5 comforting vegan recipes: filling, plant-based meals and snacks

These vegan versions of delicious comfort food are just what we all need. Cut down your meat consumption and enjoy a warming plant-based feast this winter with these recipes

jackfruit bao buns
(Image credit: Healthy Living James in collaboration with Panasonic)

These comforting vegan recipes prove that a plant-based diet isn't all salads and seeds. You can enjoy delicious, creamy, warming dishes that just so happen to be completely meat and dairy free – what a relief for those giving Veganuary a go for the first time. 

This will also come as a literal comfort to those who have switched to a vegan diet and miss some of their meaty favourites, especially if they were used to lots of meals based around meat and two veg. And with the current weather, we all could do with a big bowl of something tasty and familiar.

So, whether you are trying to convert to veganism, or just want some easy vegan recipes to add to your repertoire check out these hearty and tasty dishes that just so happen to be animal product-free.

1. Vegan bao buns with hoisin jackfruit

This recipe includes one of our favourite vegan ingredients – jackfruit. It is a real flavour sponge and perfectly replicates the texture of pulled pork or chicken when cooked slowly and shredded. Here, it is used to fill fluffy bao buns. These take a bit of time to make (they need treating like bread and proving some some time), but are a great family feast option and you can just pile a load on the table with a big bowl of the filling and some garnishes. Let everyone help themselves for a cosy night in.

Serves: 6–8
Prep time: 4 hours (includes proving the dough and slow cooking jackfruit)
Cooking time: 8–10 mins for the buns

  • Thanks to Miele for sharing this recipe with us. It makes the most of their Gourmet Warming Drawer and Steam Oven, but anyone can make them at home.

jackfruit bao buns

(Image credit: Miele)

Ingredients:

For the buns:

  • 270g plain flour
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 150ml lukewarm water

For the hoisin jackfruit filling:

  • 1 can of jackfruit (400g)
  • 2 small spring onions, sliced diagonally
  • ½ red chilli, finely chopped
  • 10g fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

Optional (but very yummy) garnishes:

  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ¼ red cabbage, shredded finely
  • 10g roasted peanuts, crushed or chopped
  • 1 spring onion, sliced diagonally
  • A bunch of fresh coriander

Method:

Prep the filling:

1. Mix tamari, rice vinegar, housin sauce and maple syrup In a small bowl.

2. Drain and dry the jackfruit. We like to roughly chop or tear ours before cooking. Then heat through in a large frying pan with a little vegetable oil. Add the spring onions, chilli, garlic, ginger and brown sugar, then cook until caramelised. 

3. If using a Miele Gourmet Warming Drawer, program to cooking function at 85ºC. Add the jackfruit to the sauce in an oven-proof bowl and mix well. Then put in the drawer and cook for 4 hours. Alternatively, cook in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours.

To make the bao buns:

1. Take a large mixing bowl and combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix well with the lukewarm water to form a dough, then knead for 10 minutes, until smooth. Place in a greased bowl covered with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1–2 hours, or until doubled in size.

2. When the dough has doubled, knock back the air, then divide into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on a tray and cover with the damp tea towel for 30 minutes.

3. While the dough balls are proving, cut eight 5x2cm squares of baking paper. Roll each ball into an oval, half a centimetre thick, then lightly oil the top side before folding in half. This helps form a join that can be torn open before filling. Put each on a square of greaseproof paper and back on the tray to prove for another 30 minutes, covered with the tea towel.

4. If using a Miele Steam oven, place on the tray and steam at 100ºC for 10 minutes. If you don’t have a steam oven, you can steam in batches over a pan of simmering water in a steaming basket of covered colander. They will take 8–10 minutes.

5. To serve fill each bao bun with filling and top with your choice of garnish. Crushed peanuts make for a crunchy finish.

2. The ultimate vegan shepherd's pie

It's the pie that is vegan, not the shepherd – although they might be too once they give this a try. Cosy up with this classic winter warmer by Yumbles, made with lentils, lots of veg and a filling sweet potato topping. Make a batch ahead and whack in the oven when you get home for a no-fuss meat-free dinner.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30–35 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

vegan shepherd's pie with sweet potato mash

(Image credit: Yumbles)

Ingredients:

For the lentil sauce

  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 0.5 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 0.5 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cans of lentils, drained and washed
  • 690g passata
  • 2 tbsp bouillon powder or two vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 0.5 cups of water
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (to taste) for seasoning

For the sweet potato mash

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
  • Vegan spread (optional)

Method:

  • Heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/GM4;
  • Heat some oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat. Fry onion, carrot and celery until soft;
  • Add the herbs and garlic and soften for a minute;
  • Add lentils, passata, bay leaves, stock powder, water and lemon juice and bring to the boil;
  • Simmer for 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper (and cayenne if desired) then set aside to cool;
  • While the lentil sauce simmers, bring the sweet potatoes to the boil in a pan of water seasoned with salt;
  • Once soft, drain and mash with almond milk (and spread), then season with salt and pepper;
  • Remove the bay leaves from the lentil sauce and pour the mix into an oven-proof dish
  • Top with mash and spread with a fork (this helps create texture);
  • Garnish with rosemary, then bake for 30–45 minutes until the top is golden.

The best range cookers
Looking for a new cooker with plenty of space on the hob and plenty of ovens? Check out our guide to the best range cookers.

3. Pasta with vegan red pepper pesto

Roast the peppers ahead and store in the fridge, or buy ready-roasted in a jar and you can whip this tasty vegan meal up in the time it takes to boil a pot of spaghetti. If you want a lighter alternative, swap the spaghetti (or maybe just half of it... ) for spiralised courgette to boost your veg intake. Don't have a spiraliser? Most supermarkets sell zoodles (zucchini noodles) with their fresh produce. Thanks to Yumbles for this simple recipe.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (or 8 minutes if you use pre-roasted peppers)

Roasted red pepper pesto pasta

(Image credit: Yumbles)

Ingredients:

  • 320g spaghetti or courgetti/zoodles
  • 4 red peppers, quartered
  • Bunch of basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Method:

  • If making your own roast peppers, preheat oven to 220ºC/430ºF/GM7;
  • Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper and place the peppers skin side up;
  • Roast for 25–30 minutes or until the skin is charred and flesh softened. Allow to cool;
  • Put a pot of boiling water on the hob and cook the spaghetti according to instructions;
  • Place the roasted peppers into a food processor with half the bunch of basil. Blitz to your desired texture, until the ingredients are combined;
  • Add the ground almonds, garlic and oil and blitz again until well mixed. Season to taste with salt;
  • Toss your cooked spaghetti or zoodles in the red pepper pesto. Garnish with some finely sliced basil.

The best blenders
Whip up this red pepper pesto in no time with one of the best blenders on the market.

4. Vegan coconut caramel slices

And now for a sweet treat from Yumbles. These raw coconut caramel slices are a bit like millionaires shortbread, but packed with healthy fats and not so packed with sugar. They're perfect for a packed lunch, a mid-morning pick-me-up or that something decadent after dinner.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 40–45 minutes 

raw vegan coconut caramel slices

(Image credit: Yumbles)

Ingredients:

  • 200g medjool dates, stoned
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g desiccated coconut
  • 1 vanilla pod (or a tsp of vanilla essence)
  • 50g coconut cream
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup

Method:

For the base layer

  • Soak the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes;
  • Strain the water and set aside nine dates for the caramel layer;
  • Process the remaining dates in a food processor with 1 tbsp of the almond butter to form a sticky paste;
  • In a bowl, mix the paste with the almonds and desiccated coconut;
  • Press into a 2inch deep baking tin, lined with baking paper and set aside.

For the caramel layer

  • Blend the coconut cream, salt, vanilla and nine dates together to make a thick, creamy mixture;
  • Pour on top of the base.

For the chocolate layer

  • Melt the coconut oil with the other tablespoon of almond butter and cocoa powder;
  • Add the agave syrup and mix together well;
  • Pour on top as the final layer;
  • Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours until set, then cut into squares.

The best food processors
Chop, mix and whisk up a treat with these mixers and food processors.

5. Vegan mac and cheese

This recipe calls for a combination of cooked butternut squash and nutritional yeast to get that thick and creamy textured sauce, along with the sweet and nutty taste you'd expect from regular mac and cheese.

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40–70 minutes (less if using a microwave for the butternut squash

vegan mac and cheese

(Image credit: Healthy Living James in collaboration with Panasonic)

Ingredients:

  • 750g butternut squash
  • 5 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 250g gluten-free macaroni 
  • 50g grated hard vegan cheese
  • 25ml plant-based milk of your choice (almond works well)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

1. Slice the butternut squash down the centre and remove the seeds. This is best done by cutting it from top to bottom, with care!

2. If you're using the microwave method then deeply score the flesh side, before flipping it over to stab some holes in the skin. Then place the squash on a plate in the microwave and leave it in for 12 minutes on a high setting. If you're using an oven, preheat yours to about  425°F, do the same scoring and pricking of the squash, and then bake it on aluminum foil for about 40–60 minutes until the flesh is soft.

3. Meanwhile prepare the macaroni – or read a book if your squash is in the oven – by following the packet instructions. Be sure to add the frozen peas in with the macaroni towards the end of the cooking time. The less pans, the better, right?

4. When the squash is ready, scoop the flesh out and add it to a blender along with the nutritional yeast, grated cheese, milk, and a couple of strong pinches of salt and pepper. Blend the ingredients together until completely smooth.

5. Drain the pasta and the peas, before adding them back to the empty pot along with the cheesy blended sauce and two handfuls of spinach. 

6. Stir together until the spinach wilts, season and serve! 

Top tip: save a little grated cheese to sprinkle over the top and if you want to be even more fancy, you could serve this in separate dishes, putting them in the oven to brown the top a little. Delicious.

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For the hoisin jackfruit filling: