An ever-developing list of a vegan’s vital vittle ingredients.
Arame is a sea vegetable which has been cooked, sliced and dried. After soaking to rehydrate, it can be used in soups, stews, salads or with vegetables.
While I prefer using vegetable broth whenever possible, these are handy to have in the cupboard. Use as a flavor enhancer in soups or stews or dissolve a cube in a couple cups of water and use it to cook your brown rice.
Bragg Liquid Aminos
A liquid protein concentrate derived from soybeans, it contains 16 amino acids. It’s used like soy sauce or in salad dressings – and it can be added to casseroles, soup, vegetables – wherever your taste buds and imagination takes you. I admit to an addiction to this stuff. I add it to almost everything! It has a wonderful smoky, salt flavor.
Take a deep sniff when you open that bag of cacao nibs. Pure chocolate. Nibs are just broken up cacao beans and are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and flavonoids. Cacao nibs are a nice, crunchy addition to smoothies, added to trail mix or mixed into your favorite cookie recipe. No sugar in these babies!
Ch-ch-ch-chia! New to my pantry, the chia seed is already amazing me. I sprinkle it on our hot grain cereal every morning and I use it as an egg replacer. You wouldn’t believe how these tiny seeds set up! And I can’t wait to bake with it. Loaded with Omega-3 and fiber. And cute as bugs.
“Sea parsley” is an alga harvested along North Atlantic shorelines and is used in products as a thickener, or by the home cook to add flavor and texture to soups and stews or on salads or vegetables. It’s high in Vitamin B, has lots of fiber and also a source of protein.
Hemp Seeds, Hulled
Another nutritional powerhouse, hemp seeds have a slightly grassy aroma and flavor. Though tiny, they come packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and are a good source of protein. Sprinkle on salads, cereals or into baked goods.
Another useful product from the sea, kombu is a brownish kelp which is dried after harvesting and is used to flavor broth (it’s a main ingredient in dashi), enhance sauces and sometimes when cooking beans to add nutrients, increase tenderness and to aid with digestion. The winerals that sometimes coat kombu impart saltiness.
I’d always avoided this product assuming it was a creepy and cancer-causing concoction, but I’ve since learned it is “all-natural,” and made from water, hickory smoke, vinegar, molasses and a wee bit of caramel coloring. It adds a nice, err, smokiness to soups, chili and stews. Comes in several flavors.
Miso, Red & White
White miso is made from fermented soybeans and rice, giving it a light beige color. Good in salad dressings and for making perhaps the most comforting soup on earth: miso! Red miso is also made with fermented soybeans along with barley or some other grain, but it’s fermented for longer than white miso and has a richer flavor. Delicious stirred into soups and stews. Look for yellow and black miso as well, but check labels – miso can contain fish.
The wonder ingredient with the unfortunate name – nutritional yeast is “deactivated” yeast and is often used as a substitute for cheese – when that umami flavor is required. It’s a taste that requires some getting used to, but I’ve found that it’s an important team player in some recipes. I especially like it whisked into salad dressings as it gives a nice creaminess and nutty flavor. Nutritional yeast is made by culturing regular yeast with molasses and sugarcane, then it’s washed, dried and packaged. It’s a source of B12 and a complete protein.
In its simplest form, seitan is made from water and vital wheat gluten. When kneaded for a few minutes it becomes an elastic-y, soft dough which can be formed into patties. After a period of rest, the “cutlets” are simmered in broth for an hour or so. The final product is a chewy, flavorful, very meat-like (think chicken) cutlet that can be chopped and added to stews, sliced and sautéed or browned in a skillet. Add herbs, garbanzo bean flour, garlic, ginger, soy sauce or toasted wheatgerm to create your own variations. Seitan is available in health food markets (such as Whole Foods), but it’s incredibly simple to make your own. Bonus is that you know what’s in it.
Textured vegetable protein made from soy flour and sometimes other flours – this is a useful ingredient when looking to achieve a meaty texture in stews, chili, or for making sloppy Joe’s or burgers. It rehydrates quickly in hot water and it’s a good source of protein, too.
Essentially the same as above, but made from soy beans. It can be used the same way as TSP. Another good source of protein. Both TSP and TVP can be found at Bob’s Red Mill or in health food stores.
The magical soybean again…fermented…again (sometimes with the help of some type of grain) along with water and salt to create a savory distinctive sauce. Tamari is a little thicker than regular soy sauce and is available in wheat-free varieties.
Hailing originally from Indonesia, this rather gnarly-looking ingredient is a mass of fermented soy beans (there’s that phrase again!) formed into a cake. It has a nutty flavor and crumbly texture that is good in stews or salads – and when sliced thinly and fried, it makes a fantastic substitute for bacon. It comes in different varieties like whole grain or flax.
Vital Wheat Gluten
This ingredient is used often when making hearty 100% whole grain breads – those recipes going without the textural benefits afforded by including refined flours – to lighten the final product. And it’s the essential ingredient for making seitan (see above).
Containing yummy stuff like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, mushrooms, a wee bit of natural smoke flavoring and lots of spices, use just like regular old Worcestershire sauce. The only thing missing is the anchovies…