour it into the pan with the veggies. Stir and let it cook for about 5 more minutes.
  8. If you prepared rice you can pour this over your rice in a bowl, add toppings if you'd like for some additional texture and flavor, and enjoy!

Starting a plant-based diet or incorporating plant-based foods into your weekly meals isn't easy. But we hope with these easy recipes you have a leg up as a beginner! Feel free to try it with some friends and family or your significant other and talk about what you enjoyed and what you didn't. Now let's see how much you remember from the recipes above! 👀

Time to see if you've been paying attention...

1 / 4

What is coconut bacon made out of?

2 / 4

Most curry pastes are vegan.

3 / 4

What is in nutritional yeast that's hard to find in other plant-based foods?

4 / 4

Where did the word Vegan come from?

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Have you ever had vegan food?

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