The hardest part when transitioning over to a plant-based diet is knowing what ingredients to use and where to get them, instead of those ikky animal ones we are so programed to using. So I decided to put together My Weird Ingredient List, of things you may have never heard of but will defiantly come across in the plant-based world. Hopefully it will help you along your journey and introduce you to some new and exciting flavours and insure your transition is a smooth one.
Tofu would be the most common plant-based protein people think of, also known as bean curd. It’s made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the curds into a soft, white blocks. Tofu comes in soft (often called silken), firm or extra firm. Tofu has no flavour so it will take on any flavour you use it with, so it’s a fantastic ingredient to use in sweet or savoury dishes. Tofu is very easy to find in most super markets and health food stores.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, nothing like the active bread yeast you may commonly come across. It resembles little flakes similar to fish food. But I can assure you it tastes amazing, it’s quite nutty and cheesy in flavour along with being a great source of B12. Fantastic to use in creamy pasta dishes and vegan cheeses. Nutritional yeast can be found in most health food store and a selected supermarkets.
Miso paste is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking. Made from fermented soy bean, this paste has a strong umami flavour of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. As miso is a natural fermented product it’s fantastic for your micro-biome and gut health. You can find miso paste in most Asian super markets and a selected few super markets.
Agar agar powder or flakes are a sea-weed gelling agent. It can be used as a vegan substitute for gelatine. Awesome ingredient to have at hand when making dairy free cheeses and desserts. Found in most health foods stores and selected supermarkets.
Agave nectar is the sweet nectar extracted from the agave plant, usually grown in Mexico and South Africa. It’s a great natural sweetener alternative to honey. I use a lot of agave nectar and maple syrup in my recipes. They are very similar in terms of sweetness. Maple syrup can be commonly found in most supermarkets. Agave however can be a little more difficult to find, you will have a better chance finding agave syrup in most health food stores.
Nori is commonly used in sushi or nori rolls. Made from shredded seaweed and then pressing it into thin sheets. Quite easy to find in any Asian supermarkets or health food stores.
One of my favourite ingredients to introduce that Smokey BBQ flavour to any dish. It comes as a dark liquid similar consistency to soy sauce. Quite difficult to find, some health food shops supply it or you might find it in one of those fancy artisan food shops. I buy mine on amazon and get it delivered to my door…too easy.
Seitan or vital wheat gluten
Seitan is a meat substitute made with vital wheat gluten, which is pure gluten flour the main protein in wheat. It’s a whopping 80% plant protein, but be aware it is pure gluten it’s obviously a nightmare for anyone that maybe gluten intolerant or celiac. This ingredient is pure magic and similar to tofu it has no flavour so you can use your imagination with this one. I use it for my vegan chicken, luncheon rolls, vegan bacon and sausages it’s amazing to work with. Vital wheat gluten is found in most health food shops.
Tapioca starch is extracted from the cassava root vegetable. This soft white powder is magic when making vegan cheeses to get that stretchy mozzarella texture, great to use on pasta dishes and pizzas. Very readily available in most supermarkets and you are most likely to find it in all Asian supermarkets.
Jackfruit (pictured above)
The Jackfruit is an exotic fruit grown in tropical regions of the world. It is quite a large fruit with a spiky outer skin and is green or yellow in colour. The unique aspect of the Jackfruit is the yellow flesh on the inside, when cooked is has the same shredded texture as pulled pork or chicken. Therefore is commonly used in vegetarian or vegan cooking. You will find it in cans in most supermarkets or health food stores. Very hard to find fresh locally in Europe.
Tahini is a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds. It is served by its self as a spread like peanut butter or used in salad dressings or commonly used in hummus. Also found a lot in Mediterranean dishes, a great source of calcium. Very easy to find in most grocery stores and supermarkets.
A chia egg is made from using 1 table spoon of chia or flax seed to 2 table spoons of water. When mixed together the soluble fibre begins to form, similar looking to the white of an egg. Slightly reassembling frog eggs. This can then be used as an egg replacement when cooking and baking. Fantastic source of omega 3 and 6 .Chia and flax seeds are readily available in all supermarkets.
Aquafaba is the most incredible ingredient. You know the liquid you drain off a tin of chick peas? Well that is called Aquafaba and you will be amazed in what you can do with it. You can use it as is in liquid form to replace an egg in recipes but the pure magic happens when you whisk it, it thickens and fluffs up just like egg whites would when making a meringue. Pure magic. Hello vegan Pavlova and macaroons. Canned chick peas can be found in most supermarkets.
Tempeh is a traditional soy product that originates in Indonesia. It has a firm texture and earthy flavour. Tempeh is made by using a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds the beans together. Unlike tofu tempeh is made from the whole soy bean therefore it has a different texture. It offers a higher protein content along with more dietary fibre and vitamins. Hard to find in most supermarkets you will have a better chance finding it in either the health food store or an Asian supermarket.
Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before they have ripened or hardened. The pods are generally boiled or steamed and may be served with salt or other condiments. Great source of protein. Hard to find in most supermarkets you will have a better chance finding them in the Asian super market commonly in the freezer section.
TVP-Textured vegetable protein
TVP or textured vegetable protein are chunks of soy which are a by-product of extracting soybean oil. This means it has minimal fat content but is very high in protein, fibre and minerals. Compared to other soy products TVP would be considered more processed. Found in all good health food stores.
Cacao is not the same as cocoa, confusing I know. Cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat, leaving it quite bitter in taste. Cocoa looks the same but is not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures, therefore has lost most of its natural enzymes. Cacao powder and nibs (little chunks of cacao beans) can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores.
Black salt (Kala Namak)
Kala Namak is a kiln-fired rock salt commonly used in South Asia. Also known as Himalayan black salt it has a sulphurous, pungent smell and taste strikingly similar to eggs. Commonly used in Vegan cooking when making quiches, scrambled tofu and many other eggy dishes. Found in most health foods stores.