When it comes to traditional recipes, purists may scorn substitutions or innovations. But for vegan chef and TikToker Alyssa Switzer, that’s part of the fun.
Switzer started eating more plant-based in 2014, but she still wanted to keep the Caribbean flavors that appeal to her heart and her taste buds.
“I grew up with that,” she told the Star.
Her feed @PlantifulAlyssa is full of seconds-long tutorials of vegan dishes so colorful you could scramble your phone’s pixels. And a lot of it has a Caribbean flair.
She’s found vegan substitutes for meat-based staples like a meatless oxtail with jackfruit. And she takes out classic Caribbean dishes like ackee and callaloo beyond what is traditional to make tacos, dips and galettes.
“You’re kind of forced to be creative,” Switzer told The Star.
The canvas for some of her most innovative creations: breadfruit. It’s a starchy fruit typically roasted and sliced in the Caribbean and part of the national dish of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the island where Switzer’s mother is from.
She replaced diced breadfruit for potatoes, taking advantage of the starchy consistency, and made an island-inspired breadfruit salad in one TikTok video.
In another, she thinly sliced taco shells and stuffed with ackee.
And the recipe she’s most proud of is her creamy breadfruit split pea soup, spiced with coconut cream, thyme, allspice and scotch bonnet.
But when she shares vegan alternatives to things like oxtail, salted fish and fritters, she is met with both praise and anger in the comments.
“It’s so traditional to eat traditional West Indian food without changing anything,” Switzer said. “When people hear, oh, vegan oxtail, (they say) what are you talking about?”
But the raised eyebrows make her want to show these plant-based takes even more.
“There are so many fruits and vegetables you can eat, and they’re cultural and they’re good,” she said. “You don’t have to be stuck in a certain way or a certain mindset about how you should eat.”