6 staple vegan student base recipes you need in your repertoire

Rhiannon·5 March 2023·10 min read
6 staple vegan student base recipes you need in your repertoire

Keep having the same vegan tomato pasta or beans on toast? Here are some fantastic, versatile and student-budget friendly vegan base recipes which will allow you to cook some stunning dinners which are different every time.

Homemade pesto pasta

The vegan tax on shop-bought pesto is horrible. So although pesto pasta is known as a university staple, it may not always be as accessible for vegans. But it is dead easy to make your own, and it is even nicer and much cheaper. Pesto is technically a combination of any nuts, fresh herbs, oil and (optionally) garlic, salt and parmesan cheese (which can easily be left out/replaced). You can get creative with it and make all sorts of different types of pesto.

Components of pesto:

Nuts: (50g)

Traditionally, pesto is made using pine nuts. Pine nuts are lovely, but quite expensive, so you can also use basically any other nut. My personal favourites are walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachio nuts, cashew nuts or almonds. But you can use whatever you want. If you want a bit more depth here, you can toast your nuts in a dry pan on a medium-high heat. Keep an eye on them because they can burn very quickly.

Herbs: (80g)

The most used herb here is basil, but again you can use anything you have, including coriander, parsley. Sundried tomatoes are also great here if you’re making a red pesto. And if you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use peas, avocado, rocket, kale or literally anything in your cupboard. Throw in any chillies here if you like that too.

Oil: (150ml)

Olive oil is traditionally used here and probably works best.

Salt & Garlic

Parmesan cheese: (50g)

Obviously, parmesan isn’t very vegan. Try using some nutritional yeast or vegan cheese instead!

Once you’ve decided what you are going to use, finely chop or blitz the ingredients, stir through your pasta/gnocchi with a splash of pasta water if it needs loosening. I often like to throw in a vegan crème fraiche or yogurt if Iam fancying something a little more indulgent. Serve with salad, other vegetables, garlic bread or olives if you like those too!

Vegan burgers

Again, a vegan classic! Vegan burgers are so versatile, and you can essentially put anything in them. I like to have a base recipe for vegan burgers, and make them in batches every few months with whatever I have in the fridge. These can also be easily frozen. Here’s a go-to base recipe:


Mash 1 can of any beans into a paste.


Finely chop or blitz half a cup of any vegetable (I like butternut squash, sweet potato, or pepper), a clove of garlic and a small onion.

Combine both mixtures.

Binding and seasoning:

Whisk a tablespoon of oil, cumin, chilli powder, herbs and a teaspoon chilli sauce in a small bowl and add to the bean mixture.

Forming dough and patties:

Stir through half a cup of breadcrumbs to give the mixture some integrity.

The mixture should be mouldable, like cookie dough. If it’s too dry, add more oil and if it’s too wet add more breadcrumbs.

Divide the mixture into 4 patties and mould them.

Seal them with flour and allow the floured patties to rest in the fridge for half an hour to firm them up.

Bake in a preheated over at 190 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes on either side.

Enjoy with your favourite burger fillings!


Perfect for a cold day and packed full of veggies! Soup is one of the easiest, most versatile, and cheapest things you can make. If you don’t have a blender, you can still make soup in the form of a broth.

Again, for soup, having a base recipe which allows you to use whatever you have in the fridge is a great way forward. Here’s 6 steps to making any soup:

Your base:

Fry off your base on a medium-low heat until cooked translucent and jammy. This can be onions, leeks, carrots, garlic, celery or anything else which inspires you! If you’re using fresh herbs, you can finely chop your stalks and fry them here too.

Herbs & spices:

Throw in and fry off (2 minutes) any herbs and spices which will complement the vegetable you plan to use. A current favourite combination of mine is rosemary and smoked paprika. But the options are endless, play about! My herb recommendations are parsley, coriander, thyme, oregano, and sage. In terms of spices, try some cumin, turmeric, Cajun, cinnamon, or black pepper. The key with the spices is that you can always add more, so go easy and taste as you go!


This is your vegetable! You can literally use anything/a combination of anything, and this is a fab way to use up any vegetables you have left in the fridge. Some recommendations here are peas, butternut squash, parsnips, tomato, kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Chop and peel if appropriate and add to the pan with hot veggie stock (to cover) and let this simmer for about half an hour. If you don’t have a blender, chop the veg into bite-size pieces, or smaller.

Secondary body:

Here, it can be great to add something for a bit texture, or a sharp kick of flavour to stop the soup being too bland and break it up from being just that base. This is also a great place to add some protein. You can literally add anything here, from beans, lentils, artichokes, olives, spinach (at the end), tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, asparagus or sweetcorn. Think about how well this will complement the base of your soup and the herbs and spice you added earlier. If you plan to blitz your soup, this is the time to do it, blitz as much or little as you like. At this point, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning & salt/pepper as appropriate.


Adding some carbohydrates is usually ideal to make your soup more filling. You can simply serve your soup with some bread, but incorporating the carbohydrates into the soup itself really takes it to another level! You can go for small pasta, broken noodles, rice, croutons or quinoa. This stage is definitely optional but can be a game-changer!


Top your soup with something to really add that final ping. You can drizzle some oil, toasted nuts/seeds or vegan cream.

Stir Fry

A stir fry is a student classic for a reason! A stir-fry really goes to the next level when you get yourself down to the oriental shop and try some of the more authentic ingredients they sell there. I would also recommend investing in some sesame and groundnut oil.

Groundnut oil gets much hotter than other oils, so fry your vegetables in groundnut oil in a searing hot pan (you don’t need to buy a wok, don’t worry!). If you want a quick and easy stir fry, most supermarkets sell bags of frozen stir-fry veg, which can save you when you need a quick meal. If you fancy using fresh veggies I would recommend baby corn, broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, aubergine, edamame beans, peppers or carrots – but go crazy!

Now add any softer vegetables you want to fry. This could include spinach, beansprouts, spring onions, chilli or garlic – just don’t let them burn.

Get some protein in there. Marinade and fry some tempeh or tofu. You can also add cashew nuts, fry these first in a dry hot pan and set aside until you are finished.

Make a sauce. There are so many recipes for stir fry/noodle sauces online and we will have a blog with some of our favourites coming soon! Some staples I’d recommend having in the cupboard are soy sauce, siracha, sweet chilli sauce, miso paste, rice wine vinegar, maple syrup, gochujang, peanut butter, sesame oil, ginger paste, cornflour and coconut milk. If your sauce is too thick, loosen with boiling water.

Boil your noodles and throw in the pan with your vegetables and sauce until combined – serve!

Top with fresh coriander, sesame seeds, more spring onions or crispy onions.

Vegan curry

Curry is another simple, yummy and cheap option which is great veganised! A curry is the exact same process each time, but with a different curry paste and vegetables/proteins. Here’s a great base recipe for making a curry!


Fry onions and garlic. You can also add ginger, chilli and any coriander stalks here too. For that extra indulgence, fry on a medium-low heat in some vegan butter instead of oil.


At this point, add the vegetables you plan to use and ensure they cook. There are so many options here, but some recommendations are aubergine, peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash, cauliflower, potatoes, and asparagus. You can also chop and bake your vegetables in the oven with oil and spices and add them at the end for more of a crispy texture, whatever works!


For student cooking, it is just easier to go for a curry paste. You can buy all sorts of pastes and many of them are available in single servings. Tip your curry paste in with the onions and fry for a couple of minutes to allow the spices to infuse. You can also add extra spice later!


Bases are usually a tin of chopped tomatoes. You can also use coconut milk or a combination of both. Add your base and allow the whole curry to simmer. Some vegan yogurts or cream can also add a bit of depth. Add a bit of acidity with a squeeze of lime juice.


Adding some protein into a curry is always a good route. I often like some tofu, chickpeas, and beans, or cashew nuts. You can also add vegan meat replacements in with the onions. Here add in any baked veg and maybe wilt in some spinach and coriander. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with your favourite Indian snacks!

Hopefully these staple recipes can inspire some new vegan meals or give you the chance to use up that old broccoli at the back of the fridge!