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Wicked Healthy Interview Series | Lauren Toyota of hot for food


Our Wicked Healthy Interview Series features individuals who are making a big impact in the plant-based world and beyond. Today we’re featuring YouTube sensation + cookbook author Lauren Toyota of hot for food.

hot for food logo

Delivering a heavy dose of #foodporn at its finest every Wednesday on her YouTube channel, Lauren Toyota has nailed the formula of delivering content that’s fresh, honest and relatable with recipes that are doable and indulgent. All of these things come first, and the fact that it’s all vegan is just icing on the eggless and dairy-free cake.

Plant-based diets are far from boring and Lauren’s work is helping to shape what the vegan lifestyle means and move it into the mainstream. Since the launch of her YouTube channel in February 2015, Lauren has drawn in more than 390K subscribers with recipes like buffalo cauliflower sandwiches, roasted poblano & jackfruit tacos, breakfast lasagna and nacho cheese. Her veganized classics show food that is #freefromanimals is not only just as good as its meat- and dairy-based equivalents, it’s also better in taste and fun to make. Lauren tells us this and shows us this, making plant-based recipes approachable and delicious for her devoted audience.

To help meet the growing demand for her ideas and content, Lauren is releasing her debut cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face tomorrow on February 27, 2018. Congrats to Lauren!


hot for food cookbook

 

This cookbook is an extension of Lauren’s relatable style, with 80% of the content featuring brand new recipes. We’re very excited to see everything that Lauren is doing, and watch as her success blossoms and grows. We were stoked for the opportunity to sit down with Lauren and talk a bit about her background, where she gets her inspiration from and what’s ahead for hot for food … check it out, then try her Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwiches recipe from the cookbook below!


 

You started your YouTube channel exactly three years ago this month, and experienced an almost-instant response and success. What do you attribute to this and what’s your advice to other aspiring bloggers/vloggers?

You just have to remember the intention behind WHY you’re doing what you do and why you’re putting yourself out there along with your ideas, message, and creativity. It can’t be about subs and likes. I feel like that works against you! Just keep your mission and message in mind. Everyone throws the word “authenticity” around quite liberally and it’s not exactly an easy thing to discover, let alone when you’re trying to do it on camera! I do think my experience as a television host and producer helps a lot because I spent years getting comfortable on camera and finding my voice. But even still, you have to be yourself at the end of the day and that’s what people resonate with. They can tell immediately whether you’re being genuine or not.

Prior to launching hot for food, you were a MuchMusic VJ and nationally recognized TV host and producer for nearly 10 years. How has your experience in television helped shape your YouTube success and what new things have you discovered and applied with the creation and development of your vegan cooking channel? What is your audience hungry for, and how do you help nourish that? 

I think I am definitely more in my own skin with the YouTube videos. Yes, I have the experience of being on camera and being able to speak on the fly in a live environment, but YouTube isn’t television and there are no rules. I was really ready for that coming up on 10 years of working for a television network! When I started the channel I just saw a hole in the YouTube space for high quality vegan food content. That’s quickly evolved. There’s now many more channels popping up doing great stuff and it’s definitely become more pro and the food actually looks good! I’m not saying I was the first but I just hadn’t spent much time on the platform really diving into watching videos because I never found anything that appealed to me and everything I was watching wasn’t great quality and felt amatuer. So I felt I needed to throw my own vision into the space and I guess my instincts were right since it’s grown consistently ever since!

In addition to your YouTube recipe content, you also create other types of content, such as What I Ate in a Day, collaborations with other media outlets and Lauren in Real Life, which is a more up close and personal collection of videos. What made you decide to create and share a more personal side of yourself, and how does your audience relate and respond to it?

I really liked what I was doing on hot for food’s channel, but I knew I just wanted it to be recipes and foodie content. Once you kind of brand something it’s hard to get the audience to switch gears also. So starting Lauren In Real Life was a natural extension and a little strategic. I had more to share and say once I saw how receptive and engaged the audience was. So I moved some people over to a more casual, less produced, vlogging style of entertainment on my personal channel. People really went mad for the What I Ate In A Day vlogs. I was hesitant to do this popular YouTube format but I get why people like it. And it really does go along with my mission of trying to prove to people that vegans aren’t boring and it’s easy to eat and live as a vegan without eating smoothies and salad all day long!

It’s been exciting to watch your work and see you grow as a vlogger and recipe creator. In addition to your cookbook release, what’s ahead for your brand? How do you see the YouTube format/platform evolving over the next couple of years, and how do you plan to meet and keep up with the trends and your growing audience’s hunger for more of your content?

What’s next is a US book tour. I’ll be hitting up New York, Philly, LA, and San Diego! It’s so huge and I can’t believe it’s happening. It’ll really be the first time I’ve gone out in the public to meet people and kind of lift the veil of the YouTube thing. I can’t wait! I’d like to do more things like that, but I also really dig YouTube. It’s given me so much freedom and creative expression. I’m a little addicted to it and I love working from home. Really, I just want to keep creating in any capacity and so I’m open to opportunities to flow my way whatever they’re meant to be. But I will say seeing what Wicked Healthy has done in partnering with Tesco did pique my interest. I would LOVE to consult with a big company like that to help integrate plant-based options or products into their stores or existing product lines. So there, I said it. Haha!

Give us your favorite kitchen tip or trick. Tell us what your favorite wicked healthy dish is!

I’m not sure I have any revolutionary tricks in my repertoire but something that I always want to encourage is experimentation in the kitchen and just using what you have. You don’t need to go and get a million ingredients and fancy produce to make a great vegan meal. I showcase how to follow your intuition in the kitchen with my series RECIPE?! where I create a meal out of leftovers. I really dislike food waste. So my trick or advice is to just use what you got and see what kind of delicious thing you can come up with!

My favorite dish to eat and make is this vegan mac & cheese!

Smoked Mushroom Mac Cheese by hot for food

Learn more about Lauren and stay connected!

YouTube | Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Photo credit for top image of Lauren Toyota: Vanessa Heins, Copyright 2017

hot for food's Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich

Serves: 4

Ingredients:


Recipe + photo used with permission from Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics, copyright 2017 by Lauren Toyota. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright 2017 Lauren Toyota)

It’s our claim to fame . . . buffalo cauliflower. This recipe is the most visited page on the blog and the most watched YouTube video. Newcomers, feast your eyes on the buffalo cauliflower sandwich! You diehards will notice and recognize the revamp on the breading. I’ve added panko-style bread crumbs ’cause it makes the cauliflower crispy and crunchy as hell. Not the kind of crunch that’ll tear up the roof of your mouth, but the kind of crunch that’ll definitely make you relapse and forget that you’re biting into a piece of cauliflower. It makes a heck of a good replacement for chicken in this spicy stacked monster of a sandwich!

MAKES 4 sandwiches
PREP TIME 30 minutes
COOK TIME 50 minutes


prep ahead

The Classic Ranch
MAKES about 1 cup each
PREP TIME 20 minutes

ingredients
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground pepper

breaded buffalo cauliflower

2 heads cauliflower
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free rice flour
4 teaspoons garlic powder
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground pepper
3⁄4 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
3⁄4 cup water
3 cups panko-style bread crumbs or gluten-free bread crumbs
1⁄4 cup vegan butter
11⁄2 cups buffalo-style hot sauce

sandwiches

4 kaiser-style rolls
The Classic Ranch
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1 onion) or Pickled Red Onions (page 107)
2 cups shredded or finely chopped iceberg or leaf lettuce
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 dill pickles


Directions:

To make the ranch, stir all the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In this case, parchment paper is absolutely necessary, or the cauliflower and batter will stick to the sheet.

To prepare the cauliflower, remove the leafy parts, being careful not to cut off any florets. Slice each head in half from the top. From the inside of each half, cut a slice 3⁄4 inch to 1 inch thick. You now have 4 large cauliflower cross-sections or steaks. You can reserve the remaining florets to make buffalo bites using the same batter and method or the Southern Fried Cauliflower (page 46), or you can roast them up for another meal.

Mix the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, nondairy milk, and water together in a bowl until well combined. The amount of liquid or flour may need to be increased if you replace the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour. It should be thick enough that it doesn’t pool too much around the steak.

Transfer the batter to a wide, shallow dish that will fit your cauliflower steaks. Place the bread crumbs in another dish or large bowl. Immerse each steak in the batter, using one hand to coat all the crevices and letting just a bit of the excess drip back into the dish.

Coat all sides of the steaks in the bread crumbs. Place the breaded cauliflower steaks on the baking sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes, until crispy, flipping the steaks halfway through the bake time. If you go to flip the steaks and the batter feels stuck, it needs to bake longer on that side.

Just before the cauliflower finishes baking, melt the vegan butter and whisk it into the hot sauce in a shallow dish.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven. You may want to let the steaks cool slightly so you can handle them. You may need to replace the parchment paper with a new sheet if it’s really soaked through or burned quite a bit.

Coat the breaded cauliflower steaks evenly on all sides in the buffalo sauce. Reserve the excess sauce to baste the cauliflower before serving. Bake again for 25 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through the bake time.

To assemble the sandwiches, just before the cauliflower is done baking, cut the rolls in half and toast, if desired.

Spread a generous amount of ranch dressing on the cut sides of each roll. Place a buffalo cauliflower steak on the bottom half. Add the red onion slices, lettuce, tomato slices, and then the top half of the roll. Serve with a pickle or slice the pickles and add to the sandwich.

hot tip

You can slice leftover buffalo cauliflower steaks into breaded strips and make a salad with greens and veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Then drown it in ranch dressing. It’s outstanding! You can also use half buffalo-style hot sauce and half BBQ sauce for a milder version of this sandwich.

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