Decadent vegan delights (yes, they’re really vegan)

Your favorite indulgent treats are still within reach on a vegan diet.

Sweet vanilla cake with dark chocolate icing…roasted garlic carbonara sauce on your favorite pasta...a French dip sandwich that sticks to your ribs and makes your heart sing...

If you thought these foods were off limits for vegans, guess what?! They’re not!

Even if you’re trying to eat clean (avoiding sweets, refined carbs or high-fat foods), you probably have a cheat day or two when it’s time to indulge. You can stick to your vegan diet and still enjoy some of life’s great food pleasures. Here are a few decadent vegan delights to add to your list of guilty pleasures.

Delicious desserts

Ready to satisfy your sweet tooth? It’s absolutely possible to enjoy a tasty cake or creamy treat that’s completely vegan. Here’s how…

Eggs provide structure and a rich texture in baked goods. But when it comes to baking, there are several easy egg alternatives. Consider applesauce, chia or flax seeds instead.

Vegan nutritionist Samantha Attard knows all about how to enjoy your favorite desserts without straying from a vegan diet. “When I bake, I always replace eggs with a ‘flax egg,’” she says. “To replace one egg, mix 1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water and let it sit for 10 minutes. It works perfectly in cookies, cakes and muffins!”

As always in baking, be sure to keep your measurements on point, but don’t be afraid to experiment with flavor. Cinnamon and nutmeg can take a bland cake a long way.

And for the chocolate lovers out there? You should have no issues indulging if you stick to dark chocolate recipes and use vegan-friendly chocolate brands.

Saucy toppings

From pesto perfection to a creamy Alfredo, your favorite sauces can be made vegan.

Cashew-based concoctions are an awesome alternative to cheesy toppings. Dairy free and quick to create, these delightful sauces can provide protein and a creamy texture to your favorite veggie pasta recipes.

Tahini sauce (made from ground sesame seeds, lemon juice, garlic and water) is another vegan-friendly option.

Love pad Thai? Tahini to the rescue! A little tahini, a little spice and a lot of vegan love can take your pasta topping to the top. Tahini’s easy to prep at home, but you can find it premade at some grocery stores.

Hearty proteins

Long gone are the days of tofu being your only vegan meat alternative. Your list of meatless meats is almost limitless.

Chef Michael C. Brown of San Diego’s Barrel Republic, a self-serve gastropub, knows that one of the easiest ways to substitute meat without sacrificing flavor is to opt for mushrooms instead. “To spice up the vegan offerings, I created a wild mushroom ‘French dip’ that is both organic and vegan,” he says.

In Brown’s recipe, rich mushrooms, seasoned veggies and intensely flavorful vegan au jus (pan sauce) come together to satisfy your cravings for a classic French dip, completely guilt free.

And don’t discount tofu. It’s an oldie but a goodie for a reason. There are plenty of ways to get the consistency and flavor of a hearty, protein-packed meal with tofu. It’s versatile, soy-based and easy to bake, fry or grill. Simply add the right sauce and veggie side, and you’re good to go.

Creamy ‘cheeses’

Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy cheese—or at least something close to it.

Cashew recipes aside, there are so many vegan cheese products on the shelf these days. Primarily nut- or soy-based, these cheeses can provide the same fantastic flavor and consistency as a dairy-based cheese.

Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian nutritionist, doesn’t like to skip on her comfort food favorites. “You can still get your fix by making a scrumptious, yet highly nutritious plant-based alternative to Alfredo or cheesy pasta sauce,” she says. “I cook minced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil, then stir in organic pure pumpkin puree, low-sodium vegetable broth and some sea salt until a slightly thickened sauce forms, and then stir in a soft vegan cheese.”

Happily veggie after

Whether you’ve recently transitioned to a vegan diet or it’s been your lifestyle all along, you have no reason to be left wanting when it’s time to treat yourself.

So many alternatives. So many options. The list goes on and on. With a little research and a lot of vegan love, you can indulge in (almost) everything your nonvegan friends enjoy with no hesitation.

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