I’m sure from the title of this post that you probably already know it’s about to be a really helpful read. After being a vegetarian, then a vegan food blogger for over four years, I’ve learned quite a few things. The joys of finding the CORRECT tofu (post on that coming later). The happy tears from discovering nooch. The happy dance from Gav and I when making seitan for the first time at home. The kick that miso gives me. The brine that tempeh is able to absorb and how beautiful it is in a vegan BLT.

Okay – what are these ingredients I’m talking about and can I explain them already?!

After explaining it one by one over and over to so many of you guys, I wanted to take the time to write a post explaining them all. Trust me, the names may be uncertain and a bit different (seitan? Wait what?) but the tastes are so welcome. Here’s a helpful guide on the 10 most popular confusing vegan ingredients explained!

Tempeh

This Tempeh Bacon BLT Sandwich is loaded with lots of meaty flavour! It's perfect for quick lunches and dinners and you can use the tempeh bacon in so many ways! via https://jessicainthekitchen.com

Tempeh (pronounced tem-peh just like it is spelled) is traditionally made from a fermented soybean. It’s usually sold in 8 ounce blocks frozen and is most well known for being a vegan meat replacer. Tempeh is so great for you since it is fermented, so probiotic lovers rejoice! It may look like meat gone wrong but it certainly isn’t – that’s just the fermentation.
Here’s how you prepare it. Thaw your tempeh, either on your counter or overnight in your fridge. Then slice it how you desire – triangles, stripes, squares, anything. Then steam it. The fermentation process can make it bitter and steaming it reduces and removes that bitterness. Steam for like 10 minutes, then marinate in sauce! This is the best part. Tempeh is such an amazing flavour holder. Then cook! Bake, fry, anything. Eat anyway you desire. Here’s a recipe to get you started: Tempeh BLT Sandwich

Nutritional Yeast

These Vegan Herbed Parmesan Crackers are done in 30 minutes! They are easy to make in one bowl, are crispy and flaky, and gluten free! via https://jessicainthekitchen.com
Oh my love, nutritional yeast. I love this so much. You may be seeing this and wondering what on earth is Nutritional Yeast? Great news – it’s your new best friend. Nutritional yeast aka nooch is an inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. Think of it kind of like mushrooms, in powdered form. Because it’s inactive yeast, you can’t use it as a leavener or a riser, but you can definitely cook with it in a multitude of ways.
It is basically a super food – it is high in B12, protein, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc. It’s gluten free, vegan and is a great source for your B12 vitamins. I could go on and on about nutritional yeast, but a huge taste highlight is that it has a cheesy taste that is super popular in the veg community for adding to sauces, popcorn and even to make a vegan parmesan cheese. I love adding it on top of pizza, pastas, popcorn – and after a few uses you’ll start adding it to your favourite treats too!
Here’s two amazing recipes to get you started: Vegan Herbed Parmesan Crackers Parmesan cheese and How to Make Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is near and dear to my heart because I’ve known about it way before it became a popularised meat substitute. Growing up on two Caribbean islands meant seeing it everywhere, especially in Jamaica. Jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world, and many people either love it or hate it in its ripen form. However, for recipes as meat replacements, I 100% recommend not using the fresh ripe fruit, but rather a younger green jackfruit. This eliminates the sweet flavour and gives it a more hardy texture for your dishes. It also means you don’t have to buy the large fruit to use it, which can take a lot of technique and time to properly get out of the fruit. However if you want to use it in desserts, you can definitely use the fresh fruit.

Because of it’s texture once shredded, jackfruit is often used in vegan and vegetarian recipes as a meat replacement for pulled pork. It certainly mimics the texture and can mimic the flavours too with the right type of jackfruit and seasonings. Don’t be intimidated by it! Just follow the directions of the recipe you’re using and you’ll be surprised. Like I said, starting with a jar or can of young ripe green jackfruit is a great start.

Seitan

Meet the master of meat replacers. Every time I say the word seitan (pronounced exactly how you’re thinking – sey-TAN), I get weird looks. Seitan is a vegan product made from gluten. Actually, 100% from vital wheat gluten. Since gluten adds such a stretch to bread, seitan can stretch to become any product you want, and has an insanely similar texture to meat. It’s made by basically adding water & seasonings to the vital wheat gluten, and then kneading it (like bread) until it’s more pliable. This makes it edible, gives it the perfect chew and helps it to cook more evenly.
You can use seitan to make anything your heart desires: vegan ribs, vegan sausages, vegan chicken etc. The first time you make a recipe you’ll be so shocked trust me. We danced around the stove after Gav made vegan sausages. I love using the Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten to make Seitan. You can also buy seitan pre-made! Here’s a recipe using pre-made seitan to get you started: Vegan Fajita Bowls

Miso

Oh miso! While miso isn’t just a vegan ingredient and its history extends way beyond this, it is used a lot in the vegan community. When I surveyed you guys on which ingredients to cover, a surprising amount of you said miso. If you see miso in a vegan recipe, you’re about to be in for a flavour umami ride. Miso is made from fermented soybeans, and each colour is made with a different kind of grain. White miso is made with fermented soybeans and rice. Yellow miso with fermented soybeans and barley. Red miso with with fermented soybeans and barley/another grain.
It is added to recipe to add a flavour boost and tastes absolutely divine. They are several types and you’ll probably see white or yellow miso in most recipes since it’s the mildest and most diverse since it doesn’t affect the colour of a recipe so much. Red is way more pungent but definitely affects the colour of a recipe. I would recommend just using the miso a recipe requires since subbing may result in an under seasoned or way too salty recipe.

Chia Seeds

Remember chia pets?! Chia seeds are a tiny seed that mean “strength” in Mayan, and I’m assuming it’s because the chia seed gives you lots of energy. They are tiny black seeds that get gelatinous when they absorb water, similar to flax seeds, and are loaded with fibre. You can use chia seeds in a multitude of ways – in your water to add fibre to your daily diet, as a great egg replacement too and really anywhere you want more protein and fibre. Due to their high fibre content, they help to keep you really full – which is why I like to sprinkle them over fruits or in overnight oats.  They’re also high in omega 3’s so you can enjoy them daily! I’ve even added them to a jam to replace pectin (since they get so jelly).
P.S. if you’re like my husband and the texture/look freaks you out, grind them down! Here’s a recipe to get you started: No Bake Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

Textured Vegetable Protein aka TVP

So we haven’t actually used TVP, also known as soy meat or soya chunks, but it’s something Gavin is very interested in trying. TVP is a versatile, easily portable and nutritious soy based product that’s high in protein, contains no fat and is a popular meat alternative. Due to its lightweight properties, you can actually carry with backpacking with you! Due to its texture, it’s usually used as a sub for ground meat. So think – Tacos, meatloaf, chilli, sloppy joes etc. We were specifically thinking of using it in a vegan lasagna. It’s naturally gluten free and really great at absorbing flavours, and you can season it anyway that you want.

 

Lentils

This One Pot Red Lentil Chili takes only ten minutes of prep! It makes an absolutely delicious vegan chili and it incredibly easy to whip up for you and your family! via https://jessicainthekitchen.com

I love love love lentils!! I used to avoid lentils for no good reason and now I LOVE them! They are known as a power legume due to how long they’ve been around (all the way back to 8,000 BC) and their protein content. They’re also incredibly versatile: Whether you have them plain and on top of a salad, or in a chilli, or as a meat replacer in tacos.

There are many different colours of lentils – Black, red, brown, green and yellow. The different colours are cooked for different times. So no, they aren’t very easily exchanged. If you see a recipe asking for red lentils, I definitely recommend using red lentils since you’ll have to completely adjust the cooking times and may end up with too mushy or rock hard lentils instead. In general, lentils take up to 30-40 minutes to cook.

When cooked properly, lentils are absolutely divine.  They’re rich in fibre and absolutely exploding with protein, so be sure to get a bag and try them out. Here are some recipes to get you started:

One Pot Red Lentil Chili  and Vegan Red Lentil Curry

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea Flour aka Garbanzo Bean Flour, is a stone ground flour made from whole garbanzo beans. If you’re a vegan or someone who doesn’t love eggs, this is a great product to always have in your home. Not only is it high in fibre and protein and a good source of iron, it’s like a magic ingredient. If you want to make a vegan quiche or vegan omelette, this is the flour for you. Not only does it beautifully mimic the colour, it also bakes up beautifully too.

It’s great for thickening up soups and sauces, a lot of meals such as adding it to falafel, socca and papadums. I would recommend starting with the recipe on the back of your bag, then using it in your own ways to get a feel for its thickness. One thing to remember: always cook it all the way through to get the right texture.

Tofu, Magic Tofu

This Vegan Butter Chicken will blow your mind and impress your friends! It's a healthier version of the classic, and so rich and creamy! via https://jessicainthekitchen.com

Tofu, also known as bean curd,  is on this list because tofu has SO many misconceptions that it’s insane. I’ve heard so many complaints from a lot of non-vegans and vegans alike that they hate the flavour and the texture. I can tell you this with 100% guarantee – when you cook tofu properly AND are using the correct tofu your opinion will change. I too was a non-tofu lover, but that was because I had the wrong tofu.

I’ll do a whole post on this if you like, but long story short tofu comes in many forms – soft, firm, extra firm and SILKEN. Silken also comes in soft, firm & extra firm and it is not the tofu you want to buy to be using as a meat replacement. Silken is for soups, cheesecakes and smoothies. Rather, you want regular tofu. This was the largest difference for me. Then, tofu’s flavour is not delicious. That isn’t its job though. Tofu is there as a base for you to manipulate. It needs lots of seasonings and love and it can become anything you want.

One of the things that is asked a lot in relation to tofu is whether it is “real”. Yes, it definitely is. Tofu is actually made from soy milk and there are many videos on Youtube of making it straight from soy milk at home to show that it is just as easy to make at home as many other vegan meat replacers. It’s minimally processed and has been a component in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines for centuries, just to show that this isn’t some recent invention. Also, tofu definitely has an expiration date (trust me, I’ve personally experienced this one)! If you don’t have any soy issues and buy it non-GMO, it is definitely something to give a try.

Here are some recipes to start you off: Crispy Cajun Fried Chicken Salad with ‘Honey’ Mustard Dressing and Vegan Butter Chicken (with Amazing Tofu)

 

I hope this guide helped you so much friends!! As usual with all these ingredients, aim for the best quality and if possible, buy it organic. If you want even more detail on vegan ingredients and Stocking Your Kitchen you can check out my ebook It’s That Easy!

 

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7 comments

  1. stephanie says:

    Hi Jessica,
    This was an AWESOME post!!!!! Thank you 🙂

  2. Heidi C. says:

    This was great thank you! Any recommendations for a jackfruit recipe? I have two cans of green jackfruit that keep staring at me when I open my kitchen pantry. 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      Hi Heidi,

      I don’t have any on the blog yet but will have soon! I haven’t tried any others so don’t want to recommend it to you without my testing! Don’t worry, it’ll be up very soon. 🙂

  3. Heidi C. says:

    Thank you Jessica! , I’ll look forward to seeing what you come up with for the jackfruit. ☺

  4. Glorya says:

    Great info!! I’ve eaten TVP and there is a method to making it correctly. I use it in Chili’s mainly as I’m not huge in meat replacers but it does give a nice texture to dishes. I’m always interested in learning how more and would love to see what you have to say about tofu!! I think a lot of people are afraid if it. I love it because it’s so versatile!!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks so much Glorya! Love the way that you’ve been using it! I agree – I love tofu for its versatility too. Can’t wait to do that post!

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