Southern cooking, stereotypically, evokes notions of rich, homey cooking, where butter is its own food group and barbecue the main source of protein. Maybe we exaggerate slightly. And, yes, while ham, Mid-Atlantic seafood, game, and buttery biscuits play a part in traditional Southern cooking, greens, okra, peppers, squash, black-eyed peas, corn, and peanuts hold just as much significance.
The South’s native vegetables, grains, and legumes deserve as much recognition and celebration as its other ingredients, and chefs are answering this calling. Throughout the region, restaurant menus increasingly showcase lighter plates where fresh vegetables shine, no animal products required. From New Orleans chef Alon Shaya’s pomegranate and almond tabbouleh to chef Michael Shemtov’s zucchini and leek latkes from Butcher & Bee in Charleston, flavorful, lighter fare highlights the fresh, regional vegetables. Whether you want to cut back on meat, eat a bit lighter, or stick to a vegan lifestyle, these recipes demonstrate that veganism has a place at every Southern table.
Vegan Recipes that Highlight Southern Ingredients
Jumpstart your day with this protein-rich bowl. Loaded with fresh chia seeds and a homemade maple-quinoa granola, it will keep you fueled through all the morning meetings.
Rely on plant power to beat the winter crud with this antioxidant-packed smoothie. With red beet, purple cabbage, pear, and cherries, it’s the right amount of sweetness and earthiness.
Looking for a cleanse to balance indulgent comfort foods? We love chef Alon Shaya’s vegan recipes, particularly this wintry pomegranate and almond tabbouleh. While it makes a fantastic veggie-f0rward side dish, the nuts and bulgar make it substantive enough for a meal, and you could pair it with beluga lentils or another plant-based protein.
From sweet potato bread to the Southeast’s affinity for the legume, sweet potatoes and peanuts have long colored the South’s culinary culture. Traditional West African soups inspired this creamy vegan recipe.
Chef Vivek Surti of Tailor in Nashville brings squash and mustard greens to life with a citrusy, peanut relish. The hefty dose of ginger, orange, and aji dulce peppers keep the roasted squash zesty, not soggy.
Salad gets a cool weather makeover from chef Michael Gulotta of MOPHO in New Orleans. This warm cabbage salad is dressed in a spicy tofu vinaigrette for a flavorful lunch or light dinner.
Swap chickpeas for the Southern pantry staple black-eyed peas. A quick blitz in the food processor brings this hummus together in minutes—keep this recipe up your sleeve for when guests drop in for a “surprise” visit.
Fried okra fans, this one’s for you. Meherwan Irani of Asheville restaurant Chai Pani fries julienned okra to crispy strips before finishing them with lime and salt.
Finish off the meal with a hit of sweetness. The Southern delicacy pecan pralines get a vegan reinvention with non-dairy creamer and vegan butter. As delicious as they are, refrain from doubling the recipe—you won’t be able to finish spooning the candies before they cool.
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