Are you curious about how to make vegan stew? You’re in the right place! Not only will you learn how to make vegan stew, you will also have 15 dietitian approved recipes to try!
There is something so satisfying about a warm bowl of stew. Stews are traditionally meat heavy dishes. The recipes in this article “replace” the animal protein with vegan proteins. Trust me, you won’t miss the meat!
Before we jump in, remember to grab your copy of my free Plant Forward Meal Prep Made Easy Guide. In this guide, I show my proven method for meal planning and prep.
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Table of Contents
What is the difference between stew and soup?
Soups and stews are some combination of vegetables, grains and sometimes meat, fish or legumes cooked or added to flavored stock or broth. Both soup and stews are simple to make once you understand the basic formula for cooking them.
The key difference between soup and stew is the amount of liquid in the dish. Stews have less liquid than soup. I tend to think of stews as a heartier, more “meal” type dish whereas soups are more of a side. But again it really depends on the ingredients and how hungry you are!
Why should I try vegan stew?
Vegan stews are a simple way to cut down on meat.
Stews are a great recipe to have in your plant-based recipe database. They are a familiar food to many of us and I would venture to guess that every culture has some form of stew! The familiarity of the dish will make the change a little bit easier.
Stews, vegan or otherwise, are budget-friendly.
Stews are a result of human ingenuity to make food stretch. Therefore, many stew recipes call for inexpensive pantry items and ingredients that can be swapped for another ingredient on-hand. They often make use of kitchen scraps and inexpensive proteins.
Stews improve in flavor over time.
Stews are a great option if you don’t love leftovers but still want to cook as little as possible (the ol’ cook once, eat twice principle). Time is actually the secret ingredient in a good stew because it allows the flavors to build.
Stews are easy and adaptable.
Most recipes can be halved, doubled or even tripled without any discernible difference in flavor. Nearly every stew recipe follows a formula which, once mastered, means you don’t even need a recipe and can riff on flavors. They also tend to freeze well.
Stews are nourishing.
Stews tend to be a well balanced meal of protein, fat, fibers and carbohydrates. This balance of nutrients keeps us full and satisfied. Also, a good stew is like a hug in a bowl. In other word, they nourish the soul, too.
What makes stew vegan or vegetarian?
Vegan stews contain no animal products. No meat, fish, dairy, egg, or honey. Vegetarian stews do not have meat or fish but may contain dairy, eggs or honey.
The basic ingredients that are needed for vegan stew
What proteins are used in vegan stews?
Instead of meat or fish, vegan stews rely on plant-based proteins. Examples include:
Beans and legumes: lentils, chickpeas, hominy, black beans, pinto bean, peas, peanuts and cannellini beans.
Soy proteins: tofu, edamame, tempeh or other soy product
Plant-based “meats”: typically crumbles from a processed plant based product made with a wide variety or ingredients.
Grains or vegetables: it is important to remember that grains and vegetables also contain protein. Some stews may rely on ingredients like quinoa, teff, millet or cornmeal for protein.
What types of vegetables are used in vegan stews?
Mirepoix: the most important part of a stew and soups are the aromatic vegetables added to build flavor. These aromatics are sometimes called a “soup base” and known widely as mirepoix, sofrito, the holy trinity etc.
Every culture has its own variation on mirepoix but it is typically three ingredients from which all flavor is built. This is a very non-exhaustive list but here are some examples.
French: onion, carrots, celery
Chinese: scallions, ginger, garlic
Thai: basil, ginger, lemongrass
Latin American: tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, green bell pepper, onion or scallion, jalapeno and spices like cumin or paprika.
Other vegetables: root vegetables, tubers, hearty greens and mushrooms are typically found in stews. Again, it varies by culture.
Herbs and spices: stews rely heavily on herbs and spices for flavor. I explain below the best time to add herbs and spices in the cooking process.
What types of grains are included in vegan stew?
Anything you like! Quinoa, rice, corn, millet, farro, or barley are great choices.
What stocks and broth are vegetarian or vegan?
The difference between stock and broth is really best left in culinary school in my opinion. However, stocks are technically made with bones whereas broths are made with meat and vegetables. Stocks tend to be thicker and more flavorful.
The homecook does not need to worry about this unless you are really into soup-making!
It is important to consider the cooking liquid when making a vegan stew. If you are 100% plant-based and want your dish to remain that way, then make sure to read the nutrition label. In general, you have two options for cooking liquid in stews.
Homemade: this involves boiling or steeping your vegetables, herbs and even whole spices (no potato) in a hot liquid to extract the flavor.
Store-bought liquid broths and soup bases. You can buy liquid stock or broth in liquid in a can. However, I really prefer soup base. The only brand I will ever use is called Better Than Bouillon. They have a vegetarian and vegan product line and the product lasts a long time in your fridge.
Other liquid flavorings added in stews are items like vinegars, soy sauce, wine, or citrus juice–all in the spirit of balancing and brightening flavor with a hit of umami or acid.
What types of fats and oils can be used in vegan and vegetarian stews?
Sauteing: If the stew is vegan, then use plant based oils like olive oil, canola, avocado or vegan butters. If you are ok with using some traditional dairy, then sauteing with butter makes for great flavor.
Adding creaminess: Sometimes soups and stews call for a creamy element, like a dash of heavy cream at the end or a parmesan rind infusing umami. There is a vegan alternative for just about every dairy product. Explore different products to decide which brand of vegan dairy products you enjoy.
If you are not into vegan dairy, this article highlights some other ways to add creaminess.
What equipment do you need to make vegan stew?
In its simplest form, there is no fancy equipment needed to make stew on the stovetop. You need:
- Pot or cooking vessel (ideally a thick bottom pot or dutch oven)
- Knife and cutting board (unless you are using pre-cut veggies which is a great option, too!)
- Spoon: like a wooden or plastic spoon or spatula to stir.
I prefer the stovetop method because you can control the heat better and lightly brown or caramelize aromatics but you can also use an InstantPot (fast cooking) or CrockPot (slow cooking) to make your stew.
The basic steps of making vegan stews
There are five general steps in making soup and stews that most recipes will follow, whether they are plant-based or not.
Step 1: Mise en place. In other words, prep your ingredients. Read your recipe thoroughly. Rinse, chop, and measure all your ingredients ahead of time.
Step 2: Saute mirepoix. Heat your pot over medium-high heat. Add your cooking fat and add your aromatics. Let your mirepoix “sweat” a bit, meaning let it cook until it is softened (onions are getting translucent) but not browned.
Step 3: After mirepoix has sweated for a few minutes, add any spices, tomato paste, and hearty herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary). The fat will help release the flavor in spices.
Step 4: Add your protein. This may mean adding dried lentils or sauteing crumbles.
Step 5: Add your cooking liquid, vegetables and grains. If the recipe calls for diced tomatoes or something like that, you would likely add them here. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until everything is cooked through.
Things to keep in mind when making stew:
- Some vegetables (like frozen corn or spinach) and some grains (like pasta) may not get added until closer to the end of cooking.
- Herbs, like cilantro and parsley, and seasonings like heavy cream and vinegars are usually not added until the end of cooking time.
- Remember to season as you go with salt and pepper to enhance flavor.
How do you store vegan stew?
Vegan stew can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Remember to let it cool down before putting it in the refrigerator. Stew can be frozen for up to six months.
How do you reheat vegan stew?
I think the best way to reheat soup or stew is on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add some water or stock if you need to. You can also microwave to reheat. If reheating from frozen, pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours to get the thaw off and then place frozen soup in pan over low-medium heat.
How do you adapt vegan stew for different dietary needs?
As I mentioned above, one of my favorite things about stew is that it is endless customizable from a flavor perspective
To make vegan stew, gluten free, consider the following:
- Opt for gluten-free alternatives to seasonings. For example, soy sauce is not gluten free.
- Use gluten free grains. Rice, quinoa, and even gluten-free pasta are good options.
- Double check thickeners and bases. If your stew calls for a roux, make sure to use gluten free flour. Read the label on any soup bases and stocks to ensure they do not have gluten-containing ingredients.
To make vegan stew low FODMAP, consider the following:
- Download the Monash Low FODMAP Diet App to familiarize yourself with the FODMAP content of foods
- Try products that are specifically designed for low FODMAP diets, such as Fody Foods
- Remember that many common foods in stews–garlic, onion, tomato, beans are not considered low FODMAP so you may have to make some adjustments.
- Find stew recipes that are specific to low FODMAP eaters such as the delicious collection at Fun Without FODMAPs and check out my vegan low FODMAP diet guide.
What do you serve with vegan and vegetarian stew?
While vegan stew is definitely a hearty option, I often like to pair it with something else to make it even more filling. Here are a few ideas:
Crusty bread or rolls: either plain or topped with your favorite topping like with butter or mashed avocado.
Crackers: I love a hearty whole wheat cracker but any cracker you like works well.
Salads: a well-dressed leafy green salad is a classic accompaniment to vegan stew
Sandwich: soup and sandwich make for a great lunch.
Looking for more side ideas? Check out my article Dietitian-Approved Healthy Sandwich Sides.
Vegan Stew: 15 Dietitian Approved Recipes
Most of these recipes are inherently vegan, however, there are a couple that are vegetarian. They can be made vegan with simple swaps.