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Summon up a mental image of a vegan eater, and you probably imagine an affluent Goop follower, crunchy hippie, preachy tree hugger, or angry animal-rights activist — or a combo of all four. But these archetypes aren’t as spot-on as you may believe.
While just 3 percent of American adults identify as strict vegetarians or vegans, that number jumps to 8 percent among African American adults, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey. And the proportion of Black folks who are adopting a plant-forward eating style may be growing: A 2019 Gallup poll found that nearly one-third of non-white people have cut back on their meat intake in the past year, compared to roughly one-fifth of white individuals.
It’s easy to pin this recent dietary shift on a fad, but plant-based eating in the Black community has deep roots. Many followers of Rastafarianism, a religious movement developed in Jamacia, follow an ital diet (a primarily vegetarian eating style), according to research published by Louisiana State University. Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, also promoted vegetarianism as “the most healthful and most virtuous way to eat,” according to an article published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
What’s more, traditional West and Central African diets “were predominantly vegetarian — centered around staple foods like millet, rice, field peas, okra, hot peppers, and yams,” writes author Bryant Terry in his book Afro-Vegan (Buy It, $20, amazon.com), as reported by Eater. “There’s always been this river of Black folks who have been pioneers in veganism next to the wider ocean of folks who are omnivores,” Tracye McQuirter, M.P.H., a public health nutritionist and long-time vegan, told TODAY. “In West Africa, for generations, the food was primarily plant-based.” (ICYMI, a plant-based diet can have a major impact on your health.)
Yet, a white-washed picture of veganism persists. And that’s why Desiree Daniels, a North Carolina native who went vegan back in 2017, started her food blog I Can You Can Vegan, where she posts classic recipes with plant-based twists. “I had this image of white, hippie, tree-hugging people, and I just could not identify with that. I thought that vegans were crazy. I’m like, who in their right mind would give up cheese?” Daniels told TODAY. “Before diving in, I didn’t see myself represented in those spaces. So I thought it was important for me to be that person for someone else.”
Daniels isn’t the only Black creator promoting veganism on social media, either. To start shifting your mental picture of veganism — and score some incredible recipes and meal ideas — follow these Black, plant-based creators on Instagram and TikTok. Warning: Your stomach will be growling just moments after you set sights on their eats. (Related: Black Nutritionists to Follow for Recipes, Healthy Eating Tips, and More)
Black Vegan Foodies to Follow ASAP
A self-described foodie since birth, Daniels kicked off her vegan journey five years ago and has been sharing plant-based recipes ever since, all in hopes of “changing the narrative that all vegans eat are boring salads” and inspiring Black women, according to her Instagram bio. Over on the ‘gram, Daniels shares mouth-watering recipes, including vegan baked mac and cheese, vegan southern chicken and rice, and jackfruit crab cakes, as well as hacks for storing veggies and herbs. Plus, many of her meals have gotten the stamp of approval by her non-vegan partner (look for the hashtag #PickyAssHusbandApproved), so they’re sure to be devoured by omnivores and plant-based eaters alike. (P.S. Jackfruit offers quite a few health benefits, too.)
In the eyes of Alexis Nikole, a foraging enthusiast in Ohio, walking into a forest is like “Disney World, but full of plants and much cheaper food,” she told NPR in September 2021. On her popular Instagram and TikTok, Nikole posts clips of her seeking out wild food sources — oyster mushrooms, wintergreen berries, pawpaw fruit, and other eats most folks overlook — and transforming them into tasty vegan dishes, such as acorn bread stuffing and cheese, puffball mushroom bagel bites, and Aronia berry hot sauce. Though you’ll come for her creative recipes and foraging tips, you’ll stay for her high energy, bubbly personality, and hilarious signature sign-off, “Happy snacking. Don’t die.” (ICYDK, some wild mushrooms you can forage are deadly, according to the National Capital Poison Center.)
For a mix of binge-worthy meal ideas and catchy tunes, turn to Gabrielle Reyes, a chef-slash-singer who’s blowing up the internet with her live musical cooking classes. Every Saturday, she’ll walk you through how to make drool-worthy dishes, such as raw vegan donut holes, vegan pulled pork nachos, and vegan cheese quesadillas, all while belting out about the ingredients and the dish she’s creating. It’s a dinner and a show without having to leave home.
If the squishy texture and earthy flavor of mushrooms seriously weird you out, Turnip Vegan has your back. The plant-based recipe creator’s feed is filled with mushroom-centric dishes, including lion’s mane stuffed burritos, golden oyster mushroom fried rice, and lion’s mane Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, that’ll show you how crispy and delicious the fungi can be. Plus, Vegan even has his own e-book, It’s All About The Lion’s Mane (Buy It, $10, turnipvegan.com), dedicated to “fire” recipes featuring the ‘shroom. Regardless of which meal you make, be sure to pair it with one of his many fresh juice concoctions.
If you’re looking for meal inspo with a side of humor, Jazz is your go-to. The vegan content creator serves up familiar veganized recipes that take away some of the stress of transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, including vegan BEC sandwiches, French toast, and chocolate banana milkshakes. While you’re cooking up one of her concoctions, watch her seriously relatable Reels about what it’s like to be a vegan eater. Trust, she knows what it’s like to deal with the endless questions about how you get enough protein and the ridiculous surcharge for vegan items at restaurants.
Over on TikTok and Instagram, Daishu McGriff is proving that comfort food can be made vegan with a few minor tweaks — and it’ll still be just as worthy of the chef’s kiss emoji. The Memphis-based foodie’s vegan mac and cheese balls, for example, feature a rich sauce made from vegan cheese, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, carrots, and almond milk. And her vegan Philly cheesesteak is piled high with seasoned oyster mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and vegan cheese. Seriously, her plant-based eats are so tantalizing, even Lizzo commented “COOK FOR MEEEE 🤤” on McGriff’s biscuits and gravy recipe. (Related: Lizzo Shared Why She’s Experimenting with a Raw Vegan Diet)
If you prefer to spend your free time salivating over photos of cookies on your phone, you’ll fall head over heels for Samantha Perpignand, whose love language is cookies, according to her website. The online bakery owner’s grid is filled with images and how-to videos of sweet vegan treats, including carrot cake cookies, pumpkin cookies smeared with pumpkin frosting, and espresso chocolate chip cookies. Aside from all the desert inspo, Perpignand shares quick, simple, and savory vegan meals (think: roasted veggie stew, cauliflower chickpea wraps) to help you balance out all the sugar.
Set to the sounds of sizzling butter, knife chops, and the plant-based chef’s own soothing voice, Lloyd Rose’s cooking videos are sure to give you ASMR — and make your mouth water. Though his recipes are simple enough to recreate at home — even for beginners in the kitchen — they don’t skimp on flavor. Whip up Rose’s caramelized balsamic onion baguette recipe for your next mid-day snack, fix his air-fried sesame ginger Brussels sprouts for a spicy side dish, and break out your cast iron to create his pan-seared Portobello mushrooms for your main course. Trust, you won’t miss animal products one bit.