Vegan Foods Glossary
Faux meats are increasingly available, both in the number of varieties, and the locations where they’re sold. Today’s mock meats include burgers, franks, sandwich slices, bacon, sausage, chicken-style cutlets and nuggets, ground meat – even jerky! Sample as many brands as you can to find those you like most.
Almonds, hemp, oats, potatoes, rice, or soybeans are used to make vegan milks, many of which are fortified with calcium and vitamins D and B12. There are assorted flavors (e.g., chocolate, carob, and vanilla), as well as unsweetened and lower fat varieties. Taste and richness vary widely from brand to brand, so experiment to find your favorite. You’ll find vegan milks in the dairy case, as well as in shelf-stable aseptic packages, which require refrigeration after opening. Although many are delicious to drink straight from the carton, milk alternatives are indispensable for eating cereal and making creamed soups and sauces, milk shakes, frozen desserts, and baked goods. There are vegan creamers available for your coffee, too.
Soy margarine is a great substitute for butter when baking cakes and other desserts. Earth Balance offers a line of buttery spreads (nonhydrogenated and GMO-free) that also taste great on bread.
Other dairy alternatives include soy- and rice-based ice creams and yogurts, tofu sour cream, and an assortment of vegan cheeses. Click here for a list of links to popular brands.
Miso [ME-so] is a traditional Japanese condiment made from fermented soybeans, rice, barley, and other grains. The addition of different ingredients and variations in length of aging produce different types of miso that vary greatly in flavor, texture, color, and aroma.
Miso is used to flavor soups, sauces, dressings, and marinades. Tamari and shoyu (which are superior to most commercial soy sauces) can often be used in place of dark miso. Look for miso in natural food stores and Asian markets; containers should be refrigerated after opening.
Nutritional yeast (not to be confused with other yeasts, such as brewer’s or torula) is grown specifically for its nutritive value. Available as flakes or powder, nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to all sorts of foods.
Red Star’s Vegetarian Support Formula (T6635+) is fortified with vitamin B12 and is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Available in a 5-ounce shaker bottle or in bulk, Red Star nutritional yeast will keep for 24 months when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight. The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook contains recipes using Red Star’s Vegetarian Support Formula, as well as helpful cooking tips.
Also known as wheat meat, seitan [SAY-tan] is versatile, hearty, and chewy. Seitan is available ready-made (refrigerated or frozen) or as a mix, but it’s also relatively easy to make from scratch. And, given that it keeps well, you can make a lot to have on hand.
Seitan’s main ingredient is vital wheat gluten (also called instant gluten flour), which can generally be found in the baking aisle at larger grocery stores. Be sure not to substitute any other flour – high gluten flour is not the same.
A staple in Middle Eastern cooking, tahini is a versatile paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. (Sesame butter, from unhulled seeds, is thicker and more bitter.) Tahini made from roasted seeds has a stronger flavor than the variety made from raw seeds.
Tahini is calcium-rich, and its nutty taste and creamy consistency are great for sauces, dips, spreads, and creamy dressings (see our recipe section for examples, such as hummus). Most supermarkets and health food stores carry at least one or two brands of tahini; it can also be purchased online.
Whole soybeans, sometimes mixed with grains, are fermented to produce tempeh [TEM-pay]. Compared to tofu, tempeh is richer both in absorbable nutrients and in flavor. Plain and flavored varieties are available and can be used in recipes that call for meat, such as stir-fries and vegan sloppy joe sandwiches.
Also called bean curd, tofu is produced by coagulating soymilk and pressing the curds. Tofu is not only inexpensive and easy to find, but it’s a great source of protein.
There are two main types of tofu: regular (Chinese style, such as WestSoy) and silken (Japanese style, such as Mori-Nu). Regular tofu typically comes in refrigerated water-packed tubs, while silken tofu is commonly sold in shelf-stable aseptic packages (however, if it doesn’t say “silken,” it is almost certainly the regular variety). Both types are available in soft, firm, and extra firm varieties, as well as lower calorie versions.
Firm or extra-firm regular tofu is used as a meat substitute. It can be stir-fried, baked, broiled, grilled, or stewed.
Tofu’s neutral taste makes it extremely versatile, allowing it to pick up flavors from herbs, spices, and other ingredients. You can marinate tofu before cooking it, or buy ready-to-eat products such as WestSoy’s baked tofu in zesty lemon pepper, Roma tomato basil, Thai sesame peanut, Mexican jalapeno, Asian teriyaki, and Italian garlic herb styles.
Textured vegetable (or soy) protein is made from soy flour that has been cooked under pressure, extruded, and dried. Since the oil has been extracted, it has a long shelf life. TVP is high in protein, iron, calcium, fiber, and zinc. It’s available, flavored and unflavored, in various styles, shapes and sizes, such as ground “beef,” “chicken” cutlets, and “bacon” bits. The Mail Order Catalog has a large selection of TVP products, including sample packs and bulk quantities.