People think a vegan diet is a crazy thing to do. So adding in the fact that you want to live in a van seems insane. You should have seen my parents’ reaction. I’m here to tell you it’s not as insane as it seems. Being vegan while living in a van really isn’t all that different from any other situation. I’m going to share my best vegan van life tips to get you started!
If you are not living a vegan lifestyle and have already moved into van life, it’s even easier for you. You already know how to cook in a van and just need to switch your diet. To make it even easier, here is a free guide on becoming vegan in 30 days or less.
I still enjoy hot, home-cooked meals and can live a healthy vegan lifestyle fairly easily. Don’t get my wrong, I still splurge on some french fries or vegan pizza every so often. What is life without some guilty pleasures? But, I most certainly don’t need to rely on vegan restaurants and gas station pretzels for food.
The problem is most van lifers don’t have the luxury of a freezer or all the electrical appliances that make vegan life so easy. They take up more electricity and more space than you would like to spare. However, all this really means is you eat fresher meals that don’t take as long to prepare. No more frozen meals or overly processed fake chicken.
Vegan Van Life Appliances to Have
Obviously you won’t be able to fit every single appliance that you normally would have in a vegan kitchen inside of your camper van. Let alone have enough electricity readily available to use all of those appliances. Still, there are a few essentials that I can’t imagine living without.
Most van lifers keep a 12-volt mini refrigerator inside their van. You can get one that sits upright like a normal fridge or you can get an electric cooler. You can also get one with a freezer, but I honestly don’t see the point in that unless you plan to eat a lot of vegan ice cream.
Personally, I prefer the electric coolers to the mini-refrigerators. They usually draw less power and take up less space. I actually have mine hidden underneath the bench seat in my dining area.
Unless you are doing a raw vegan diet, you will need a way to heat up and cook your food. The easiest stoves to put into your campervan are camping stoves. You can get these as small as one burner that requires hardly any fuel, or as large as 3 burners that you hook up to a large propane tank.
I own a 2 burner Camp Chef with an attached oven. You are technically only supposed to cook with these outdoors, but with proper ventilation (a ventilating fan), you can safely cook on one of these inside your van. The 2 burners have always been plenty of cooking space for me.
Low Wattage Blender
One of the most important appliances in any vegan’s kitchen is a blender. Especially this vegan who loves her hummus. There are so many vegan recipes that rely on a blender, such as vegan cheeses, smoothies, and falafel.
A personal blender seems to always be enough for me. They blend about 16 ounces at once and if you’re making smoothies for multiple people, they usually have extra cups to blend into and drink out of. It’s also nice that you can use the blender cups as a drinking cup so you don’t have to clean more dishes in your tiny van sink.
I never realized how much I toasted things before moving into a van. You probably won’t be able to find a toaster that has low enough wattage that you can simply plug it into your inverter. So, the next best thing is a toaster rack.
A toaster rack is a wire rack that you sort of tent over one of your propane burners and set your bread, bagels, or anything else you want to toast on top of. For a while, I was just setting my bread right onto the burner, but it toasted uneven and burnt most of the food. This evenly distributes the heat to perfectly toast.
Propane Oven (Optional)
You don’t really need a propane oven inside your van. It is quite a bit more expensive and uses more propane to operate. However, I love cookies and pies. So I decided to spend the extra money on one. Like I mentioned above, I have a Camp Chef camping oven with the two burners attached on top.
Vegan Van Life Staple Ingredients
My number one piece of advice for cooking inside a van is to keep it simple. I hardly ever make things that take an hour or more to cook. It wastes a ton of propane (or whatever cooking fuel you use) and usually isn’t necessary to have a delicious meal.
Pasta, rice, and oats are all great things to keep in your van. They almost never expire or go bad and can contribute to a variety of delicious vegan meals. I also like to keep bread, tortillas, and bagels for meals that I can throw together quickly.
Dried beans may come in larger quantities, but they require a lot of time to soak and a bunch of water that you may not have to spare. Beans that have been canned are ready to go straight out of the package. Canned beans add a tasty protein to your meals in a matter of minutes.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
If you have already been living a vegan lifestyle, you know how important fresh fruits and vegetables can be in your diet. You can cook these exactly how you normally would in your home. Saute them, steam them, or turn them into a salad.
Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters
Nuts and seeds are a great way to get those healthy fats and proteins in a vegan diet. Cashews make vegan cheeses, sunflower seeds make an awesome salad topper, and almonds are a great addition to smoothies. I also like to use a variety of nut butters as a dip for raw fruits and veggies.
One of the easiest ways to add protein to any meal is tofu. Use it in soups, with your favorite stir-fry, or make a tofu scramble. Tofu is my “I don’t feel like thinking about what I’m going to make” cop-out. Because thinking about what you can make in a van all the time can get exhausting.
A lot of healthy fats come from oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are excellent to cook vegan meals with. They give meals that extra hidden flavor. I also like to keep vegan butter around for toast and bagels, along with adding to pasta and rice for some extra taste.
Okay, this may not be a staple ingredient for every vegan, but my boyfriend and I love it! When sprinkled on top, it gives everything a little extra oomph. It’s also packed with vitamin B12 that a lot of vegan diets lack.
Snacking on the Road
Road trip snacks are always a must while living in a van. Your home is basically a big road trip machine. I actually keep an overhead compartment in the driving area of my van dedicated to snacks. That’s how important they are.
For me, trail mix is one of those “I’m going to eat the whole bag unless someone stops me,” snacks. It’s easy to eat and so freaking good! Not to mention all the healthy fats, proteins, and antioxidants that you can get from trail mix. My favorite is the basic mixture of almonds, cashews, and craisins.
If you are already living a vegan lifestyle, you probably already load up on protein bars. They’re ready to go and give you some extra nutrients that you may need throughout the day. Larabar and Luna Bar are my 2 go-to snack bars.
Apples, bananas, oranges, and so many other fruits are great snacks to have while on the road. They’re easy and may even curb that sweets craving you’ve been having. Fruits are also packed with healthy nutrients to help you get through the day.
Vegan Van Life Meal Examples
Every so often I like to get experimental with new recipes and finding ways to cook things on a stovetop that shouldn’t be cooked on a stovetop. But, typically, I stick to the same kind of recipes.
- Toasted bagel, topped with peanut butter and banana slices.
- Overnight oats with almond milk, blueberries, and sprinkled with brown sugar.
- Tofu scramble with roasted peppers and salsa.
- Tortilla wrap packed with hummus and fresh veggies.
- Spinach salad topped with olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, sunflower seeds, and balsamic.
- Zucchini, chickpea, and quinoa salad.
- Tofu stir-fry with broccoli, peas, and carrots.
- Fajitas with rice and beans.
- Pasta with vegan alfredo sauce, peas, and mushrooms.
- Buffalo cauliflower tacos with avocado and cabbage.
- No-bake peanut butter cookies.
- Vegan banana pudding.
- Oreos are a good back up.
Other Van Life Hacks
For more tips and insight into van life, learn from someone that has been living it for 2 years now. Visit my website to learn everything I learned along the way.