Long, cold winters pose some minor challenges to anyone following a vegan lifestyle. The abundance of fresh summer produce has dwindled away, leaving you to face the twin necessities of staying warm while discovering new foods to eat. But the descent into winter also brings new sources of enjoyment. On a sweltering July afternoon, hot mulled cider and a steaming pot of soup aren’t the least bit appealing. But deep in winter they’ll nourish body and soul like nothing else.
So let’s take a look at how to stay vegan through the winter while keeping yourself well-fed and warm as toast.
Vegan Foods for Winter
In temperate climates, fresh local fruit disappears in the winter, with the exception of apples which are harvested through the late autumn and can stay fresh until spring. You can also buy citrus fruits trucked in from tropical climates. Bananas are also available year-round, although they are monocultured force-ripened fruit that can’t compare to bananas eaten locally in the tropics.
Three excellent vegan foods for a cold winter are potatoes, hard squash, and sweet potatoes. These are excellent cold weather foods because they’re usually baked or made into soups. On a frigid day, no food is more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup. Discover hundreds of delicious vegan options at our vegan soup guide.
And don’t forget these root vegetables: parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, beets, and turnips. Since they’re harvested in the autumn and can stay fresh all winter long, they’re ideal foods for the coldest months. Any sort of root vegetable is immensely satisfying when roasted in the dead of winter. If you’ve never roasted vegetables before, winter is the perfect time to master this skill. Our guide to roasting vegetables explains the basics.
Fats and Peppers for Added Warmth
Since fat is your body’s most concentrated form of energy, and a little extra body fat is naturally insulating, boosting your fat intake can help keep you warm during winter. Just like squirrels survive winter by digging up the acorns they’ve stashed away, you’ll find that nuts are the perfect winter snack. Walnuts will add some hard-to-get omega 3 fats to your diet. And your body’s increased need for fat gives you a handy excuse to eat more chocolate, as if you ever needed one.
Also keep in mind the warming properties of pepper. If you can tolerate spicy dishes, you’ll find that anything made with hot pepper will make your body feel warmer. So a spicy vegan Mexican chili or a Thai curry are phenomenal cold weather meals.
Kitchen Gear for Winter
A few kitchen appliances can help you get through the winter in style. A Instant Pot will enable you to cook dried beans in under an hour, as opposed to endless amount of time they require on a stovetop. And a slow-cooker is the ultimate way to turn five minutes of preparation into a piping-hot meal that tastes like you’ve slaved away all afternoon. There are vegan cookbooks devoted exclusively to Instant Pots and to slow-cookers.
One final tip for a super-cheap kitchen appliance that’s ideal for cold weather: an electric kettle. If you’ve never owned one, you have no idea what you’re missing. They’ll heat water in a fraction of the time of a stove-top kettle, with far less energy waste. They’re obviously great for coffee and tea, and during the winter you can also use them to gently warm all your water before drinking. The difference between drinking cold water in a chilly house and drinking warm water is profound. In a cold house, regularly sipping some warm water is a seemingly small thing that makes a big difference.
See our cookware guide for product recommendations.
Vegan Clothes and Bedding for Winter
Many people stay warm during winter by wearing wool socks and sweaters, and by purchasing down jackets and comforters. Unfortunately, the farming practices for involving both wool and down are shockingly heartless. And nearly all of these animals are ultimately slaughtered. Luckily, excellent vegan alternatives now exist. Over the past few decades, scientists have created new synthetic fibers that actually surpass wool and down in warmth.
Material science giant 3M sells Thinsulate brand insulation to a number of jacket and boot companies. Thinsulate doesn’t quite equal down’s insulation properties, but it’s far more compact and it’s also impervious to water damage.
Additionally, some people wear thermal underwear made from silk during the winter, although the majority of thermal underwear is made from cotton. Silk underwear has a smoother and more comfortable feel than cotton garments. But just as the invention of nylon rendered silk stockings obsolete in the 1940s, you can now buy silk-like thermal underwear made from polyester blends that provide all the warmth and comfort of silk.
Embrace the Season
There’s no doubt that winter poses special challenges for vegans, but these are easily surmounted. You’ll find the cold weather offers special satisfactions if you plan accordingly. So embrace all the season has to offer by investing in the garments, appliances, and cookbooks that will carry you through the cold weather in style. Then get yourself a big fat book, pour yourself a cup of vegan hot chocolate, and enjoy this time of introspection and renewal.