Laura Prepon Chats With Treehugger About Plant-Based Eating and Supporting Local Farms

The star says 'the kitchen is the heartbeat of the home.'

Actor Laura Prepon smiling at the camera and holding a piece of cheese.


Are you on the lookout for kid-, planet-, and health-friendly meals to cook this holiday season? 

Actor Laura Prepon has you covered. The “Orange is the New Black” and “That '70s Show” star is sharing plant-based recipes on her website and Youtube channel that she created as part of a very productive partnership with vegan cheese brand Vitalite. For Prepon, “the kitchen is the heartbeat of the home,” which is why her recipes offer everyone a seat at the table. 

“[I]t was really important to me to find different products like Vitalite so that we can still have all those incredible experiences, even if we're plant-based,” she tells Treehugger. “You still want to be able to sit with your kids and have a gooey melty, grilled cheese dipped in some tomato soup in the winter when it's snowing outside.” 

Family Meals

Prepon comes by her love for cooking honestly. Her mother was an “eccentric gourmet chef” who would cook Peking duck five days in a row until she got it just right or drive the whole family an hour and a half to a Japanese supermarket to race professional sushi chefs to the best toro.

“Growing up, I would watch her in the kitchen,” Prepon says. “She was like a sorceress.” 

From her mother, Prepon learned to use food as a love language. But she also made some changes from her mother’s kitchen when she had children of her own. For one thing, her mother was too busy with her elaborate concoctions to sit and enjoy the meals with her family afterward. Prepon wanted to offer her children both home-cooked meals and time around the dinner table, and to make it happen she learned to prep and developed various kitchen hacks. 

“I have spent years trying to figure out how to give these beautiful nourishing meals to my kids while also being present to enjoy it with them,” she says. 

The other difference is that her mother’s meals were not plant-based. Prepon doesn’t cook exclusively vegan meals for her family. They tend to eat more plant-based foods in the summer when the farmer’s markets of their New York home are full of beautiful, seasonal produce. However, she recently discovered that her five-year-old daughter is allergic to dairy. This prompted a family decision to “really take the plant-based part of our diet seriously,” Prepon says. 

But cooking for toddlers (Prepon also has a three-year-old son) without using cheese is a challenge, which is where Vitalite comes in. She found it easy to cook with, and, most importantly, her children liked it. 

“It comes down to my kids,” Prepon says.  “If they won't eat it, I can't use it.” 

As Prepon learned cooking from her mother, she is now passing it on to her children. While she keeps them away from knives and fire, they are enthusiastic about helping her mix ingredients. 

“They're obsessed with being in the kitchen,” she says. “It's really cute.”

Favorite Recipes

Prepon’s favorite of her plant-based recipes is the Cheesy Vitalite Hasselback Sweet Potatoes she shared on Youtube last week. 

“[I]t's kind of like a different take on a sweet potato dish, and it has all these wonderful textures,” she says. “You slice the sweet potato like an accordion so that the different little ridges get nice and crispy, and then you stuff it with the cheese.” 

The recipe calls for both Sprinkle Vitalite Mozzarella Style Shreds and Vitalite Grated Parmesan Style, as well as toasted hazelnuts. “Your plant-based friends will love it. And then other different kinds of people at the holiday event will love it too,” she says. 

It’s also a good example of her advice for plant-based cooking during the northern hemisphere winter when fresh produce is not in season. “Learn how to be really friendly with root vegetables,” Prepon says. 

Cooks can also turn to pantry staples like grains, chickpeas, and black beans. 

Actor Laura Prepon holding a plate with sweet potatoes


Farm School

During the warmer months, one of the joys of plant-based meal prep is visiting farmers markets. Prepon is a big fan of the Union Square Greenmarket. “It’s the best,” she gushes. 

Before she had children, she used to go early in the morning with chef friends, who were given a special shopping time to fill the refrigerators of some of the city’s top restaurants. Prepon said she felt like Bugs Bunny floating away to ecstasy on the scent of a pie while watching them. Now, the 7 a.m. shopping spree is out, but she still makes the trip from Brooklyn with her daughter whenever she can.

Her son is still too young, but he does accompany the family to Brooklyn markets and to visit some of the farms behind the stalls on trips upstate or to Massachusetts. Prepon says it's important to her that her children understand where their food comes from and know first-hand the difference between organic and non-organic produce and the value of supporting local farms. These are lessons the children are happy to learn.

“They love it; they absolutely love it,” she says. 

Learning is at the heart of her advice for anyone who wants to try plant-based cooking this holiday season but is intimidated by the prospect of getting through a recipe without using any animal products. Prepon likes to leaf through physical cookbooks, but there are plenty of resources online too. 

“I would say just go to a local bookstore and pick out some cookbooks that inspire you and just like learn about what it means to be plant-based,” she suggests.

One thing that’s helped her is really understanding the reasoning behind choosing a plant-based diet. It can be difficult, she says, for the body to digest animal proteins, which is why everyone goes comatose after Thanksgiving dinner. 

Now, she notices the difference when she goes through a period of plant-based cooking. 

“I definitely feel like my body is having an easier time kind of assimilating nutrients that I'm eating,” she says.