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Comfort food vegan-style

Are you one of the millions of carnivores who can’t imagine a meal without meat, believing that vegetarian or vegan dishes are far too restrictive and unsatisfying, especially when it comes to soul-nourishing comfort foods? Lauren Ulm, author of Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Every Day, has a surprise for you. In her book, the enthusiastic vegan not only proves that following a vegan diet is a simple endeavor, she shares over 100 vegan recipes that are satisfying, delicious and even impressively decadent. Here are a few of Ulm’s favorite vegan products and three very comforting vegan recipes.

Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Every DayVegan ingredient substitutions

Veganism is a form of vegetarianism that includes eating fresh, whole, plant-based foods and avoiding the consumption of and use of animals for any commercial production. For many vegan-naysayers, the thought of following a diet with no meat and especially sans eggs and dairy is impossible. However, Ulm says the key to embracing and being surprisingly satisfied with a vegan diet is to change your expectations and experiment. “Stay open-minded and take the time to learn how to make foods that you really love, not poor imitations of foods you no longer eat,” she suggests. “That being said, there a few specialty products that I can recommend that might make your transition easier.”

As you are aspiring to change your meat-eating ways, give the following vegan ingredient substitutions a try:

  • Earth Balance Margarine — Most margarines have whey in them, but Earth Balance is 100 percent vegan and, in Ulm’s opinion, the very best butter replacement on the market.
  • Silk Soymilk — Some soymilks and nondairy milks can curdle in your coffee or tea, but Silk has a pleasing taste and texture, and is very versatile in cooking.
  • Vegenaise Mayonnaise — Vegenaise is the only vegan mayonnaise that Ulm will buy.
  • Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese and Sour Cream — Of the cream cheese and sour cream substitutes, Ulm recommends Toffuti.
  • Vegan cheeses — Ulm is the first to admit that some vegan cheeses are “pretty gross.” However, she extols the tastes of Teese Cheese (a great melting mozzarella substitute), Sheese Cheese (very cheesy flavor and texture ideal for sandwiches and crackers), and Dr Cow Cheese (all natural hand-crafted nut cheeses).
  • Nutritional yeast — An ingredient that isn’t common in the average kitchen, nutritional yeast is a nutritional supplement offering B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B12, which lends a cheesy flavor to foods. Ulm suggests sprinkling it on popcorn.

“There are all sorts of wonderful and delicious foods out there that will show you what being vegan is all about,” says Ulm. “It’s a myth that vegan food is boring, flavorless and uninspired…you can be compassionate to the planet without giving up great food.”

Vegan comfort food recipes

Recipes adapted from the vegan cookbook Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm.

Vegan pancakes

Serves 2

Made with whole grain spelt flour and readied for the griddle the night before, these pancakes are perfect for a lazy weekend morning or even during the week when you wake up simply craving a plate of comfort.


  • 1-1/2 cups soymilk
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon flavor extract of your choice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if needed
  • Earth Balance Margarine
  • Maple syrup


  1. Add soymilk, flours, oil, sugar, baking powder, extract and salt to a blender. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Scrape down sides and blend again. At this point, you can use batter immediately or you can refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F and put an oven-safe plate on the middle rack.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Pour batter directly onto center of pan. This batter will make fairly thin pancakes.
  4. After a few minutes of cooking, you’ll see bubbles form on top of the pancake. The batter will start to set and change color from white to dull yellow. Flip pancakes.
  5. As they cook, stack them on the oven-safe plate and keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with margarine and maple syrup.

Vegan creamy tomato barley risotto

Serves 4 as a side dish

Risotto is the ultimate in comfort food. This delicious recipe soothes the soul with rich flavors and a toothsome texture.


  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or canned diced tomatoes, blended or mashed a bit
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons miso mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Put barley, oil, oregano and basil in a cold, medium-sized pot that has a tight fitting lid. Turn heat to medium-high and stir until barley is coated in the oil.
  2. Once barley begins to sizzle, add garlic, and cook for another minute or so. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Cover pot and turn down heat to just hotter than the lowest setting. Cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir well, recover, and cook another 15 minutes, stirring once more toward the end. The mixture should be creamy and not soupy, and the barley should be cooked all the way through but not mushy. Serve immediately.

Vegan pepita fettuccini with spinach and cranberries

Serves 1

For many, comfort food means pasta. This intriguing recipe adds a surprising sweetness with dried cranberries and maple syrup, and a delightful nutty taste with pepitas.


  • 2 ounces of fettuccini
  • 1/3 cup raw, unsalted pepitas or pumpkin seeds’
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, torn
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries


  1. Cook fettuccini in a pot of boiling salted water according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, pulse pepitas until they are finely chopped. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add spinach. Use tongs to coat spinach in oil. Add red pepper flakes, tamari, maple syrup, thyme and cranberries. Toss until well-combined.
  4. Turn heat to low or off, cover skillet, and set aside until pasta is cooked.
  5. Drain pasta and add it to the skillet. Add pepitas and toss well until everything is coated. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

More vegan and vegetarian recipes

Vegan breakfast recipes
Vegan recipes: When vegan goes gourmet
Vegan recipes for any time of day

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