Let’s be real: most vegan food tastes fantastic. Exceptional. Like heaven on a fork. I mean, it’s just 😍.
However, sometimes you may come across a recipe that’s just average; it happens. But no need to settle for that.
There are a few simple things you can do to help ensure that your vegan cooking is (almost) always a delicious success.
Read on to discover 10 quick and easy ways to instantly improve any recipe and make your vegan meals taste even better.
As you’ll see, the tips don’t require a lot of additional time or effort, but their impact is huge.
1. Use freshly ground pepper instead of buying already ground pepper
This swap may seem like such a small thing that you have your doubts if it actually makes a difference, but trust me, it does.
And once you give it a try, you will not go back. Freshly ground pepper is more potent and provides more flavor depth and complexity.
Moreover, it only takes a few extra seconds to grind your pepper freshly. And don’t say you’re too lazy, because there are electric grinders that do all the work for you. So, no excuses!
2. Use real garlic instead of garlic powder
I’m definitely guilty of using garlic powder instead of actual garlic for the sake of convenience. I mean, there’s no peeling or cutting involved, and it’s faster and less messy.
But every time I use real garlic, I wonder why I keep going back to garlic powder; it just can’t compete flavor-wise.
If you make the same dish twice, once with garlic powder, and once with actual garlic, you will notice a (big) difference.
And it’s small changes like these that take your meal to the next level and make your cooking stand out.
To cut down on the work required with real garlic, you can use a garlic mincer or garlic press.
3. Add lemon juice or vinegar to almost everything
Adding a splash of lemon juice or vinegar (depending on what is more appropriate for the dish) shortly before it’s ready to be served can tremendously improve its taste.
It will enhance all the flavors that already make up the dish while also adding a bit of tanginess and complexity that will elevate your dish
Here are some examples of how you can implement this tip:
- add lemon/lime juice to a rice, couscous, or quinoa dish
- drizzle steamed veggies with lemon/lime juice
- add some balsamic vinegar to a stew or pasta dish.
4. Choose fresh herbs instead of dried ones
You may start to notice a theme with the tips here: using fresh, unprocessed ingredients trumps using dried and processed ingredients.
Sure, dried herbs also add flavor to a dish, but the taste and texture of fresh herbs enhance the food in ways dried herbs simply can’t.
Moreover, fresh herbs add a nice color to a meal, making it look more appealing.
Great about herbs is also that they add valuable nutrients to a dish and can boost iron absorption.
Again, using fresh herbs is one of those things that you don’t notice is missing until you start using them.
A downside to fresh herbs can be that purchasing them at the store can be expensive. That’s why I recommend growing your own, if possible.
You don’t have to grow with a whole herb garden inside your home right away; start with 2-3 plants and see how it goes.
If growing your own herbs is not an option, you could opt for frozen ones instead. They are an upgrade from dried herbs while offering the same convenience.
5. Plate your food nicely
Of course, with you as the chef, the food is the real star 😉. But if you want to elevate your meal even more, you can add another special touch by plating your meal nicely.
Food that tastes good and is pleasing on the eye makes eating it even more enjoyable and adds another wow-factor.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- opt for white or off-white plates; these will make your food pop and allow it to be the focus
- Don’t overstuff plates; make sure there is a little room between the edge and where the food ends but at the same time, don’t let the plate look empty; you can do this by:
- Piling your food rather than spreading it out
- After plating but before garnishing, wipe the edges of a plate to give it a clean look.
- Garnish! The goal is to add some contrasting colors (f.e. herbs, freshly ground pepper, lemon slice, edible flower, celery, lemon zest) but don’t overdo it.
6. Make your food taste great without salt
When we think of seasoning food, the first thing that usually comes to mind is salting.
Salt is contained in almost everything that we eat daily, and if a dish is not salted properly, we tend to notice it right away.
At the same time, no- or low-sodium diets are becoming more and more popular. However, merely omitting salt can sometimes lead to bland food.
But you don’t need to choose between salt or flavor; there’s plenty of ways to make low- no-sodium meals taste amazing.
For example, instead of salting your food as you go, only use surface salt.
This means you don’t use salt during the cooking processes; rather, you sprinkle some high-quality salt flakes on top of the dish right before serving.
This way, your food will taste like you salted it when you just used a fraction of the salt you’d typically use.
Other things you can do to make your meal taste amazing with little/without salt are:
- add fresh herbs
- increase the amount of other spices and seasonings
- add an acid (lemon juice, vinegar
- caramelize onions
- add toasted nuts and seeds
- roast some of the ingredients
7. Use seasonal and local ingredients
Ingredients that are in season are the most flavorful and contain the most nutrients, even more so if they are grown locally.
While globalization has allowed us to have fresh blueberries in winter, for example, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t really taste a lot like blueberries.
The flavor tends to be dull, and sometimes the texture doesn’t seem quite right either.
So an easy way to instantly improve your meal is by choosing as many seasonal and local ingredients as possible. Farmers markets a great place to shop for that purpose.
If a recipe or a craving calls for an ingredient that is currently not in season, you can opt for frozen fruits and veggies.
These are usually frozen right after being harvested, and thus, tend to be rich in flavor and nutrients.
8. Add some healthy fats
It’s no secret: fats are an excellent flavor carrier. Additionally, we are evolutionarily predisposed to like fats. So it makes sense that foods that contain fat taste better to us.
Fats often get a bad rep, but that’s not always justified. In small amounts, fat is essential. It only becomes problematic if you consume vast quantities of it.
And possibly even more important is the kind of fat you use. It’s important to distinguish between processed fats (like oil) and whole-food sources of fat.
Healthy fats stem from nuts, seeds, and avocado, olives, among others. These are the kind of fat sources you want to add to your dishes to make them taste even better instantly.
Here are some examples of how you can add healthy fats to your meals to instantly improve them:
- add roasted seeds (sesame seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds) to a salad or pasta dish
- add nut or nut butter to oatmeal
- add avocado to your burrito or buddha bowl
- add olives to your salad dressing or other homemade condiments
9. Chop your ingredients evenly
This is another seemingly unnecessary step that can make a big difference in your cooking if implemented.
Chopping your ingredients uniformly ensures even cooking, which in turn makes your dish taste better.
Moreover, ingredients that are all the same size make the food look more appealing.
Learning to chop your ingredients evenly takes some practice.
At first, you may need to plan additional prep time when cooking, but the more often you do it, the better and faster you get at it, and soon it will be second nature for you.
Here are some helpful resources to help you improve your chopping game:
Basic cutting techniques:
10. Add instant espresso powder to chocolate recipes
If you want the chocolate flavor in a recipe to pop, add a small amount of instant espresso powder to your recipe.
Doing so will intensify the chocolate flavor and give it more depth and complexity, instantly improving your dish and baked goods.
Don’t worry; you won’t taste the coffee. For a standard recipe, you should add around 1 tsp of espresso powder.
However, if you want some added coffee flavor, use 2-3 tsp.
You could also sprinkle some instant espresso powder on chocolate ice cream or add it to chili (yes, you read that right). You’ll undoubtedly notice the complexity and richness it adds.
Alright, we just covered 10 easy and quick tips to make any recipe taste better. The recurring theme is that small adjustments make all the difference.
But it is truly these tiny things that elevate your cooking, make it stand out, and take any dish from “good” to “this is incredible.”
Summary: 10 quick & easy tips to make any recipe taste better
What are some things you do to make your meals taste and look better?