As a vegan, it can sometimes be overwhelming, if not sometimes confusing, as to how exactly do we cook VEGAN!?
The simple answer is, using the same ingredients as you’d normally find in your own kitchen cupboards, such as beans, lentils and coconut milk to name but a few.
In this post, I’m going to try and go through a few ingredients which I’ve found to be incredibly useful to me as I navigated my way through the first few hazy months and years of veganism.
The absolute cornerstone of veganism.
It can be used in a variety of different ways and can soak up flavours/sauces like nothing else, enabling it to be used for as a substitute for almost any meat, including chicken.
Silken tofu can be used in desserts such as chocolate mousse, and cheesecake- and is a great substitute for eggs in recipes.
For each egg, you want to replace using a quarter cup of silken tofu. It can be blended into dips, puddings, dressings, sauces and smoothies as a replacement for dairy.
Another wondrous vegan product, Jackfruit is an extremely large compound fruit made of numerous yellow ‘bulbs’ of flesh within a hard, knobbly exterior, with each bulb containing a seed.
The trees are thought to have originated in India and now grow throughout the tropics.
The flesh inside the fruit is generally sweet, like a combination of pineapple and banana. Different varieties are softer and mushier while others can be crisp and crunchy.
Jackfruit can be used as a substitute in many dishes, including as an alternative to duck in the Chinese dish, duck pancakes and also in bolognese, burgers, tacos and lasagne.
As a meat substitute, it stands up really well in hearty dishes alongside strong flavours like paprika.
Tempah is protein rich and made from fermented cooked soya beans, eaten as a vegetarian alternative to meat. Weight for weight, Tempah is higher in calories than tofu but is also higher in protein.
The flavour is a combination of nuts and mushrooms with an underpinning of bitterness and perhaps also cheesiness!
Tempah is incorporated into other dishes and readily absorbs those flavours to mollify and disguise its own.
It can be the basis of a meal, after marinating or being added to something like a vegetable stew, giving both bulk and protein; there are very few flavours with which it will not marry.
Just like Tofu and Jackfruit, Tempah can be used in a variety of dishes such as stir frys, traybakes and perhaps, most excitedly, as a bacon replacement!! Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!
An ingredient that needs no introduction and one which has been a staple of every vegetarian/vegan diet for many years.
One simply cannot decide to be vegan without having a fruit bowl full of Avocados!
Avocado can simply be smashed up with lime juice, chilli, salt, pepper and spread on toast or perhaps, rather unusually, in a chocolate mousse and even chocolate cake!
If you’re ever stuck for something to eat, so long as you have an avocado in the fridge you’ll never go hungry!
This one’s for all my lazy girls and guys out there!
I no longer have the desire to cook ‘normal’ rice from scratch! Just give me a packet of rice I can put in the microwave for two minutes and I’m happy!
Sometimes you don’t have the time to eat anything above a bag of microwave rice, some salad and perhaps some chickpeas.
I always ensure I’ve got a few packets of these in the cupboard so I can grab a quick lunch, or use them as an addition to a larger meal.
Another vegan staple, lentils are packed full of protein and carbohydrates and are a good source of calcium, phosphorous, iron and B vitamins.
There are several different varieties – most commonly used in cooking are brown, red, green, puy and yellow.
Lentils can be bought dried and ideally will be firm, clean and un-shrivelled. The type of lentil you choose will depend on the intended usage:
Green and brown: ideal for salads, casseroles and stuffing.
Puy: perfect accompaniment to more expensive ingredients.
Red split: superb for thickening dishes such as casseroles and work well with spices in a dhal.
Yellow: similar to red lentils, these can be used in a similar way and are great for adding colour to winter dishes.
Coconut milk is made by grating fresh coconut flesh and then working that with water, traditionally by hand.
With little to no water added, coconut cream is obtained, while more water and greater working results in thinner milk.
Both coconut cream + milk are very high in saturated fat and neither has a wide range of useful nutrients, but it is delicious and can be used in many dishes, but its main use is in Indian cooking, like curries.
Coconut milk can be used in place of dairy milk or cream, depending on how thick it is.
It can be used as a cream substitute to make or dress all sorts of puddings and desserts, especially those including tropical fruits.
It is best used as fresh as possible and storage advice in commercial products should be adhered to strictly.
Another vegan staple, Cauliflower is a very versatile vegetable.
It can even be used in place of steak! Prior to going vegan, this was my least favourite vegetable, but now? One of my absolute favourites!
There’s so much that can be done with Cauliflower – from being chopped up, fried and covered in a bbq/teriyaki sauce, shoved in a curry/stir-fry, as a pizza topping and even as a ‘steak’!
It really is so versatile and it’s always good to have something like this in your fridge for those times when you ‘don’t have anything to eat’!
Black beans have a slightly texture and mildly sweet flavour, they’re also incredibly healthy, providing multiple vital nutrients with minimal fat and sugar.
They’re rich and creamy, yet lively and full of flavour and make a tasty side dish or meal component.
Black beans are rich in fibre and plant-based protein and a fantastic source of folate, thiamin (vit B1), phosphorous, manganese and magnesium.
So all in all, a pretty powerful little bean!
There are many different recipes which include black beans from chilli, quesadillas, tacos, nachos, meatballs, brownies, curries and rice bowls.
Dried nutritional yeast flakes differ from active and beer yeasts, because after being grown commercially, the yeast is heat-treated to deactivate it so it can’t ferment.
Its special appeal is a relatively high flavour profile that is distinctly cheese-like and thus it gives a parmesan-style kick to vegan and vegetarian dishes.
It is a very popular ingredient found in the cupboards of vegans as it can be used in so many different ways and added to a variety of dishes.
If you like a cheesy flavour to your pasta dishes or fancy a cheesy topping on your salads, popcorn or vegetables. Think of it like adding a shake of B vitamins to your food.
Herbs & Spices/Vegetable Stock
Last but not least, of course, there are herbs and spices. And while these can be found in almost every kitchen around the world, I thought I’d add them here because with vegan cooking they’re very important!
This doesn’t mean that all vegan cooking is bland, far from it! Having a well-stocked herb and spice rack enables you to ensure your cooking is very tasty and can also help you create more exotic dishes.
My personal favourites are smoked paprika, basil, oregano, curry powder, parsley and herbs de Provence.
So there you have it! Just a few of the most common ingredients I have found to be handy to have around my kitchen whilst adjusting to veganism.
When it comes to cooking, I err on the side of laziness so if I have a lot of easy-to-make/ready-to-go foods and ingredients to make myself a delicious meal, then all the better!
Have you got any of these in your kitchen cupboards? Do you like to cook? Let’s chat in the comments!