When people think about veganism, they typically first think about all the foods they are giving up. There’s an impression that a plant-based diet can be too restrictive for the average person, and all you can eat are sad, plain salads.

Since going vegan nearly four years ago, I’ve learned that this is far from the truth, and there are so many foods your eyes are opened up to once you dive into the lifestyle.

While the bulk of what vegans eat are the same as your average omnivore—rice and beans, smoothies, PB&J, falafels, and more—there is a strange side to plant-based cooking that I never realized existed before making the switch to this lifestyle. 

Just because they seem strange doesn’t mean they aren’t absolutely delectable, however, so it’s worth giving them a try even if you aren’t looking to adopt a plant-based diet.

1. Redefine Milk 

milk, tea, water
Alex Frank

People are familiar with almond and soy milk by now, but there is so much more to plant-based milks. A few other examples include cashew, hazelnut, rice, coconut, hemp, and quinoa.

The ever-expanding variety of milks is an odd concept for those who grew up only hearing about cow's milk, but it allows mixing and matching based on your preferences. 

Coconut milk is thicker (especially when full-fat) and better for coffee and curries, while the thinner hemp milk can be great for baked goods, and almond milk is a favorite among many cereal eaters.   

2. Make Desserts From Avocados

milk chocolate, pudding, goody, candy, mousse, coffee, chocolate mousse, sweet, cream, milk, chocolate
Katherine Baker

Is there anything you can’t do with an avocado? Beyond making guacamole or spreading over toast, it turns out avocados also can also  used as the base for many of the vegan versions of classic desserts.  

Most of these are based off of the discovery that chocolate and avocado are a perfect match and include pudding, mousse, and brownies. You can also use avocados to make cookies, key lime pie, and ice cream.     

If you notice that the local grocery store is out of avocados, it's probably because my sweet tooth got the better of me! 

3. Transform Cashews Into Cheese

butter, pastry, sweet, dairy product, cheesecake, cake, cream, pie
Jocelyn Hsu

With one type of nut, you are well on your way to making fancy artisanal cheese, mac and cheese, or cheesecake. Yes, technically cheesecake doesn't involve any cheese, but it is still amazing that someone came up with the idea of making one out of cashews!  

For incorporating into various pasta dishes, did you know that you can also make cashew-based vegan ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese as well?

4. Use an Oil Called "Vegan Magic"

It’s an understatement to say that bacon grease isn’t for everyone, but there’s something different about this “Vegan Magic” (formerly called "Magic Vegan Bacon Grease”).

To emulate the bacon flavor, Vegan Magic uses liquid smoke and the not-so-well-known torula yeast. This yeast gets its savory, umami taste from the high amount of glutamic acid present, and is often used instead of MSG.  

Rather than animal fat, the base for this cooking spread is coconut oil which is known for it’s countless uses from frying foods to fixing squeaky hinges to oil pulling and so much more. It’s basically the cooking equivalent to duct tape, and contributes to the versatility of Vegan Magic. 

5. Substitute Eggs with Flaxseeds 

cereal, pasture, coffee, horse gram, vegetable, legume
Angela Kerndl

Vegan baking has shown me just how many alternatives there are to using eggs like bananas, applesauce, soy yogurt, and silken tofu. If you mix one parts ground flaxseed with three parts water, it gels up to form a "vegan egg" that helps bind your dough.

The great thing about this substitute in particular is that it provides much needed Omega-3’s, which are especially beneficial for heart and brain health

Flax eggs are best for making muffins, breads, and some cakes, basically any treat that is meant to be a little dense. 

6. Make Scrambled Eggs out of Flour

While most of these tricks are well known in the vegan community, I didn’t hear about this one till I started watching CookingWithPlants.

While the texture doesn’t perfectly replicate eggs, it’s still pretty scrumptious and not at all bread-like like you might expect from using a flour base. To give it an eggy flavor, she uses black salt which smells just like boiled eggs. 

The great thing here is that you get all the protein you normally would with chicken's eggs, but without any of the cholesterol.  

7. Put Nutritional Yeast on Everything

wheat, kettle corn, cereal, salt, corn, popcorn
Sarah Silbiger

This is the holy grail of vegan foods, but most people shudder at the thought of pouring straight yeast on anything.

Sure, the branding could use a little work, but you’re going to have to trust us when we say that ‘nooch (a nickname for nutritional yeast) goes well with just about anything that could use a little cheesiness.

Sprinkle some on your popcorn, and pretty soon you'll be low-key addicted to 'nooch, pouring it on everything from pasta dishes to avocado toast to salads.