Does saying ‘yes’ to a plant-based diet mean saying ‘no’ to flavor and variety?
One of the biggest myths out there is that a plant-based diet is equivalent to a bland one.
This is a myth that deserves busting like no other.
Let’s start by asking the right question about ‘boring’ food.
How much variety and flavor were you really getting on your “regular diet”?
How many different dishes did you actually cook?
How many times did you choose the same sandwich or the same pizza toppings over and over without thinking about it?
Varity and taste is all relative; the truth is that many who eat a meat-centered diet eat the ‘same old same old’ day in and day out.
In fact, a meat-based diet is by definition really limited because there are only a few meats to choose from.
But plants? There are literally hundreds of legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits at your fingertips in any grocery store.
It’s impossible not to have variety!
It is true that when you first get started with your plant-based life, you might be a little overwhelmed by learning to cook all the great foods you’ve missed out on all these years. That’s perfectly normal.
But with a few spices and a few unique techniques, you’ll find that a plant-based diet really is more flavorful, interesting and diverse than your previous animal protein rut.
One great way to add variety to your dishes is with spices. In addition to making things more flavorful, spices add vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even protein to your plant-based dishes. So don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Umami Get to know umami for a taste sensation like no other. It’s sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It’s that savory flavor, a pleasant and mouthwatering taste that lingers on your tongue. Even if you never heard of it, you know when it is missing. Meat has tons of umami, but there are plenty of plant-based sources, too. Mushrooms (especially shiitake), tomatoes, asparagus, cooked celery, onion and potatoes, carrots, corn, soybeans, sweet potatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, seaweed and green tea are great sources. Also herbs such as rosemary and thyme and fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh and Kim chi are rich in the savory goodness of umami.
- Garlic is good for just about any dish. Like umami, it adds that savoriness to veggie dishes, grains, beans and sauces.
- Cinnamon gives a delicious boost to sweet flavors.
- Aromatic herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and sage help you build a foundation for delectable dishes.
- Chiles stimulate the palate and add a bit of “kick” to your favorite foods.
- Marinades add yummy flavor and nutrients to grains and beans. Try mixing up some fresh herbs with lemon juice or vinegar and marinate cooked grains or beans for an hour or two. You can also marinate veggies before cooking or even eating raw!
- Purées can sit in for oils, eggs or sugars in some baked recipes and add creaminess to everyday dishes. Soak and purée cashews for wonderfully rich soups and sauces.
- Citrus makes an excellent salt substitute by heightening flavors and bringing out the brightness of veggies and fruits.
- Specialty cuisines like Indian, Thai, Mexican and Italian foods can open your taste buds to new dishes and spices like all sorts of curries, sauces and chilies—and even spices for the grill!
The longer you stick to a plant-based diet, the more your palate will change.
Oils will taste synthetic and heavy. Salt will taste like an intruder. The thought of drenching your beautiful steamed broccoli in butter will make you shudder.
Once you stop drowning out the flavor—the true nature—of your food with salt, sugar and oils, you’ll taste it like you never have before. In all of it’s whole, natural glory!
What are your favorite ways to make your plant-based dishes yummy? Please let us know by commenting below.