Vegetarian Journal

VRG Home | About VRG | Vegetarian Journal | Books | Vegetarian Nutrition
Subscribe to Journal | Vegetarian Game | Vegetarian Family | Nutshell | VRG-News
Vegetarian Recipes | Travel | What's New | Bulletin Board | Search | Links

Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


Jan/Feb 1998
Volume XVII, Number 1

Vegan Comfort Foods

By Rachel Himmelheber

Check out the recipes!

When I crave country-style food, I always head to the same restaurant, an old diner with twirly counter stools, homemade rolls, and its own produce market. I order their vegetable plate, and it never fails to satisfy. However, on a recent visit, I couldn't keep my eyes off my neighboring table's plates of hot open-faced hamburger sandwiches, complete with mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy. My fresh corn-on-the-cob was wonderful, but I envied how rich and comforting their dinner looked. Because of my health concerns and my convictions, I knew I would never order another hot hamburger sandwich in my life, but I began to wonder about substitutes for some of my old favorite foods.

Some traditional comfort foods are easy to find in vegan or vegetarian versions, such as meat loaf. However, others that are more obvious, such as mashed potatoes, are difficult to find in lowfat versions. Below are some traditional foods remade into lower fat recipes with no animal products. They are all kid-friendly, simple to prepare, and flexible. And while food should never be your only link to emotional security, it is undeniable that certain foods can trigger feelings of safety, comfort, and joy.

Note: I prefer to use rice milk rather than soy milk for most recipes because of its lighter flavor and consistency. However, feel free to experiment and use whichever you prefer.


Biscuits and Gravy

"Buttermilk" Biscuits

(Makes 16 biscuits)

These biscuits are best eaten straight from the oven. They will keep, tightly wrapped, about a day.

2-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons Sucanat or other granulated sweetener
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup rice milk or soy milk
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine rice or soy milk and lemon juice.

Using two forks or a pastry cutter, add oil to dry mixture and mix until well combined. Slowly add rice milk mixture until dough just clings together. Do not overmix.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead about 10 strokes. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into biscuits. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Total calories per biscuit: 105
Fat: 3 grams

Cream Gravy

(Makes 1-1/2 cups, serves 6)

The "sausage" in this recipe is optional; if you prefer not to use meat substitutes, the gravy will still taste fine. If you decide to use a meat substitute, however, be sure to check labels well; some soy sausages contain egg whites or other animal ingredients.

1-1/2 cups rice milk or soy milk, split into two 3/4 cup portions
3 Tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oil
3 soy sausage patties, cooked and coarsely chopped (optional)

Combine 3/4 cup rice milk, flour, salt, and pepper in a screw-top jar and shake until combined.

In a preheated skillet, add oil. When oil is hot, reduce heat, add milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

Add additional 3/4 cup rice milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. If necessary, thin with a little more rice milk. Add soy sausage, if desired, and heat through.

Serve over hot, split biscuits. (See previous recipe.)

Total calories per serving: 71
Fat: 4 grams

Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy

(Serves 6)

Try making hot burger sandwiches with your favorite veggie patties, along with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are low in fat yet have a rich flavor. The garlic and shallot flavor is very mild and kid-friendly, and you may wish to increase the amounts.

4 baking potatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup rice milk or soy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and dice the potatoes. (It is not necessary to peel them, but you may if you wish.) Cook them in boiling water until tender.

Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and shallot in 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Drain the potatoes and mash coarsely with a fork. Add the garlic and shallot, rice milk, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher or whip with a mixer until smooth.

Total calories per serving: 180
Fat: 3 grams

Mushroom Gravy

(Makes 1-1/2 cups)

1/4 cup flour
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms, any variety
1/8 teaspoon sage
Pinch cumin
Black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons oil (optional)

Brown the flour in a heavy- bottomed saucepan over high heat. Using a wire whisk, stir the flour until it is a uniform golden brown color. Be careful-it burns quickly.

When the flour is brown, quickly add 1 cup cold water and whisk until all lumps are gone and gravy is smooth.

Remove from heat and add garlic, mushrooms, sage, cumin, pepper, tamari, and Worcestershire.

Return to heat and blend. Add 1/2 cup cold water and oil, if desired. (The gravy does not need the oil, but it adds richness and flavor.) Blend well and serve.

If you refrigerate the gravy, you may need to add additional water when reheating.

Total calories per serving: 22
Fat: <1 gram

Macaroni and "Cheese" Casserole

(Serves 5)

This casserole is perfect for children, and it reheats beautifully. The flavor is very mild, and you may wish to intensify the seasonings. Be sure to check the labels of the nutritional yeast carefully, as some contain whey or honey.

2 Tablespoons vegan margarine or oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon unbleached white flour
1 cup rice milk or soy milk
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tahini
Seasoned salt and black pepper to taste
8 ounces macaroni, cooked according to package directions
One 14-1/2-ounce can chopped tomatoes, packed in juice
1/2 medium zucchini, grated
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon oil
2 Tablespoons minced parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons margarine in skillet and sauté onion until soft. Whisk in flour and cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add rice milk and cook until thickened.

Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, Worcester-shire, nutritional yeast, tahini, seasoned salt, and pepper. Stir in macaroni, tomatoes (with their juice), and zucchini.

Spread mixture in a casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon oil, and parsley. Sprinkle over macaroni. Sprinkle paprika over casserole.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Total calories per serving: 404
Fat: 12 grams

Orange Rolls

(Makes 24 rolls)

These rolls are an adapted version of my mother's famous orange rolls. They are best served warm, but reheat fine. They are not too sweet, but kids will love these sticky breakfast treats.

4-1/2 cups flour
1 package active dry yeast (1 Tablespoon)
1 cup rice milk or soy milk
1/3 cup Sucanat (or other granulated sweetener)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
Egg replacer equivalent of 2 eggs
Grated peel of 2 oranges
2 Tablespoons oil
6 Tablespoons Sucanat (or other sweetener)
Juice of 2 oranges
Sucanat (or other sweetener) to taste

Combine 2 cups flour and yeast in large mixing bowl.

In saucepan over low heat, heat rice milk, 1/3 cup Sucanat, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon salt until just warm.

Add to flour mixture with the egg replacer equivalent of 2 eggs (you may need to add water to the egg replacer), and mix at low speed with the electric mixer for about a minute. Switch to high speed and beat for two to three minutes.

With a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Knead for about five minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow the dough to rest until doubled (about 1 hour).

Punch down dough. Divide in half. Allow dough to rest for a few minutes. Roll one half of the dough into a large rectangle.

Combine the grated peel of two oranges with 2 tablespoons oil and 6 tablespoons Sucanat. Spread half of this mixture onto dough and roll up in jellyroll fashion. Cut off the ends of the roll and slice into 12 pieces. Place in a lightly greased round 9-inch cake pan. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.

Combine the juice of one orange with some Sucanat to taste. Pour over the rolls. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes. Place in a 375-degree oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat the remaining orange juice with Sucanat to taste and boil for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Brush the glaze over the hot rolls. Serve warm.

Total calories per roll: 134
Fat: 3 grams

"Chicken" Noodle Soup

(Serves 8)

The amounts in this recipe are extremely flexible. Change to suit your taste.

6 cups vegetable stock or vegetarian chicken- style broth
2 medium potatoes, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced, including leaves
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 mild onion, diced
1 clove whole garlic
1-1/2 cups uncooked egg-free noodles
1 small can vacuum-packed corn, drained
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen thawed
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2-1 cup chopped chicken-style seitan
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook the potatoes, celery, carrots, and onion in broth until barely tender. Bring to a boil and add garlic and noodles.

When pasta is cooked, add corn, peas, and parsley. Remove garlic. Add chicken-style seitan product and heat through. Season and serve.

Total calories per serving: 194
Fat: 2 grams

Black Forest Parfaits

(Serves 5)

2 packages silken tofu (12.3 ounces each)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Sucanat (or other granulated sweetener)
1 Tablespoon creme de cacao or vanilla extract or orange juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Dutch processed cocoa or other dark cocoa
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen sweet cherries, halved

Combine all ingredients except cherries in food processor and blend until smooth. Mixture will be slightly runny. Layer pudding and cherries in parfait glasses and chill for at least 8 hours. Makes about 5 parfaits, depending on the size of your glasses.

Total calories per serving: 184
Fat: 4 grams

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler

VRG Home | About VRG | Vegetarian Journal | Books | Vegetarian Nutrition
Subscribe to Journal | Vegetarian Game | Vegetarian Family | Nutshell | VRG-News
Vegetarian Recipes | Travel | What's New | Bulletin Board | Search | Links

The Vegetarian Resource Group Logo 1996- The Vegetarian Resource Group
PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-8343   Email:

Last Updated
December 27, 1997

Graphic design by DreamBox

The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

Any pages on this site may be reproduced for non-commercial use if left intact and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Web site questions or comments? Please email