Vegan cooking is certainly an art. As illustrated in a previous article, ingredients such as milk, buttermilk, eggs, and butter are almost essential for certain recipes. With that said, there are a lot of vegan cooking ingredients that many chefs find essential. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common.
SOY PRODUCTS ARE POPULAR VEGAN COOKING INGREDIENTS
Soy is probably the most versatile plant out there, especially when it comes to creating healthy and protein rich vegan meals. Here is a list of some of the soy products that are out there:
• Soy milk
This is readily available and can be found in several different flavors, such as vanilla and chocolate.
Tofu comes in different levels of firmness such as extra firm, or soft.
Tempeh is a fermented product with a hearty, meaty texture that can be used in stir fries and other meals.
• Ground Meat replacement
This soy food is a staple to some, because you can make meals such as Spaghetti Bolognese and vegan chili.
• Soy yogurt
Contains the active cultures just like regular yogurt and comes in a variety of flavors.
Miso is a fermented salty paste that is made from soy and is used as a popular, enzyme rich soup base.
• Tamari and Soy Sauce
Both condiments are made from soy.
These are the fresh soy beans and are excellent by themselves or in stir fries.
• Soy cheese
Soy cheese even melts and has a similar texture as real cheese.
• Soy sausage, hot dogs, and hamburger patties
Vegans can enjoy breakfast sausage, hot dogs, and even hamburger patties.
• Soy “chicken”
They come in a variety of forms such as patties, nuggets, etc.
• Soy protein powder
Soy protein offers a great way to increase your daily protein intake. You can put a scoop in your morning smoothie, or add it to recipes such as pancakes and breads.
• Soy flour
This is also a valuable product, particularly for baking.
There are a variety of soy products out there and this wasn’t necessarily a complete list. It just illustrates the versatility of the food product. Look for soy products that are used from non-genetically modified soy beans.
But, soy foods have their critics. Some only like to use them in their “traditional” forms such as tofu, tempeh, miso, edemame, and tamari. Opponents of processed soy products are leery of the fact that they are designed to taste like meat or milk products which to them, defeats the purpose of being vegan. Plus, these foods tend to be highly processed which doesn’t necessarily make them healthier. Whether or not you decide to use them is a decision that you should make after you weigh the pros and cons.
There are so many different kinds of whole grains out there, it is worthwhile to experiment. Grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients. They even have protein, especially quinoa – an ancient grain that is especially protein rich. Here are some whole grain vegan cooking ingredients to try:
• Wheat products
• Brown rice
These can be ground into flour or used whole. They should form the backbone of a healthy vegan diet.
NUTS AND SEEDS
These are another essential part of a healthy vegan diet. They are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as important nutrients like healthy fats. Here’s a list of some nuts and seeds to try:
• Hazelnuts (filberts)
• Sunflower seeds
• Pumpkin seeds
• Sesame seeds
• Poppy seeds
• Flax seeds
• Hemp seeds
You can include them in recipes and also eat them by themselves as a snack.
Legumes are an essential protein source to a vegan, especially when paired with whole grains. They need to be combined in this way in order to form a complete protein. When this is one of your main protein sources, it is important to remember to combine it.
Here are some examples. This list is by no means exhaustive:
• Chick peas (garbanzo beans)
• Kidney beans
• Black beans
• Cannelloni beans
• Northern beans
• Black eyed peas
• Split peas
You can find legumes in dried form, ground into flour, and canned. The dried form needs to be soaked overnight in order to soften it. The canned form is easy to use and great to have on hand. The flour is also a popular ingredient in baked foods and savory cooking.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Important for good health, fruits and vegetables add color and variety to your meals. As a vegan, your entire diet will be plant based so you need to get your vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from things like fruits and vegetables.
Look for organic produce whenever possible which makes them even healthier. Organic food is also better for the environment. Seasonal, local produce is also best because it helps support your local economy and tastes a lot fresher.
CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS
As the vegan diet increases in popularity, so does the availability of packaged, vegan friendly foods. What follows is a list of some of the things you can find.
• Baked goods
• Vegan chocolate
• Canned goods
• Breakfast foods and cereals
The great thing is that you don’t even need to go to a health food store to find a lot of these vegan cooking ingredients. Yes, health food stores have a lot of vegan options, but you can even find vegan vegan cooking ingredients in your regular supermarket.
Here is a great resource that will give you a list of all the vegan foods you can find at the supermarket:
Print it out so that you can find the things that you need when you go to the store. We’ll examine some of these items in greater detail as we talk about how to stock a complete vegan pantry.
HIDDEN INGREDIENTS TO WATCH OUT FOR
As mentioned in a previous section, there are often hidden ingredients in foods that are animal byproducts. A true vegan will take the extra step needed to investigate what these ingredients are and avoid them.
If it is a packaged food and it is listed as being vegan friendly, you can be fairly confident that the food doesn’t have these ingredients in it. But, it is still a good idea to check.
What follows is a list of the ingredients to watch out for. There are two types of ingredients – those that are clearly from animal products, and those that may be from animal products or may be from plant derived products.
In the second category, the only way to really find out is by contacting the manufacturer of the food product. And if they don’t know, consider not buying their product just to be safe.
HIDDEN INGREDIENTS FROM ANIMALS
These non vegan cooking ingredients are fairly common in foods so unless a product is labeled as vegan, you should really check the ingredients list to make sure they aren’t included.
• Albumin – comes from egg whites
• Milk products – includes whey protein powder, lactase, lactose, and things like milk and dried milk
• Calcium Caseinate – a fairly common additive
• Calcium Stearate – also another additive
• Suet – a type of animal fat
• Tallow – animal fat product is made from suet
• Bee products – This includes royal jelly, propolis, honey, and bee pollen
• Carmine – a food additive that comes from insects
• Lard – a type of animal fat
• Casein – this is the protein that is in cheese
• Gelatin – from animals, a popular product found especially in jellies and desserts
Other common hidden ingredients from animals include:
• Muristic acid
• Oleic acid
• Palmitic acid
Most of the above non vegan cooking ingredients are typically used as additives in food. They have different purposes, depending on the food that it will go on.
INGREDIENTS THAT MAY BE FROM ANIMALS
The following ingredients serve different functions in the food that they are in. Some are considered additives. Others emulsify foods and supply extra fats. However, just because it sounds like an animal ingredient, doesn’t mean it is. They could be synthetically manufactured or come from plants. You’ll need to check.
The non vegan cooking ingredients to avoid include:
• Emulsifying agents
• Fatty acid
• Adipic acid
• Capric acid
• Lactic acid
• Magnesium stearate
• Anything listed as “natural flavoring”
• Clarifying agents
• Disodium inosinate
• Stearic acid
• Sodium stearoyl lactylate
Yes, some of those ingredients are hard to say – some of them don’t even sound like food! They all have different purposes in the foods that we eat on a daily basis, even foods that we don’t think to consider. The point is that if you want to live a truly vegan lifestyle, it is worth the extra step to follow up and determine if your favorite foods use the animal versions of these ingredients.
However, it is important to understand that the vegan cooking ingredients mentioned in this article can be found in almost everything. If you try to focus too much on it, it may get too overwhelming. It is important to find a good balance between wanted to be a strict vegan and living a fulfilling life. If things go too far, it could affect your health in a negative way from the stress.
Being a vegan is definitely a lifestyle commitment. Learning about the foods you need to eat, how to make vegan friendly substitutions while baking and cooking, and all about the ingredients you may want to avoid are all necessary part of embracing the vegan lifestyle.