Whether you’re a longtime vegan, or just thinking about cutting back on meat and getting more plants in your life, adding new vegan recipes to your lunch and dinner routine is always a great way to mix things up and brighten those winter months.
But if you’re ethnically Latin American, you have no doubt gotten some weird looks at your family’s house when you casually drop that you do want that empanada – but make it veggie.
Luckily, there are many ways to make our ancestral food with a little less meat – or strictly vegan if you want to start on the Latina Vegan journey.
We talked to one of our favorite foodie stars, Anna Rios, founder of Healthy Simple Yum, and registered dietitian and nutritionist who lives in California’s beautiful Sonoma Coast about going vegan.
One of the toughest critics when you go vegan or even just scale back on meat, are our families and friends. And there’s a reason for that: most people think vegan means boring: “I think the first thought that comes to their mind is “bland”, “boring”, or not “good enough,” said Rios. “This is primarily because they already assume it’s missing something, that something being meat.”
When I was vegetarian and would visit Chile, the confused looks on my abuelas faces was not unlike the “lamb burger” scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
What are some fun and easy ideas to substitute meat in our favorite dishes? ” I love to use jackfruit, oyster mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, tofu, seitan, beans, and lentils,” told us Rios. “It depends on the animal product I’m substituting.”
Going vegan might seem daunting, but Anna says it’s really all about stacking habits. “Start with one meal a week and slowly begin adding more,” she told us. “I always recommend seeing a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting all your macro and micronutrients in adequate amounts.”
Her favorite brands to start with? “I am a big Trader Joe’s fan because they are affordable, great quality and have almost anything you need. I also love using Follow Your Heart for cheese and Just Egg for delicious vegan substitutes.”
When you really get a handle of vegan dishes and start cooking for family or friends, you’ll honestly probably blow a lot of people away – especially those who would normally turn up their noses at any mention of Tofu. Anna’s favorite recipes to blow minds?
“There are honestly so many but I have to go with a crispy tofu recipe. A lot of people think they hate tofu until they try one of my recipes.”
Click through for some of Anna’s favorite tofu recipes: