Cookbook Review | The Homemade Vegan Pantry

You know the saying: if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But this gets more complicated as you venture into vegan packaged food, which have some of the most convoluted ingredient lists, ever. What if you want palm-oil free cheddar? Or dairy-free yoghurt, without titanium dioxide or potato starch. Or burgers, hold the gluten and the soy.

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Making staples in your own kitchen causes ingredient lists to shrink because your food doesn't have to travel, needing fewer stabilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives. If you want to do that with as little trial-and-error possible, you’re going to want Miyoko Schinner’s latest literary endeavor: The Homemade Vegan Pantry.

Who Needs It

Foremost, any vegan who is trying to rid their life of conflict palm-oil. The amount of vegan packaged food with untraceable palm is astonishing and just about anything you can buy at the grocery store, you can also make from Schinner's book. Those living in rural areas with little access to vegan substitutes may want to invest, as well. While you'll still likely have to order many ingredients from Amazon, this is still a must-have for items like sour cream (p. 63) and vegan beef broth (p. 83).

Fine Details

There are 7 sections total, here's the number of recipes in each, plus one teaser:

Condiments (22) - Vegan Fish Sauce, p. 28
Dairy-And Egg-Free Goodness (17) - Creamy Soy Milk, p. 51
All You Need is Soup (11) - See-Food Chowder, p. 95
The Meat of the Argument(19) - Peppy Unpepperoni, p. 126
Magic and Pasta (11) - Silky Mac 'n' Cheese Sauce, p. 153
The Grains of Truth (14) - Basic French Baguette, p. 176
Sweet Endings (17) - Condensed Nondairy Milk, p. 207

Nice, Thick Nondairy Yogurt, p. 60

Difficulty Level

Medium to hard. While I genuinely think everyone should own a copy - think of it as the cruelty-free Joy of Cooking - I also feel like this book may frustrate novice cooks. First of all, there is a considerable lack of photos. While this is hardly a necessity for all cookbooks, you may feel you need a little assistance with the final texture or color of something. I found myself shouting for a friend a couple of times, Does this look right to you? Is this what she means by glossy?!

I found Schinner's language to be too vague at times, as well, and for the more difficult recipes, I felt I needed just a bit more direction. If you're a veteran in the kitchen though, this may not be a complaint of yours. When in doubt, remember that Miyoko has made several tutorials on Youtube, many of which may lend you some confidence if you need it!

Gluten-Free?

There are certainly plenty of gluten-free recipes but you should know that if you're most excited about the bread, pasta, and meat sections that you may have to curb your enthusiasm. Vital wheat gluten is used in many of the most impressive 'meat' creations, like the Unribs (p. 117), which could be a downer if you're sensitive or have an allergy. Luckily, there is a Gluten-Free Brown Rice Pasta (p.139) that only calls for four ingredients! And no kooky flour mixes.

See-Food Chowder, p. 95

Final Thoughts

Cooking my way through this book has been exciting but also a little humbling. Sometimes I forget how much effort goes into substitutes like tempeh or tofu. Some of these things I now regard as a 'treat' and others (like oil-free cheese) I feel comfortable enough to make several times a month. It's been a great learning experience for my tastebuds and skill level in the kitchen. I love that Schinner even tosses in a few foods that are easily found vegan, like jam and polenta - Why? Because she makes them really well and she wants you to make them well, too.