Plant-Based Prep, Simplified, by Diana Goldman, VLCE

posted June 25, 2024

Photo credit: by Diana Goldman

Plant-based cuisine has a reputation for being labor intensive. Consider, for example, the process of transforming an onion, a pepper, some chickpeas, and hearts of palm into these Crab Cakes. It requires a decent amount of peeling, slicing, dicing, and chopping. There are ways to simplify and make this plant-based cooking process more enjoyable.

5 Ways to Ease Plant-Based Cooking:

1. Hone Your Knife Skills

Take a class. Watch an online tutorial on YouTube. All that chopping and dicing can become fun, pleasant, and even downright meditative with the right technique.

2. Invest In a Good Chef’s Knife

Photo credit: Kevin Doran on Unsplash

How to know which to buy? One that feels good in your hand is a great place to start. Try them out at a kitchen or department store that sells home goods. You’ll begin to get a sense for which ones feel too heavy, too small, unbalanced, or just right.

3. Keep Your Knife Sharp

Paradoxically, dull knives are less safe than sharp ones, because you need to apply more pressure and they may slip off of food. Speaking from experience, I’ve got a small scar on my hand as proof.

4. Prep More Ingredients Than You Need

If a recipe calls for half an onion, why not chop the whole thing and store the rest in the fridge for a future recipe? You’ll thank yourself later when it’s all set and ready to go.

5. Organize A Mise en Place

Gather, measure, and prepare all the ingredients required for a recipe before you start cooking.

Some Tools to Ease the Prep Process

These are some of my favorites for chopping, mincing, juicing, pressing, grinding, weighing, blending, zesting, straining, pureeing, and more:

  • Photo credit: Adobe Stock

    Citrus juicer

  • Garlic press
  • Professional chopper
  • Chef’s knife
  • Microplane zester
  • Tofu press
  • Peeler
  • Can opener
  • Mise en place prep bowls
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Food scale
  • Salad spinner

    Photo credit: Diana Goldman
  • Mini food processor
  • Standard food processor
  • Nut milk bag
  • Nutribullet or other personal blender
  • High-speed blender
  • Instant Pot or pressure cooker
  • Kitchen shears
  • Squeeze-handle scoop
  • Coffee/spice grinder
  • Tea infuser [ginger mint and lemon tea-3.jpg]
  • Silicone popcorn popper
  • Fine mesh strainers

I’m sure I could—but wouldn’t want to—live without these things. With a little bit of savvy shopping and luck, some of these items may be found pre-owned, and possibly refurbished, on sites like Amazon Renewed or eBay, discounted at estate sales or thrift stores, or even free in local Facebook, Buy Nothing, or Freecycle groups.


Photo credit: Diana Goldman

Diana Goldman is the author of the Plants For You cookbook and Main Street Vegan Academy graduate. She is a Sierra Club cooking show host and culinary educator based in Boston. She received a B.S. from Cornell University in Nutrition Science and an Ed.M. from Harvard University.

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