Vegan menu for beginners: An introduction from jacoi

April 24, 2020
April 24, 2020 PenelopeFry

Vegan menu for beginners: An introduction from jacoi

How can we start to explain a vegan menu for beginners?

You probably have a basic understanding. It’s all salads, nuts, tofu, fruits and vegetables… right? Wrong! Today, a vegan menu can look almost the same as an omni (omnivorous) one! Think of juicy burgers, pizza with peperoni-style slices and melty stringy-cheese… not just the healthy stuff!

There are two core vegan menu concepts for beginners: plant-based subsitutes and conventional plant-based foods. We will explain each below.

Vegan menu for beginners theme 1: plant-based substitutes

On a vegan menu, substitutes are what gives you plant-based options for animal-based foods that are traditional in your region. In western cuisine, these includes things like plant-based burger patties, schnitzels, and even shrimp and fish!

Why do people buy or make these? In some cases, it’s novelty and nistalga… a desire to experiment and try a plant-based version of food that they’re familiar with. In other cases, it can be a desire to be able to choose a plant-based option yet still ‘fit in’ or influence others when eating out with people who aren’t fans of plant-based options. 

Substitutes tend to be high-protein as well, which helps ensure that the meal is filling as well as tasty.

Substitutes include:

Dairy substitutes

These include cheeses, milks and creams. The market for vegan dairy substitutes is significant and growing rapidly globally. Milk bases include oat milk, macadamia milk, rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, soy milk and more! For your vegan menu, you need to understand that different flavours in dairy substitutes are popular in different parts the world (e.g. oat milk in the UK and seed-based milks in Asia). 

Meat substitutes

Vegan protein would have looked very different in a beginner’s vegan menu ten years ago. You would have mostly seen tofu, gluten steaks, and bean patties. Now, you will see plant-based meat alternatives that more closely resemble meat in almost every category. Examples you’ll see include vegan fish, calamari and mince patties! We call these:

  • mock meats (e.g. mock pork, mock duck etc),
  • meat alternatives, plant-based protein alternatives, and
  • vegan meats.

Likewise, you’ll also see many different prices. For instance, you can find both cheap and expensive products and services in many categories. Most big food chains buy from big brands like Beyond Meat. But, you’ll find more variety in the retail market (e.g. Lamyoung and Fry Family Food Co.).  

Have a look at popular shows like The Game Changers to find great menu ideas. 

“There’s no one that can relate to it better than I do because I’ve lived in that world. Steak is for men.  They show these commercials — burgers, George Foreman with the grill and epic sandwich. This is great, great marketing for the meat industry, selling the idea that real men eat meat. But you’ve got to understand, it’s marketing. It’s not based on reality!”
Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Game Changers

Vegan menu for beginners theme 2: conventional plant-based foods

Yes, here is where you find your salads, nuts, tofu, fruits and vegetables. Certainly, some ingredients and meals are unique to the plant-based scene. Importantly, you’ll find them easy to add to your beginner menu!

For example, add nutritional yeast. “Nutritional what?!” Yes, seriously! The plant-based community loves this ingredient! Did you know that it even has a nickname? Certainly, it’s called “nooch”.

Nooch is a savory ingredient. It is a yellow powder that creates a “cheesy” flavor. Firstly, you can sprinkle it over food. Secondly, you can use it in plant-based cheese making. Thirdly, make a cheesy sauce for plant-based pasta and salads. Above all, remember that it isn’t the same a baking yeast or brewer’s yeast! Don’t make that mistake dear friend.

You will find entire plant-based community meme collections and discussion threads dedicated to jokes about love for nutritional yeast. As a result, we’ve featured it in our free resource: NFPLA5: THE 5 SECRET INGREDIENTS THAT WILL ATTRACT PLANT-BASED FOOD LOVERS!

This theme also includes ‘vegan super foods‘ and other niche offerings.  

Want to learn more? Get your Professional Certificate in Plant-Based Menu Engineering today!

Are you a beginner and need to develop a vegan menu? We can help you. Contact us.


With over 17 years in international vegetarian and vegan communities on and off-line, I work hard to follow these niche markets and trends. I have provided menu advice for over 40 restaurants and cafes across 11 countries... and counting! Vegan food is my passion, but I also like sailing and cycling.


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