Plant-Based 101 and the Essential Oil-Free Vegan Recipes You Need


“I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic while it is medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs the rest of their lives.”

– Dean Ornish, MD

Maybe you’re curious what all the hype is about.

Maybe you’re facing a frightening medical diagnoses.

Maybe you’re looking for something beyond a diet fad to lose weight.

Maybe you’re trying to reduce your impact on the environment.

Or maybe you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

There are many reasons to try a plant-based diet.  All of them are good motivation.  It’s a big first step to acknowledge that you want to change.  But how do you do it?

This is your guide to Plant-Based 101.  Learn the basics on how to change, what to eat, and some easy recipes to get you started.

Plant-Based 101

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

A plant-based diet is, quite literally, a diet based on plants. It is centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds with minimal or no animal-based foods like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy. It often implies a whole foods diet, with minimal refined flours, sugars, and oils.

What is a Whole Foods Diet?

Whole foods cooking avoids refined ingredients.  It avoids using refined flour, sugar, and oil. It uses minimally-processed ingredients, in their most natural, whole form.  Specifically, it means avoiding white flour, cane sugar, brown sugar, syrups like maple syrup and agave, all types of oil (including coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil).

All of these foods have been refined: They’ve been processed and stripped away of fiber and nutrients. You’re getting maximum calorie bang with little nutrition. It is easy to overeat on these foods. Avoiding them means your body is better at knowing when it’s full and reducing addictive, binge eating.

What is the Difference between “Vegan”, “Plant-Based” and “Whole Foods”?

“Vegan” often implies an entire lifestyle focused on no harm to animals. In addition to removing all meat, dairy, and eggs from one’s diet, if often means avoiding buying leather or using products that have been tested on animals.  Vegan food can (and often does) contain oils, sugar, and white flour.  It’s quite easy to be a “junk food vegan”, eating French fries and vegan milk shakes.

A plant-based approach offers a bit of leeway as far as including animal products.  Plant-based means most of your diet (over 90%) comes from plants.  It focuses on minimizing animal products as much as possible, but some plant-based eaters will still eat animal foods like organic eggs or wild honey.

A whole foods diet is focused on reducing the amount of refined foods like oil, sugar, and white flour.  It is not as strict regarding animal product.  This approach can be more appealing for someone trying to lose weight and hesitant about making a quick switch from a meat-based diet.

What is Plants Rule?

This site is focused on a plant-based, whole foods diet.  All of the recipes are 100% plant-based, vegan.  There are no animal products: no meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, or honey.  There are also no refined flours, sugars, or syrups.  They are oil-free with a few exceptions for non-stick spray (as in cooking pancakes).

Essential, Plant-Based Recipes

1. Chili Roasted Oil-Free Russet Potato Fries

This basic recipe for oil-free chili roasted Russet potato fries is a must-have for healthy eating. What’s the trick to crispy fries that don’t get stuck to the pan? Parchment paper. Make a batch of these on the weekend and enjoy with Portobello Mushroom Burgers and Apple-Sweet Chipotle Ketchup.

Garden Veggie Burger with Baked Russet Chili Fries – Healthy, Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Essential Oil-Free, Vegan Dinner Recipe

2.  Ultimate Vegan Smashed Potatoes

This vegan gluten-free, oil-free recipe is an essential comfort food dish. Red and yellow potatoes are boiled and mashed together with some plant-based secret ingredients. Serve it with Hearty Belgian Mushroom Stew, Port Mushroom Gravy, or just dive into a bowl when you need some love.

Ultimate Vegan Smashed Potatoes – Essential Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Comfort Food, Holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Side Dish, Oil-Free Recipe

3.  Gluten-Free Pasta with Oil-Free Garlic Tomato Sauce

Brown rice pasta and an oil-free marinara come together for this healthy, gluten-free vegan dinner. For simple, classic Italian flavor, this is a go-to recipe.

4. Easy Oil-Free Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

This basic recipe for oil-free roasted sweet potatoes is a must-have for healthy eating. Make a batch of these on the weekend and use for Buddha bowls or as a side for Southwestern Black Bean Burgers.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges – Healthy, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, Simple, Easy, Vegan Recipe

5.  Stewed Black Beans – Essential Mexican Vegan Recipe

Black turtle beans are simmered with onion, garlic, bay, and dried chipotle pepper for this easy, essential Mexican recipe. The smells will transport you to el casa de una mujer en la puebla. Make a pot of this healthy, gluten-free, vegan recipe and enjoy over Quinoa Fiesta Salad, with Charred Poblano Mushroom Tacos, or just topped with some fresh Guacamole.

Stewed Black Beans – Easy, Healthy, Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Essential Vegan Mexican Recipe

6. Italian Herb Roasted Oil-Free Red Potato Wedges

This basic recipe for oil-free Italian roasted red potato wedges is a must-have for healthy eating.  What’s the trick to making the herbs stick? Place them on the pan first.  Make a batch of these on the weekend and enjoy with Chickpea Frittata for breakfast or as a side for Southwestern Black Bean Burgers.

Italian Herb Roasted Oil-Free Red Potato Wedges – Essential, Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Easy, Simple Vegan Recipe

7. Kale Avocado Salad

Avocado adds healthy fat in this simple, satisfying, oil-free vegan recipe.  Serve as a simple salad with Korean Red Beet Burgers, Hearty Lentil Chili, or Chipotle Black Bean Soup.

Kale Avocado Salad – Healthy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Ree, Oil-Free, Easy, Plant-Based Vegan Recipe (2)

Helpful Plant-Based Videos

Here are the essential cooking videos you need to get started with a healthy plant-based diet.  You can also check out my How to Cook channel on YouTube for more.

1.  Quinoa 101: Rinsing, Toasting, and Knowing When It’s Done

2.  Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing: Super-Quick, Easy Recipe

3.  Red Lentil Dal: How to Cook Lentils with an Easy Indian Recipe

4.  Chia 101: What are Chia Seeds? How to Make a 5-Minute Dairy-Free Chia Pudding Parfait

5. Flax 101: How to Use Flax Meal Instead of Eggs for Baking and Crunchy Coatings

6. Oil-Free Saute: How to Steam-Saute for Fat Free Cooking

About the Author:

Chef Katie Simmons

Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, vegan, oil-free, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 15 years experience in the fitness industry. For fun, she loves to travel. Some of her favorite trips have included hiking the Incan Trail, backpacking 5 months in New Zealand, and tasting the flavors of Northern India. The Irish love is an homage to her maternal Grandma, Rose Hagan, who wondrously fed 9 children every day with simple foods like potatoes, kale, and cobbler.


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