Vegan Diet for Beginners: 15 Special Ingredients in Vegan Recipes To Learn About
When you are just starting on a vegan diet, you may feel confused by the sheer amount of new information you need to process. You may also be super excited to try out new recipes that look drool-worthy in pictures, but then suddenly feel disheartened by the long list of ingredients that sound completely foreign to you. Don’t worry! Here is a list of the 15 most commonly used ingredients in vegan recipes that you may have not heard before, but are actually quite easy to find – once you know what to look for!
is an exquisitely flavored seasoning made from white Trebbiano grape juice that acquires a dark amber color and pungent sweetness after aging for three to thirty years in barrels made from various woods—red oak, chestnut, mulberry, and juniper. The ﬁnest balsamics are slightly sweet, heavy, mellow, and dark.
Brown rice vinegar
is a mild vinegar made from fermented rice. It is widely used in Japanese and Chinese cooking and adds a light Asian ﬂavor to sauces and dressings. Traditionally, the vinegar is brewed in earthenware crocks. It is then ﬁltered and aged in casks until the ﬂavor is mellow and the color is deep amber.
is hard red winter wheat that has been cracked and toasted. It comes in coarse, medium, and ﬁne grinds. Bulgur cooks quickly. It has a chewy, “meaty” texture and a delicious nutty ﬂavor.
are rich in ﬁber and omega-3 fatty acids and make an excellent sub- stitute for eggs in baking. To use them for this purpose, ﬁnely grind 1 table- spoon ﬂaxseeds in an electric herb or coffee mill or in a dry blender. Place in a blender along with 3 tablespoons water and process until frothy and viscous. This will make the equivalent of one medium egg for use in baking. If time permits, let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for an hour or more before using. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Flaxseeds are available in natural food stores. They are highly perishable and should be stored in the freezer to prevent rancidity.
is an ancient grain native to the East Indies and North Africa. It has a tiny round yellowish seed (resembling a mustard seed) and a mild, slightly nutty ﬂavor. Millet is gluten-free, easily digestible, and one of the least aller- genic foods known. It contains abundant minerals, vitamins, protein, and ﬁber. When cooked, millet swells to a ﬂuffy texture. Toasting it before cook- ing enhances the ﬂavor and creates a more pilaﬂike result. With extra water, it can be cooked into a tasty breakfast porridge. Available in natural-food stores. Store at room temperature or in the freezer.
is a salty, ﬂavorful, fermented bean paste that often contains rice, barley, or another grain. Used primarily as a seasoning, miso ranges from dark and strongly ﬂavored to light, smooth, and delicately ﬂavored. Light misos are generally sweeter and less salty than dark misos. Look for unpasteurized (refrigerated) varieties in natural-food stores.
Naturally brewed soy sauce (tamari and shoyu)
is produced by the natural fer- mentation of soybeans, salt, water, and sometimes wheat. (Naturally brewed soy sauce is called shoyu if wheat is used, tamari if it is not.) The ﬁnest soy sauces are aged for a year or longer. With time, you will develop as discriminating a taste for tamari and shoyu as some people have for ﬁne wine. Store tamari or shoyu at room temperature or in the refrigerator for optimum ﬂavor. It will keep indeﬁnitely. For a lower sodium content, look for reduced-sodium or “lite” tamari.
is a natural whole plant grown as a food crop. It is prized for its delicious, nutty taste and high nutritional content. When mixed with cer- tain seasonings, nutritional yeast can also impart a cheesy taste or a poultrylike ﬂavor. Red Star brand Vegetarian Support Formula (VSF) nutritional yeast is a concentrated source of protein and a good source of B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B12. It contains no fat and has few calories. The B12 in Red Star VSF nutritional yeast is from natural fermentation and is not obtained from a synthetic process or derived from an animal source. This is an easy, deli- cious, and reliable way to incorporate vitamin B12 into the vegan diet.
Organic ﬂaxseed oil
is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, one of the essential fatty acids most often lacking in modern diets. Omega-3 fatty acids have been credited with amazing healing and preventive properties. Using ﬂaxseed oil as a salad dressing and drizzling it over cooked foods (such as a baked potato) are the easiest and most nutritious ways to incorporate it into your daily diet.
Because ﬂaxseed oil is prone to rancidity and highly susceptible to nutri- ent loss from exposure to air, light, and heat, special care must be taken when purchasing and storing it and when using it in recipes. Always keep ﬂaxseed oil in the refrigerator. Recap it immediately after use and return it to the refrigerator as soon as possible. Never heat ﬂaxseed oil or use it in cooking. Purchase only refrigerated ﬂaxseed oil in small quantities (no more than 10 to 12 ounces at a time). It should come packaged in a light-impervious plastic or dark glass bottle that is stamped with a freshness date. Use it up within two to three weeks after opening the bottle.
is a quick-cooking, gluten-free grain native to the Andes. Its small, disk-shaped seeds look like a cross between sesame seeds and millet. It has more calcium than cow’s milk, is high in protein, rich in minerals, and easy to digest. Rinse well under cold running water before cooking to remove its bitter coating. Store in the freezer. Check out this delicious quinoa recipe.
is water-packed tofu typically found in plastic tubs in the refrigerated section of your natural-food store and in the produce section of some supermarkets. Look for tofu processed with calcium salts for the highest calcium content or make your own – here’s how.
is a condiment or dip featuring tomatoes, chilies, and cilantro. Store opened jars in the refrigerator.
also called wheat meat, is a high-protein, fat-free food made from the protein (i.e., gluten) in wheat. It has a meaty texture and ﬂavor and makes an ideal meat substitute in many traditional recipes. It is available in the deli case or freezer of natural-food stores. Here’s a drool-worthy seitan stew to check out.
is a smooth, creamy, delicate tofu that is excellent for blending into sauces, dips, cream soups, and puddings. It is often available in special aseptic packaging that allows storage without refrigeration for up to a year (you’ll need to refrigerate it after opening). One popular brand, Mori-Nu, is available in most grocery stores. Other brands of silken tofu can be found in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and natural-food stores. And yes, silken tofu is used in delicious vegan desserts, too – check this Chocolate Cake Recipe here.
is a paste made by grinding raw or lightly toasted whole or hulled sesame seeds. It is light tan in color and rich and creamy like peanut butter. The consistency of tahini varies from brand to brand; some types are creamy and smooth, and others are oily or dry. Seek out tahini made from organically grown sesame seeds for the best ﬂavor and quality. Pour off the excess oil that rises to the top. Stir well and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
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