I’m always fascinated by how people find my site through searching for various things online. The other day someone searched for ‘vegan foods in microwave’, and it got me thinking. There’s probably plenty of vegans who find themselves with a limited access to traditional kitchen appliances (say, in a hotel or a college dorm), or don’t want to fire up a stove on a hot summer day, etc. Thankfully, if you have a microwave available, you can still make tasty and healthy vegan meals – and the fact that microwave cooking is usually pretty quick is a nice bonus!
Some of us may scoff at my claim that cooking in a microwave can be healthy. But apparently, as Dr. Michael Greger suggests in this video on his NutritionFacts.org website, microwaving has been shown to be one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients in vegetables, and in some cases it even boosts the amounts of bioavailable nutrients (he cites green beans as an example). The worst cooking method? You’ll have to watch the video to get the scoop. Note: even that method is not so bad if it’s the only way that gets you to eat your veggies.
(This post is a part of Vegan Kitchen Simplified series. See other posts in this series over here and find out about my favorite vegan cooking tips, kitchen hacks, and more!)
5 Microwave-Friendly Vegan Meals For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
1. Instant oatmeal packets. This breakfast option is a no-brainer, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to make breakfast in the morning (who does?), or if you’re traveling a lot. Before you scoff at the thought of artificial ingredients that a lot of conventional brands add to their oatmeal flavoring, check out instant oatmeal varieties from brands like Dr. McDougall’s (yes, the Starch Solution guy!), EnviroKidz (this one’s also gluten-free), and Nature’s Path.
Take it to the next level: Oatmeal packets are oftentimes quite small. To make your bowl of oatmeal bigger and more filling, mix in a handful of plain rolled or instant oats before adding liquid. To take things even further, add some chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds, berries, cinnamon, etc. My latest breakfast obsession has been a bowl of instant steel-cut oatmeal by Better Oats with almond milk and as many of these add-ins as I have on hand.
2. Quick veggie wrap with beans. This has been one of my go-to quick lunch options both at home and at work. First, chop up some veggies – I like a mix of tomatoes, lettuce or kale, carrots, red onions, cilantro, olives, or a combination of whatever I can find in my fridge. Second, microwave 1 cup of any cooked or canned beans you can find – chickpeas or black beans usually do it for me. Third, microwave a large tortilla for about 15 seconds (don’t overdo it!). Assemble the wrap by putting the heated beans onto your tortilla, then topping the beans with chopped veggies. Roll up the bottom, fold the sides and enjoy!
Take it to the next level: For work, I just put all of the chopped veggies in a Tupperware container and top them with some Sriracha. Cooked beans go in another container, preferably a glass one for easy microwaving. If you make these wraps often, you can keep a pack of tortillas at work and assemble everything as you go – otherwise just bring a single tortilla with you from home.
3. Loaded baked potato with beans and salsa. I’m a sucker for potatoes (both regular and sweet) baked in the oven, but waiting an hour before they’re done can be excruciating. Microwave to the rescue! Scrub your potato clean, pierce it with a fork in a few spots, and microwave it on high for about 3-4 minutes until it’s squishy. Once the potato is cooked, CAREFULLY remove it from the microwave, cut it open lengthwise to make a ‘bowl’, and top with cooked beans/lentils, salsa, and anything else that strikes your fancy! Chives, cilantro, your favorite vegan cheese shreds, vegan sour cream – sky’s the limit!
Take it to the next level: To speed up the cooking, wrap your potato in plastic wrap to create the effect of steaming. Don’t pierce the wrap with a fork though! Once the potato is done, remove the plastic carefully, and proceed with the rest of the steps above.
4. Chickpea & Spaghetti Squash Marinara. Yes, you can still go all fancy with your dinner if you only have a microwave available! Cooking spaghetti squash in a microwave is surprisingly easy – some people prefer doing it this way instead of roasting because it’s quicker. To microwave spaghetti squash, cut it lengthwise, scrub out the seeds, place both sides cut side down into a large microwave-safe dish (or use one half of the squash at a time if your microwave is small). Add about 1/4 – 1/2 of an inch of water into the dish. Microwave on high for 10-15 minutes, checking the readiness with a sharp knife every 5 minutes or so. If the knife slides in easily, your squash is ready. The overall cooking time will depend on your microwave and the size of your squash.
Once the squash is cooked, let it cool for 5-10 minutes, them use a fork to scrub out its flesh into a large bowl. In the meantime, microwave 1-2 cups of pasta sauce (your favorite store-bought sauce will work fine) – place a piece of paper towel on top of the sauce container to prevent splashing. Mix the heated sauce into the squash along with a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Your veggie-loaded dinner is ready!
My favorite way to serve this spaghetti squash marinara is to arrange it on a bed of polenta, a.k.a. grits. Instant grits can easily be found in most grocery stores or online.
Note: Some online guides suggest microwaving the spaghetti squash whole as long as it fits into your microwave. The downside is that it can accidentally explode! So use common sense if you decide to go this route, and make sure to pierce the squash with a fork a few times to let the steam out. It’s likely that you’ll need more than 15 minutes to get it cooked through.
5. Instant soup. This option may sound like a cop-out, but if you’re short on time, finances and/or access to a full kitchen, it may be just what you need. Once again the name of Dr. McDougall comes up: the guy has a full line of instant soups in a cup, from black bean and rice to split pea and chicken-flavored ramen. Most soups are made just by adding boiling water, so if you don’t have a stove or a teapot, the good ol’ microwave will do in a pinch.
Take it to the next level: Got some fresh herbs? Mix them in! Chopped green onions will make a nice addition to ramen, cilantro – to the black bean soup, and parsley – to minestrone. Fresh greens add a nice punch of micronutrients to any meal.
6. Mug Cake. If the only available kitchen appliance is a microwave, it doesn’t mean that having decadent cake for dessert is off-limits! Mug cakes became all the rage in vegan blogosphere a few years ago (possibly the non-vegan too, but I don’t usually check that stuff). As a result, lots of amazing vegan mug cake recipes were born: now you can indulge in yummy flavors like chocolate chip-peanut butter, cinnamon roll, chocolate brownie, Almond Joy – sky (and Pinterest) is the limit!
Question for you: Do you know any easy microwave-friendly vegan recipes that I didn’t list here? Please share them in the comments so that all of us could enjoy them!
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