By Hilary Pollack, VegNews.com
We try to be good. Most days, we chow down on kale, swig fresh-pressed juice, and kick it with quinoa. But there are certain occasions where the only appropriate menu is as melty, cheesy, chocolately, salty, sugary, or even (vegan) bacony as possible. It is at these moments that we must rifle through our internal recipe Rolodex to conjure the most satisfying, calorie-laden, and ultimately delicious meat- and dairy-free foods possible. Here are the 13 that made the cut—be forewarned, this is not health food. Don’t worry; kale will still be there when you get back.
1. Vegan Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Paprika Cream Sauce
Sometime circa 2007, “bacon-wrapped” became the quintessential treatment for instantly fancifying anything in the meaty sector, including (and often) buttery scallops. While this may seem like just about the most un-vegan concept ever, Olives For Dinner has managed to veganize the whole dang thing with a little ingenuity (tempeh bacon and king oyster mushroom stems, who knew?). Two words take it to the next level: cream sauce.
2. Tater Tot Casserole
Some may argue that tots are for (actual) tots, but we can’t disagree more. This dish puts them to tasty use in casserole form, smothered in vegan gravy. Plus, scrumptious slices of vegan chicken add a protein punch to this meal that will probably leave you in a starchy food coma—but smiling, no doubt.
3. Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie
We love pie, we love peanut butter, and we love chocolate mousse. Oh, and we go nuts for a little sprinkle of salt in our dessert. Never before did we imagine that all of these elements could be found in one devilish dish, but we were wrong. Very wrong. Imagine a whipped peanut butter cup in a pie crust with a sophisticated touch, and you’ve almost imagined this next-level decadent dessert. Did we mention that it’s topped with whipped coconut cream and crushed chocolate peanut-butter pretzels? Because it is.
4. Deep-Fried Vegan Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is normally our go-to for melty, unhealthy, braindead bliss. The simple yet ever-popular combination of molten cheese and elbow pasta somehow forever stands the test of time, never failing to satisfy our drunken, lazy, or just self-satisfied whims. Now take that, deliciously devoid of nutritional value as it tends to be, and deep-fry it. The result is a new level of culinary opulence that we can’t help but support in all of its gooey glory.
5. Vegan Buffalo Tarts
When we think of tarts, typically we visualize a chaste pastry filled with raspberries or something equally boring. Not so if you dig into Spabettie’s Buffalo Tarts, which are loaded with caramelized onions, soy curls, cream cheese, sour cream, vegan cheddar, and, of course, Frank’s Buffalo Sauce. It’s like a Super Bowl version of the dim sum barbecue pork buns we noshed in our pre-vegan days. Now you can laugh in dim sum’s face while scarfing down a bite-sized hand grenade of gluttony. If this is buffalo, call us Bill.
6. Hot Caramelized Onion Bacon Dip
Dip is dangerous, because it doesn’t feel like you’re eating that much of it until you find yourself scraping the bowl with the last crumbs of your crostini. Well, some of us laugh in the face of danger. Ha. Ha. Ha. Bring us a giant bowl of this Hot Caramelized Onion Bacon Dip and watch us revel in its unbelievable synthesis of sweet onions, bacon bits, vegan cheddar, sour cream, mayo, sherry, and thyme. Only the courageous should be in the same room as this stuff—it is not for the faint of heart.
7. Red Velvet Pancakes with Coconut Cream and Berries
Just because breakfast is at the beginning of the day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reward yourself! For sleeping! Really well! Or something! So fry up a big ol’ stack of these beet-red (literally) pancakes and top ‘em with a big dollop of whipped vanilla coconut cream. Add a sprinkle of berries and you can almost pretend it’s healthy!
8. Big Mac Steam-Baked Buns
Just because we haven’t been to McDonalds in years doesn’t mean we wouldn’t chow down a double-decker veggie burger like it was our job. But then a terrible genius mad scientist (behind the überexcellent blog No Face Plate) had to go and invent these Big Mac Buns, which are, yes, the infamous burger packed inside a precious dough exterior. Burger patty? Check. Vegan cheese? Check. Pickles, “special sauce,” relish? Check, check, check. Heaven isn’t too far away. It’s inside of these innocent-looking buns.
9. Vegan Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl
If your childhood was anything like ours, maybe your dad took you to a tacky red-gingham-tablecloth seafood restaurant for a big bowl of clam chowder from time to time. Maybe he made you tuck your napkin into your shirt (life is pain). Relive the magic with Healthy Happy Life’s version, complete with bread bowl. Creamy cashew, hearty mushrooms—you won’t even miss the clams or the cream. In fact, you’ll most likely come to and find yourself soup-less and bowl-less, perhaps even wishing you had tucked your napkin into your shirt.
10. Ricotta-Stuffed French Toast with Salted Butterscotch Sauce
Stuffing (vegan) cheese into pretty much anything is an excellent way to elevate it to true decadence. So the next time you’re craving a crispy slice of French toast covered in a snowy blanket of powdered sugar and drenched in melty vegan butter and maple syrup, step it up a notch and stuff that bad boy with vegan ricotta. But wait, there’s more! And it’s called Salted Butterscotch Sauce. Good morning, indeed.
11. The Aurora Borealis
This dish is so legendary that it is even named after a revered natural phenomenon. Plus, it is an award-winning recipe, triumphing over an army of non-vegan competition. Now that you’re on the edge of your seat, allow us to reveal its form: a grilled-cheese sandwich on maple-syrup-fried sourdough bread with both vegan mozzarella and cream cheese, brandy soaked peaches, and a berry reduction. The 10th-Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational (where it took home 3rd place in the Honey Pot category) didn’t even see it coming.
12. Savory Pizza Doughnuts
That’s right. Grilled-cheese sandwiches have gone sweet, and now doughnuts have gone savory. An herbaceous sun-dried tomato doughnut topped with melted vegan mozzarella? It’s so weird, it just might work.
13. Vegan Lasagna Cupcakes
Like its predecessor, the Savory Pizza Doughnut, the Lasagna Cupcake combines two beloved food concepts into a recipe greater than the sum of its parts. We love lasagna, but can you eat a lasagna while you’re walking down the street? Can you fit lasagna in a cupholder? No, and no. But also, a little, but a resounding yes if your lasagna comes in cupcake form. Whip up that tofu ricotta, bring on the tomato sauce, and let the good times roll.