In the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is turning cooler and Autumn is just around the corner. When we cook, our thoughts turn to warm, hearty dishes that fill the house with comforting smells and make the kitchen come alive with warmth. Squash, root vegetables, soups or stews, and fresh breads are the perfect foods for this time of year. Fill your kitchen with these delicious, (mostly) nutritious vegan dishes this Fall and watch your guests’ faces light up as they realize how amazing vegan food can be. Best of all, you don’t have to be a master chef to make any of these recipes.
It’s surprising how many people have never tried hummus. It’s a filling chickpea-and-tahini spread that goes great on raw veggies, pita bread or even crackers. Hummus is delicious any time of the year, but in Autumn it’s even harder to resist hummus made with roasted red peppers and garlic. This hummus recipe is quick and easy because it uses canned chickpeas and red peppers, but if you prefer you can cook your own chickpeas from dried and roast your own red peppers.
Bread and oil is a classic quick, inexpensive, and extremely yummy appetizer. The best part is that you can customize the taste in so many ways. It just takes a bit of olive oil, some dried seasonings and high-quality bread. The olive oil is the most important part; spring for the extra-virgin if you can. It has a pure, delicate taste that lower qualities can’t match. You can even use flavored or infused olive oil, either homemade or bought in the supermarket. Simply mix olive oil with a few pinches of dried herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, dried red pepper and sage, a bit of garlic powder and some salt and pepper. This isn’t an exact science, so simply mix your seasonings in to taste. Warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave and serve with crusty whole-grain bread. Adding a few drops of high-quality balsamic vinegar to the oil just before serving adds an unforgettable flavor.
We can’t say enough good things about stuffed mushrooms. The little white cap mushrooms are usually pretty inexpensive, and making stuffed mushrooms isn’t nearly as complicated as the finished product makes it seem. This recipe for Garlic and Rosemary Stuffed Mushrooms includes butter, but you can easily substitute a non-dairy equivalent to make the recipe vegan. It’s definitely worth it. But there’s no need to heat up the whole oven to roast your garlic if you have a toaster oven handy. Just cut off the top of the head, peel off the outer layer of skin, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and roast in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Beans are so important for vegetarians and vegans; they give us the necessary protein and fiber to keep us going strong. This simple bean and rice casserole is cheap and easy and contains three different kinds of beans. You can dress it up with some cumin, garlic and chili powder to give it a taco-like taste. Or add some Italian seasoning and vegan sausage crumbles, and substitute zucchini and carrots for the vegetables to make a delicious Italian casserole.
Lentils are like a superfood for non-meat-eaters. They’re cheap, chock full of protein, quick to prepare, versatile and (we think, anyway) very tasty. This French Lentil Casserole has a unique sophisticated flavor that doesn’t taste anything like the bland pasty lentils that many of us were forced to eat as children. The croutons on top give a lovely texture; again, substitute a non-dairy margarine for the butter in the recipe to make it vegan.
Macaroni and cheese is a really difficult meal to give up when you go vegan. Especially if you grew up in America, mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that’s present at lots of family gatherings. This Vegan Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe uses soy cheese, which is avoided even by many vegans. But in this recipe, the soy cheese is spruced up with some additional ingredients and actually tastes similar to dairy mac and cheese.
Parsnips are a wonderful, if underused, vegetable. They taste sort of like a cross between a carrot and a potato, and if you mash them along with potatoes they add a unique nutty and tangy taste. Parsnips are just coming into season in the Autumn and are available through most of winter. Try this amazing sweet and hearty recipe for Ginger Roasted Winter Vegetables for an experience unlike any other.
Sweet potatoes are an icon of the season. They are sweet, filling, and – luckily – very healthy. These Baked Sweet Potato Sticks are sort of like a healthier version of French fries. They couldn’t be easier, and they accompany a variety of meals very nicely. Try serving them with a vegetarian meatloaf and green salad for a delicious and healthy vegan meal.
This Green Bean Casserole may take a while to make, but it’s absolutely worth it. Use up the fresh green beans that are perfect right now from the garden or farmer’s market and this amazing casserole will blow you away. And when you dig into the recipe and start making it, it’s not as complicated as it looks at first glance.
Soups, Stews and Chilis
This Curried Carrot Bisque from the always-fabulous vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz may require a trip to the grocery store (unless you have curry powder, coconut milk and three pounds of carrots at home) but you’ll be impressed with the results. The flavors of the curry powder and carrots melt together in an unbelievably tasty combination that will warm you to the core.
Chili is a must for when the weather starts turning cool. Serve it up with some vegan cornbread or homemade Italian bread and it’s a feast! The great thing about chili is that it takes on a different personality every time you make it. This vegetarian chili recipe is a great place to start, but play around with your chili to get it just the way you like it. Add vegetables, vary the amount of liquid, and change up the spices until it’s perfect. When making a vegan chili, there are several ways to get that distinctive “meaty” flavor. Some additions we’ve tried: cocoa powder, dark beer, and balsamic vinegar. Don’t try them all at once, though!
If you’ve never had a soup or stew made with miso, you’re missing out. The fermented soybean paste imparts a salty, rich flavor to whatever it’s in. This hearty Vegetable Stew with Red Wine and Miso is great served over rice or mashed potatoes, or just scooped out of a big bowl with a big spoon.
Autumn is dominated by apples. They’re in season, and if you go to a you-pick orchard, you can make a perfect family day out of picking and preparing the apples to make this amazing Whole-Apple Crisp. The recipe just needs a little modification to make it vegan: use vegan margarine instead of butter, agave nectar or maple syrup in place of the honey, and soy yogurt instead of Greek (or omit the yogurt and serve it with some soy ice cream).
If apples aren’t your thing, this delicious Vegan Pear Baklava is just as sweet. You can again use agave or maple syrup instead of the honey. The finished product is something like a pear crisp without the crunchy topping. The nuts between each layer provide a delicious contrast in flavors and textures.
Rice pudding is another of those comfort foods that a lot of us miss when going vegan. The stuff you buy ready-made in the stores is full of dairy, but this vegan Slow Cooked Rice Pudding is just as rich and surprisingly simple to make. It’s perfect for chilly autumn evenings, and it’ll hold you over until breakfast – when you’ll probably want another bowl!