How to Cook Vegan Like Jessica Seinfeld

Photo shows Jessica Seinfeld on a pale pink illustrated background next to a vegan dish.

When it comes to food, Jessica Seinfield is all about meeting people where they’re at. That’s why the author’s latest cookbook is called Vegan, At Times, and it’s about slotting plant-based food into your diet where and when it makes sense for you. It mimics Seinfield’s zero-judgment approach to diet and food at home. 

For the author and philanthropist, eating plant-based is about feeling healthy, but it’s also about being conscious of the impact that our dietary choices can have on the planet. (According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture.) So when Seinfield cooks for her comedian husband Jerry Seinfield and their three children, around 85 percent of the time, it’s totally animal product-free. But she’s careful to create balance, aware that a pushy attitude around cutting meat and dairy can turn people off. 

“I’ve learned to assume nothing about how someone relates to food, emotionally and psychologically,” Seinfeld writes in Vegan, at Times, in an entry entitled, “How Not to Be an Annoying Vegan.” “I don’t ‘should’ people. In general, nobody wants to be told what they should and shouldn’t do. It’s judgy and annoying. I think veganism got a bad rap that way: vegans told people how they must eat, and made you feel like a bad person if you weren’t following their rules.”

Split image shows Jessica Seinfeld (left) and her new cookbook, 'Vegan at Times,' right.
‘Vegan at Times’ is the latest cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld. | Photography by Mark Weinberg/Simon & Schuster

Affordable, planet-friendly food

Seinfeld is an accomplished recipe developer and author, with no fewer than five cookbooks under her belt—including Deceptively Delicious, a #1 best-seller rooted in sneaking more veggies into kid food. But she’s also well aware that her food choices and lifestyle are rooted in privilege. She’s the founder of non-profit Good+Foundation. The organization, started in 2001, aims to give mothers, fathers, and caregivers in underserved communities the support they need to lift themselves out of multi-generational poverty. It has partnerships with around 80 anti-poverty programs, which focus on things like job training, counseling, and GED support.

The U.S. food system isn’t equal. In many places in the country, nutritious food is a luxury. It’s estimated that around 19 million Americans live in places where access to a supermarket or grocery store is limited. And even when people can access the store, healthy foods are often among the most expensive items. Often, in places like this, fast food chains offer the cheapest meal options.

Thanks to her non-profit work, Seinfeld is hyper aware of these inequalities. So with her new cookbook, she places easy, nutritious, planet-friendly, and affordable recipes front and center. “There is no doubt that eating healthier is more expensive. There are ways to do it that are more affordable, but that takes a lot of education and time and that is not something parents in my program have,” she told Serendipity Social. “I wanted to make a cookbook that has ingredients that are affordable because I know how it feels when parents in my program feel like they can’t access things that other people have. That’s what my work is all about.”

Photo shows the Seinfeld family in front of a Good Foundation backdrop. Jessica Seinfeld eats mostly vegan.
Jessica Seinfield, pictured above with her family, says that vegan mac ‘n’ cheese is a go-to family meal. | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

What does Jessica Seinfield eat?

According to Seinfield, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese is one of her go-to family meal options. Other family favorites from her book include ginger barbecue tofu, cannellini bean rigatoni, buffalo cauliflower, and staples like creamy cashew queso and plant-based “meat” (made with lentils) that have myriad uses. She frequently shares her passion for food on Instagram, and uploads cooking videos on a regular basis. Here are just a few examples of the kind of dishes she loves, and if you’re a fan of how they look, you can find most of the recipes in full in Vegan, At Times, on Instagram, or on her website.

Chocolate sheet cake

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, but you’re not a huge fan of labor-intensive cake recipes, Seinfield’s Chocolate Sheet Cake requires minimum effort, but delivers maximum taste. Just whip up the ingredients in a bowl, pour the mixture into your sheet pan, bake, layer up the icing, and you’re good to munch. As Seinfield says: “zero baking skills required.”

Broccoli pesto

Pesto is a worldwide favorite when it comes to pasta. But the traditional recipe calls for two types of cheese: parmesan and pecorino. But Seinfield’s broccoli twist on the Italian-classic is, of course, totally dairy-free. It works with either fresh or frozen broccoli, and Seinfield recommends a splash of lemon for a little extra zest. Bon appétit.

Cauliflower gratin

There isn’t anything more satisfying than cauliflower smothered in creamy sauce, cheese, and breadcrumbs. For extra flavor (and nutrition), Seinfield adds butternut puree into the creamy sauce, before seasoning with salt and pepper. The original recipe calls for dairy, but Seinfeld has since created a vegan alternative version on her website, which recommends using Miyoko’s Creamery butter, cashew milk, and Violife cheese. (But you can choose any alternatives you fancy.)

Ginger cookies

Cookies…made with black beans and pumpkin puree? It sounds wrong, but Seinfield’s recipe makes it taste so right. Her version of the sweet treat in her book Double Delicious included animal products, but since she started eating more plant-based foods, she’s recreated the soft, gooey recipe with vegan ingredients on her website. She said it herself: “they are way more delicious made this way.”

Tofu nuggets

According to Seinfield, these tofu nuggets are “deceptively delicious.” Again, they include the chef’s signature sneaky hidden vegetables in the form of a broccoli puree. She rolls the tofu cubes in the puree, which is mixed with aquafaba (aka chickpea juice!), and then coats them with crunchy breadcrumbs.

Broiled pineapple salad

This Seinfeld recipe adds a little spicy kick to a classic fruity salad, thanks to jalapeños, chilli powder, and a touch of chipotle. For a cool, creamy texture, avocados are served on the side, and for a little bit of zest, there’s pickled onions too. It’s one to bookmark for those warm spring days that are coming right around the corner.

Indian spiced lentil burgers

When it comes to vegan recipes, burgers aren’t hard to come by. But Seinfield’s are tasty, nutritious, and a little bit spicy. And for those reasons, undeniably crowd-pleasing, too. The recipe also calls for simple ingredients, like canned lentils and chickpeas. Spices include cumin, garam masala, and just a small pinch of cayenne.