A new veganing

Who needs meat when soy exists anyway?


Vegan meat and milk substitutes are the only thing keeping me alive right now.

Soybeans make up a large chunk of my diet since there seems to be a soy vegan substitute to nearly everything these days. Foods such as vegan butter, fake chicken or soy milk are adding to my newly discovered soy addiction each day.

One of the most well-known meat alternatives is tofu, which is made from soybeans. When cooked and seasoned properly, tofu can be a delicious substitute for chicken, beef or even pork.

According to the USDA, soybeans are the second most-planted crop in the United States, just trailing corn. In fact, more than 80 percent of soybean plants are in the upper Midwest.

Not all meat alternatives are made of soy, however. This list from One Green Planet gives ten substitution ideas for recipes with meat, several of which are crops such as beans, jackfruit and mushrooms.

Meat alternatives are rising in popularity. In fact, even McDonald’s is testing out a soy-based vegan burger in one of their Finnish stores, according to Business Insider.

“After boycotting McDonald’s for 20+ years I had to try the new #mcvegan,” one Instagram user, per the same article, said. This shows when companies offer vegan options, they can bring in a new demographic — even if this example was just in one city.

Recently, I’ve been testing out meat, milk and egg substitutes in cooking and baking with recipes I find online.

This weekend I cooked a meal for my friends to show off my exemplary chef skills.

I made minestrone soup — what Olive Garden’s menu deems “a vegetarian classic” — with homemade vegetable broth and veggies I found in my fridge. The only substitution I had to make was using vegan butter instead of regular butter when sauteeing the onions and garlic.

It was delicious. It was thicker than I expected, but I like my soups less watery, so I was delighted. I didn’t make any dramatic change, but hooray for already-vegan soups!

Next, I made spaghetti and meatballs. The spaghetti noodles and sauce I buy are already vegan, but meatballs, obviously, are not. I found a recipe on Pinterest for “beanballs,” in which ground beef is substituted with kidney beans.

I’ve never fried meatballs or beanballs before, so that was an odd experience in itself, but the beanballs themselves turned out well. They were a great and inexpensive addition to the pasta, and I’ll probably make them again some time.

I finished off the meal with what I was most excited about: chocolate chip cookies. I found semi-sweet chocolate chips sans milk and according to The Guardian, chickpea brine (the liquid stuff in canned chickpeas) is an excellent substitute for eggs when baking.

Using chickpea brine made me kind of nervous at first, and if you’ve ever smelled canned chickpeas, you’ll understand why. The smell is very potent and definitely not something you’d want anywhere near your cookies. However, a blog post mentioned the smell evaporates when baking, so I was ready to give it a go.

My chocolate chip cookies tasted normal. There wasn’t a difference in flavor or consistency that I could tell, so I’ll definitely use chickpea brine for other recipes, too.

I taste-tested everything before I served it to my friends just in case it was disgusting or, you know, poisonous. Since everything was both delicious and poison-free, it was good enough for their tastebuds.

They confirmed this by eating everything off their plates; my roommate told me, “I feel like I’m at home — this is like my mom’s cooking.”

Overall, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the vegan meal I cooked. I like using alternatives to non-vegan foods in my recipes and, in the future, I plan to keep doing so.