How to Cook Vegan Like Tia Blanco

From veggie sandwiches to flavor-packed salads, the professional surfer enjoys healthy, plant-based foods. Here's how to cook vegan like her.
cook vegan like Tia Blanco
Here's how to make some of Tia Blanco's favorite plant-based meals. | Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images/Photo Illustration by Polly Haas for LIVEKINDLY

Tia Blanco’s skills on a surfboard are a real tour de force. At just 24 years of age, the professional surfer has already garnered a rather illustrious list of awards. (Let’s be real… anyone who can successfully race through the waves while perched atop a board is deserving of a trophy, IMO.) Blanco, who started surfing at the age of three, took home a gold medal at the International Surfing Association Games in 2015, successfully defending her title the following year. And last year, she—along with Hawaiian surfer Zeke Lau—won ABC’s competition series, “The Ultimate Surfer.” The crest is the limit for this young athlete.

But when she’s not out catching the perfect wave, you can find Blanco nestled in her kitchen, cooking up tasty plant-based meals that are as visually appealing as they are healthy. (Seriously, she makes cooking an art form…) So, what exactly does the pro-surfer like to indulge in to keep her fueled throughout the day?

Tia Blanco surfing
Surfer Tia Blanco is catching waves on a plant-based diet. | Kelsey McNeal/ABC

What does Tia Blanco eat?

An athlete, Blanco knows the value of good nutrition. But, you won’t find any meat, dairy, or eggs on her plate. She was raised meat-free by her vegetarian mother, who decided to eschew meat at the age of 12 for ethical reasons. 

“She never forced a vegetarian diet on us, but that was the food she was cooking at home,” Blanco said. “So as a result, we all just ate vegetarian together because my dad ate what my mom ate and I ate what my parents ate.” 

In 2013, Blanco decided to go vegan after watching the short film Glass Walls. “I think that surfing, health, and yoga all go hand in hand and help me to be the best person I can be mentally and physically,” explained Blanco. “I definitely would say eating a plant-based diet benefits my practice as a yogi and a surfer because I always seem to have a lot of energy throughout my workouts.”

Although she doesn’t have the fancy accolades of a culinary institution under her belt, she certainly knows how to whip up a delectable meal. Case in point: her cooking Instagram account, @tiasvegankitchen, which has amassed more than 30,000 followers.

A simple glance at Blanco’s cooking page is sure to send your mouth watering. Fruits and vegetables are staple ingredients for the surfer. From mains like crispy curried tofu and salad bowls to desserts like banana split sundaes and vegan blondies—she knows how to cook/bake it all. And the best part is, her recipes are easy to make.

In one video, she makes a simple green smoothie with banana, cucumber, celery, spinach, oranges, ginger, and coconut milk. In another, she whips up a colorful salad featuring kale, avocado, spinach, lettuce, broccoli sprouts, tomatoes, pomegranates, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and more. “Health is wealth,” she captioned. Here’s a handful of her favorite recipes. Is it lunchtime yet?

Vanilla protein chia pudding

We’re all for versatile recipes. You know… like the ones that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (even dessert!). Enter: This protein-packed pudding. Traditional puddings contain dairy and eggs. Blanco’s version eschews these ingredients in favor of plant-based milk for nourishment on-the-go. Throw in chia seeds, vanilla stevia, protein powder, and vanilla extract. Top with your favorite fruits (strawberries, blueberries, all of the above!), nuts, and cacao nibs, and enjoy.

Vegan caesar salad 

A classic, you can’t go wrong with a good ol’ caesar salad. Blanco’s version is simple: romaine lettuce, purple onions, vegan parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons. The latter, she makes using sliced sourdough bread. “Sorry, I eyeballed this,” she captioned in regards to making the dressing, which she whips up using vegan mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, lemon, dijon mustard, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. 

Fish-free tuna

Want to indulge in fish without, well, the fish? Of course, you could go the route of making a delicious tuna salad sandwich using a plant-based tuna brand like Good Catch or Loma Linda. You can also try making a personal fave of Blanco’s: taste bud-pleasing chickpea tuna. It features chopped red onions and celery, vegan mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, nutritional yeast, capers, lemon juice, mustard seed, salt and pepper, and minced garlic. Throw it between two slices of bread or munch on it with crackers. 

Homemade samosas

For anyone who’s never tried a samosa, it’s basically a savory, heaven-filled, fried pastry. The Indian dish is usually filled with spiced potatoes, peas, onions, and meat. Blanco’s plant-based version features all the good stuff—mashed russet potatoes, chopped garlic and onion, peas, ginger, cumin seeds, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, and a dash of cayenne pepper—sans the meat. Serve with your favorite sauce (Blanco recommends almond cream) and top with cilantro. 

Veggie bruschetta sandwich 

It’s sandwich o’clock somewhere. For a super quick and easy meal, try Blanco’s veggie bruschetta sandwich. It’s simple: bruschetta, vegan mayonnaise, lettuce, sprouts, tomato, onion, cashew cheese, meatless deli slices, herbs, lemon and balsamic vinegar, bread… and voila! A meal to remember.

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