Inside a Vegan Kitchen: 5 Common Ingredients and Recipes
With the plethora of meat and dairy alternatives out there, going vegan keeps getting easier and easier. Whether you are a true blood vegan or just looking to experiment, here are some great ingredients to become familiar with. Join us as we explore some common vegan ingredients including tempeh, seitan, agave nectar and cheesy nutritional yeast in delicious recipes such as Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh, Curry-Scrambled Tofu, and Balsamic Glazed and Roasted Buttercup Squash.
Higher in protein per serving than tofu, seitan is derived from the protein portion of wheat known as wheat gluten. Great as a meat substitute, the texture and look are so meaty it is almost like the real deal. Available in a range of flavors, firmness and textures, this protein-dense wheat meat is highly versatile. It is often packaged in a marinade or broth, in strips, steaks or chunks. It works baked, deep fried, simmered or braised. Commonly found in Asian restaurants as mock chicken or mock duck, seitan is an easy addition to stir fries or noodle dishes, plus goes well with stews, casseroles and roasts. It can be made from scratch using whole wheat flour. However, as it is very time consuming to make, involving a great deal of kneading and rinsing away the starch, ii can be more convenient to purchase it ready-made or to buy a powder base to get you started. The wheat meat is perfect in Summer Seitan Sauté with Cilantro & Lime, which features red onion, fresh corn and crimini mushrooms with a kick of lime and cilantro leaves. For some more comfort food, the My Wild Irish Seitan Stew is an appealing mix of vegetables and seitan simmered with red wine, bay leaves and thyme. Quinoa and Red Lentil Cutlets are a meatier option with a fantastic gravy.
A staple food originating from Indonesia, tempeh may not yet be on your radar, but this nutritious soy product boasts a unique nutty taste you should give a try. Like tofu, it takes on the flavor of the foods it is cooked with, although its flavor is much stronger than its soybean counterpart. Rich in protein, a great source of iron and calcium, and a fermented food, tempeh is a nutritional alternative to other meat substitutes. During the fermenting process, enzymes break down the protein, fats and other nutrients so they are easier to digest, plus the iron, calcium, zinc and other minerals become more absorbable. Purchase the organic and sprouted kind for an even healthier kick.
Tempeh is made by partially cooking and dehulling soybeans, adding a culturing agent and then incubating it overnight till it forms a solid cake with a chewy texture similar to a veggie burger. Swap it out for ground beef in recipes, throw it on the grill for a smoky version that stands alone, or slice it in place of meat in a Reuben or BLT sandwich. We recommend the Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh, which is sweetly flavored with freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and ginger. For an Italian spin, try Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe with Rotelle, which gets its flavor from white wine, balsamic vinegar and oregano.
So maybe the name does not sound appealing, but nutritional yeast is not just healthy, it is delicious. (No, it does not taste like yeast and cannot make anything rise.) A “deactivated” form of yeast, it is grown on purified cane and beet molasses for a week, then washed, killed by heat and dried. With its yummy, creamy cheese flavor, vegans adore it as a cheese flavoring substitution. Available powdered or flaked, this rich food is perfect sprinkled over popcorn, stirred into mashed potatoes, used to coat fried tofu or as a base for gravy. Its nutritional profile is in keeping with its name: a great source of protein, full of B vitamins and zinc, and low in fat and sodium, and many brands fortify it with B12 (yea if you’re vegan!). If you cannot find it at a health food store, a number of online sites sell it in bulk.
Get started with nutritional yeast in this easy Curry-Scrambled Tofu, which sautés together fresh vegetables and firm tofu spiced up with a delightful curry. You can’t go wrong using nutritional yeast as a base for mac and cheese, such as this Easy Macaroni and “Cheeze,”which uses nondairy milk combined with tahini and spices to yield a satisfying version of this long-time favorite.
TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEIN
Commonly referred to as TVP, don’t be deceived by the “vegetable” in the name. Textured vegetable protein is actually soy protein isolate made from soybeans by separating the protein from the whole soybean. Soybeans are combined with an alkaline solution to remove the fiber. The resulting curd is dried until a protein powder forms, which is pressurized into the TVP you buy. Resembling minced meat, try TVP chunks or flakes in vegetarian chilis, taco fillings, casseroles or a substitute for ground beef in spaghetti sauce or even hamburgers. A good source of complete protein and low in fat and calories, TVP cooks quickly. As some brands add salt and flavorings, read the labels carefully. For a hearty meal, toss it in a satisfying vegetarian chili brimming with spicy vegetables, tomatoes and beans such as Healthy Vegan Chili or Wicked Good Veggie Chili (minus the sour cream). Textured vegetable protein also works great in meatballs, such as these classic crispy fried TVP meatballs.
More and more in the spotlight as a natural sweetener, agave is great sugar or honey substitute for strict vegans. Usually made from the blue agave plant, it is almost always available raw and organic. The agave plant’s core is filled with “honey water” that is processed to form the basis of the agave syrup. With a consistency like maple syrup and sweeter than sugar, agave can be used in either cooking or baking. The light colored version is similar in taste to honey and is perfect added to your tea. The dark nectar tastes more like caramel and can be used as a syrup for pancakes or waffles or as a base for lemonade. Because it has a higher ratio of fructose to glucose than many other sweeteners on the market, it has a relatively lower glycemic index for those careful of their blood sugar levels. Try agave nectar in the sweet and hot Spicy Vegan Peanut Butter Tofu or in an appealing simple side dish such as Agave and Balsamic Glazed and Roasted Buttercup Squash.