Airplane food is divisive. Some people love it, while others will do anything to avoid it. If you’re not a fan of inflight meals, they can be difficult to skip, especially if you’re on a long-haul flight. But if you’re not going very far, one option is to follow Mindy Kaling’s lead and prep your own tasty snack in advance. The comedian recently shared a delicious “plane salad” recipe, which we think could only be improved in one way: by skipping the animal products.
Mindy Kaling’s airplane meal (and how to make it vegan)
In a recent post on Instagram, Kaling shared that she “eats terribly” when she travels. So in a bid to change her habits, she took inspiration from Jessica Biel and prepared her own tasty salad recipe ahead of her flight.
“Instead of eating randomly (which let’s face it is fun, too, sometimes), I was like, ‘What if I prepared my meal and brought it with me?’” she wrote. “Then I remembered this one time, maybe like 14 years ago, when I sat next to [Biel] on a flight. An hour in, she pulled out this container from her tote bag. It had the most delicious-looking homemade salad in it that was definitely a better option than whatever I was eating.”
Biel herself commented on the post saying, “Omg, wish I could remember what it was!”
“I guess [it’s] unreasonable to request you remember a salad recipe you made when you were like 25,” Kaling replied.
According to Kaling, her version of the salad features cherry tomatoes (“halved, sprinkled with salt and pepper”), spinach, butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, chopped and blanched asparagus, and half a can of cannellini beans.
It also featured canned wild salmon in water, which, of course, isn’t vegan—but there are plenty of tinned vegan fish options on the market. Brands like Seed to Surf, Loma Linda, and Sol Natural, for example, offer options like canned vegan tuna, mackerel, and even snow crab, all of which add extra protein, flavor, and texture to salad recipes.
Kaling’s dressing recipe also features honey, which can likely be replaced with agave, while the goat’s cheese topping could be replaced by many of the delicious vegan cheese options on the market.
Does Mindy Kaling eat meat?
Kaling isn’t totally plant-based, but, in the past, she has expressed a desire to move away from meat. In 2021, she revealed she had been inspired to do so by another of her famous friends, Natalie Portman.
Portman has followed a meat-free diet since the age of nine, and in 2011, she made the leap to veganism after reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
“One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat less red meat,” Kaling posted on Instagram. “I want to follow in the footsteps of my very healthy, awesome friend Natalie Portman, who is vegan and does great recipes online, and I want to do something similar. There are some really good nutritious [soups] that are also vegan.”
“I love red meat but I know that it’s not good for me, and I just don’t need to be eating as much of it for health reasons, environmental reasons, all the good reasons,” she added.
Research has linked red meat consumption with a higher risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Animal agriculture is also responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s a leading cause of deforestation, too.
However, for those who love red meat products, like beef burgers, there are many plant-based alternatives. Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, for example, offer patties (and many other products) that look, cook, and taste like red meat.
After trying the Impossible Burger at Umami Burger, Kaling raved about the taste and texture. “This is freaking great,” she said at the time. “This Impossible Burger tastes better than real meat. This is freaking delicious. Umami, you killed it, this is so good!”
The comedian isn’t alone; several celebrities have invested in Impossible Foods, including Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Katy Perry, Phil Rosenthal, Jaden Smith, Ruby Rose, and Serena Williams.
And in 2019, Grammy-award-winning artist Questlove even launched his own sandwich with Impossible meat, called Questlove’s Cheesesteak. “I wanted to make [the plant-based] Questlove’s Cheesesteak to show people that foods don’t have to be boring, you can be creative, and it can also be a step in the right direction,” he said.