How to Cook Chickpeas

With a little luck, you might be able to find fresh chickpeas or garbanzo beans at a local farmers market in the summer. These green peas inside their fuzzy pods might look pretty different from the canned variety available at most supermarkets, but they’re just the raw, fresh version. Keep reading to learn the difference between raw, fresh, and canned chickpeas.

Garbanzo Beans & Chickpeas

Chickpeas are widely available in cans, dried, or—of course— blended into hummus. All of these products start as fresh chickpeas on a vine.

Chickpeas—or as they are sometimes known, garbanzo beans—were first domesticated almost 7,000 years ago in Western Asia. Today, they are grown almost everywhere in the world. The earliest hummus recipe we have is from the 13th century, but it’s a good bet people were eating some version of mashed up chickpeas long before then.

Chickpeas are a staple of many global cuisines. They’re the star of hummus and falafel. You’ll find dried chickpeas in Middle Eastern salads, Spanish tapas, Portuguese soups, Philippine desserts, and Indian dishes like chana masala. Dried chickpea flour is also a key ingredient in a traditional French flatbread from Nice, socca, and in the Indian fritters called pakoras.

fresh garbanzo beans

Farmers across Europe and Asia have cultivated chickpeas for centuries, but it’s a relatively newer crop in the U.S. The American chickpea harvest saw a huge spike 2012, when it increased by more than 50 percent from the year before. Currently, most American chickpeas are grown in the Pacific Northwest.

How to Cook Fresh Garbanzo Beans

Fresh garbanzo beans need to be cooked. On their own, the raw peas would be difficult to digest. Cooking green chickpeas is simple. Just cover them in two inches of water and simmer for 25-35 minutes. A longer cooking time will yield softer, creamier beans perfect for hummus or soups. A shorter cooking time will result in firmer beans better suited for salads. Check the pot occasionally to make sure that the water hasn’t boiled away.

Read more: Mushroom & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie with Fresh Green Garbanzo Beans

Dried Chickpeas vs Canned

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie with Fresh Green Chickpeas

Fresh chickpeas are picked while they are still green and in the pod. Dried chickpeas are left on the vine until both the plant and the bean have dried out. Dried garbanzo beans are usually the ones that get cooked and canned or turned into hummus.

Canned chickpeas are cooked and seasoned with salt prior to canning. Dried chickpeas are sold in a raw, dehydrated form. Before serving at home, they’ll need to be both rehydrated and cooked. This can be done by soaking the chickpeas in water for several hours before cooking, or by simmering over low heat for an extended time (exact time may vary depending on the age and dryness of the beans).

Canned chickpeas are ready to eat at a moments notice. This makes them useful solutions for a quick meal. Dried chickpeas have the advantage of being very inexpensive, and giving the cook more control to choose their desired texture and to add their own seasonings. Both options can lead to amazing meals.

Find your new favorite chickpea recipe in the Blue Apron Cookbook.

Guide to Plant-Based Protein

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to leverage the power of plant-based protein. Adding these non-meat proteins to your diet will help make any meal more filling and nutritious, whether you’re reducing meat, eliminating it, or just in the mood for something different. 

What is plant-based protein 

Protein is a macronutrient required by our bodies. It promotes muscle health, and helps you feel full. You may remember from high school that proteins are made up of amino acids. Here’s a quick crash course in case it’s been awhile since your last chemistry class: our bodies require 20 different amino acids to form the protein in our cells. Eleven of them are naturally produced by the body, and the remaining 9 come from food. Foods like meat, fish, and eggs contain all 9 of those essential amino acids, and are considered complete proteins. 

Plant-based proteins are simply non-meat foods containing essential amino acids. Even though many vegetarian proteins are considered incomplete, meaning they do not contain all 9 essential amino acids, your body can do the work of completing them so long as the missing acids come from another food source. To ensure you’re getting all of the essential amino acids, eat a variety of plant-based proteins. 

Plant-based protein benefits 

In addition to protein, many of these plant-based options are full of other beneficial nutrients. A diet full of rice, beans, and vegetables will supply you with fiber and vitamins in addition to protein.

Our favorite plant-based proteins 


Quinoa is a nutrient-packed whole grain. In addition to protein, it’s packed with fiber, iron, and magnesium. Quinoa is a great addition to a salad, or as a dish in it’s own right. Each ½ cup of quinoa contains 4g of protein. 

To cook 1/2 cup of quinoa fill a medium pot 3/4 of the way up with salted water; cover and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, add the quinoa and cook, uncovered, 18 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain thoroughly

cooking quinoa
Draining quinoa

Try quinoa with an assortment of roasted vegetables for a nutritious dinner

Swap quinoa in for rice and top it off with an egg for even more protein 

Chia seeds 

Chia seeds are tiny but powerful. They make a great addition to smoothies or salad dressings. Their unique ability to absorb water has led to a variety of inventive recipes. We’ve used them as an egg replacement in veggie burgers and to help make homemade jam spreadable. Chia seeds contain 4.7g of protein per ounce. 

Chia seeds help this veggie burger stay together

Use chia seeds to thicken a homemade jam

Tossing a few chia seeds into homemade granola will add a filling crunch


Tofu is endlessly versatile. It absorbs flavors, and makes any dish filling. Tofu isn’t just for vegetarians! Classic dishes like Mapo tofu serve it alongside ground pork. 

Tofu has 10g of protein per ½ cup serving. Try it roasted, baked, or fried.

Try this spicy, satisfying Mapo tofu

General Tso’s-style tofu is delightfully crispy 

This glazed-tofu is served on a bed of quinoa, for two plant-based proteins in one dish 


Lentils can be served in soup or as the base of a grain bowl. They’re also excellent in curried dishes. 

Lentils have 9 g of protein per ½ cup serving. 

This hearty lentil curry gets its richness from coconut milk

Pair lentils with roasted vegetables for a variation on a grain bowl 


Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and peanuts (which are technically a legume), are a great source of protein. Try topping a salad or a rice dish with toasted nuts, or grinding them to make a flour. 

Walnuts have 4.3 g of protein per serving (about 7 whole nuts).

Top bucatini off with walnuts to add a kick of protein to your pasta


Legumes like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and edamame and an excellent source of protein and fiber.  

This Italian-inspired grain bowl combines white beans, farro, figs, and beets.

Use black beans and cheese to make a satisfying filling for flautas 

This list is just the beginning. Head to the Blue Apron cookbook for dozens of bean and grain recipes that are full of healthy plant-based protein.

How to Press Tofu, and Why You Should Try It at Home

pressed tofu on cabbage
Seared tofu topping a quinoa grain bowl

Cooking with tofu can be tricky. When done right, extra firm tofu has a delicate flavor and chewy texture. If things go wrong, you can accidentally end up with a soggy lump. The main challenge is controlling the moisture. If you know how to press tofu, you can remove excess moisture before cooking begins. Vegetarian or not, this plant-based protein is delicious in stir fries, on grain bowls, and dozens of other ways.

The good news? Pressing tofu isn’t very difficult. With a few tricks, you can prepare the delicious, toothsome tofu you crave right in your home kitchen. You don’t even need any special tools.

how to press tofu in a pan
Pressing tofu helps achieve a good sear

When it comes to achieving a crisp crust, part of the challenge is that packaged tofu has a high water content. Water is the enemy of browning. When you toss tofu straight from the package into a hot oven, that water will heat up and turn into steam. If your tofu is wet when it enters the oven, it will come out soft.

Luckily, the solution is simple. To give your tofu the chance to brown, you need to get some of that water out. This can be achieved quickly and easily with a plate and a heavy pot.

how to press tofu
Just a plate, a pot, and a few paper towels

All you need to do is put the block of tofu on a plate lined with paper towels. Take a few paper towels (or a second plate) and place them face straight down on top of the block. Now add some weight on top. A heavy pot or a few cans will work nicely, but anything with a little heft will do the trick. Now it’s time to wait. You’ll want to give the tofu at least 10 minutes under pressure to start giving up some of its water. This is a great time to start prepping the rest of your ingredients, but it’s also perfectly acceptable to use this as a snack or cocktail-making break. 

After 10 minutes, you’ll notice that plenty of liquid has been released. The paper towels on the base of the plate will be wet, and your tofu may even be sitting in a small pool of water. This is a good thing! Not only does getting the water out mean that your bean curd will be able to brown, it also frees up space inside the tofu. That whole block is now ready to absorb the flavors of a marinade, sauce, or topping. 

A spicy stir-fry with plenty of protein

Of course, there’s more than one type of tofu. Whether or not you should press it depends on what you’re preparing. If you’re working with extra firm tofu, and hoping for a crispy end product, pressing is the way to go. If you’re hoping for something silky and smooth at the end, skip this step. A little water won’t hurt if your tofu is simmering in a sauce or a soup. 

Now that you know how to press tofu, explore the possibilities! Silken tofu is the perfect blank canvas for a spicy Mapo Tofu, and firm tofu is excellent topper on this top-rated Blue Apron savory grain bowl. The bottom line is simple: Control the water content, control the tofu.

Smoky Carrot Hummus with Pistachio Dukkah

An autumnal take on classic hummus — with a punchy orange color to boot. This dip gets its smoky flavor from smoked paprika and the roasty bits of carrot, which also add a layer of deep, root vegetable-y sweetness. We like to serve ours topped with a generous sprinkling of dukkah, a savory toasted blend of nuts, seeds, and spices. If you don’t have a spice mill, don’t worry: after toasting your nuts and seeds mixture in a dry pan, place it in a sealable plastic bag before smashing it with the bottom of a pot or heavy cup measure to create small, crumbly pieces, ideal for garnishing your hummus — or serving alongside crusty bread and olive oil for dipping.

Makes about 2 cups


1 lb. carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise, then cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-.5-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup tahini
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flaky salt
Crudite, for serving (we like purple cauliflower, Persian cucumbers, radishes, and endive)

  1. Roast the carrots:
    Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 450°F. Place the carrot pieces on a sheet pan; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, the ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon of the smoked paprika. Toss to coat and arrange in an even layer. Roast 18 to 20 minutes, or until browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven.

  2. Make the dukkah:
    While the carrots roast, heat a dry pan over medium heat until hot. Add the pistachios, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and sesame seeds. Toast, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a sealable plastic bag (or spice mill, if you have one). Smash with the bottom of a pot of heavy cup measure (or pulse in the spice mill) to break into small pieces. Return to the bowl. Stir in the ground ginger and crushed red pepper flakes; season with flaky salt and pepper.

  3. Make the hummus:
    In a food processor, combine the roasted carrots, chickpeas, garlic clove, tahini, sherry vinegar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Pulse to blend until smooth.

  4. Assemble & serve your dish:
    Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl; drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the dukkah. Serve the finished hummus with the crudite. Enjoy!

Greenmarket Inspo: Cauliflower Steaks with Chermoula

Every week, our test kitchen team pays an early morning visit to New York City’s biggest farmers market: the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. Comprised of over 70 stalls bursting with flowers, local products, and beautiful seasonal produce, it’s the perfect place for a hit of mid-week inspiration. Follow us on Instagram to tag along (bring a tote bag, it’s impossible to leave empty handed!) and see what we decide to make with our market haul.

Nearly every global cuisine has its own herb-based sauce, from salsa verde and chimichurri to pesto and zhoug. In North Africa, the green condiment of choice is chermoula, a version spiced with cumin and coriander and often blended with raisins for sweetness. Used as a marinade or topping for meat, seafood, and vegetables alike, the recipe varies region to region and can easily be adapted to include what you have on hand. Ours packs a bright and herby punch from the combination of parsley and mint, but if cilantro looks especially good at a market near you, it makes a welcome addition (as does chili paste or pepper flakes for heat, whole slices of preserved lemon, or even a pinch of saffron — up to you!). 

If you’ve never made a cauliflower steak before — we love them on Blue Apron’s vegetarian menu — consider it on your to-do list. Keeping the core intact allows you to slice the head into 1-inch-thick slabs that stay together, for the most part, which makes them suitable as a side dish or vegetarian main. More flat surface area (as opposed to the curved shape of a floret) means a cauliflower steak has more direct contact with the sheet pan while roasting; the result is a browned and caramelized exterior with crispy edges, but tender and delicate interior. Drizzled with chermoula, it’s simple, flavorful, and likely the star of your table.

Cauliflower Steaks with Chermoula

Serves 4


1 large cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into 1-inch thick steaks (keeping them as intact as possible)
2 cups parsley leaves and tender stems
½ cup mint leaves
2 tbsp golden raisins
2 tsp ground cumin, divided
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp hot paprika 
1 clove garlic
1 lemon, quartered and deseeded
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup castelvetrano olives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil


1. Roast the cauliflower:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 450°F. Place the cauliflower on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and 1 ½ teaspoons of cumin. Carefully turn to coat and arrange in an even layer. Roast 26 to 28 minutes, or until browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven. 

2. Rehydrate the raisins:

While the cauliflower roasts, in a bowl, combine the raisins and the juice of 2 lemon wedges. Set aside to rehydrate, at least 10 minutes.

3. Toast the almonds:

While the raisins rehydrate, heat a dry pan over medium until hot. Add the almonds. Toast, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Make the chermoula & serve your dish:
While the cauliflower continues to roast, in a blender or food processor, combine the rehydrated raisins (and any lemon juice), parsley, mint, coriander, paprika, garlic, ½ cup olive oil, and remaining ½ teaspoon cumin. Season with pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend until mostly smooth (some chunks are ok). Serve the roasted cauliflower topped with the chermoula. Enjoy!

The Toast Topping We Can’t Get Enough Of

Avocado toast: a foodie breakfast trend that became a serious classic. Now that the trend is a trend no longer, it’s time to explore the full range of possibilities that the healthful yet delectable breakfast presents to us.

Besides the creamy avocado topping, the best part of avocado toast is its willingness to be customized. Sure, it’s delicious when left simple (mashed avocado, salt), but you can add on to this great start based on your tastes and cravings.

At the simple end of the spectrum: herbs and spices. Freshly torn basil will remind you of summer; minced cilantro leaves will remind you of guacamole. A sprinkle of za’atar nods to the Middle East, while a dose of Aleppo pepper (one of our favorites, as you’ll see below) balances out the avocado’s fattiness.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your ripe avocado and two pieces of good whole grain or sourdough bread. The rest of the ingredients pictured below are some of the other toppings you might want to add.

Read more: How to Choose a Ripe Avocado

Avocado Toast | Blue Apron

Once you have the ingredients, cut your avocado open around the pit. If you’re not sure how to accomplish this move, watch our video.  Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Mash the avocado and season it well with salt. A little lemon juice never hurts either.

Avocado Toast | Blue Apron

Toast two slices of bread. Spread the mashed avocado to the edges on each slice. Sprinkle with a bit more salt. If you want, you can stop right there.

Avocado Toast | Blue Apron

If you want to choose your own adventure and continue, here are two things you can do:

  • Use Aleppo pepper or Piment d’Esplette to add a little kick to your toast
  • Fry an egg and slam it on top. When the gooey yolk meets the avocado, great taste happens.
Avocado Toast | Blue Apron
Avocado Toast | Blue Apron

How will you top your avocado toast?

Get the whole recipe below.

Avocado Toast

2 slices of your favorite bread
1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon piment d’esplette
Optional: 2 eggs

If you’re using them, first start the eggs: heat a small pan over medium-low heat and add oil to cover the bottom. Add the eggs and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny (or until they reach your desired degree of doneness). While the eggs are cooking, season them with salt. Remove the eggs from the heat.

While the eggs are cooking, toast the bread. Prepare the avocado by scooping the flesh out of the skin and mashing in a bowl with some salt.

Spread the avocado on your toast. Top with salt, piment d’esplette if using. If you’ve made the eggs, put one on each piece of toast. Eat!

Here’s How: Gracefully Entertain Your Dairy-Free Friends

As with many of the most visible diets these days, eaters follow a dairy-free diet for all kinds of reasons. Some are allergic to the dairy proteins themselves, while others lack the enzyme lactase, which is the body’s workhorse for digesting lactose, the sugar in milk. Still others keep kosher, which means if there’s meat anywhere on the menu, dairy is out. You might think that dairy-free is the purview only of the lactose intolerant, but in fact that’s only one of the reasons for avoiding milk, cheese, butter, cream, and yogurt.

Read more: How to Satisfy and Impress Your Gluten-Free Friends

Those who are lactose intolerant simply do not have the ability to digest the milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. They do not produce enough of the lactase enzyme required to completely digest the lactose and the undigested lactose is left in the small intestine to ferment–an uncomfortable process we won’t go into here.

Allergies, on the other hand, can have symptoms that are far more extreme. These can include hives, vomiting, and even anaphylaxis. Although the milder symptoms associated with a dairy allergy are similar to that of lactose intolerance, the reactions in the body are very different. A food allergy is triggered by an immune response – in this case, the dairy proteins – and over time they can intensify and become life threatening, which is why people with food allergies should work hard to avoid dairy in their diet.

Read more: How to Entertain Your Paleo Friends Without Any Weirdness on the Menu

All in all, there are countless people who’ve stopped eating dairy and found that their chronic congestion, digestive problems, ear infections, or acne vanished within a few weeks. For those of you interested in experimenting with dairy-free eating or have friends who eat dairy free, whom you’d like to invite over without any drama, we have consulted the Blue Apron Culinary Team to help us plan a dairy-free menu.

 Q: If you had to plan a dairy free dinner menu, what would that menu look like?

A: Why not have a taco party to celebrate the last few weeks of this hot weather and summer’s bounty? You can serve a platter of Mini Zucchini Tacos with Guacamole (omit or replace cheese with dairy free brand), Grilled Steak Tacos with Roasted Salsa Verde and Black Quinoa Pilaf, and for something different and fun; Nopales Tempura Tacos with Chipotle Veg (omit or replace the cheese).

Coffee Granita

Not forgetting about dessert – we’d love to serve a Coffee Granita, skipping the whipped cream (honestly: you don’t need it) and adding in a splash of Kahlua.

Q: What is your inspiration for this menu? Is there a reason why you have chosen to pair these dishes together?

A: Mexican food in the late summer and early fall–that’s a no brainer. Something for everyone whether you are vegetarian, dairy free or flexitarian.

Q: Can you offer our readers some simple tips to adapt a recipe to make it dairy-free?

A: In any recipe where sour cream or cheese appears as a topping–like parmesan on pasta or sour cream on tacos–you can honestly just skip those garnishes for those who avoid dairy (serve them on the side for everyone else). If you’re baking, experiment with soy, almond, coconut and rice milks until you find a brand and type you like. There is a wealth of dairy-free cheese products on the market, but those get more mixed reviews than the milks. For desserts, coconut cream whips up just like whipped cream. Here’s how to make it.

Q: Do you have favorite dairy-free product alternatives, e.g go-to dairy free cheese?

A: We have been known to make homemade almond milk sometimes. It’s very tasty and refreshing, and all you have to do is soak almonds overnight in water, then blend at high speed until creamy. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer to remove the bits of almonds, then drink!

Make Delicious Vegetarian Tacos with Nopales

Vegetarians, unite! How do you feel about cacti? Not a cactus to use as decoration, nope, it’s a cactus to eat! Since you might not have cooked with nopales before, we wanted to tell you a little bit more about how to prepare it for eating. Soon you’ll be making the vegetarian tacos of your dreams.

What are nopales?

Nopales are the edible, fleshy pads of the prickly pear cactus. They’re harvested shortly after rains when they’re plump, juicy and full of nutrients. Like most cacti, these pads have spines that need to be carefully removed and discarded. Nopales are a popular ingredient in traditional Mexican cuisine. Their dense texture makes them a satisfying meat substitute.

How to prep nopales

Using a large knife, carefully shave the spikes off the nopales. If you want to be extra cautious, try wearing a pair of gloves. Then, trim off the tough outer edges of each nopal and rinse under cool water to wash away any remaining blemishes. Slice each one into ¼-inch-thick and 1-inch-wide pieces.

Vegetarian tacos with nopales

vegetarian tacos
Vegetarian tacos with crispy fried nopales

Our recipe coats the nopales in panko breadcrumbs and fries them lightly. After they’re done, pair them with fresh carrots and tangy cotija cheese for satisfying and balanced vegetarian tacos. Get our decadent recipe here.

For the Vegetarians: How to Take the Meat out of Any Recipe

Americans are the second largest consumers of meat per capita, the average person eating about 270 pounds per year. And so some of us are moving away from meat-based meals, whether via big portions of vegetable-rich sides beside or meat or by committing to eating fully meatless meals a couple times a week. Campaigns like Meatless Monday and a growing awareness of the problems with factory farming have made meat-free meals more and more common.

Read more: our vegetarian cookbook!

If you’re switching from a meat-heavy diet, cooking vegetarian may seem like a daunting task. But with a few tweaks here and there, you’ll soon find that its easy to master the technique for making meat-free meals. Here’s where to start.

Rethink Your Plate

Vegetarian cooking isn’t always about switching meat out for something else. If you’re a steak and potatoes kind of person, you may not be so satisfied with a plate of tofu and potatoes, but you could be bowled over by a Mushroom and Sweet Potato Pie. The key here is thinking outside of the box, and not simply replacing ingredients but thinking about the meal as a whole.

Add Bulk

Salad is delicious, but a bowl of lettuce won’t always translate into dinner. When cooking vegetarian, you’ll want to consciously bulk up your meal. Combining protein, fiber and unsaturated fats will keep you feeling fuller longer and ensure that you get all the nutrients you need from your meal. So instead of eating rabbit food, opt for a warm grain salad. 

Remember Healthy Fats

Incorporating a variety of oils is a good way to go in vegetarian cooking because it helps you consume healthy fats. Not only does oil add flavor, but it can also help us feel more full. Beyond olive oil there are plenty of oils to experiment with, including sunflower, flax, hemp, walnut and toasted sesame. Nuts deliver the same satisfaction–that’s one of the reasons we use cashews in the soba recipe pictured above. 

Don’t Forget the Spices

Often what makes a meal are the handful of spices that go into seasoning it. Italian dishes wouldn’t be the same with thyme and oregano. Indian cuisine needs cumin and turmeric. It’s not just because you took the meat out of a dish that the taste changes; test your dish and see what flavors are missing and what you can add in from the spice pantry. You might be surprised how much “meaty” flavor you can build up with rich spices like cumin, coriander, or smoked paprika.

Learn the Art of Umami

Ever heard of umami? Discovered by a Japanese scientist, umami, which translated means “delicious” or “yummy,” is the fifth taste (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter). This is basically what gives savory foods their deep flavors, and is often associated with hard cheeses, aged meats like salami and salted fish like anchovies. It’s why you love to douse your noodles in soy sauce. Ingredients like soy sauce, tamari, nutritional yeast, and toasted nuts will all help to bring out that savory flavor that so many of us crave. If you eat cheese, go crazy with the Parmesan–it may be the most umami-rich substance yet.

Master a Few Veg Substitutes

When it comes to replacing meat in a dish, some people are focused on the nutritional value (omega 3s, iron and the like) and others are more concerned with the taste and texture. Beyond your fake-out meat substitutes like soy and TVP, here are 5 basic vegetarian ingredients that you can easily begin to incorporate into your cooking.

  • Beans. From vegetarian chili to simply sautés, beans are a simple, tasty and healthy way to replace ground or chopped meat. Most beans can be bought dry and in bulk, but keep in mind that if you go this route, you will most often have to soak them. Use beans to make hearty soups and stews, or add them to salad when you need an extra dose of protein.
  • Lentils. Part of the legume family, just like beans, lentils are a nutritionally sound ingredient for anything and everything vegetarian. Dal, the Indian staple, is an excellent way to put lentils to everyday use, while this recipe for Braised Beluga Lentils makes a hearty dish that feels a bit more special.
  • Mushrooms. Earthy and firm, mushrooms can often have a similar texture to meat, and therefore work great as a substitute in traditionally meat-based meals, like a mushroom stroganoff or a slider. Because they contain a high enough percentage of water to stay moist during cooking, they’re great for grilling. Throw on a few portobellos on the grill in the summer beside your beef or turkey burgers.
  • Vegetable Stock. For any soups or stews that require a meat-based stock, you can simply sub in a vegetarian one. Stock is easy to make yourself, and you can even use the water that beans or pasta has been cooked in, or you can buy bouillon base.
  • Eggplant. Looking for a vegetable that almost acts like meat? Eggplant is it. Its texture makes it a common replacement in vegetarian lasagna and other meat-based meals. Try an Eggplant Parmesan instead of the chicken classic. It’s also good on the grill!

Be Crazy Creative

The best part about cooking vegetarian? You get to cook out of the box. Think of all the ingredients that you have at your disposal to play with. When we cook meat, it’s easy to get lazy. Cooking a steak is so easy you’ll be giving your creative genius a rest each time you go to search one. By contract, when we remove some of the things we usually work with, we actually end up being more creative. Think of new ways you can use common vegetables, like Acorn Squash Tempura Tacos instead of regular fish tacos. Vegetarian cooking shouldn’t be about limiting, it should be about remembering all the wonderful things that you do have to work with.

This post was written by Anna Brones, a food and travel writer based in Paris, France who has a love for bikes, coffee and all things organic.