Book Review: “The Homemade Vegan Pantry”

Book Review: “The Homemade Vegan Pantry”

Book Review: “The Homemade Vegan Pantry”

The Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Homemade Vegan Staples 

Reviewed by Dustin Garret Rhodes

When first becoming vegan, it’s a common trap to think that the only replacements for every day staples—think milk, jam, butter, meat substitutes, pasta, etc.—are store-bought. This is a new phenomenon, of course, because vegan versions of fundamentals and condiments used to be hard to find; now they’re ubiquitous—lining the majority of shelves of health food stores and mainstream grocers. But there are myriad questions begged: Are they good? (some are). Are they good for animals and/or the planet? (many aren’t—palm oil being the worst culprit). Are they good for our health? (depends). 

Miyoko Schinner has rendered these questions moot with her exceptionally good new cookbook, The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples (10 Speed Press; $22.99). Inside, there are recipes for soy milk, mayo, jams, mustards, sauces, butter, several different kinds of cheese, stocks, homemade tofu, desserts…and that’s just the tip of the vegan iceberg. To say that The Homemade Vegan Pantry is comprehensive is a serious understatement. The recipes are meticulous, surprising, creative and, most importantly, very, very delicious. If this is the very first vegan cookbook you purchase, well, that’s perfect: Schinner teaches you how to avoid the pitfalls of beany tasting soy milk; she’ll show you the ropes for making a vegan butter that not only preserves orangutan habitat by not including palm oil, but that’s also other-worldly delicious (and easy to make!). You’ll learn how to make the perfect pasta, crisp crackers, vegan sausages and homemade extracts for baking and flavoring. Within these 223 pages, there’s an excellent recipe for nearly everything.

I practically live off of salads during the summer—enjoying at least one every day. I like to be creative with the toppings; but when it comes to dressings, I sometimes find myself in a rut. Schinner offers some excellent choices, with a creamy ranch dressing (page 39) that’s sublime. It’s cashew based, with the right touch of dill. And if you’re the no-oil type, she offers a tangy Caesar dressing (page 41) that’s got the perfect amount of fishy flavor thanks to the nori she thoughtfully includes.

All of us at Friends of Animals are fans of Schinner’s recipe for butter. All store-bought butter replacements are full of palm oil, and as animal advocates, we can’t ignore the fact that palm oil production is an ethical and environmental disaster. Orangutan habitat is destroyed and it contributes to the destruction of vital forests. But Miyoko managed to create a butter that’s got an even better flavor and mouth-feel than the store-bought substitutes. The Glorious Butterless Butter (page 58) is truly divine. In my humble opinion, this is the very first recipe you should make from this collection, and while you’re letting it set in the refrigerator, get to work on the Classic Fluffy Biscuits (page 160). These biscuits are flaky perfection, and the ideal vehicle for a very thick slab of the butter you just made. Trust me.

I tried my hand at making soy milk back in the day and, to be honest, it was always pretty offensive—tasting nothing like the smooth, creamy varieties available in the grocery store (which are also full of additives, thickeners and often sugar). I never knew why. But Schinner cracked the code by figuring out that it’s the process of soaking the beans before cooking them that produces the bitter, beany flavor. Her Creamy Soy Milk with No Beany Flavor (page 51) is smooth and light, and different from any other soy milk I have ever tasted; of course it’s better, too. There are also recipes for almond- and cashew-based milks.

In case you didn’t know, Miyoko is famous for making the world’s best (seriously!) vegan cheese. Lucky for all of us, it can be ordered online at Luckier still, she includes some exceptional recipes for various types of staple cheeses here, too. Melty Mozzarella (page 72), Melty Cheddar (page 73), Shaved Parmesan (page 77) to name but a few. They are all outstanding.

There’s also a “meat” section, and it, too, is beyond fabulous. The unribs (page 117) are so mouthwateringly tangy they’re almost impossible to put down; they’re really the perfect centerpiece for your next vegan BBQ, and for those who have yet to see the vegan light: These will tempt and inspire to forgo eating animals once and for all. Serve them with a side of the Well Crafted Macaroni and Cheese (page 151) for the ultimate comfort meal. (There is really nothing more glorious than the combination of BBQ and a cheesy pasta). Again, trust.

The best compliment I can give this cookbook: There’s nothing that doesn’t sound and/or look delicious. Obviously, I haven’t made my way through the whole cookbook. Like most people, that’s something I rarely do, as I tend to get distracted. But The Vegan Pantry looks to be an inspiring exception. I am dying to learn how to make meringue and tofu and my own coffee creamer and…you get the picture.

If it’s not obvious, I recommend that you hurry to the store for this cookbook. Share your delectable creations on Friends of Animals’ Facebook page, and we’ll compare notes on our favorite recipes.

The Vegan Pantry is available at bookstores nation-wide.