If you’re vegan but still enjoy mainstream food television, raise your hand. What vegan foodie doesn’t love to watch Master Chef or Sugar Rush and not think of ways to veganize all the dishes? If you love food, you’ll find a way. Of course, it’s always a thrill to see vegan cuisine represented in the big leagues, and slowly but surely, plant-based eats are integrating into primetime. Because there are so many ways to watch food television, we’re expanding this list to encompass Netflix hits as well as the indomitable Food Network. From underdog wins to featured vegan recipes, here are 13 vegan food moments to set your DVR for.
1. Chef Chloe Coscarelli wins Cupcake Wars
This bubbly chef and entrepreneur set the stage for the future of vegan cuisine on network television when she not only competed on Cupcake Wars, but won. Since that seminal vegan victory in 2010, the show has featured a number of vegan bakers and hosted an all-vegan episode in 2012. It’s true—the best way to change omnivores’ perspective is to give them a Raspberry Tiramisu cupcake.
2. Vegan joints steal the spotlight on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
The founder of Flavortown is always down for vegan food. Guy Fieri has parked his signature red Camaro in front of countless vegan eateries across the US. Minneapolis’ The Herbivorous Butcher received a fair share of press, but other joints such as the Cornbread Cafe in Eugene, OR; Tumerico in Tucson, AZ; and Pingala Café in Burlington, VT have also impressed this celebrity chef. The show runs repeats on the Food Network every Friday night so you never know when you’ll stumble across a new vegan hidden gem.
3. The Kitchen finally uses the word ‘vegan’
It took a while, but the hosts of this daytime talk-and-cooking-show mashup are finally using the word “vegan.” We’ve yet to see a vegan episode, but the hosts will occasionally drop lines such as “Or you could use vegetable stock to make it vegan” and “Or you could leave off the cheese to make it vegan.” We appreciate it! A few accidentally vegan recipes are also featured on the show such as Magic Mousse, Shoestring Carrot Fries, and Focaccia with Rosemary and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
4. Great British Bake Off debuts ‘Vegan Week’
Veganism is on the rise in the US, but the UK is leaps and bounds ahead. To keep up with the rapid uptick of plant-based viewers, The Great British Bake Off (available on Netflix) debuted its first Vegan Week in 2018. Each of the three challenges stripped contestants of their animal product go-tos and forced them to think like a vegan. Showstopping bakes such as fruit-adorned meringue crowns and tiered layer cakes proved that anything can be baked vegan.
5. First vegan bakers appear on Netflix’s Sugar Rush
After three seasons, the first vegan baker appeared on Netflix’s time-crunched baking show, Sugar Rush: Christmas. San Diego-based baker Anna Castellanos of Ámame Desserts attempted to wow celebrity judges Candice Nelson and Adriano Zumbo with her Mexican hot chocolate cupcake with a salted caramel date filling. Check out the series to see how she did!
6. Nadiya Hussain bakes vegan on Nadiya Bakes
This Brit loves her clotted cream, but Hussain’s baking-focused Netflix special offers a few recipes for her vegan fans. Watch and prepare to swoon over her blueberry compote-topped banana cheesecake and nutty tahini and turmeric traybake. As Nadiya would say, baking vegan is “easy peasy!”
7. Vegan chef wins Chopped
This primetime Food Network competition show jumped early on the vegan bandwagon when it debuted its first vegan episode in 2013. In lieu of squirm-worthy animal products, this episode’s mystery baskets included a plethora of plant-based ingredients. Chef Rich Landau of Philadelphia’s Vedge took home the championship title with his Edamame Turnovers with Cranberry Sauce.
8. Vegan chef competes on Guy’s Grocery Games
Natasha Kwan of the vegan-friendly Frida’s Deli in St. Louis, MO gave plant-based cuisine some screen time during the “All-Vegetarian” episode of this hit Food Network show. It would have been more thrilling to watch a completely vegan episode (other contestants made liberal use of eggs and cheese), but back in 2018, it was a win to even hear the words “plant-based” or “vegan” on network television. Keep an eye out for its re-run on the Food Network Monday evenings.
9. Carla Hall gushes over vegan food on The Best Thing I Ever Ate
Close-ups and big bites make up this guiltless Food Network show, and we were floored when we watched Carla Hall rave about the vegan burger at Shouk in her hometown of Washington, DC. The Mediterranean-style homemade veggie burger doesn’t try to imitate a beef patty, but according to Hall, it tops it. Dear Food Network producers, more vegan hot takes, please!
10. Vegan trucks hold their own on The Great Food Truck Race
Two vegan businesses have competed on this Amazing Race-meets-Chopped Food Network series. Stephanie Morgan of Southern California’s Seabirds Kitchen (now a brick and mortar with three locations) made a valiant showing in 2011 and Sol Collective won the first round of competition with their vegan elote in 2019. Note: if you spot a vegan food truck with a camera crew around, order as much as you can—they might be competing on this show!
11. Vegan wins Supermarket Stakeout
Gluten-free and vegan chef Brandon Rouge swept the competition on Alex Gurnascheli’s Food Network hit, Supermarket Stakeout. Based on ambushing grocery store shoppers and bargaining to purchase their cart, the ingredients come down to the luck of the draw, and Rouge is the first and only vegan to walk away with a win. Riding on the coattails of this victory, Rouge recently published a pay-what-you can cookbook, Vegan AF. If you’re wondering, AF stands for “Allergen-Friendly.”
12. Chloe Coscarelli teaches Trisha Yearwood how to cook vegan
Country music star Trisha Yearwood’s Food Network cooking show typically churns out full-hog Southern eats, but for the Season 7 “Recipe Swap” episode, she invited Chloe Coscarelli to whip up a few vegan stunners. The chef prepared a Black-Eyed Pea Stew with plant-based Buttery Biscuits and maple butter, of course. This is Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, after all. For dessert, the duo cut into a slice of Chloe’s Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes with Coconut Whipped Cream. If you’re drooling, you can find all the recipes here.
13. Vegan restaurant featured on Restaurant Impossible
Vegan owners of Las Vegas’ Cafe No Fur faced the brute criticism of host Robert Irvine on a 2021 episode of Restaurant Impossible. The fast-food restaurant—co-operated by a former poker player and model—was seriously struggling after just two years of business until Irivne tough-loved them into turning it around. The eatery survived its rough patch and continues to serve customers who are in the mood for towering vegan burgers and fries.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.
Photo credit: The Food Network