At Chef Reid Trapani’s Happy Seed vegan pop up in Atlanta last week it was hard to get a seat—-and most of the guests were not full-time vegans. Says Trapani, who specializes in inventive authentic Latin dishes using plant based ingredients, “so many of our guests tell us they’d eat like this all the time.”

Clearly the demand for vegan cuisine is on the rise. Whether you are a full-time vegan or just interested in eating vegan meals a few times a week, the cuisine can be intimidating to prepare. You can’t lean on dairy to impart a creamy texture and what do you prepare to impart the same satisfying fullness that comes from animal proteins? Trapani notes, “It’s a slow process to see what works for you and your family, but it’s worth the effort.”

Trapani and his team are actively seeking a restaurant space to bring their Latin-infused vegan cuisine to Atlantans every single day. They’ve earned a loyal following for their inspired dishes such as Cubarrito featuring garlic rice, black beans, maduros, caramelized onion, avocado, meat substitute topped with a mojo crema. Trapani is quick to note that committing to a vegan diet requires some personal flexibility. “Remind yourself—you are asking to change the most fundamental thing you do that that’s eating and convenience is the easy option.” Below are his vegan tips and hacks that should help to make your efforts less of an uphill climb:

Start with something like Meatless Mondays. That is a good way to begin a plant-based journey. Once a day commit to not eating meat and try a new dish.

Think about dishes you always like, such as lasagna, and figure out how to make a vegan version. We made our vegan lasagna with a good cashew cheese recipe as the base for dairy. Add some salt, pepper and lemon juice; build the dish with noodles, sauce, and veggies on inside, or use beyond beef proteins.

I encourage people to figure out their guilty pleasure and find a vegan alternative to that. King Oyster Mushrooms replicate pulled pork—buy a pack, shred and throw on baking sheet and roast. They replicate the shredded texture of chicken or pork and are more suited to shredding because of their size.

Jackfruit is a common way to create a meat texture. You can find it in cans at Trader Joes. Drain the can, press liquid out and cook like you would any shredded meat. It’s very straightforward and you’ll find lots of recipes online. Believe it or not but Juicy Fruit gum is flavored as jack fruit—it’s sweet by nature, so you can buy in brine or water, but once you cook with it the sauce it soaks up the sauce

I had bad experiences with tofu before I went vegan; it needs to be prepared properly. Always press the liquid out of your tofu—that is essential and then you can cut into blocks. We like to bake it with a little soy sauce and salt and pepper, it gives it a crispy exterior and soft interior so it paints the picture of fried chicken.

It’s easy to make chili vegan, once you remove the meat. Meat is the only non-vegan thing about chili. Make it with three bean varieties and meat substitute instead.  

Cashew cheese is a nice cheese substitute and it lasts about 7 -10 days in fridge. We like to make a base recipe of cashews, water, salt and lemon juice. Add chives and parsley and make a ranch dressing. It’s a great template for seasoning and for adding that dairy texture

We are actively seeking a brick and mortar to start our restaurant. Right now we are continuing the pop up at A Mano on Mondays from 5-8pm.

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