Welcome to Vaagen’s Vegan Sauce!  A website devoted to the in-your-face sauciness that is a healthy vegan lifestyle.  In your face.  Get it?  Like food? 😉

Vaagen’s Vegan Sauce blog began as a pipe dream for Crafty Ellen amidst a sea of confusion about what to do with her life and how to share her love of vegan cooking with the world.  Upon the persuasion (and downright pushiness) of her dear, sweet mother, Ellen decided to give it a try.  Trust us.  There will be no boring food here. I swear.  And if you don’t like spicy food you can just go to someone else’s blog.

After experimenting with vegetarianism as a child, Ellen stopped eating meat at age 17 because she was “sensitive” to the torture and slaughter inherent in flesh consumption.  At age 19, after watching the documentary “Earthlings” for extra credit in her college sociology course “Animals and Society,” Ellen, feeling both buoyed and overwhelmed by her newfound knowledge, decided to transition to a vegan lifestyle.  It was a difficult transition because, as you may know, cheese seems to be the main ingredient in most “vegetarian” dishes and eggs and dairy are abound in most baked goods and back in 2008, vegan options at Midwestern restaurants were basically non-existent.

Wary as she was, Ellen’s sweet mother Patsy (again) intervened and insisted she must learn how to cook for herself if she was going to eat a plant-based diet and started buying her cookbooks.  Ellen, who had never cooked much before and had the palate of an 8th grade Scandinavian French Fries ONLY eater, had to learn the magic ways of vegan cooking via trial and error.  Early inspiration came from geniuses Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero in their book Veganomicon, Donna Klein, Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook by Carole Raymond, and many more to follow.  After slogging through recipe after recipe and learning from her mistakes, Ellen finally developed her saucy skills.

Firmly vested in her lifestyle choice, Ellen hit the road to investigate plant-based diets around the world.  Ellen was lucky enough to study abroad in India which, for religious reasons, is predominately vegetarian.  She took cooking classes from a sassy woman named Dolly who taught her the basics of Indian cuisine and helped her make vegan substitutions for the dairy in classic dishes.  During this time Ellen was residing with a host family with two daughters, Nidhi and Puja, who were happy to have Ellen help them prepare dinner every night.  It was at this time she learned about the virtues of the pressure cooker and how to make roti from scratch and sabzi (vegetable curry) out of pretty much anything.  Read more about Ellen’s experiences in India here: http://ellen-visionsofindia.blogspot.com/

Ellen’s next culinary adventure took her south of the border to our lovely neighboring country of Mexico!  After struggling though year after year of seemingly endless winters in Duluth, MN, Ellen decided to get the heck out of dodge and skip a winter.  She wound up in the small, colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas and volunteered as a vegan chef in a vegetarian restaurant La Casa del Pan (The House of Bread).  The owner of La Casa del Pan wanted to shift the restaurant’s menu toward totally vegan by finding vegan replacements, new recipes, and new methods of cooking.  Ellen’s role was to make the main entree for the daily lunch buffet which was awesome because it gave her maximum creativity to make whatever she wanted with the abundant produce from the year- round growing season.  It was a challenge, however, because Ellen’s Spanish was sub-par at best and she was working with all Mexican ladies who only spoke Spanish.  Some of you may have kitchen experience and know that it is never fun being the new person in a kitchen.  Well, it is exponentially less fun being the new person in a kitchen when you don’t understand the language.  Thankfully the owner of the restaurant provided Ellen with personalized Spanish lessons that, coupled with a strong desire to communicate with coworkers and friends, helped her become almost fluent and learn how to make a dank mole sauce and forge lifelong friendships.

The travel bug is alive and well in Ellen and she hope to extend her list of culinary travel destinations to Thailand, China, Japan, London, Indonesia, etc.

Ellen hopes to use Vaagen’s Vegan Sauce as a platform to share her passion for spicy, sassy, vegan food with the world.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, desires to attend a class or host a private dinner party, or to make Ellen your personal Vegan Chef (wink wink).  Vaagen’s Vegan Sauce also hopes to move toward catering your special events, and maybe even creating a Vending Van.

Thank you for joining us in the plant-based revolution!


Ellen Vaagen
Founder, CEO, and Creative Force behind Vaagen’s Vegan Sauce