10 Game-Changing Vegetarian Cooking Tips from Professional Chefs

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Vegetarian cooking tips
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In the kitchen, as in life, it’s the little things that make a major difference: adding salt to bring out every last bit of flavor; picking perfectly ripe produce; topping food with the right healthy sauces; and using fresh, local ingredients. Nail these seemingly small steps, and creating a delicious meal suddenly becomes a no-brainer.

MORE: How 5 Editors Use Strawberries in the Kitchen

Ahead, we’ve gathered 10 tips from top professional chefs about vegetarian cooking. From knowing when an avocado is ready to eat to keeping salad crisp and serving up extra-tasty watermelon, these easy little tweaks will up your game in the kitchen with noticeable results.

MORE: 30 Easy End-of-Summer Recipes to Make Now

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"Don't overcrowd a pan if you're trying to get vegetables browned in a skillet or on a baking sheet in the oven. Veggies that are too close together will end up releasing their water and then steaming together versus allowing a dry heat to brown and roast them up." –Diane Sanfilippo, certified nutrition expert and author of Practical Paleo

Photo: @diane.practicalpaleo

"Quick and easy sauces are a major part of making simple raw food interesting and unique like pesto, hummus, tahini, salsa, guacamole or 'sour cream' made with nutritional yeast." –Matthew Kenney, raw food chef and owner of Plant Food + Wine Miami

Photo: @matthewkenneycuisine

"If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéing, try substituting vegetable stock. It will help cut down on the calories but give your pan the moisture it needs." Meredith Haaz, chef at The Ranch Malibu

Photo: @theranchmalibu

"Grow your very own edible garden to produce organic herbs and garnishes for your meals—fresh herbs and garnishes truly enhance the flavor and presentation of your dishes." –Kenney

Photo: @matthewkenneycuisine

"Take a sweet and ripe watermelon, cut it in quarters and then in one-inch wedges. Set it in a container and in the freezer for two to four hours, depending on how quickly your freezer freezes. Your guests and friends will love it during these hot months; it really cools you down and the watermelon becomes even ‘sweeter’ after it is frozen. It’s great for backyard picnics, barbecues and pool parties. Go ahead and put a wooden Popsicle stick in the base before freezing and kids will love it, no matter their age!" –Nina Curtis, executive chef of The Ranch Malibu

Photo: @theranchmalibu

"To add more crunch to fennel for a salad, shave it into ice water and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Then, dry and toss, and this will make it much crisper and hold better in your salad." –Eric Damidot, executive chef, Hyatt Regency New Orleans

Photo: @verde.love

"Salt is great to wilt leafy greens such as kale, chard, collards, and mustard greens. Add a little bit of salt; ½ teaspoon to a bowl of three cups of leafy greens and begin to massage. They will become more vibrant in color, and cut the ‘bitter’ taste. Salt pulls out moisture so your greens will become juicy, add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to help your body absorb more of the vitamin C in the greens and a splash of fresh lemon juice—the acid adds flavor and further ‘cooks’ the greens—and voila!" –Curtis

Photo: @theranchmalibu

"Be sure to rotate pans or trays in the oven: All ovens have hot spots, so spin your trays of veggies around halfway through their cooking time—and alternate racks, if you have multiple trays cooking." –Sydney Willcox, culinary instructor at The Brooklyn Kitchen

Photo: @thebklynkitchen

"Adding parsley leafs while cooking artichokes prevents them from oxidizing." –Benjamin Goldman, executive chef at Seaspice Miami

Photo: @chefnicky

"Here's how to pick perfect avocados: Gently press into the fruit, and if it barely gives when you press, it's perfect and ready to go! If it gives and leaves a dent, it's on the way to being overripe. If it doesn't give at all, it's not ripe yet.

If you have a ripe avocado but aren't ready to eat it yet, stash it in the fridge to 'pause' it there for another day or two before you eat it and it'll still be perfect and ready to go." –Sanfilippo

Photo: @diane.practicalpaleo

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