7 Must Have Ingredients for Flavorful Vegan Recipes
Despite more and more people adopting a plant based lifestyle, if you’re like many, the term “vegan” might still cue waves of skepticism. Even as many adopt trends like Meatless Mondays, or go totally vegan, assumptions about what veganism really entails still run rampant. Not least of which, is the misconception that vegan meals equal salad, or equally bland, unfilling, unsatisfying options.
In reality, animal products only comprise a very small sliver of the food choices we have available to us. Eating vegan does not have to mean eating boring. Quite the contrary. Giving veganism a shot means you’re actually more likely to get a little inventive with your meals, and might actually be forced to open up your eyes and your tastebuds to a world of new, flavorful options. Here are just a few must-have ingredients for spicing up any vegan recipe.
1. Avocado: You can basically think of avocados are your go-to source for all things creamy, fatty (in a healthy way) and delicious when it comes to vegan eating. They’re a staple for many following a plant-based diet, because you can literally substitute them for cheese in any mexican dish, salad, or bowl. Not only will avocados fill the creamy/fat quote for dishes, you can also blend them up as part of a smoothie, pudding, pasta sauce, or even in cakes. They provide you with a healthy source of fat and calories, and lots of satisfying flavor.
2. Nutritional Yeast: Nutrition yeast is one of those quintessential, almost stereotypical vegan/healthy foodie ingredients, but for good reason. If you’ve never tried it, nutrition yeast is a pale yellow, flaky seasoning that you can sprinkle onto everything from steamed veggies to popcorn, or use as a base for many vegan “cheese” sauces. Nutrition yeast packs in a wallop of vitamin B too, and has a strikingly cheesy flavor which makes it a perfect vegan cooking hack. Search for nutrition yeast mac and cheese recipes as a great way to start using it.
3. Cinnamon: There’s nothing fancy or particularly vegan about this spice, but it’s a great boost of flavor for just about any meal of the day. Just a pinch goes a long way in your morning oatmeal, smoothies and shakes, or even as a subtle kick of oomph to spaghetti sauce. It’s a totally healthy way to add a boost of warm, comforting flavor and gives you some healthy, anti-inflammatory perks as well.
4. Sriracha: Sriracha had its moment of fame in the last couple years, and if you’re not afraid of the heat, it’s a great flavoring for many vegan dishes. You can drizzle it over everything from baked tofu, tempeh, roasted veggies, or literally anything you want to liven up and add some serious kick to. There’s no reason to ever call any vegan meals bland with sriracha in your pantry.
5. Vegan “cheese”: More and more options for vegan cheese that are actually tasty are springing up in stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Krogers, and most major supermarkets. Brand like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Chao, and many others make it possible to still sink your teeth into some cheese pizzas, lasagna, or any other dish you’d normally put cheese on. No longer spongy or odd flavored like vegan cheeses of yesteryear, vegan cheese now comes in flavors like provolone, pepper jack, and cheddar.
6. Bananas: It’s a no brainer perhaps, but bananas are a vital part of many vegan diets, and are truly a multi-purpose ingredient. Obviously you can enjoy them on their own or atop vegan yogurt or oatmeal, in smoothies, vegan or not, but they also are a great binding agent and substitute for eggs inn baked goods or treats like waffles or pancakes.
7. Nut butters: Whether you’re into cashews, sunflower seeds, or classic peanut butter, nut butter is a fantastic ingredient to use in vegan meals. A major perk of a vegan diet is you won’t be getting the loads of bad-for-you fats from animal products, so there’s even more room in your diet for actual healthy fat choices, such as nut butters. Swirl them into smoothies, oatmeal, or mix into a savory Asian-inspired sauces for tofu or stir fry.
Many considering veganism make the mistake of thinking only of the can’t haves (giving up those hamburgers, steak, cheese, ice cream, yogurts) and forget the plethora of food choices and totally vegan ingredients that are out there. The fact of the matter is, with this list of foods to start you off, there’s no excuse for bland vegan meals—you have a world of ingredients at your fingertips!
About the author: Emmy is a passionate plant-based foodie and RV gypsy who travels the country, coaching and helping people eat healthier and feel good in their skin through her online health coaching business and writing and blogging ventures. She’s been interested in sustainable farming and food since she was a little girl with pet chickens in her backyard and a vegetable garden in the front. You can read more about her travels and food at https://emmyschneidergreen.wordpress.com/.