Say Yes! To Vegan Soulfood: Evolving the Soulfood Tradition for the Plant Based Kitchen
BY :Toni OkamotoPUBLISHED : March 29th, 2014UPDATED: October 6th, 2021
I’d like to give a special “thank you” to Afya for writing this beautiful article about Vegan Soul Food. If you don’t have it already, please pick up her latest book A Vegan Soulfood Guide To the Galaxy.
By Afya Ibomu
Soul food in general is comfort food prepared and eaten in most cultures of people of color. More specifically, in the United States it has been coined as food from the African cultures influence on the cuisine of America that grew out of slavery. The history of soul food in America came out of slavery where the master would give the enslaved captives the scraps or the least desirable parts of the animal for their food. That usually consisted of, chitterlings (pig intestine), fat back (pig back), tripe (cow stomach), liver and gizzards (organs of the animal), pickled pigs feet, cow tongue and ribs. Europeans also brought crops from Africa like sweet potatoes, okra and wheat. We used our African and Indigenous knowledge of spices and herbs to make whatever we were given tasty and edible.
Soulfood has remained a tradition because cooking and preparing food is a way we express our love for our family and friends especially for people of color. Food is what brings many of us together on weekends, for family gatherings and the holidays. Unfortunately the way we choose to prepare soul food using high amounts of meat, fat, cheese, dairy, sugar and processed foods
have become part of the reason for the rampant and high rate of disease for people of color. Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease are directly related to the foods we eat and traditional soul food ingredients and preparation contain can lead to those diseases.
I grew up eating soul food and the Standard American Diet. When I became vegan I noticed that there were not many recipes that had the familiar flavors I loved from traditional soul food so that encouraged me to write the book The Vegan Soul Food Guide to the Galaxy! I wanted to evolve traditional soul food so there would be healthier, yet tasty options for common soul food recipes like candied yams, collard greens, potato salad, sweet potato pie and more! The book is also much more than a cookbook, it’s a guide! Changing your lifestyle can be difficult and sometimes frustrating. I walk you through being a healthy vegan by showing your where to get your nutrients, what foods to buy, where to shop, where to dine out anywhere in the world as a vegan as well as the book comes with an instructional DVD called Pimp My Tofu!
So if you love soul food but are now plant based, here are a few tips to veganize and add soul to your meals to help keep the taste and tradition you love with out worrying about your health.
Spice It Up
The essence of soul food is in the spices- Chili powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, sea salt and pepper are the basics. Adding the right amount of these to tofu, greens or even roasted root veggies will give your food a soulful flavor!
Go Heavy on the Veggies
Add vegetables as seasoning to beans, greens, stuffing and rice dishes instead of meat. Carrots, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes add such a wonderful flavor people won’t miss the meat.
Many times ive heard people say that they don’t know what to do with tofu which is why I made the DVD Pimp My Tofu to give a step by step guide on how to choose the right type for your recipes and take it from a white flavorless block to something you and your family will love!
For a main dish ALWAYS buy Extra Firm tofu! That is a must to get the texture that you are looking for. Cut tofu into ¼ inch rectangular steaks and marinate in the soulfood spices and vegetable broth for a minimum of 30 minutes. At this point you can decide if you want to BBQ it, smother it with gravy or batter and fry it.
To BBQ or smother in gravy, pan fry it in a small amount of oil and brown on both sides. Add onions and green pepper then add the BBQ sauce or gravy, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add a little veggie broth it the sauces gets too thick.
Or batter the marinated tofu in cornmeal or flour and fry on both sides. There are endless options when it comes to tofu but these are sure to be a hit with family and friends. I even have a few recipes in my book.
Pies and cakes are must have to end any soulfood meal. But foods high refined sugars (white, brown, turbinado) can add the extra pounds easily! Try more natural less processed sweeteners like, maple syrup, agave or coconut sugar.
Below is a chart of Plant Based Recipe Substitutions to help make your Soul Food cooking a success!
1 whole egg
1 tbsp flax seed meal or 1 ½ tsp of egg replacer with 2 tbsp milk or water
Non dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, hemp or flax)
Non dairy yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese. Or 1 cup non dairy milk and a tbsp of lemon or apple cider vinegar.
Non Dairy ice cream (coconut, rice, almond, soy), fruit sorbet
Non Dairy cheese (rice, soy, almond, pea)
Non Dairy whipped cream (Soy, rice, coconut)
Tofu, tofurkey or beans
Non dairy mayo
Chicken/ beef broth
Vegetable broth or vegetable bullion cubes
Non dairy margarine or olive oil
1 cup of sugar
1 cup sucanat, or ½ cup of agave mixed with ½ cup maple syrup (decrease amount of liquid by ½-3/4 cup)
Afya Ibomu is a Holistic Nutritionist, the CEO of NATTRAL.com, and has been a vegetarian since 1990. Her third book the Vegan Soul Food Guide to the Galaxy, was nominated for an African American Literary Award for cookbook of the year. Afya is certified in Holistic Health and holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. She is also the author of the Get Your Crochet On! pattern book series, that have sold over 20,000 copies. Afya is a celebrity nutritionist and crochet designer working with hip hop artists such as Erykah Badu, Common, Dead Prez and Talib Kweli. Afya currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, stic.man of dead prez and their twelve year-old son Itwela.
About Toni Okamoto
"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez