An A-Z of Vegan Cooking!
This “A-Z of vegan cooking sets” runs through some of the most important ingredients for delicious and nutritious plant based cooking! Read on to find out why these ingredients can always be found in my kitchen.
For any keen vegan baker, aquafaba is a miracle ingredient. It can be used to make meringues, royal icing and in cakes and other bakes to give them a light fluffy texture. When aquafaba first came to my attention I would drain tins of chickpeas and other beans and freeze the liquid for the next time I wanted to bake. Now it’s possible to buy cartons of aquafaba in UK supermarkets thanks to the people at Oggs. Alternatively you can buy dehydrated aquafaba powder.
Have you heard of Dr Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen? It’s supposedly the perfect way to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need while eating a plant based diet. As part of the Daily Dozen, Dr Greger recommends you eat a whopping three portions of beans (legumes) a day!
I’d be lying if I said I ate that many but since going vegan I have a whole shelf dedicated to different types of beans. I love pinto beans, kidney beans, butter beans, cannelini beans…the list goes on.
Nuts are another essential ingredients in vegan cooking but the most versatile of all has to be the humble cashew nut. They can be enjoyed as a snack, used in curries, or even blended with other ingredients to make cheese, whipped cream and other dairy substitutes! How clever is that?
Would you believe these mini orange and ginger cheesecakes get their creamy texture in part from blended cashews!?
Dates are a very popular ingredient, particularly in raw vegan cooking. They are one of my favourite dried fruits because they last ages in the cupboard, are great snacks, and can be used in a range of desserts and bakes to add some sweetness.
When you first switch to a vegan diet you may find yourself a little short on energy as vegan alternatives are often a lot less calorific than their meat or dairy counterparts. It’s a good idea to have coffee in the cupboard for a little pick me up.
But, the main reason I keep coffee in my kitchen is because I love tiramisu and it helps to make chocolate cake taste even more rich and chocolatey!
If you’re a wholefoods vegan then skip ahead but I’m not afraid to say that I love fake meat and that I eat it multiple times a week. Burgers, sausages, mince, bacon and more can be found in supermarkets around the country.
Did you know the UK even has it’s first vegan butcher in Islington, London. Not local? Don’t worry they deliver nationwide! I am proud to say I’ve tried their ENTIRE range and I enjoyed the lot. (The black pudding is particularly impressive).
Is there a savoury dish that ISN’T enhanced by garlic? I’m not convinced…I love the stuff. Whether pickled, roasted or fried, garlic is a cheap and easy way of adding flavour to your cooking. Whilst fresh garlic is great, I admit to having a jar of “lazy garlic” in my fridge at all times.
I’m also a huge fan of black garlic which has been fermented to make it much more mild and sweet. It also has additional health benefits!
Are you vegan if you don’t eat your body weight in hummus every year? It’s a joke in vegan communities that we all live off of the stuff but actually, it seems that it’s true! I always have a tub in the fridge ready for a snack attack. But it’s also good for adding to wraps and sandwiches to add protein and flavour to your lunch. I also like to serve a dollop alongside roasted vegetables for a contrast in texture and flavour.
As the popularity of hummus has grown, it’s even possible to buy sweet versions that have been flavoured with berries or chocolate.
Make sure you have a never ending supply by making my Classic Hummus recipe today.
When people first turn vegan they often worry about missing cheese and ice cream. I’m pleased to say the alternatives have come a long way in the last 18 months and I imagine they will only get better as veganism grows in popularity.
Jackfruit is another “wonder” ingredient that has found it’s way from Asia to western shores thanks to it’s versatility. Although it’s rare to get fresh jackfruit in the UK most supermarkets now stock it in tins. As it’s a fruit, it’s unsurprising that it’s flavour is slightly sweet but its so mild that you can flavour it with almost anything. It’s texture lends itself really well to mock meat dishes and mock fish dishes.
These Vegan Crab Cakes with Old Bay Seasoning owe their flaky texture to jackfruit.
For those not in the know, kombucha a fizzy drink made by fermenting sweet tea. It’s often flavoured with fruit, herbs and spices in what’s known as it’s “second ferment”. The drinks has grown in popularity as a health drink for vegans as it contains B12 and probiotics amongst other things. Whilst it’s expensive to buy in supermarkets and shops, it is cheap to make at home.
Find out how you can begin brewing kombucha at home.
Lentils are a staple in most vegan kitchens because they are a fantastically cheap source of protein and fibre. They are great for bulking out dishes to make you feel fuller for longer and, for those following a whole foods diet, they are a great substitute for mince in recipes like chilli, spaghetti bolognase and lasagne.
I keep red, green and puy lentils in my kitchen, some dried and some in pre-cooked pouches for adding to salads and other cold dishes quickly.
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese ingredient that is produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji amongst other ingredients. Depending on the precise ingredients used it can be sweet, salty or earthy. The reason it features on my list is because it adds a deep, umami flavour to whatever dish it is added to. It also has some fantastic health benefits and is a great source of a range of vitamins and folic acid.
Nutritional yeast or “nooch” has to be one of the most random ingredients that vegans rave about. It has a slightly cheesey flavour which makes it ideal for sprinkling over pasta dishes or adding to sauces.
Find out how I used nutritional yeast to make my own vegan parmesan at home.
The humble deserves a mention on this list. Overnight oats and porridge are a fantastic breakfast that will keep you full all day. But, the real reason I’ve added oats to this list is because they also make the best milk, cream, custard and creme fraiche currently on the market! The company Oatly have done an amazing job at turning oats into my favourite dairy substitutes and their products feature heavily in my fridge.
As a kid I HATED peanut butter. And I mean, REALLY hated the stuff. It was overwhelmingly nutty, oddly savoury whilst pretending to be sweet and it stuck to the roof of your mouth. Now, I spread it on toast, apple slices and celery sticks as a snack. Sometimes I stir it through porridge or overnight oats. I even use it in my baking! Seriously, I couldn’t live without it.
Check out the ultimate peanut butter brownies here.
People following a plant based diet love quinoa and for good reason. Quinoa is a “complete” protein which means it has all 9 of the essential amino acids! It’s also very nutritious and very high in fibre (more so than most grains). Quinoa is also gluten-free which is ideal for people who are gluten intolerant / coeliac.
Yes you read that right. I’m a food blogger that buys ready meals. Just because you follow a plant based diet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the odd prick and ping meal in the fridge for those nights or days where you’ve run out of time to cook. There are tonnes of great vegan ready meals on the market. Don’t feel bad about buying them!
Sourdough starters really came into their own when lock-down hit in March 2020. Suddenly everyone was nurturing their own jar of flour, water and natural yeast! The reason I included it in this list is not because it’s “cool” but because it’s actually a fantastic ingredient to help you make dairy and egg free baked goods at home. The natural yeast in the starter gives your bakes lift and the wet, sticky texture of the starter is a great substitute for the binding qualities of egg. Sourdough starter should appear on more lists of egg substitutes in my opinion!
Tofu and Tempeh
When people think of vegan protein sources they often think of tofu. Tempeh is tofu’s less well know cousin. I massively encourage anyone who is new to veganism to keep an open mind. Tofu has a bit of a bad reputation but its a really versatile ingredient that I love to cook with.
Wasn’t sure what to include here guys. But well done for making it this far down the list! Send me your favourite vegan friendly ingredients beginning with “U” in the comments!
Vital wheat gluten
Vital wheat gluten is an absolute must for plant based cooks who are looking to up their cooking game. Vital wheat gluten is the main ingredient in seitan (which is pronounced SAY-tan), which is a popular meat substitute which originated in Asian cuisine.
To make seitan at home, you mix vital wheat gluten in its powdered form with spices and water to form a dough. You can then steam, bake, boil, fry or otherwise cook the wheat gluten dough until it has the desired “meat-like” texture!
But vital wheat gluten is more than just the main ingredient of seitan – it can also be used as a binding agent to help things like veggie burgers keep their shape or in bread dough that would otherwise have a low protein content (e.g. whole wheat or rye bread).
My diet was seriously lacking in whole grains before I became vegan. Now I use bulgur wheat, pearl barley, freekeh, wild rice and more in my cooking! They are great for bulking out meals, introducing new textures and flavours too.
You might want to try my Courgette and Freekeh Salad with Lemon and Mint Dressing or my Pearl Barley and Butternut Squash Risotto.
Xanthan gum is probably more at home in a gluten-free kitchen than it is in a vegan kitchen but, it does have it’s uses! Xanthan gum is, quite simply, a binding agent that chefs use to thicken sauces and improve the texture of ice cream. Vegan substitutes don’t always behave the same way as their animal derived alternatives and so xanthan gum is useful to have in the kitchen.
Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that is similar to a lemon crossed with a mandarin orange. It’s hard to get hold of the fresh fruit in the UK so I buy the juice. I love to add it to dressings, drinks, desserts and more!
I’ve added it to this list as a reminder that some of the best ingredients you can use when cooking plant based food are those from other cuisines. Vegan cooking is at its best when it is inspired by food from around the world!
Last but not least is za’atar. Every vegan kitchen has a fantastic spice rack and za’atar is one of my “must have” spice blends.
Za’atar isn’t just one spice, rather it’s a blend of dried oregano, thyme, and/or marjoram, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Every blend is slightly different but always delicious.
It can be sprinkled over salads, dips, and vegetables, or mixed with olive oil to make a marinade, dip or sauce.
That concludes my A-Z of plant based ingredients! Are there any that you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.