If you don’t think whole foods taste good, I’d venture to guess that you a) haven’t given them a chance or b) just aren’t cooking them properly.
Today, in honor of savoring the flavor of eating right for National Nutrition Month, I’d like to help fix that, so I’m sharing my favorite tips for creating whole, plant-based meals that are bursting with delicious flavor.
1. Don’t overcook
Please, please don’t overcook your veggies!
Overcooking destroys nutrients and flavor. It’s the culprit of bland/mushy/stringy/smelly vegetables. Not good.
Most vegetables don’t require more than 5-7 minutes to fully cook.
Vegetables should still retain a little crunch and shouldn’t look droopy or mushy. They should also be colorful and vibrant – so turn off the heat if you notice your veggies are losing pigment. (Read this OGP article for additional tips.)
2. Roast or grill vegetables
While overcooking destroys nutrients and flavors, it doesn’t mean veggies shouldn’t be cooked at all. Using cooking techniques like roasting and/or grilling can actually help intensify and enhance the natural flavors of vegetables.
Like anything else, it’s all about balance.
Roasting and grilling browns the outside of veggies, while locking in delicious sweet and smoky flavors.
I’m a veggie lover to begin with but roasting takes it to another level.
Try these Miso Roasted Root Vegetables and you’ll understand what I mean.
3. Add (lots of) herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are my go-to means for creating flavorful plant-based dishes that are also packed with beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
I tend to cook with a ‘more is more’ attitude when it comes to herbs and spices. My spice cabinet is completely out of control – but they’re essential for creating the dishes I love most.
Here are some of my favorite spicy/herbaceous recipes:
4. Utilize healthy fats
High fat foods can be used to add texture/creaminess, flavor, and aroma to dishes.
We humans love fat, so go ahead and add some healthy sources. My favorite little fatty flavor bombs are nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, and olives.
Try this Roasted Eggplant Coconut Curry to experience the rich flavor and creamy texture that coconut brings to the table.
5. Add some heat with chili peppers
Adding capsaicin to your food is a sure way to create tons of flavor.
(Hot sauce has saved me on more than one occasion.)
And even if you’re not big on super spicy food, I’ll bet you can find a pepper that’s just right for you.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Chili Peppers to learn more and/or try some of my favorite spicy recipes:
6. Add something acidic
Including an acidic ingredient in your dish helps to balance and lift flavors to another level.
My favorite sources of acid are citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) and vinegars (apple cider, rice, balsamic, etc.).
If you’re food is tasting a little flat, these ingredients will do wonders to elevate the flavor.
Need some inspiration? Here are some recipes to try:
7. Eat seasonally and locally
Fruits and vegetables taste the best when they’re picked and consumed during their peak season. This is also when they’re the most nutritious – it’s a win-win.
Local produce usually tastes better because it can be harvested and delivered to you more quickly – closer to it’s peak. (Frozen foods also work because they’re often frozen right after harvest – this Wild Blueberry Smoothie is a perfect example.)
If you’re interested in learning more about how to cook and eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, check out my seasonal produce guides:
What’s your favorite way to add flavor to healthy foods?