Plant-based Recipe Test 10: Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is a classic choice among pasta-lovers. This rich and creamy sauce is far from being plant-based though. Most Alfredo sauces contain heavy cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. Since I’ve never tried a plant-based version of this sauce, I decided to test out a recipe I found online.

The recipe called for garlic, olive oil, cauliflower, plain almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

First I cooked the garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Next, I added the almond milk and brought it to a boil. Next I added the chopped cauliflower, salt, and pepper. After about 7 minutes of cooking, I transferred the mixture to a blender and added the nutritional yeast and lemon juice. I blended it until a smooth consistency was reached. DONE!

I served the alternative Alfredo sauce with brown rice pasta and the plant-based pesto. 

Student Feedback

Blake Bischoff 8/10 (alone), 10/10 (with pasta).

  • “I appreciate how this sauce is healthier than traditional Alfredo. It’s not very flavorful on its own but it compliments the pasta well.”

Pauline Mwangi 8.5/10

  • “I like how it’s dairy free. In general, I like healthier things. This sauce is not as runny as as most are.  I’d go for it!”

 

Plant-based Recipe Test 9: Pasta with Pesto

Pasta is a go-to dish for many students at Principia. Currently, marinara sauce is the only 100% plant-based sauce option. The others are contain dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese. For example, most traditional pesto sauces contain mozzarella cheese. Cheese-free pestos aren’t common, but they do exist! I tested out a recipe I found online

This recipe is similar to traditional pesto, but there’s nutritional yeast instead of cheese and walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

Slight change: The recipe called for two cups of fresh basil. I only had one, so I substituted a cup of kale for the basil I lacked.

The recipe was quick and simple. All it required was measuring, chopping, and blending the ingredients. Once complete, I served it with pasta and began the student feedback session.

Student Feedback

Diego John 10/10

  • “This tastes fresh, real, and I like it better than the original. I’d personally have this in the morning, afternoon, and night. It reminds me of food from Africa. I feel very satisfied after only eating a small bit!”

Boyo Amuka 9.9/10

  • “It tastes very natural. I’d definitely choose this over what’s currently available!”

Jenita Arini 9/10

  • “It’s very similar to normal pesto.”

The Verdict

This (slightly altered) plant-based pesto recipe is healthy, and incredibly delicious. It was highly rated by students based on its fresh ingredients and powerful flavor. We didn’t miss the cheese at all!

Plant-based Recipe Test 8: Pancakes

Pancakes are a frequent item on Principia’s breakfast menu. Since they contain butter, eggs, and milk, I figured that a plant-based alternative recipe would be worthwhile. 

I bought ingredients from Grassroots Grocery, a local co-op, and tested a recipe I found online.

This alternative recipe was incredibly simple. (Not cracking eggs was a plus too.)

In addition to plain pancakes, I experimented with a few other varieties: banana, chocolate chip, blueberry, walnut, flaxseed, and one with everything.

Oil, rather than butter, is used for the cooking process. I chose coconut oil due to its rich flavor.

The pancakes cooked beautifully and tasted even better. 

The Verdict

This particular recipe was quick, simple, and tasty, but it doesn’t compare to the average fluffy pancake that most people are accustomed to. These pancakes were dense, a bit tough, and the coconut oil overwhelmed the flavor. Due to this, I will continue testing other plant-based pancake recipes. Hopefully I’ll find one that’s comparable to the average pancake!

Plant-based Recipe Test 7: Spaghetti with Beyond Beef Crumbles

Spaghetti is a classic for food lovers. Meat sauces with ground beef are a staple of the typical college students diet. Out of all foods, beef is one of the least sustainable due to the massive amount of resources needed. Fortunately, Beyond Meat makes a ground beef alternative which serves as a delicious substitute for  spaghetti sauce. For vegetarians that would normally go without meat, this adds plenty protein, yielding a well-balanced meal.

A few students and I got together and cooked dinner. We cooked pasta, sautéed veggies, added sauce, and cooked the Beyond Meat Beefy crumbles. We mixed it together and had a delicious meal. 

We also made garlic bread with olive oil (instead of butter) and Daiya jalapeño”cheese” (instead of dairy cheese).

Student Feedback 

Stephen Stuart 9/10

  • “I love it! I think the “meat” tastes pretty good. I love the garlic “cheese” bread too!”

Kiersten Sheehan 8.5/10

  • “It has a dry smoky taste. I like how the “meat” isn’t as oily.”

Daniel Cornell 8.75/10

  • “I can’t say I’d always eat it but I like it in this form. In terms of realness, it’s great! I feel good because I’m not killing a cow.”

Alan Freeman 7/10

  • “I like this in terms of helping my conscious by moderating how much beef I consume.”

José Lucero 8/10

  • “It doesn’t taste like meat but it’s good. I’d eat it if it was an option. I’m concerned about the artificial ingredients though (specifically caramel color).”

Reilly Jeddy 8/10

  • “It doesn’t taste quite like beef so I wouldn’t eat it all the time.”

The Verdict

Even though the Beyond Beef crumbles didn’t taste exactly like beef, they complemented the meal quite nicely. Since vegetarian spaghetti (pasta, sauce, and veggies) isn’t a complete protein, the additional protein from the Beyond Beef crumbles made an already delicious meal, a nutritionally balanced and satisfying one.

Plant-based Alternative Product: Cream Cheese

Bagels with cream cheese are a go-to breakfast for many college students. I’ve always loved bagels with cream cheese, and I even worked at a bagel shop for two years. 

Sadly, dairy products, like cream cheese, are not the most sustainable choice. Click to learn more.

Luckily, there are quite a few pre-made vegan cream cheese products available. A few students, and myself tested one made by Tofutti

Student Feedback

Anna-Zoë Herr 8.75/10

  • If Dining Services offered this I’d be really grateful and totally buy it! I’d eat this instead of real cream cheese because I don’t eat dairy products.”

Kiersten Sheehan 9/10

  • “I’d eat this!”

Stephen Stuart 8.5/10

  • “It’s pretty good! I’d go for it!”

Afton Leslie 10/10

  • “There’s no milky, fatty aftertaste! I love it! Since I’m vegan I’d definitely choose this over normal cream cheese.”

Natalie Storm 8/10

  • “It seems lighter than the dairy version. I’d go for it!”

 

The Verdict

The taste testers and myself all liked this product. The texture is exactly like traditional cream cheese and the taste is similar. You can tell it’s different, but not in a bad way. A vegan cream cheese would be an excellent addition to Prin’s Bagel Tuesday.

Although this alternative cream “cheese” is a step in the right direction, there’s one ingredient I have a problem with, and it’s palm oil. I did some research the company claims it’s sustainably sourced. Personally, I like to avoid products that contain this oil if possible.

Plant-based Recipe Test 6: Mac and Cheese 2 Ways

Mac and cheese is one of the most popular side dishes at Prin. Mac and cheese is a side dish is one I’ve always loved but unfortunately, the cheese we enjoy eating may come with a high environmental cost. (Click to learn more.)

I browsed through quite a few recipes online and decided to test this one out. I selected this one because it’s made completely from scratch with whole/natural ingredients.

I’ve been sampling a lot of vegan cheeses so I wanted to see if a cheesy texture and flavor could be achieved without relying on processed cheese substitutes (such as microwaving a bowl of pasta with with Daiya cheese). 

The 5 minute “cheese” recipe I used contained the following ingredients:

  • White beans, unsweetened almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil

I blended the ingredients, heated the mixture on the stove, and poured it over pasta. (To add some additional color and texture, I sautéed tomatoes and kale in olive oil and mixed it into the pasta.)

It wouldn’t mistake this recipe for traditional mac and cheese due to the difference in flavor and texture, but overall, it was very good. It tasted fresher, lighter and healthier.

Student Feedback

Brandon Robles: Immediately he said “it needs something”. He suggested adding some Daiya Jalapeño “cheese”. I added the “cheese”, melted it in the microwave, and it was “way better”.

Marygrace Kinuthia: I added extra olive oil, salt, and Daiya mixed shredded “cheese” to the next sample. Here’s the reaction I got: “This is vegan?! I really like it!” She gave it a 10/10.

Version 2

Here’s simpler version for busy college students. All you need is pasta and a cheese alternative such as Daiya. 

Just cook the pasta and mix in the “cheese” until melted and evenly spread. 

Student Feedback

  • Afton Leslie (visiting student)

“It’s thick, creamy, and tastes like real cheese! I’d much rather eat this than the dairy version. I want to give it a 10/10 but I’m vegan so that’s probably not fair so I’ll give it a 9/10. I love how there’s no milky/fatty aftertaste. I feel fantastic after eating this!”

  • Natalie Storm 8/10

“Yum! It’s really cheese-like. It’s good! I like the spice from the Daiya Jalapeño Havarti because I usually put saracha on my mac. I normally don’t eat much mac and cheese but I’d go for this if it was in the dining hall. I feel like I’d feel better afterward (as opposed to eating the traditional version). I just really love pasta!”

  • Vanessa Ramirez Jasso 7.5/10

“I like it! I’d eat this if it was an option here.”

  • Devon Maurande 8/10

“It’s a little spicy but it’s delicious!”

Prin DIY(s):

  • Purchase pasta from Dining Services and Daiya cheddar “cheese” from the C-Store. Add the desired amount of “cheese” and microwave until melted.
  • Purchase the boxed Daiya kit from the C-Store!

 

Plant-based Recipe Test 5: Blueberry, Walnut, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Typically, muffins contain butter, eggs, and milk. More times than not, muffins tend to be more of an icing-less cake than a wholesome breakfast food.

Finding a decent plant-based alternative can be a challenge. Luckily, I stumbled across a simple recipe online.

I baked three versions: blueberry, chocolate chip, and walnut.

All three types were delicious, but the chocolate chip was the most popular among students. 

The blueberry and walnut versions are excellent for breakfast or a light snack. while the chocolate chip is more dessert-like. 

You may be wondering, how do you bake muffins without eggs, milk, and butter? It’s simple. Coconut (or vegetable) oil replaces the butter, ground flax seeds replace the egg, and a nondairy milk (such as almond) replaces dairy milk. 

And yes, the chocolate chips are dairy free. They’re made by Chocolate Dream and unfortunately they cost twice as much as regular chocolate chips :(. Hopefully that will change as the demand for non-dairy products increases.

To score some additional sustainability points, I used mainly organic ingredients. They’re a bit pricier, but that’s how food should cost. 

Some of the ingredients were sourced from Grassroots Grocery, a local co-op in Alton, Illinois. I also bought ingredients from an co-op in St. Louis called Local Harvest.

Feedback

  • James Skinner 7.5/10

“They’re good. If they’re an option, I’ll go for them. They didn’t rise as much as I thought they would though”

  • Marygrace Kinuthua: Chocolate chip 7/10, Walnut 8/10

“I’d choose these over the non-vegan ones. The walnut one tastes healthier, I’d definitely eat it for breakfast.”

  • Karen Johnson 8/10

“I’d choose this over a non-vegan version. I didn’t even notice they were missing eggs!”

  • Natalie Cooper 8/10 (because they didn’t rise much)

“I’d choose these over any non-vegan version.”

  • Aurora Muller 10/10

“I love it! They taste really good and I love how they’re a bit healthier compared to most muffins. I’m always for the healthier option. They’re the bomb!”

  • Many other samplers loved them, including Mr. and Mrs. B!

Plant-based Recipe Test 4: Chickpea Salad

This chicken salad alternative took a bit of trial and error, but overall, it’s my favorite plant-based alternative recipe. It’s simple, flavorful, light, and packed full of healthy ingredients.

For the first batch, I followed this recipe. It contains chickpeas, celery, green onion, dill pickle, red bell pepper, vegan mayonnaise, garlic, yellow mustard, fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper.

The recipe said to mash the chickpeas with a potato masher but I used a fork. It took some time but achieved the same result. 

Concerning the vegetables, there’s a bit of chopping involved, but nothing too complicated.

After adding the chopped veggies to the mashed chickpeas, I stirred in the “mayo”, mustard (I used whole grain), dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Done! 

Personally, the chickpeas in this salad seemed a bit dry when compared to traditional chicken salad. I noticed that the salad tasted better after sitting in the fridge for a few hours. 

I held a student feedback session as soon as the salad was ready. I served it inside whole wheat tortillas with spinach.

  • Aurora Muller 10/10

“I really like this. I’d choose it over a non-vegan version any day. It’s perfect!”

  • James Skinner 10/10

“I like this. I think it’s better with Tabasco sauce though. Try mashing the chickpeas more.”

  • Marygrace Kinuthia 9/10

“It’s good. It’d definitely choose this over a non-vegan version.”

  • Natalie Cooper 10/10

“I love it! I’d choose it it over the non-vegan type.”

Even though everyone liked the recipe, the slight dryness of the chickpeas bothered me. I decided to make a few changes to the recipe to create a more natural version with better texture. 

First, I replaced the chickpeas with white kidney beans (much softer and less dry). They mashed easier and had a more neutral flavor.

I added the same amount of the other ingredients (click on link mentioned above for the original recipe). 

I replaced the vegan mayo with a homemade cashew “cream” spread. I soaked a cup of cashews in water overnight. The next day, I added 1/2 cup to a blender with 3 Tbsp of water, sea salt and lemon juice (optional). I blended until smooth. 

I had 1/2 cup of leftover cashews so I added them to the salad and mixed it up. 

I thought the first recipe was good, but this new version tasted much better! I love how I was responsible for every ingredient since I omitted the processed vegan mayo.

Tip: Allowing it to set for a few hours in the fridge is a good idea.

Student Feedback

  • Blake Bischoff 9/10

“That’s really good! I’d definitely choose it over chicken salad.” 

  • Boyo Amuka 9/10

“It’s different but good! After one bite and I want more.”

  • Pauline Mwangi 8.5/10

“Traditional chicken salad is more salty and buttery. This one is more flavorful. I prefer the plant-based version.”

 

 

Plant-based Recipe Test 3: Hummus Burger Wrap

Jolee Keplinger, Co-President of Sustainability Club, Principia Food Blogger

This wrap recipe, inspired by one found in The Vegan Way cookbook, was perfect for testing out the Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. It’s quick, easy, and perfect for meat lovers (and only takes about 5 minutes)!

Ingredients:

  • wraps/flatbreads
  • hummus
  • oil for frying
  • Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles
  • shredded veggies (such as broccoli and carrot slaw)
  • spinach
  • tomato

First, lay the bread on a cutting board and spread the hummus on top. 

Next, heat a bit of vegetable oil in a pan for a minute. Add the desired amount of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles and cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in the shredded veggies until warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, add the mix to the prepared wraps. 

Add a bit of spinach and sliced tomato if you’d like.

Roll, slice, and enjoy!

Student Feedback

  • Rebecca Bailey 8/10

“It tastes like meat to me. It’s light, not like when you eat normal meat. I’m a really big meat eater so I don’t know if I’d choose it over normal meat. I do know people that would though!”

  • Ian Tennison 7.5/10

“It’s good. The texture resembles real beef. I guess I’d mistake it for the real stuff. It’d consider choosing if over real beef it it were an option at Prin.”

  • Mary Oyan 10/10

“It’s really good! I’d eat this again.”

The Verdict: This 100% plant-based recipe is a great option for both hardcore carnivores and vegans. It has a nice flavor and plenty of texture. It’s good light meal/snack for busy college students who enjoy cooking.

 

Plant-based Recipe Test 2: Quesadillas

 Jolee Keplinger, Co-President of Sustainability Club, Principia Food Blogger

Special guest test tasters: Brandon Robles and Karen Johnson

When striving to eat as plant-based as possible, many people struggle with cheese, especially me. I’ve always loved Mexican cuisine, especially quesadillas. I can’t imagine life without them. Luckily, there are plenty of alternative cheese products on the market, so a 100% plant-based quesadilla can become a reality!

Even though most Mexican dishes can easily become vegan, I’ve never been to a restaurant that serves vegan quesadillas. Here at Principia, quesadillas are one of the more popular food choices. Since eating plant-based means ditching dairy, I was determined to create an alternative quesadilla that tasted just as good, if not better, than the traditional type.

Since I bought four different types “cheese” to test, I figured quesadillas would be a good way to evaluate their taste and meltability. I tested three types of Daiya “cheese”: a jalapeño Havarti block, sliced provolone, and mixed shredded.

The fourth type was a soy alternative to American cheese which is sold at Trader Joe’s. Although it contains a bit of dairy, it’s still a plant-forward American cheese alternative. (This one isn’t in the recipe.)

I also used this cooking session as an opportunity to test out Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. Chicken is quite common around here, and I know most aspiring plant-based eaters have difficulty avoiding it. That’s why I believe it’s important to experiment with alternative “meats” so plant-based people won’t feel as though they’re missing out.

Ingredients:

  • Flour tortillas
  • Vegan “cheese” (Daiya)
  • Vegan “chicken” (Beyond Meat)
  • Minced garlic
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped green onions
  • Spinach
  • Olive oil

Directions:

First I heated olive oil in a skillet and cooked the garlic for a bit. I added the tomatoes, green onions, and spinach at the very end. I placed the veggies in a bowl and set them aside. 

Next, I heated oil in a skillet (on medium-high) for the quesadillas. I took four flour tortillas and placed one of the “cheese” varieties inside. I added the cooked veggies, folded the tortilla in half, and placed it in the skillet, flipping when the tortilla became a nice golden brown. Once the tortilla was evenly cooked, I placed the quesadilla on a plate and covered it as I cooked the next three. 

I added the “chicken” to the quesadilla with the shredded Daiya cheese. 

Once finished, I cut each quesadilla into three pieces. One for me, and one for each of my two samplers. 

Brandon, Karen, and I sat down to test the four alternative quesadillas. We first tried the one with the Trader Joe’s soy cheese (non-vegan). I thought it was tolerable, but Brandon wasn’t a fan. 

Then we tried the Daiya Jalapeno Harvarti. It was delicious! The “cheese” melted beautifully and both Brandon and Karen loved it. I was strikingly similar to normal cheese. 

Next up was the Daiya provolone version. Again, this alternative “cheese” could fool someone into thinking it was real. The three of us loved it.

Finally, we tried the one with shredded Daiya “cheese” and grilled “chicken”. This was the by far, the winner! The “chicken” tasted very real and the cheese melted well. It reminded me of a quesadilla I used to order from Mexican restaurant back home. 

The verdict: All three Daiya “cheese” varieties and the Beyond Meat grilled chicken were excellent substitutes. Overall, we would prefer to eat plant-based recipes like this if they were available at Principia.