World Vegan Day 2023: 8 Tips For Cooking Without Animal Products
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Everybody knows today that eating sustainably and keeping the wellbeing of the planet in mind is very important, and that veganism can play a huge role here. Over the last decade, veganism has evolved from a movement to protect animals from cruelty to one that also protects the environment and improves human health too. On World Vegan Day 2023, this commitment to veganism can be further bolstered by understanding more about the vegan lifestyle and culinary practices.  

For those unaware, World Vegan Day was first established in 1994 by Louise Wallis, the chair of The Vegan Society in the UK. Wallis devised the date of November 1 every year for World Vegan Day as it falls around the same time as Halloween and Samhain, festivals associated with feasting. Her idea was to promote conscious, responsible and vegan feasting options for those who want to make that choice. So, World Vegan Day 2023 is the perfect time to talk about veganism as a concept and how it can be adopted by cooks and home cooks around the world. 

When it comes to India, specifically, the idea of veganism is pretty new. While a large part of the Indian population is vegetarian, Indian cuisine has always relied on animal products like ghee, paneer and milk for nutrition as well as for recipes. And yet, with more and more people turning to veganism in India, learning how to cook vegan food has become even more important. The process requires unlearning some traditional usages—like the dependence on dairy products—and adopting more eco-friendly, vegan cooking methods. 

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If you are adopting veganism as a lifestyle this World Vegan Day, then here are a few simple but effective cooking tips you should start with. 

1. Build The Right Pantry: You will first have to take a good look at your pantry and eliminate all animal products, dairy products and foods that may have any ingredients sourced from animals. Then, build a new pantry based on grains, legumes, fresh fruits, vegetables, dry fruits, nuts and seeds. You should also stock up on dairy alternatives like tofu, almond milk, soy milk, etc. 

2. Start Simple: Don’t assume you will be able to cook a full vegan feast on day one. Start slow and steady with recipes you know will work. As Indians, you can start with dals, millet dishes and vegan curries, sabjis and saag dishes that are commonly cooked around the nation. Familiar dishes like Chole, Sarso ka Saag, Chitrannas, Dosas, etc are good places to start and easy too. 

3. Experiment With Proteins: If you have grown up as a vegetarian or non-vegetarian Indian, you would naturally have a reliance on animal proteins for energy and sustenance. But being vegan means eliminating these foods and relying more on other protein sources like lentils and legumes, whole grains, soy, tofu and other plant-based proteins. So, learn more about these options and see what works best for you. 

4. Learn To Substitute: If you have indeed grown up without veganism as a steady lifestyle choice, navigating the kitchen can become a bit difficult without staples like ghee, butter, milk and eggs. Thankfully, the food market is now packed with amazing vegan substitutes for most of these foods, including almond milk, vegan butters, nut butters and flax eggs and aquafaba. Experiment with these and see which ones suit you best. 

5. Use Fresh Herbs & Spices: You might think that cooking up flavour-packed dishes without relying on animal-based products is difficult—especially when it comes to ghee, butter and even milk. But, the fact is that as a vegan you can shift this reliance to fresh herbs and spices from your pantry and explore more options out there. For example, apart from herbs like coriander, mint, etc, you can also try fermented foods like soybean paste, seitan and kimchi as flavour additions. 

6. Always Meal Prep: Cooking with vegan ingredients, especially if you are not used to it, can be quite daunting in the beginning. This is where meal prepping can help. Take some time out on the weekends to plan your weekday meals ahead of time. If making sauces, gravy bases, cooking grains and chopping vegetables ahead of time helps, do that. 

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7. Plan Your Meals: What often happens with a lot of people who shift to veganism is that because they don’t know how to create balanced, nutritious meals with just vegan ingredients, they soon face nutritional deficiencies. This can be easily remedied if you just get a good mix of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds into your daily meals to ensure you get complete nutrition.  

8. Learn To Read Labels: Shopping for vegan ingredients and foods in a market full of vegetarian, non-vegetarian and animal-based products. So, learning how to read labels and identifying animal-derived components is very important. You can also join local or online vegan communities to learn more about identifying vegan and cruelty-free foods as organisations like PETA also assist with these.