If I asked you what your favorite type of ice cream was when you were a kid, would you say it was two scoops served in a cup to go? How would you answer that question? Raise your hand if you answered "an ice cream sundae with lots of hot chocolate or caramel fudge on top, chopped nuts and a cherry", or, if you were anything like me you may have answered "a banana split with three flavors, chocolate sauce and a ton of whipped cream". Toppings transport us to childhood. They mean that not only are we having something delicious, but also that at a very young age we were able to choose exactly what we wanted. We let our cravings get ahold of us and then it was all about creamy, or crunchy, or tangy, or sweet. It was the toppings that made the whole thing extra fun and enjoyable. It meant my ice cream could be different from your ice cream and that I could make the most whimsical creation that was special. Just for me.

If you've been reading our blog for a while you've probably heard my childhood fantasy of owning an ice cream shop that only carried one ice cream flavor (chocolate! Hello!), but that had the walls lined with endless rows of toppings. Of course you could add as many as you wanted.  Whenever I am asked about how I build a vegan plate, how to decide on what to have for lunch or dinner, or what my number one tip for eating really healthy is, I always say the same thing: TOPPINGS.

I remember how confused I was when I first went vegan as to what a vegan plate was supposed to look like. I was so used to being a meat and potatoes gal that I could understand the concept of the side salad, but not the idea of a completely vegan plate. So here's what I did. I went online, and browsed the menus of all the top vegan restaurants in New York City to try and understand how a great vegan plate was built. I stumbled upon Candle 79, the famous NY vegan eatery and what I discovered there has, to this day, influenced my meals. They had a kind of "build your vegan plate" option where you could build a plate choosing a whole grain, some greens, some other vegetables, a vegan protein source like tofu or tempeh or beans, and: the sauce category. Yes, when you go to Candle they sauce it up for you and you'll never know what hit you. I was imagining eating all these different combinations in my head and then pouring a delicious topping on top that would make the whole thing glorious and fun. I decided to try this way of serving my meals at home, and I instantly got rid of what I like to call "the center of the plate syndrome", where at the first stages of veganism you just can't fathom a plate without a meaty protein source in the center of the plate.

When you add toppings to your meals, you realize that a plate with what you would have called components or sides becomes the most fun and amazing flavor and texture combo, and that the topping makes everything fun and approachable. I can honestly say that toppings helped make me vegan, and to this day help me be a healthy vegan. Of course we have many meaty main dishes we can make or buy nowadays, but my favorite weekly lunches are these Candle 79 type bowls with wholesome natural foods, and of course a topping. Today we are paying tribute to them and I'm giving you so many ideas you won't know where to start! Plus, by clicking here we can send you our handy dandy (and oh so pretty!) refrigerator or pantry printable with all these ideas so you can glance at it and choose what goes well with what you're cooking. Are your ready for some toppings? Let's go! I've divided them into categories but you can mix and match most of them as you like.

Toppings for veggie bowls

  • Avocado slices with a sprinkling of sea salt
  • Guacamole 
  • Hummus
  • Fresh salsa
  • Mango salsa
  • Pico de gallo salsa
  • Almond or pine nut parm: your nut of choice ground up with a little sea salt in a food processor
  • Marinara sauce topped with almond parm (ground almonds with some sea salt)
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Pesto
  • Sun-dried tomato pesto
  • Chopped tomatoes with a little sea salt and pepper or sun-dried tomatoes
  • Avocado hummus: Simply add some ripe avocado to your hummus when you're making it!)
  • Muhammara: A dip made with roasted red peppers and walnuts (recipe coming soon!)
  • Shitake and black bean purée: In a food processor blend together some cooked black beans, shitake mushrooms previously sautéed with garlic and onions, some dijon mustard and lemon juice.
  • A drizzle of tahini
  • Chopped toasted nuts (lovely on salads too!)
  • Pumpkin, sunflower, hemp or poppy seeds
  • Mango chutney
  • Mushroom gravy, red wine gravy or this quick creamy mushroom sauce
  • A creamy tahini or dijon based dressing
  • Sweet potato or sweet pea purée
  • Pickled ginger or radishes
  • Our famous Thai peanut sauce
  • A decadent drizzle of truffle oil and some freshly ground pepper
  • Olive tapenade

Toppings for pasta

  • Some simple olive oil, black pepper and finely chopped fresh herbs like parsley
  • Torn basil leaves tossed with cherry tomatoes and olive oil
  • Almond or pine nut parm: your nut of choice ground up with a little sea salt in a food processor
  • Marinara sauce topped with almond parm (ground almonds with some sea salt)
  • Your favorite pasta sauces like this veggie and tomato version, or this cashew alfredo
  • Truffle oil (I go nutty over this!)

Toppings for sandwiches, burgers, tacos, fajitas and burritos

  • Hummus
  • Fresh basil and pesto (love this combo together!)
  • Avocado, sliced 
  • Guacamole
  • Tempeh or tofu bacon
  • Your favorite type of salsa, including sweet and savory ones like watermelon salsa, cherry salsa and mango salsa
  • Sliced or chopped tomatoes
  • Bean dips or spreads
  • Pickles or relish
  • Sauerkraut
  • Horseradish
  • Sautéed strips of peppers and onions
  • Pickles
  • Pickled red onion (especially on hard shell tacos oh my!)
  • Some shredded or melted vegan cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Roasted peppers

Toppings for oatmeal, yogurt, cereal or any other healthy breakfast treat

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sliced banana
  • Fresh berries
  • Raisins or dried cranberries
  • Sliced peaches and plums
  • Pumpkin or apple butter
  • A drizzle of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon
  • Fruit compote (especially made at home where you can control the amount of sweetener)
  • Your favorite healthy jam or jelly
  • A sprinkling of raw cacao and cacao nibs
  • Toasted coconut flakes
  • Peanut, almond or your favorite nut butter

Toppings for salads

  • Tempeh bacon
  • Grilled seitan , tofu or tempeh
  • A dollop of hummus, guac, pesto or salsa
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried or fresh fruit
  • Your favorite dressing plus lots of chopped fresh herbs
  • Crunchy croutons or roasted chickpeas
  • Grilled veggies like peppers, onions, brussells sprouts and mushrooms
  • Roasted potatoes (one of my favorite things on salads EVER!)
  • Roasted grapes (don't knock it ´til you try it!)
  • Fresh herbs and sprouts

I could honestly spend hours making lists for toppings since they are quite literally a part of every single one of our meals, but I'm going to leave you with these so that you can start experimenting! Remember many of these recipes are part of our online program My Brownble so head on over to check out our extensive list of videos and join the cooking party!

Last but not least, click the button below to receive your yummy toppings printable right in your inbox!

***If you're a My Brownble member click here to get it***


Before you go...

Do you have any favorite toppings that weren't included on this list? Share them in the comment section below!