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Tips for tasty plant-based cooking

Massaging kale, pressing tofu and adding peanut butter to chilli recipes are just a few culinary secrets that can elevate your meatless cooking from good to give-me-seconds. Meatless Monday shares some tips for tasty plant-based cooking . . .

When it comes to improving the taste, texture, and flavour of your meatless dishes or recreating plant-based versions of animal-based ingredients, it's all about knowing the right techniques. Maybe your tofu buffalo wings didn't come out crispy because you forgot to press the tofu, or your kale is not as tender because you didn't massage the leaves. Sure, these suggestions may seem minor, but they can dramatically affect the outcome of a recipe.

Dinner may never be the same after you start adding a tablespoon of smooth peanut butter to your chilli, a splash of soy sauce to your tomato sauce, or a touch of vinegar to soups and stews.

As we are all doing more home cooking, take a look at the list below and see how you can incorporate these cooking hacks into your next meatless meal.

Add a Spoonful of Peanut Butter to Chilli

It might sound crazy, but the secret to many award-winning chilli recipes is a heaping amount of smooth, creamy peanut butter. The subtle hint of sweet paired with the peanut's inherent nuttiness is enough to balance out the spice and acid of vegetarian chilli.

Massage Kale for Tender Salads

Kale needs some TLC to become tender. To break down the tough fibres, rip the leaves off the rib (or stem), add to a bowl, coat with some olive oil, and knead them (as if you would bread dough) for around four minutes. Add them to a Mediterranean salad for a quick week-night meal.

Blend Cauliflower for an All-Purpose “Cream” Sauce

Add richness, depth, and creaminess to any dish with this magic, all-purpose cauliflower sauce. To make this simple sauce, boil cauliflower spears until tender. While boiling, sauté sliced garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Drain the cauliflower and scrape all of the garlic-infused oil into a blender and blend until smooth.

Refrigerate Coconut Milk for Easy Whipped Cream

Simple, easy, and decadent, refrigerating a can of coconut milk overnight results in a thick and creamy whipped topping for desserts, waffles, or coffee. Add some vanilla extract and powdered sugar for some extra flavour and sweetness.

Press Tofu for Crispy ‘Wings'

Removing the moisture from tofu allows it to get nice and crispy, an important step if you're baking, pan frying, or cooking up Jamaican jerk tofu tacos. To properly press tofu, line a plate with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and place the block of tofu on top. Place another layer of paper towel on the tofu block and apply something heavy — book, cutting board, pan — on top. Let it “press” for at least 20 minutes, replace the paper towels and let it rest for another 10 minutes for an extra chewy meaty texture.

Freeze Bananas for Nice Cream

The best kept secret that every plant-based eater knows about — frozen banana soft- serve will change the way you think about dessert. Simply peel a few bananas, throw them in the freezer, and blend them up with some frozen fruit the next day. Maybe add a splash of lemon juice, nut butter, or a sprinkle of maple syrup if so inclined.

Use Avocado in Place of Butter

With a one-to-one ratio, you can use avocado to replace butter in most baked goods and desserts. And while avocado won't impart a noticeable flavour, you can also avoid butter by using a non-dairy butter substitute (also a one-to-one ratio).

Make Your Own Plant Parmesan ‘Cheese'

Parmesan elevates anything from pastas and risottos to soup and roasted vegetables. Recreate the sharp umami flavour of Parmesan with a combination of nutritional yeast, walnuts (or cashews), salt, and garlic powder. Give the mixture a couple of pulses in the food processor and you're good to go.

Customise a Creamy Tofu Herb Dip

Tofu comes in all different types and textures. Blend soft silken tofu together with salt and fresh herbs — basil, parsley, chive, cilantro, rosemary — for a quick and easy dip for crudité. Add some avocado or a splash of citrus to round out the flavour.

Finish Cooking Pasta in Sauce for a Creamier Consistency

Contrary to the instructions on the box, pasta should actually be slightly underdone when you drain it. After draining, immediately toss the pasta into the simmering sauce for another two minutes. This helps the pasta absorb the sauce, but it also releases the starch within the pasta, giving the sauce a creamier consistency.

Kale needs some TLC to become tender.