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Vegan Basics

Introduction to veganism / Nutrition / What do you eat? / Milk Products / (Non) Meaty Products / Convenience Foods / /Salads / Condiments / Snacks, Munchies & Treats / Eating Out / Meal Ideas / Drinks / Toiletries & Cosmetics / Clothes / Go for it / Sample Recipes

Eating Out

Until recently, eating out was a total nightmare for vegans - you could have a baked potato (no butter) and green salad (no dressing), and the only choice was to take it or leave it. Things have improved since then, but there’s still a long way to go.

Vegetarian and even vegan restaurants are popping up in most sizeable cities, and even in some smaller ones. Your average bar, cafe or restaurant will not usually advertise that its food is vegan, but most will have a vegetarian option or two that you can ask to be made vegan. Questions that may cross your lips are, ‘does it contain any milk, cream or eggs?’, ‘could you hold the mayo?’, and ‘can I see the package?!’ Don’t be afraid to ask the chef to make you something specific. If you want to be sure that there will be food available, phone in advance and ask them what they can do for you. You might be surprised to find that some of the cooks are excited to try something new! Indian restaurants are extremely easy to find vegan food in, but remember to ask about the creamy curries (some use dairy cream instead of coconut) and some dishes may contain ghee, which is a dairy butter.

Good Chinese food restaurants have a large vegetarian selection; you just need to work out which ones are vegan.

Some may have egg in their noodles, or may put egg separately in the dish. Other than the noodles, you can easily ask for the dishes without egg.

You can check with pizza places and see if their crust is vegan (just watch out that there’s no milk or milk proteins in the crust) and make sure their sauce is animal free too. Just ask them to use extra tomato sauce, and if you smile sweetly, they’ll usually pile the toppings on as well.

A list of fast-food options can be accessed at the Vegetarian Resource Group’s webpage (VRG) http://www.vrg.org/catalog/ff.htm.

Check out these websites for a listing of veggie friendly restaurants around the world! You can even search by state.

http://www.vegdining.com http://www.happycow.net/ If you’re on the move, it’s not always so easy to eat out. Gas stations and airports are falling behind when it comes to providing meals, but the airlines are at least making an effort.

Book your vegan meal well in advance and each time you speak to someone from the airline, ask them to confirm it. It is best to ask for non-dairy vegetarian, strict vegetarian and some airlines now even understand the term vegan. When you’re on board with your tummy rumbling, you’ll be thankful that you asked.

When traveling, it’s usually best to take a packed lunch, just in case you find yourself in a Vegan Free Zone.

Our sister group Viva! in England and the Vegetarian Resource Journal both sell travel guides. From Brighton, England to Berlin. You could be munching happily from London to Ireland.

See Vegetarian Resource Group: www.vrg.org/travel/index.htm Viva! www.viva.org.uk (click under books)

Meal Ideas

So now you know how vast the options are for a vegan meal. But how do you put it together? It just takes a little bit of creativity to get the ball rolling and then you will have no trouble at all. The internet is a great resource for ideas as well, and vegan recipes are all over the web, if you just type what you want into a search engine, chances are you will find a recipe for it.

Here are some ideas for meals to spark your imagination.

Breakfast Ideas

Strangely enough, a common question you will be asked as a vegan is ‘’what do you eat for breakfast?’ Rest assured, whatever your taste first thing in the morning, a vegan breakfast is a great way to start the day.

  • Fantastic Foods Tofu Scrambler with potatoes (or other vegetables)
  • Barbara’s Bakery Cereal Bars
  • Fresh fruit, either whole, cut and mixed, or in a smoothie
  • Toast with margarine and/or nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)
  • Mexican breakfast burrito, stuffed with hash browns, tofu scramble and veggie sausage, topped with Tofutti Sour Supreme
  • Arrowhead Mills Pancake and Waffle Mix with Lightlife Smart Links or Yves Canadian Bacon (lots of pancake & waffle recipes are easily adaptable - see one in this guide)
  • Frozen waffles with fresh fruit
  • Cereal and soy milk with fruit
  • Biscuits with Gimme Lean sausage and gravy
  • Oatmeal with fresh peach chunks

Quick Lunch Ideas

  • Veggie Burgers or hot dogs with all the fixin’s
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Avocado, tomato and mayo sandwich (Vegenaise or Nayonaise)
  • Tempeh Rueben sandwich (with vegan cheese)
  • Falafel (chick pea patties) with salad and hummus
  • Hummus (chick pea and garlic dip) with lettuce in pita bread
  • Prepared tempeh with lettuce, tomato and mayo
  • Veggie ham with mustard or salad
  • Tuno sandwich (vegan version of tuna)

Larger Meal Ideas

  • Vegan lasagna
  • Rice pilaf with vegetables
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce and veggie meat balls
  • Bean burritos, roasted vegetables, and guacamole
  • Tacos with ground tempeh or vegan ground beef and shredded Vegie Kaas cheese
  • Tofu, tempeh, or seitan stir-fry with sweet and sour or peanut sauce
  • Marinated, grilled Kabobs with seitan and vegetables
  • Vegan cutlets and potato salad
  • Chili and tortilla chips or cornbread
  • Spinach salad with avocado, nuts, veggies, veggie bacon bits and dressing
  • Chicken-free patty, with mashed potatoes and Hain gravy
  • Brown rice and steamed vegetables with a sauce


Most soft drinks are vegan; but watch out for colorings which can be animal derived, honey or cochineal (crushed insects). Smoothies and juices are also usually vegan, the exception being with honey or whey protein in some ‘power’ smoothies. Many wines have been ‘refined’ using one of a whole range of nasty bits: blood, bone marrow, chitin, egg albumen, fish oil, gelatin, or milk casein. Beers too can be cleared with isinglass (obtained from the air sacs of freshwater fish). Keg, canned and some bottled beers are usually OK. But here’s the good news - most liquor is fine.

Don’t be discouraged - there are lots that are vegan! Go ahead and crack open a bottle of Heineken, Rolling Rock or Sierra Nevada. Just to name a few! For a long list of animal free alcoholic beverages see: http://www.VeganProducts.org/drinks.html

Toiletries and Cosmetics

Reading labels is one way to find out what exactly has gone into your shampoo, but unless you’re a trainee chemist, you probably won’t know what most of it means. A few words to look out for and avoid like the plague are: beeswax, chitin, collagen, elastin, keratin (if human, they typically list this), lanolin, oleic acid, propylis, shellac, spermaceti wax, and stearin. This is not a comprehensive list, and some ingredients listed above can be obtained from a non-animal source, but it may give you a clue on what to look out for.

Below is a very abbreviated list of cosmetic, personal care and household products that are not tested on animals.

  • Avalon - shampoo, soaps and hand lotions
  • Clear Conscience - Contact lens solution
  • Desert Essence - toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, shampoo
  • Dr. Bronner’s - Castile Soap
  • Earth Friendly Products - cleaners & detergents
  • Earth Science - skin and hair products
  • Jason - toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant
  • John Paul Mitchell Systems - hair care products
  • Kiss My Face - soap, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo
  • Nature’s Gate - toothpaste, soap, deodorant, shampoo
  • Seventh Generation - paper and cleaning products
  • The Body Shop - do not test anything on animals, stores have a listing of vegan products
  • Tom’s of Maine - toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant (one type does carry propylis)

As you may have already realized, just because the finished product is vegan, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been tested on animals. Companies have different policies - some test blatantly (e.g. L’Oreal with their ingredients), others have a ‘rolling year’ policy which means that they won’t use products that have been tested within a certain number of years, others have a fixed cut off date, so that no animal tests have been conducted for that product since that time.

A comprehensive booklet can be obtained from The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), which is a coalition of several animal rights groups.

CCIC www.leapingbunny.org (888) 546-CCIC

Vegan Clothes

It may sound obvious, but leather, fur, wool and silk all come from animals. And they don’t just politely ask the animals to hand it over either. The leather industry is a highly profitable part of the meat industry, and you cannot support one without the other. Furs are well, fur, which is boycotted by many of the top models and all sane and compassionate people. Wool, you may say, is okay as sheep need to be sheared, but sheep are kept for their wool, skin meat, the meat of their babies (lamb), and milk. Once a sheep’s wool or lamb productivity has started to decline the animal is sent to slaughter. As for silk, millions of silkworms are killed by baking, steaming or electrocution in order to extract the silk. They may not be as cute as lambs, but they still deserve a break! Instead of wool, choose man-made fibers or cotton. Many products now being made, such as fleece, are a more than adequate replacement for wool. Remember that wool is often blended with other fibers, so you may need to start label reading again!

Vegan Shoes

Men often find it harder to buy vegan shoes, but try different stores and look for ‘man-made’ or ‘synthetic’ labels, or buy canvas shoes and boots - not too practical in the snow, but great for summer wear! Many shoe stores carry shoes that are not leather.

Alternatively, you can buy good quality leather-look shoes, boots and sandals mail order from the companies listed below. These companies don’t just limit themselves to shoes. They carry synthetic leather jackets, as well as a large assortment of shoes, belts, wallets, and other and hard to find vegan products, such as non-leather baseball & softball gloves! You can also request a guide to vegan leather-look clothing from PETA at www.cowsarecool.com.

Ethical Wares (UK) www.ethicalwares.com MooShoes www.mooshoes.com (212 254 6512) Heartland http://www.trvnet.net/

hrtlndp/ (800-441-4692) Pangea www.veganstore.com (800) 340-1200 Shoes With Souls www.shoeswithsouls.com (619) 216-5804 Vegetarian Shoes (UK) www.vegetarian-shoes.co.uk

Vegan by Accident

  • Stores like Payless sell a good variety of non-leather shoes.

Vegan/Animal Rights Products

Other great sites to get some great animal rights garb:

  • www.animalrightstuff.com (stylish t-shirts!)
  • www.veganessentials.com
  • www.veganmercantile.com
  • www.veganstreet.com
  • www.vivausa.org (You can order t-shirts, pens and other materials from us!)

Go For it!

So that’s it! Easy isn’t it? We hope this Guide will help you see that making the vegan transition is easy and fun! If you want more information, just contact Viva! We can give you more to read and what we have to offer. We do sell a few cookbooks and have materials to help you spread the word. The world is full of vegan items!

Ethical Considerations

Please note that the products featured in this guide have been included purely on the basis that they meet the criteria of a vegan diet and contain no animal products.

We appreciate that many vegans also wish to take into account the ethical policies of the companies they are supporting when they buy a particular product. However, we have omitted a few companies due to ethical concerns.

Sample recipes

Vegan Cheese Sauce
3⁄4 C nutritional yeast flakes
1⁄4 C flour
1 t salt
1⁄2 t garlic powder
2 C water
1⁄4 C vegan margarine
1 t mustard
Mix dry ingredients in saucepan.
Whisk in water.
Cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles.
Cook an additional 30 sec., remove from heat.
Stir in margarine and mustard.
(note: Cheese will thicken as it cools, or you may add water to thin it).

Vegan Tofu Fajitas
1 lb. extra-firm, fresh tofu
1⁄2 C tamari or soy sauce
1⁄4 cup water
1 Tb maple syrup
2 Tb nutritional
yeast (optional)
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional or more for spicy)
1-2 Tb oil
(depending on the
amount of veggies)
Favorite veggies sliced thinly
Slice the tofu thinly
Mix the next five ingredients and pour over the tofu.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning twice.
Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté veggies for 5 min.
Add tofu and fry until sizzling.
Put fajita fillings in a warm tortilla.
Garnish to taste!

Hearty Chili
1 15 -oz can chili beans, undrained
1 18-oz can stewed tomatoes or 1 medium tomato chopped
2 Tbs. Chili seasoning mix or 1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning, 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1⁄4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs. minced onion
1⁄4 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a medium skillet.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Cornbread from
"The Peaceful
Palate" by Jennifer
1 1⁄2 cups soy milk
1 1⁄2 Tbsp vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached flour
2 Tbsp unrefined sugar or other sweetener
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp oil
Preheat the oven to 425
Combine the soy milk and vinegar and set aside.
Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
Add the soy milk mixture and the oil. Stir until just blended.
Spread the batter evenly in a greased 9x9-inch baking dish.
Bake until the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Short Cut Shortcrust
Although it’s a lot quicker to use ready-made frozen puff pastry dough (find it in the frozen section of any store), it’s also quite easy to make your own.
1lb or 4 cups plain
1⁄2 teaspoon of salt,
8oz or 2 sticks
margarine and
6 tablespoons of ice-cold water
Rub the margarine into the flour and salt, then add the water slowly to form a dough.
It’s best to refrigerate the pastry for half an hour before rolling out on a floured board.

Vegan Banana Bread
1-1⁄4 C white flour
1-1⁄4 C whole wheat flour
1 C unrefined sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄8 tsp. All Spice
1⁄8 tsp. nutmeg
1-3⁄4 C ripe banana
4 Tbs. water
6 Tbs. margarine
1⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°
Mix the first six ingredients.
Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
Combine all ingredients and pour into greased muffin pan or bread pan
Bake 12-15 minutes for muffins or 60-90 minutes for bread.

Chocolate Pie Recipe
2 - 10.5 oz packages of Soft Silken Tofu
1 - 10-12 oz bag of vegan chocolate chips
1 - vegan graham cracker pie crust (store bought or homemade)
Puree the tofu in a blender until completely smooth.
Put the chocolate chips in a pot or double boiler and heat them just enough to melt. (Be careful not to burn them). Once the chocolate chips are melted, blend them into the tofu.
Pour the mixture into a pie crust.
Chill for at least 2 hours and then serve.
Optional: Add a few Tbs. of peanut butter to the mixture while blending or add nuts or berries to the mixture once it is in the crust. Enjoy!

Easy Rise-’n’-Shine Pancakes
1 C unbleached
white flour (or split half wheat/white)
1 Tbs baking powder
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 C soy or nut milk
2 Tbs canola oil
2 Tbs maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
canola oil for frying
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
Add soy milk mixture to flour mixture and mix just until moistened; a few lumps are OK. (Don't overbeat or pancakes will be tough.)
Heat a nonstick griddle or frying pan over medium high flame until a few drops of drizzled water bead up and bounce.
Pour a little oil (2 tsp.) onto the griddle and heat until hot.
Pour batter onto the griddle to form circles about 4 inches in diameter.
Cook the pancakes for a minute or 2 on one side or until bubbles appear on the surface.
Flip pancakes and cook on the other side for another 1 or 2 minutes.
Continue until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes in all.

Blueberry-Orange Sauce (for pancakes, etc)
Makes 2 cups
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon minced orange zest
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Place all ingredients in a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the blueberries are soft and the remaining liquid is syrupy. Serve warm.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 Cup Soy Margraine, softened
1 1⁄2 Cup Unrefined sugar
1⁄4 Cup + 2Tb Warm water
2 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp. Baking soda
1 1⁄2 Tsp. Egg replacer or 2 Tb. Tofu
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp Salt
3 Cup Uncooked
1 Cup Vegan dark chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees & lightly grease cookie sheet.
Cream first four ingredients together until smooth
In a separate bowl, mix next five ingredients (if using tofu, mix with previous ingredients).
Combine contents of both bowls by hand or with electric mixer.
Add chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Download a pdf of Vegan Basics