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September 26, 2023

Classic Southern dishes altered for vegetarians

The Louisiana Po’ Boy is a classic Southern dish that can be made as vegetarian dish.

For the moms and pops who grew up with classic Southern dishes like fried chicken, grits, and collard greens for Sunday supper, a meatless option is as appealing as eating the asphalt outside. But if you’re below the Mason-Dixon and want to ditch meat during meals, you’re not alone. The plant-based eating trend has been growing in the U.S. as roughly nine million Americans consume a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Luckily, there are ways to creatively reinvent Southern-inspired dishes for your vegetarian and vegan friends.

“We’re really going for comfort,” said Sara Tomerlin. Tomerlin is the owner of Dallas-based vegan restaurant Spiral Diner. “I grew up here,” she said, “so I want things like biscuits and gravy, burgers, and shakes. We just make them in a vegan-friendly way.”

Heather McClees, a blogger for One Green Planet and The Soulful Spoon, agrees with Tomerlin.

“Us southerners love a few things that are actually healthy (shocker!) such as greens, corn, spices like paprika, pepper, and simple pantry items… along with canned tomatoes and hot mustard, all of which southerners love to use,” said McClees, who hails from South Carolina.

Both food-loving ladies have tips and tricks on how to stay true to your roots when cooking up a classic meal.

Smart substitution is key

“For items like porridge in the morning, it’s also easy to use non-dairy milk and yogurt in place of regular milk to flavor the dish,” said McClees. “Coconut butter is one of my personal favorites for replacing dairy butter and is so good for you!”

She also recommends almond milk for smoothies or dairy dishes, and butters like coconut, almond, or avocado.

Get creative

“So many people hear vegetarian and think ‘tofu’ or ‘salad’,” said Tomerlin. “We think comfort.” Tomerlin said being uneasy with tofu isn’t uncommon, so replace it with a vegetable you know and like.

Spiral Diner features a “Louisiana Po’ Boy” sandwich starring fried zucchini instead of shrimp- a menu choice that even carnivores enjoy. Root vegetables are also good choices to fortify a meatless entrée.

The Louisiana Po’ Boy is a classic Southern dish that can be made as vegetarian dish.
The Louisiana Po’ Boy is a classic Southern dish that can be made as vegetarian dish.

It’s OK to stay simple

Vegetarians and vegans do eat yeast and grains, so carb-lovers rejoice: bread and grits are not off the menu. Grains join a list of “southern” items that are naturally vegetarian and vegan-friendly like collard greens, grits, corn, regular and sweet potatoes, all kinds of beans, and onions. Does this sound like Sunday supper? Good, it does to us too.

Go easy on the processed stuff

Just like the cardinal rule of any healthy diet, it’s better to make foods yourself than buying them processed in the grocery store.

“Simple, whole foods are packed with dense nutrition that your body will recognize and appreciate much more than foods with fillers, chemicals, and funky ingredients,” said McClees.

She notes that it’s OK to pick up a container of hummus from the grocery store every once in a while, but give yourself a culinary challenge and create something like homemade veggie burgers or a veggie-packed pasta dish.

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