Vegetarian Ingredients, Vegan Ingredients & Alternatives
Below is a brief introduction to some common vegetarian and vegan ingredients used in vegetarian cooking, vegan baking, and some raw food preparations. These healthy mostly vegan ingredients contain no animal by-products and can be used as substitues in most vegetarian versions of cooking recipes.
You will find these vegetarian cooking ingredients at your local health stores. Or buy them online -- just click on the product name link!
Agar is a vegetable-based gelatin. It is a good alternative and works just as well for thickening recipes or making the food "gelatinous." Agar can be found in the baking section or in natural foods stores. Asian markets tend to carry it as well. Note that conventional gelatin is the boiled remnants of animals, including bones, tissue, muscle, and body parts not sold for meat, such as heads, snouts, hooves, etc...
Agave nectar is the extract of the wild agave plant commonly found in the deserts of Mexico and considered sacred by the people. It has a low glycemic level and is a delicious and safe alternative to white sugar and other sugars.
Bragg's Liquid Amino is a low sodium liquid protein concentrate made from soybeans. It's a healthy alternative used in place of soy sauce or salty sauces. Often used in stiry frys, soups, casseroles, dressings, & sauces.
Cacao butter (raw) is the pure oil of the cacao bean. It is edible and possesses an extraordinary rich, delicate chocolate aroma. Add it to smoothie, dessert, ice cream or chocolate creation. Because it has not been damaged by heat, raw cacao butter melts easily and blends nicely into any type of recipe.
Carob is a cocoa-like powder that can be used in shakes, baked goods, and whenever a recipe calls for chocolate. Carob is sweet, high in fiber, and it contains calcium, iron, and phosphorus, but does not contain caffeine like chocolate does. Carob comes from the seed pod of the evergreen carob tree.
Coconut oil is widely used as a food product and skin moisturizer. It contains antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. Health-conscious chefs prize coconut oil for its extremely high flash point, zero trans-fatty acids, and extremely rich source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are broken down efficiently by the body, providing an immediate source of energy. Coconut oil has a rich, buttery tastes.
Egg Replacer is a powdered formula of starches and leavening. Mix with water to use in recipes that call for eggs (muffins, pancakes, etc).
Hemp seed nuts are one of nature's richest sources of complete protein, omega 6 and omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids, and are a source of GLA. Moreover, the EFAs are balanced in a ratio suitable for life long consumption. Hemp seed nuts have a pleasant nutty flavor, similar to sunflower seeds. They are delicious sprinkled on salads, used in smoothies, or eaten alone.
Kelp is a powdered seaweed with a lightly salty taste, rich in iodine, and a good salt substitute.
Kombu is edible kelp seaweed that can be eaten raw or cooked. It is commonly used in Asian cooking and usually sold in packaged dried strips.
Molasses or blackstrap molasses is a dark syrup left over from the sugar production process. It is commonly used to flavor rye bread, baked beans, pies, gingerbrad, and cookies. Molasses has a strong, bittersweet flavor, and a little goes a long way.
Miso is a salty-flavored fermented paste from soybeans, rice or barley. It is rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins. Mix with water, then add to soups or gravies during the last phase of cooking, in order to keep the nutrients alive (do not boil it or it loses its nutritional properties). Also add it to salad dressings and sauces.
Nama Shoyu is unpasteurized soy sauce made from soy beans. It has a full-bodied flavor and contains live enzymes. A healthful alternative to conventional soy sauce.
Nutritional Yeast is a food supplement grown on cane or beet molasses which comes in a yellow powder or flakes with a 'cheesy' flavor. When nutritional yeast is made from a natural fermentation source and not from a synthetic or animal source, it contains enough vitamin B-12 to fulfill a daily requirement.
Protein Powder is a protein supplement in powder form. Ingredients and nutritional value varies widely. Check ingredients for allergies. Choose one with low sugar or sweetener content and no additive.
Quinoa is a light, fluffy, tasty, fast-cooking grain that is high in iron, protein, and B-vitamins. Also known as "Food of gods," it is an ancient grain native to South America. Possibly the best grain available.
Seitan is a textured food product derived from the protein portion of wheat, or wheat gluten. Seitan is high in protein and low in fat. Prepared seitan come in a variety of flavors and textures. Some vegetarian restaurants also serve seitan in their dishes.
Spelt is an ancient grass and distant cousin to modern wheat. It can replace wheat flour in baking. Many wheat and gluten sensitive people can use it in their diet.
Sucanat is made from evaporated cane juice. You can use white sugar if you want. Sucanat can be found in natural foods stores.
Tahini is sesame seed butter made from ground sesame seeds. It is high in protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
Tamari is a natural soy sauce made from fermented soybeans.
Tempeh is a fermented whole soy bean product, originally from Indonesia. Like seitan, tempeh can be used as a meat substitute. Some vegetarian restaurants also serve tempeh in their dishes.
Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a high protein food made by processing defatted soy flour to extract most of its soluble sugars. Also known as TVP, it is used in place of meat in many vegetarian entrees.
Tofu is made from soy beans and is widely consume by Far Eastern cultures. It is high in protein and rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated fat, with no cholesterol. Tofu comes in a variety of firmness and can be made into tofu milk, soy cheese, soy shakes, and pie fillings.