Tabitha Brown may be known for her home-grown Southern vegan recipes, but there was a time when cooking was far from the social media star's favorite thing to do.
"I hated cooking growing up; wanting nothing to do with it," Brown, 42, tells PEOPLE, in this week's 50 Food Faves issue. "I didn't have no time to be in nobody's kitchen, I was too busy playing outside."
That changed when Brown married her husband, Chance, in 2003. Suddenly, she had to learn.
So how'd she do it? "Honey, trial and error," Brown says, with a laugh. "I've tore up so many meals, learning how to flavor my food and layer it with seasoning, herbs and spices. I don't cook with salt anymore because I used to kill so many meals over-seasoning with salt. I had to say, 'Okay, Tab, salt is not the key!' I just had to figure it out."
For those who have become familiar with Brown's cooking style in her hit videos across social media, they'll know she has a tendency to throw ingredients in, as she puts it, "like so, like that."
"I know what I like to eat. I know what I like a taste of," Brown says. "So if I know I love garlic powder, I'm going to use my garlic powder. I'm going to use my rosemary and sage and all my different herbs and spices. And I'm going to trust that I got it under control."
She encourages those on the other side of the camera to do the same thing.
"If you need a recipe every time you go in the kitchen, honey, you don't trust yourself. You've got to learn to trust yourselves," Brown explains. "You can taste along the way but really, it's trial and error."
"You got to keep trying until you get it right," she adds. "I've been cooking for over 20 years now; eventually, I got it right. I got it real right. It's real good."
Brown — whose new book, Feeding the Soul (Because It's My Business), is out Sept. 28 — first switched to a plant-based diet back in 2016, while battling undiagnosed chronic autoimmune pain. She went viral on Facebook the following year with her funny review of the Whole Foods TTLA sandwich (tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, avocado), and found even more success at the height of the pandemic on TikTok, where she was named one of their top creators of 2020.
Now, she has millions of followers on different social media platforms — all of whom are captivated by her warm personality, loving life lessons and the way she makes vegan cooking look so approachable.
"I want everyone to feel like they can do this," Brown says. "I want it to feel relatable. And I want it to feel easy, because honey, ain't nobody got to be in the kitchen all day. Who got time for that? I don't have time!"
"My intention is just to have fun and make people see food differently," Brown adds. "And I want other people to feel like, 'Oh, she's not forcing [being vegan] on me. She's just showing me what she's doing, let me try that!' "
It's that flexible and fluid attitude towards cooking that has helped Brown craft her skill. But it's also why she's stayed away from another sect of the culinary world: baking.
"I don't bake because you've got to be serious when you bake, honey. You've got to have measurements! I can't bake!" Brown jokes.
"I'll never forget, my granny wouldn't let me walk hard on the floor in the kitchen when I was little and she was baking. She'd be making the cakes and be like, 'Do not walk hard in here!' 'Cause if you'd run through the house when she baked, the cake would fall," Brown continues. "So I never, ever wanted to learn after that. That's too much. You can't run or jump up and down when you're baking a cake? Oh no... I'm all right. I want no parts of that. I ain't got time for that. I'm going to just cook on the stove."
For more on Tabitha Brown, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE — on newsstands this Friday.