Many medical and health conditions can make it difficult or painful to chew, requiring significant changes to the foods you eat. A soft food diet is a great way to get the nutrition you need while easing pain, but many soft diet food lists focus on animal foods like cottage cheese or eggs. Are there enough vegan soft foods for plant-based eaters?
Fortunately, yes! In this post, I’ll discuss the best vegan soft foods, how to incorporate them into your meals, the importance of focusing on nutrient density, and cooking tips for making them more interesting.
I’ll also provide a sample meal plan to bring all of this information together in a practical way.
Reasons for needing a soft diet
Reasons for needing to eat soft foods are varied, with some of the most common listed below:
Procedures like wisdom tooth removals, root canals, or jaw surgery can lead to a significant amount of pain and discomfort immediately afterward and may last for a few weeks.
Surgeries to remove cancerous tumors around the head, mouth, and neck can also cause significant discomfort when chewing. Additionally, chemotherapy and radiation treatments can lead to mucositis, a painful inflammatory condition that affects the mouth.
Dentures or diseased teeth
Over time, dentures may not fit as well as they once did, making it difficult to chew tough foods. Lack of access to dental services can also be a problem for some people, leaving infections untreated and causing chronic pain.
Braces or aligners
Having your braces tightened or moving on to your next set of clear aligners can be surprisingly painful, making it difficult to eat your regular diet. In these cases, focusing on soft foods for a day or two can help.
The best vegan soft foods
Use the following list of foods when planning soft vegan meals, snacks, and desserts:
Creamy nut and seed butters
Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter are great ways to get some protein and healthy fats all at once. You can snack on them straight from a spoon, blend them in smoothies, stir into oatmeal, or spread on bananas.
Just make sure to get the creamy version so there aren’t any crunchy bits.
Tofu is one of the best sources of protein for vegans. Use it to make a tofu scramble, tofu bolognese, tofu “egg” salad, or non-dairy cheesecake filling. You can also blend it into creamy soups and sauces.
Beans are pretty soft on their own, but you can also mash or purée them. Think refried beans or white beans puréed into soup.
Technically a bean purée, hummus is such a popular staple that it deserves its own mention. Spread it on a soft pita, blend with lemon juice to make a sauce, or simply eat it plain.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
TVP is sold dry and must be rehydrated prior to eating. It can be added to tacos, chili, and spaghetti “meat” sauce as a great meat alternative, but it must be completely rehydrated and moist. Adding it directly to chili will work as it’ll soak up a lot of liquid. If rehydrating and then sautéing, avoid browning it too much as this will make it chewier.
If any amount of chewing is unbearable, protein shakes can be a helpful solution. You can make your own at home with protein powder and non-dairy milk (I love adding bananas) or buy pre-made ones at the store or online. Orgain and OWYN are two popular, delicious brands.
Keep applesauce cups stocked in your pantry for a quick serving of fruit. If you’re watching your intake of added sugars, you can often find unsweetened ones. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor!
Bananas are soft enough to eat raw, but they can also be mashed into oatmeal, baked into banana bread (no nuts!), or blended into smoothies and shakes.
When cooked properly, plantains become super soft and sweet and are a great source of complex carbohydrates.
Cooked apples and pears
Apples and pears are also good options — just make sure to cook them well and remove the peels. You can make a healthier “pie” filling for a snack by adding cinnamon and a little maple syrup or organic brown sugar.
Mango is soft enough to eat raw as long as it’s very ripe.
Stone fruits like peaches and nectarines should also be very ripe. If you can make an indentation in the fruit with your finger or the fruit easily comes off of the pit, it’s probably ripe enough. Be sure to remove the peels as well.
You can take other fruit and blend them into smoothies with non-dairy milk, bananas, nut butter, or protein powder if desired. Just be sure to avoid fruit with tough seeds that don’t blend well, like blackberries and raspberries.
The perfect soft comfort food! Use non-dairy milk and a plant-based buttery spread to make fluffy, soft vegan mashed potatoes.
Baked sweet potatoes
Bake sweet potatoes in the oven or air fryer until the insides become super soft. You can remove the peel if it’s too tough for you to chew.
Steamed or boiled until soft, carrots can be eaten plain or mashed with sweet potatoes for a veggie side high in beta-carotene.
Similarly, steamed or boiled cauliflower can be mashed alone or added to mashed potatoes as a way to eat more vegetables.
Canned green beans
Fresh green beans may still be too tough, but canned ones are typically very soft.
Pumpkin purée is a wonderfully versatile product that can be made into savory stews, curry, and bean chili, used to make pumpkin bread, stirred into pumpkin oatmeal, or blended into pumpkin pie smoothies.
Green peas provide a decent amount of protein and can be added to stews, curry, pesto, or eaten as a veggie side.
Avocados can be sliced and added to soft tacos, made into guacamole, blended in smoothies and sauces, or used to top beans and rice.
Olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil are all anti-inflammatory oils that can be used to add more calories to a soft diet if needed and to sauté and soften vegetables.
Creamy nut butter
I mentioned them earlier, but nut and seed butters belong here as well. They’re a great one-two punch for adding protein and healthy fats to a soft diet.
Vegan buttery spreads
Another way to include healthier fats in the diet, vegan buttery spreads come in especially useful for making mashed potatoes! If you can, choose ones that aren’t made with coconut or palm oil as the main ingredient since these are higher in saturated fat.
Cashew cheese spreads
Soaked cashews can be blended with nutritional yeast to make a deliciously “cheesy”, creamy spread. You can also make cashew “queso” and drizzle it over black beans or tofu sofritas rather than eating it with chips.
Most non-dairy yogurt doesn’t contain much protein, so I included it under the healthy fats section. If you can find one with 6 or more grams of protein, great! Use them in smoothies and sauces or to make fruit-and-yogurt parfaits (no granola).
Both white and whole wheat bread are soft enough for most people to chew without issues, but you may need to cut the crusts off depending on the loaf. Also, avoid bread made with nuts and seeds.
Use tortillas to make soft tacos, bean, rice, and avocado burritos, or eat warm with a little vegan butter. So good!
A great base for many meals; add flavor by using vegan bouillon and nutritional yeast.
Hot oatmeal and overnight oats will both work for a soft diet. Up the nutritional content by adding soft fruit, nut butter, ground flax seeds, or protein powder. You can also do this for grits and cream of wheat.
Orzo and pasta
You may need to cook your pasta to be softer than al dente, but most pasta and orzo are great options. Be sure to cook bowtie pasta (farfalle) extra well, as the middle bit can take longer to soften.
Vegan mac and cheese
You can buy store-bought mac and cheese (like Annie’s brand) or make your own with a cheese sauce based on cashews or boiled potatoes and carrots. Don’t forget the nutritional yeast!
Rice pudding made with non-dairy milk is a great soft dessert! If you want to include raisins, make sure they’ve softened up well before you take a bite. Thai mango sticky rice is another great rice-based dessert for soft diets.
Non-dairy ice cream
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, and non-dairy ice cream can feel soothing on an inflamed mouth. Choose your favorite flavor without nuts or other crunchy add-ins.
Cashew or tofu cheesecake filling (no crust)
Cashews and tofu are both silky and creamy, making great bases for a vegan cheesecake filling — just omit the crust and eat like pudding! Top with cooked fruit sauce if desired.
Another comfort food, vanilla or chocolate vegan pudding can be found at some grocery stores and can be easy to eat if feeling weak after surgery (or just needing a sweet treat).
Proper nutrition while on a soft foods diet
It can be easy to forget about eating a nutrient-dense diet when you’re so focused on finding foods that are easy to chew, but proper nutrition is especially important for many people on a soft diet.
Including nutrient-dense foods can speed up recovery, reduce fatigue, and help you feel your best.
Many people on a soft diet are recovering from surgery or are undergoing cancer treatment. These are both conditions that increase your protein requirements, so making sure you include good sources of protein at most meals is essential.
As mentioned earlier, protein shakes are particularly helpful for people struggling to eat enough protein and calories to meet their needs.
Include healthy fats
Fat sometimes gets a bad rap, but we need some fat for bodily functions like hormone production, providing structure to body cells, and regulating body temperature. It also helps improve our absorption of certain nutrients.
Vegan foods tend to be high in healthy fats, but it’s important to watch out for plant-based foods that are high in saturated fat (coconut, coconut oil, and palm oil) and not to let them make up too large a proportion of the fat in your diet.
Fats are also high in calories, so adding them to meals, smoothies, and shakes is a great way for people with poor appetites to keep their weight up.
Don’t forget fruits and vegetables
Soft diets can sometimes be lower in dietary fiber, so make sure to include plenty of soft and cooked fruits and vegetables at meals. They’re also high in antioxidants, many of which reduce inflammation in the body and support the immune system.
Small frequent meals can help
If you get tired quickly when eating meals, dividing your food intake into smaller portions eaten more frequently can help manage fatigue and pain.
Watch out for too many added sugars
Added sugars can add up quickly when relying on packaged foods and sweets, so choose unsweetened or minimally sweetened versions when possible and balance your sweets with nutrient-dense meals.
To add variety and flavor while improving the nutrient density of your diet, try the following tips:
- Mash cooked cauliflower, chickpeas, and white beans into mashed potatoes
- Mash cooked carrots and red lentils into baked or mashed sweet potatoes
- Blend beans and tofu into creamy butternut squash or black bean soup
- Make smoothies more nutrient-dense by adding protein powder, creamy nut butter, flax or chia seeds, and high-protein plant-based milks
- If you’re struggling to get enough calories, add nut butters to smoothies, shakes, fruit, and oatmeal, add olive or canola oil to soups and sauces, use extra vegan buttery spreads in mashed potatoes, and add avocado to meals.
For a protein-packed breakfast option: try my Vegan Strawberry Cream Cheese, made with tofu!
Sample vegan soft foods meal plan
Here’s an example of a 1-day meal plan using soft vegan foods:
- Breakfast: Overnight oats with mashed banana, ground flax seeds, peanut butter, and soy milk
- Lunch: Tofu scramble tacos with soft sautéed bell peppers and sliced avocado
- Snack: Non-dairy yogurt with mango (very ripe)
- Dinner: Creamy white bean, carrot, and potato soup (with cashew cream)
- Dessert: Vegan chocolate pudding
There are many soft vegan foods available to help you recover from surgery, fight cancer, adjust to shifting dentures, or go through the process of wearing braces or aligners.
Including a variety of soft protein-rich foods, healthy fats, grains, fruits, and vegetables will increase the nutrient density of your diet, helping you recover faster and supporting your long-term health.
Some foods may be easier to chew than others, and this will likely change based on the person and their situation. Work at finding a variety of foods you enjoy and can eat or drink the most comfortably.
What can vegans eat after wisdom teeth removal?
Your mouth will likely be sore from a few days to two weeks after having your wisdom teeth removed. Eating soft foods and avoiding hard, crunchy, or chewy foods can make eating less painful during this time. Focus on beans, tofu, protein shakes, soft fruits, cooked vegetables, non-dairy yogurt, mashed potatoes, and avocado. Non-dairy ice cream and vegan pudding are great soft dessert options.
What are soft non-dairy foods?
Dairy alternatives appropriate for a soft diet include non-dairy milk, non-dairy ice cream, cashew “cheese” spreads and dips, and non-dairy yogurt.
The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.