Savory breakfasts, no eggs required

Every non-vegan has a handful of foods that they think they could never give up–cheese is a common example. Admittedly, these worries are sometimes valid: I’ve been vegan for almost a year and I still crave fish every so often. But sometimes the difficulty is purely imaginary. You may even find that removing certain ingredients from your rotation causes you to discover foods you like even better.

That’s how it was with me and eggs. Before going vegan I couldn’t imagine savory breakfast without eggs. My usual breakfast is oatmeal with fruit and nut butters, but if I’ve had a slice of cake or too much alcohol (OK, any alcohol) the night before, I always wake up very opposed to anything sweet. In those cases, eggs were once a life-saver, especially since they’re so easy to prepare. Giving up eggs has forced me to be creative with my savory breakfasts, but this creativity has paid dividends.

I started in what seemed like the most obvious place: tofu scrambles. My first attempt was this southwest tofu scramble from Minimalist Baker, pictured above, and this is still a favorite. I follow the recipe pretty much as written, except I like to keep the tofu in large pieces and to keep it in the pan long enough to crisp a bit before adding the greens. Sometimes I throw in some pinto or black beans, and idea I picked up from Gena’s black bean scallion scramble recipe. This recipe makes a delicious breakfast or lunch, along with some avocado, a tortilla, and salsa.

Once I had made this recipe a few times, I started changing up the spices and throwing in whatever veggies I had on hand. I also started experimenting with adding cooked rice or quinoa directly to the scramble, as in this recipe. At some point you’re blurring the line between tofu scramble, fried rice, and stir-fry, and that’s all good. Tofu scrambles are very adaptable and forgiving–I don’t think I’ve ever made one and not liked how it turned out. I would say this is one advantage tofu has over eggs — it’s more versatile and mixes better with grains and a wider variety of veggies.

If you like, you can also nix the add-ins and just try to emulate the texture of scrambled eggs, pictured below. Though it’s been a while since I’ve had actual scrambled eggs, I have been quite happy with my efforts in this direction. The basic idea is to crumble some medium-firm or silken tofu and add it to a lightly oiled pan or skillet over medium heat. Mush it around until it gets less damp, and sprinkle on black salt (or just normal salt) and a tiny amount of turmeric–just a shake or two. Keep frying and stirring until the turmeric is evenly dispersed and the tofu has reached your desired level of done-ness: you can stop early for a fluffier scramble, or keep going until it browns a bit. At the end, I like to grind on a bunch of black pepper. The result has a similar satisfaction-factor as scrambled eggs but is more protein-y and more voluminous, all the better for making you feel healthy after a night of bad decisions.

Now scrambled tofu is great, but savory oats are a revelation. I’ve been hearing about them online for ages, but I only tried them out a few weeks ago, and I was really surprised at how great they are. My basic recipe starts with 40g serving of oats: I like oat bran, but any type should be fine. I mix the oats with 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 2 shakes of paprika, 2 shakes of garlic powder, 4-5 shakes of onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste, and then cook in 1 cup of almond or cashew milk according to package directions. A dash of soy sauce is also nice but not required. If you’re cooking on the stovetop, you can also stir in greens in the last few minutes, as in the picture at the top of this post. Recently I’ve been topping my savory oats with either sauteed oyster mushrooms (!) or Hodo tofu burgers (!!).

A final strong candidate for vegan breakfast is just whatever you made the night before. Admittedly, my stomach is a bit more picky in the morning than later in the day and tends to prefer things that aren’t too difficult to digest. I find that bean-y and lentil-y things are more appetizing in the morning than mock meats or huge piles of veggies. Some foods I like later in the day, like hummus, are absolutely off-limits as breakfast. Keep an open mind, though–beans and greens or dal can be a really great breakfast when you’re in the mood!

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