Convinced that eating vegan is crazy expensive, only properly done with expensive and hard-to-find ingredients? Melissa Copeland, creator of The Stingy Vegan blog, is on a mission to prove that cooking vibrant plant-based meals doesn’t have to break the bank. In her new book 30-Minute Frugal Vegan Recipes, Melissa Copeland challenges this myth by offering 75 easy, quick and flavorful meat-free recipes that use basic supermarket items and pantry staples. These recipes prove that you can create simple, healthy and fast vegan meals on a budget. Here are some of our favorites.
1. Smoky Mushroom Fajitas
Who doesn’t love fajitas? Colorful sizzling vegetables and “meaty” marinated mushrooms with tons of smoky flavor all wrapped up in a handheld package. The trick here is to let them cook to the point of charring to get that extra bit of flavor. Frying the mushrooms in batches helps achieve this by giving them lots of space for their liquid to evaporate and avoid steaming.
Makes 6 to 8 fajitas
6 to 8 (6″ [15 cm]) wheat tortillas
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) neutral oil
2 tsp. (5 g) smoked paprika
2 tsp. (5 g) ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. (9 g) sugar
14 oz. (400 g) oyster mushrooms, sliced into strips
2 tsp. (5 g) cornstarch
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil, for pan
1 large onion, sliced
3 large differently colored bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1⁄2 tsp. salt
- If you wish, wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in a 250°F (120°C) oven until ready to serve. Alternatively, warm them just before serving, wrapped in a towel in the microwave, for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Then, in a large bowl, prepare the mushrooms. Combine the water, lime juice, soy sauce, oil, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and sugar. Add the sliced mushrooms and toss to coat. Leave to marinate, giving the mushrooms a stir from time to time.
- To prepare the fajitas, in a wok or very large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and stir-fry until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. You can let them char in places as well; it adds more flavor. Season with the salt, transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer half of the mushrooms from the marinade to the skillet used for the pepper mixture, reserving the marinade. Allow the mushrooms to fry undisturbed for a few minutes on the first side until most of the water has evaporated and they are beginning to brown, then give them a stir to brown on the other side. They will reduce considerably in size. You can also let them char a bit, but be careful not to burn them. Transfer the first batch to a plate and cook the second batch.
- Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch into the reserved marinade.
- When the mushrooms are nice and brown, lower the heat to medium and add the first batch of mushrooms back to the pan. Give the marinade a stir and pour it into the pan. Simmer and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and reduces to coat the mushrooms.
- Serve the warmed tortillas with the bell pepper mixture, mushrooms and any toppings of your choice.
2. Autumn Harvest Barley Salad
Autumn just might be my favorite season, as there’s nothing more delicious and versatile than a winter squash. Filled with hearty barley and squash, roasted to enhance its sweetness, this autumn harvest salad is abundant and filling enough for a stand-alone main meal or as a side dish for a special occasion.
1⁄2 cup (100 g) uncooked pearled barley
1 cup (235 ml) water or vegetable stock
Salt Freshly ground black pepper
1 small squash (I use red kuri that weigh about 1.5 lbs. [680 g]. Any kind of squash or even sweet potato will work.)
Drizzle of oil
8 cups (440 g) mixed salad greens
1 apple, cored and sliced or diced
1⁄4 cup (30 g) dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. (18 g) pumpkin seeds
2 to 6 Tbsp. (30 to 90 ml) water, or as necessary
1⁄4 cup (60 g) tahini
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) brown rice syrup, pure maple syrup, or agave nectar
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 small clove garlic, minced (omit if you don’t like raw garlic)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- In a strainer, rinse the barley under cold water. In a microwave-safe dish with a lid, combine the barley and water or stock. For example, a CorningWare-style ceramic dish with a glass lid or a plastic microwave rice and grain cooker work well for this. If you don’t have either of those, use a large nonmetal bowl covered with a plate. Just be sure that your bowl is large and deep, to prevent overflow. Cover and microwave on 50 percent power for 20 minutes. If it’s your first time cooking barley in the microwave, keep an eye on it, since every microwave oven cooks differently and you don’t want to over- or undercook it. It’s done when it’s tender and all the water has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, carefully cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds (reserve the seeds to roast another time). Slice into 1-inch (2.5-cm) slices and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a touch of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat each piece and arrange in a single layer on the pan.
3. Coconut-Lentil Curry
A bag of dried lentils will feed you for many meals. Like dried beans, they’re very economical but with the added benefit that they do not need to be presoaked. That makes them great for a last-minute dinner when you don’t have anything planned. This deliciously creamy lentil curry features chunks of eggplant, which help create a filling main dish, thanks to their fleshy texture. Serve this curry alone or over rice, with naan or bread on the side for sopping up the last bits out of your bowl.
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) oil, for pan, divided
1 Tbsp. (6 g) cumin seeds
1⁄2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 tsp. (4 g) curry powder
1 cup (200 g) dried red lentils, rinsed under cold water
7 oz. (200 g) frozen spinach
2 cups (475 ml) vegetable stock or water
1 (14-oz. [400-g]) can crushed tomatoes
1 small eggplant, cubed
15 cherry tomatoes
11⁄2 tsp. (9 g) salt, or to taste, divided
1 (14-oz. [400-ml]) can coconut milk
Cooked rice, for serving (optional)
Optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, sliced lime, plain vegan yogurt, vegan naan
- In a large saucepan or pot, heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds, or until they darken in color slightly and are fragrant. Add the onion and sauté until tender, 5 to 7 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute more, until tender. Finally, add the curry powder and fry for 30 seconds, to release the aroma.
- Add the lentils, spinach, stock and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not falling apart.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon (15 ml) of oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cherry tomatoes, season with 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt and fry until the eggplant is soft and golden brown and the tomatoes blister, about 10 minutes.
- When the lentils are ready, add the eggplant mixture, coconut milk and the remaining teaspoon of salt, or to taste, to the lentils. Heat for a minute, then serve with your choice of garnishes.
4. Mini Quiche Cups
These mini quiche cups are a great grab-and-go breakfast. They are equally delicious fresh out of the oven as they are served cold. One pan will last you for breakfasts all week and you can also freeze them for later.
Makes 12 quiches
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil, for skillet, plus more for muffin tin
11⁄2 cups (180 g) chickpea (garbanzo) flour
11⁄2 cups (355 ml) water
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. (12 g) salt, plus a pinch for the vegetables
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (285 g) small-diced mixed frozen veggies
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and coat a 12-well muffin tin with oil.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, water, baking powder, salt and pepper. The batter will still be quite lumpy at this point, which is fine; just set it aside while you prepare the veggies.
- In a large skillet, heat the tablespoon (15 ml) of oil over medium heat. Add the frozen vegetables and allow them to fry, undisturbed, for a couple of minutes, then toss. Continue to fry until heated through and beginning to brown. Keep in mind that frozen veggies are already precooked, so they may cook twice as fast as fresh vegetables. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Give the batter another whisk and try to get most of the remaining lumps out. Add the veggies to the batter and fill the prepared muffin tin with the batter. You can fill each well up to the top and make sure each has a good helping of veggies.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a quiche comes out clean—it might have some crumbs on it, but it shouldn’t be wet. Let cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then pop them out to cool on a wire rack.
5. Cuban-Style Black Bean Soup
Whereas Cuban black beans are normally long simmered and made from scratch with dried beans, we can cut some corners here by using canned beans with their aquafaba (the liquid in the can) and a quick blitz with an immersion blender to thicken.
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) oil, for pan
1⁄2 medium onion, diced
1⁄2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 (15.5-oz [439-g]) cans black beans, undrained
1 cup (235 ml) water
11⁄2 tsp. (8 ml) red or white wine vinegar
11⁄2 tsp. (6 g) sugar
Salt, to taste
Optional garnishes: chopped avocados, cilantro, green onion, vegan sour cream or plain vegan yogurt
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat and fry the onion, bell pepper and garlic until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the oregano and cumin and fry, stirring, for 30 seconds, to release their aromas.
- Pour in the entire contents of the cans of beans and the water. Increase the heat to bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the beans a bit.
- Turn off the heat and add the vinegar and sugar. Taste and add salt, if necessary (depends on how salty your beans were).
- Puree some of the soup to thicken it, still leaving lots of beans. You can do this either with an immersion blender or by ladling some of the soup into a blender and then returning it to the pot. I like to puree about a third to half of the soup.
- Serve plain or with your choice of garnishes.