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Courtesy of Safiya Robinson, Tomi Makanjuola, Jenny Lau, Denai Moore and Zoe Alakija

Veganuary: tips and recipes from our favourite chefs and cooks

We asked five of our favourite chefs and cooks their advice for venturing into the world of veganism this January.

04 Jan 2022

It’s that time of year again. The annual 31-day challenge asking you to throw away the meat, dairy and eggs and give a vegan diet a whirl. Plant-based eating has skyrocketed in the last few years. A survey by The Vegan Society in May 2021 showed that one in four Brits had reduced the amount of animal products they were consuming since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.

Whether your reasons are environmental, for animal welfare, dietary, a combination of all or none of the above, diving into the world of plant-based eating for a first attempt might feel a little daunting. But not to worry, we’ve got you. We’ve asked five cooks and chefs how to dive into veganism and what recipes will help you along the way.

Safiya Robinson 
Sisterwoman vegan

Photography via Sister Woman Vegan

TEK TIME and keep your journey personal. Veganism is absolutely a marathon, not a sprint – you don’t have to give up everything overnight or do it how that person over there did it. The book Veganism of Colour describes veganism as a direction, not a destination, and I think this approach is so important when trying to reshape your relationship with food. What is the destination? What does it look and feel like? How can veganism help guide you to this point? Keeping the ‘why’ in mind is key.

Recipes: My ebook Plant-Based Recipes for Mind Body and Soul is full of my favourite, easy to follow vegan recipes, including my JME-approved mac’n’cheese and a very controversial (yet delicious) vegan oxtail substitute, alongside a food-themed playlist for the very important kitchen skanking.

Tomi Makanjuola
The Vegan Nigerian

Photography via Tomi Makanjuola

When going vegan, it is tempting to think that you need to give up on your cultural foods or to buy expensive, unfamiliar ingredients to meet the dietary requirements of this lifestyle. Embrace the meals you grew up eating and loving, but lean into ways of ‘veganising’ them. You’ll likely save a ton of money, all while getting creative with the foods you already enjoy, which will ultimately motivate you to keep going.

Recipes: For inspiration, check out Vegan Nigerian Kitchen to see how over a hundred classic Nigerian meals have been successfully adapted without compromising on taste!

Jenny Lau 
Celestial Peach

Photography by Lisa Jane

I will bang on about how most Chinese home cooking is healthy and plant-based to anyone who’ll listen. My tip is to have fun stocking your store cupboard (no fridge required!). Look in my pantry and you will find: all types of dried ingredients such as mushrooms, fungi, seaweeds, herbs, soybeans, mung beans, tofu and fruits, as well as preserved and pickled vegetables, and noodles in all shapes and lengths made from different grains and starches. With a few basic sauces and seasonings (soy, vinegar, oil, sesame paste, chilli flakes, salt, pepper and sugar) you can make endless meal combinations.

Recipes: My go-to sources for classic recipes are the big three Chinese recipe bloggers: redhousespice.com, thewoksoflife.com and omnivorescookbook.com. For veganised Asian recipes, you cannot go wrong with woonheng.com.

Denai Moore 
Dee’s Table

Photography via Dee’s Table

Entering the vegan world for the first time can be very intimidating and nerve-racking, but when you break it down, it’s a lot easier than people make it seem. You can often veganise anything. Weekday night staples such as pasta, curry etc are so easy to make plant-based. There is a vast selection of meat substitutes out there that provide a similar texture to meat that helps to make the transition very seamless. Season your veg with love. Vegan food has a bad reputation for being bland, but all spices and herbs are vegan. Roast your veg, grill your veg, fry your veg. Be adventurous and try new combinations of spices. 

Recipes: One of my favourite recipes of mine is my sundried tomato baked mac’n’cheese recipe. Mac’n’cheese was always one of my top comfort dishes, this one is very traditional but has a little twist with the sun-dried tomatoes, which add a lot of that salty-umami flavour that cheese has!

Zoe Alakija 
Afro Vegan

Consistency is hard, so incentivise yourself by investing in good cookware and crockery, and by falling in love with your time in the kitchen. Unlearn the narrative that veganism is about deprivation and adopt a wider mindset, get excited by all the nutritious meals you’ll make whilst honouring your body and your planet.

Recipes: It’s winter, you’ve just spent all your energy cooking for family over Christmas and you want something warming, wholesome and gorgeous that you can put on the stove and essentially forget about. I give you my all-time ‘make me feel better but don’t make me work for it’ meal: my mom’s groundnut stew. It’s hearty and comforting, I’d recommend it to everyone new to plant-based eating.