The call for vegan and vegetarian foods is growing louder every day, and as the volume increases, the food world is responding. The New York Times has announced that The NYT Cooking team will be releasing The Veggie Newsletter, as well as devoting more space in the digital Cooking section for vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based recipes, reviews, and tips.

Led by the Times' California-based restaurant critic and food columnist, Tejal Rao, the new plant-based newsletter will debut on August 12, featuring vegan and vegetarian recipes, explainers on pantry staples, and reviews.

Each week, the Veggie Newsletter will begin with an anecdote from Rao on plant-based technique, cuisine, ingredient, or type of dish, opening the door to the world of plant-based cooking. The newsletter will include three recipes as well as recommendations, and tips for readers interested in eating more plant-based foods. The newsletter will include a “before you go” spotlight that will showcase a tip or trick from an expert.

"The Times has an amazing team of recipe testers, recipe developers, and columnists with deep expertise," Rao told The Beet in an exclusive email exchange. "I’m a former restaurant cook, and I’m constantly learning how to be a better cook from them. We know readers want to cook more vegetarian food and build more of their meals around vegetables, and I hope The Veggie newsletter helps them feel more confident that they absolutely can, with practical tips, techniques, and, most of all, a steady stream of delicious, tested, vegetarian recipes.

The Times Joins Media Brands and Restaurants Focusing Plant-Based Eating

Earlier this year, Condé Nast announced that it would be cutting beef from its online food publication Epicurious. Although not going completely plant-based, the monumental shift will change the content of the online publication in the interest of environmental sustainability.

“For any person–or publication–wanting to envision a more sustainable way to cook, cutting out beef is a worthwhile first step,” said Senior Editor Maggie Hoffman at the time. “We think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet.”

Meanwhile, Eleven Madison Park shook tremors through New York City’s food scene when the legendary restaurant announced in May that it would be reopening post-pandemic with a 100 percent plant-based menu in June. The wait for a reservation is over two months–astonishing food cynics and fine dining lovers everywhere. The three-star restaurant is changing the global dining scene, serving vegan courses and charging luxury prices for the opportunity.

"It’s definitely exciting to see more and more chefs embrace plant-based foods," Rao told The Beet, "and so many restaurants have been doing this beautifully for a long time — I’m thinking of Greens in San Francisco, Dirt Candy and Kajitsu, two of my favorite place to eat in New York City. Also, Rahel, an Ethiopian restaurant that’s close to me in Los Angeles, along with so many outstanding vegan taqueros in town which are both adapting existing traditions and establishing their own."

Reader Interest Prompted the Times Editors to Launch The Veggie Newsletter

The plant-based newsletter arrives after the Times' readers have been engaging with vegan and vegetarian recipes, according to a statement by the company. There was a 46 percent increase in vegetarian recipe page views in 2020. Meanwhile, 57 percent of home cooks surveyed by the Times responded that they want to increase their vegetable intake when planning and cooking at home.

Excluding dessert, veggie content makes up 28.5 percent of average weekly recipe page views for NYT Cooking, according to the company. The sharp rise in plant-based consumer preference is in direct relationship with the awareness that eating healthier (and consuming less meat and dairy) is beneficial as a way of lowering inflammation and strengthening your immune system, two important goals, given the fact that symptoms of COVID-19 are more severe among people with comorbidities. The other driving factor in consumers' desire to eat more plant-based is the awareness that it is beneficial to the planet.

Vegetarian and vegan cooking is not new to The New York Times. The newspaper published its first vegetarian recipe in 1981 and since then, has increased its plant-based material each year. The NYT Cooking team hopes that the Veggie Newsletter will centralize vegan and vegetarian content to create a go-to resource for any readers interested in more plant-based food content.

Typically, Rao’s writing for the New York Times and her career as a food critic hasn’t centered around plant-basic cuisine but rather a full spectrum of food coverage from restaurant reviews to Southern California foods trends, which is no surprise given that she is LA-based.

"I want to celebrate this rich history of vegetarian and vegan cooking with readers, but also celebrate new, experimental work happening right now, and there’s so much of that," Rao explained to The Beet. "If you look at high-end vegan cheesemakers, who I reported on for The Times, they’ve only recently been able to get their hands on vegan cheese cultures and experiment with cheesemaking in new ways. What some of them are doing with plant-based milks right now is just incredible–a world away from vegan cheeses that were familiar to us a decade ago.

"Things are changing so rapidly," Rao adds, "and there’s such a range of styles within the vast world of vegetarian cooking. I want this newsletter to be a celebration of all of them."

Readers of The Veggie Newsletter can sign up starting today and expect the first edition on August 12th.

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