Veganuary is the ultimate New Year’s resolution, following the indulgent and often meat-heavy Christmas holidays. For some people, the challenge ends with January, while for others it becomes a lifestyle. Whether you end up becoming a full-time vegan or not, it's becoming increasingly clear that plant-based diets are not a fad – in fact, they’ve gone mainstream and are here to stay. A third of the entire population has cut out or reduced their meat consumption, according to Waitrose. From a minority movement to more than half a million people in the UK, the number of vegans is still growing. Eating fewer animal products is easier than ever for home cooks and restaurant goers thanks to so many great restaurants working on amazing and delicious menus using seasonal produce.
Chantelle Nicholson, chef patron of Tredwells and author of vegan cookbook Planted, says, "it's all about changing your perception of vegetables," and celebrating them for what they are’’. Plant-based diets have spawned an industry of vegan products worth billions; the spending power of vegetables is immense. Supermarkets, restaurants, and the entire food industry are paying attention. The benefits are difficult to ignore, from personal health to environmental impact, while numerous documentaries and celebrities praise veganism. We are learning to rethink how we view food, our health, and the planet.
Being vegan isn’t that hard if you change your mindset and get excited for new flavours and more variety. In fact, a lot of your favourite foods may well be plant-based without you even realising it. There’s even an Instagram page dedicated to accidentally vegan foods. Here are some of our top tips for how to get involved with Veganuary.
What is Veganuary?
A conflation of January and veganism, Veganuary started in 2014 as a charity campaign with the aim of getting people to try out a plant-based diet for a month - and perhaps even longer if they enjoy it. There are lots of reasons to give it a go, whether to reduce your impact on the earth, because you're an avid animal-lover or simply want to get healthier by eating more veggies, and there are thousands of people who participate worldwide every year.
Why should I try Veganuary?
Eat more veg
During the colder months, it might seem like there aren’t as many exciting vegetables and fruits on offer, but that’s not true. There are Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, parsnips, quince, apples, pears, kale and cauliflower to name a few. Veganuary is a great excuse to place veg front and centre in the food you eat, which can do wonders for your health, too.
Experiment with your cooking
Vegan cooking can involve making clever swaps and learning how to create flavour in new ways. Once you start, plant-based food opens up a whole new world of innovation and intriguing ideas. Aquafaba, otherwise known as chickpea water, can be used a substitute for egg whites, while miso paste is excellent at adding umami flavour to dishes such as dressings and soups. Milks and cheeses can be made from almost any nut you can imagine, including cashews, peanuts and hazelnuts. And you can still eat all your favourite foods like burgers and bao buns with supermarkets offering plenty of convincing meat substitutes.
Making the sustainable choice
While there are certainly plant-based foods that can have a damaging effect on the planet (avocados, we’re looking at you), it’s clear that reducing your meat intake (red meat in particular) is one of the best things you can do for the planet.
What happens if I slip up and eat something that isn't vegan?
If you accidentally eat something that isn’t vegan or find yourself craving meat or cheese, don't beat yourself up about it. At the end of the day, Veganuary aims to encourage positive change, such as reducing your meat intake and eating more fruit and veg, so eating something that isn’t plant-based once in a while shouldn’t be viewed as a slip up. It’s what you do most of the time that really counts.
What if I don’t have enough time to be vegan?
People often assume that vegan food takes longer to prepare but that isn’t really the case. Cook vegetables just as you would any other type of meat, using techniques such as roasting, caramelising and frying to bring out the natural sugars. You don’t need fancy ingredients either, just a bit of know-how and you’re good to go. Browse recipes online for inspiration if you get stuck, there are plenty of resources out there.
How do I stay motivated?
Even if you don’t know anyone who is partaking in Veganuary, remember there are record numbers of people trying out Veganuary every year, so you’re not alone. Rally with your vegan or vegetarian friends and fellow Veganuary challengers for some motivation. Remember why you’re doing it, whether that’s just for the sake of a challenge, for your health, or to be more environmentally conscious. Being a part-time vegan, vegetarian, or simply thinking more about what you put in your body is better than doing nothing at all.
Enlist your family and friends to join you in the challenge – and remember to make it fun! If you feel like you’ve exhausted your recipe repertoire or fancy someone else taking the reins for a bit, check out our vegan restaurant recommendations below – you might just be inspired along the way.
Where to eat out during Veganuary
Eating out as a vegan is so easy nowadays with accommodating menus and entire restaurants dedicated to plant-based eating. There are plenty of options depending on your agenda, be it fine dining dinners, plant-based pizzas, epic bakes or healthy lunches.
What: The all-day menu at Kin Café in Fitzrovia is basically an ode to brunch. Expect vegan pancakes with peanut butter, coconut yoghurt and berries, shakshuka, waffles, ‘The Kin breakfast’ and vegan burritos. On weekends, it adds a selection of brunch cocktails to the list, so you can make it a boozy affair you want to. Who’s in?
Best for: Vegan brunch
Where: 22 Foley Street, London, W1W 6DT
Book now: Kin Cafe
Temple of Seitan
What: Temple of Seitan is for the days when you crave meat. The vegan fried chicken looks and tastes just like it should, so it will blow your mind when you remember its 100% plant-based.
Best for: Vegan junk food
Where: 43 Parkway, London NW1 7PN
Book now: Temple of Seitan
What: We know that Honest Burger is known for its eponymous ‘Honest Burger’ - and yes, we know it’s not vegan. But if you keep scrolling down the menu to its bacon plant burger stuffed with plant-based bacon, vegan smoked gouda, shoestring fries, vegan bacon ketchup, chipotle ‘mayo’, spinach and pickles, you’ll see why we put it on this list.
Best for: Vegan burgers
Where: Various locations
Book now: Honest Burger
What: Gauthier in Soho is redefining French cuisine – plant-based style. Situated in a Regency townhouse, this fine dining restaurant offers a tasting menu featuring vegetable-focused plates including red carrot tartare with sorrel melba toast, sea quenelle of plant caviar and red wine and juniper glazed mushroom loin.
Best for: Vegan fine dining
Where: 21 Romilly Street, Soho, London, W1D 5AF
Book now: Gauthier
Ruby’s of London
What: Baking everything from doughnuts to bespoke wedding cakes, Ruby’s of London is THE place to go for the best plant-based cakes and treats in the capital. They’re a great option for a gift or event, but we won’t judge you if you pop into their shop in Greenwich for a spontaneous cupcake.
Best for: Vegan cakes
Where: 11 Durnford St, London SE10 9BF
Book now: Ruby’s of London
What: Made with 48-hour matured sourdough bases, organic tomatoes and homemade vegan mozzarella, Purezza are here to put plant-based pizzas on the map.
Best for: Vegan pizza
Where: 45/47 Parkway, London, NW1 7PN
Book now: Purezza
What: With health and wellness at the forefront of its ethos, Malibu Kitchen at The Ned offers an all-day food menu which is replete with veggie and vegan options. There are turmeric pancakes for breakfast, chia seed flatbreads with hummus and sprouts for lunch and beef fillet with squash, swiss chard, pickled figs and purple potato for something more substantial.
Best for: Healthy vegan food
Where: 27 Poultry, City of London, EC2R 8AJ
Book now: Malibu Kitchen
If you fancy giving Veganuary a go yourself, but still prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, check out our full list of the top vegan restaurants in London.