Vegan Dictionary

Vegan Dictionary

Ready to vegan-ify your kitchen? The following is what you’ll need (and much more for when you feel extra daring). Bear in mind, dear reader, that highly processed vegan ingredients should be consumed in moderation. Opt for whole, natural foods whenever you can. Merry (healthy) cooking!

A:

Agar

  • What: A translucent, plant-based nutritive sweetener derived from red algae and chiefly from eastern Asia.
  • How: Most types of agar are purchased in powder form, although it can also be found in flakes or bars. Dissolved in boiling water and cooled, agar can be used for thickening recipes or giving food a gelatinous texture.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic foods sections of most major supermarkets or in an Asian market.

Agave Nectar

  • What: A sweetener with a honey-like consistency. Extracted from the root bulb of the agave plant.  Note: Recent research has indicated that agave nectar may have as much, if not more, concentrated fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Read more here.
  • How: Use instead of white sugar and other sugars.
  • Where to find it: In the baking supplies section of most major supermarkets.

Almond Milk

  • What: A beverage made from ground almonds, often used as a substitute for milk. Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains no cholesterol or lactose. Commercial almond milks often come in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors and are often enriched with vitamins such as B12. Almond milk can also be made at home by combining blanched almonds with water in a blender.
  • How: Use as a substitute for milk with cereal, baking, cooking, etc.
  • Where to find it: In the cereal section or heath foods section of virtually all supermarkets.

Arrowroot

  • What: A starch flour from the root of an American native plant. It is used as a thickening agent, similar to cornstarch or flour.
  • How: Use in sauces, stews, gravies, and desserts.
  • Where to find it: In the baking section of most health food stores.

B:

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

  • What: A low-sodium liquid protein concentrate made from soybeans. Contains the following amino acids: Alanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glutamic Acid, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Leucine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Tyrosine, Valine.
  • How: Use in place of soy sauce or other savory sauces in stir fries, soups, casseroles, dressings, sauces, and more.
  • Where to find it: In the health foods section of most major supermarkets, and in virtually all health food stores.

Bulgur Wheat

  • What: A quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, ground into particles, and sifted into distinct sizes. A nutritious, versatile wheat product with a nut-like flavor and an extended shelf-life. High in fiber and rich in B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, and manganese.
  • How: Ready to eat with minimal cooking or, after soaking in water or broth, can be mixed with other ingredients without further cooking. Use in recipes calling for rice, couscous, or other grains.
  • Where to find it: In the health food section of supermarkets or in bulk bins of health food stores.

C:

Carob

  • What: A tropical pod that contains a sweet, edible pulp and inedible seeds. After drying, the pulp is roasted and ground into a powder that resembles cocoa powder. Unlike cocoa powder and chocolate, carob is caffeine-free and contains 3 times as much calcium as cocoa powder.
  • How: To substitute carob powder for cocoa powder, replace one part cocoa with 2 ½ parts carob powder by weight. Use in shakes, baked goods, and wherever a recipe calls for chocolate.
  • Where to find it: In the baking supplies section or a health food store.

Chia Seeds

  • What: An ancient superfood that belongs to the mint family and were once a staple for the Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures. “Chia” is actually the Mayan word for strength. Said to have twice the protein of any other seed or grain, 5 times the calcium of milk, 2 times the amount of potassium as bananas, 3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries, 3 times more iron than spinach, and copious amounts of omega 3 and 6, which are essential fatty acids.
  • How: Can be eaten raw and unprocessed. Include with flour in baking or simply add them on top of just about anything, including toast, cereal, yogurt, salads, and oatmeal. Often soaked and prepared as a “gel” in smoothies, oatmeal, and a variety if other recipes.
  • Where to find it: In the health foods section of most major supermarkets.

Chocolate

  • What: Many varieties of dark chocolate are vegan but make sure to pay attention to the labels. To name a few: Endangered Species Chocolate, Chocolate Decadence, 365 Everyday Value, and Bixby & Co.
  • How: Eat plain, or in any recipe that calls for chocolate.
  • Where to find it: In the candy or baking supplies section of most major supermarkets.

Coconut (Shredded)

  • What: Shredded coconut provides sweetness and chewiness to baking. Try to buy organic coconut, as non-organic coconut is treated with sulfates as a preservative.
  • How: Use to add a coconut flavor to virtually any baked, cooked, or cold dish.
  • Where to find it: Find in the baking section of any major supermarket.

Coconut Oil

  • What: The oil of the coconut.  Contains antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. Health-conscious chefs prize coconut oil for its extremely high flash point, zero trans-fatty acids, and an extremely rich source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are broken down efficiently by the body, providing an immediate source of energy. Has a sweet, buttery, deeply coconut scent. (Health tip: Use virgin coconut oil instead of hydrogenated coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is not chemically treated and, because it’s not partially hydrogenated, doesn’t have dreaded trans fats. Read a NYT on the topic here.)
  • How: Use sparingly for shallow or deep-frying, or as a substitute for butter in baking pie crusts or icings.
  • Where to find it: In the cooking oils or supplement section of most supermarkets. If not, try your local Asian food store.

Coconut Milk

  • What: The liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut.The color and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content. Two grades of coconut milk exist: thick and thin.
  • How: Thick milk is mainly used to make desserts and rich, dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic food section of most supermarkets. If not, try your local Asian food store.

D:

Dates (Medjool)

  • What: A large, sweet, and succulent type of date from Morocco. Considered the “king of dates”, they are prized for the large size, extraordinary sweetness, and chewy texture. Medjool dates are deep amber brown with a sticky flesh that tastes like caramel, honey, and cinnamon.
  • How: Best eaten plain (with its pit removed), but can also be used as a sweet binder in vegan or raw cooking.
  • Where to find it: In the produce section of most major supermarkets.

E:

Egg Replacer (Whole food substitute)

  • What: A common egg substitute is ½ a mashed banana.
  • How: Applesauce can be used instead of eggs in sweet-baked goods. Use ¼ cup of applesauce and ½ baking powder as a replacement for one egg.
  • Where to find it: In the produce section of any supermarket.

Ener-G Egg Replacer

  • What: A vegan egg substitute comprised of potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening (non-dairy calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, citric acid), and carbohydrate gum. A 16-ounce box makes the equivalent of 100 eggs.
  • How: To produce the equivalent of one egg, mix 2 teaspoons of egg replacer (Ener-G brand) with 2 tablespoons of water and beat with a fork until frothy.
  • Where to find it: In the baking section of some supermarkets, and in most health food stores.

F:

Flax Seed Oil

  • What: An oil that comes from the seeds of the flax plant and contains both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. A highly recommended oil for those who love to cook delicious foods that are healthy. Also recommended as a dietary supplement (in the form of simply taking a spoonful or two per day).
  • How: Use in dips, salad dressing, over cereal, or in the making of healthier fried foods.
  • Where to find it: In the vitamin or health food section of most major supermarkets and virtually all health food stores.

H:

Hemp Seeds

  • What: A rich source of complete protein, omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, and are a source of GLA. The essential fatty acids are balanced in a radio suitable for life-long consumption. The nuts have a pleasant nutty flavor, similar to sunflower seeds.
  • How: Use like any other nut: sprinkled on salads, used in smoothies, eaten alone, etc.
  • Where to find it: In the nut and seed section of most health food stores.

K:

Kelp (Powdered)

  • What: A powdered seaweed rich in iodine and a lightly salty taste.
  • How: Use as a salt substitute.
  • Where to find it: In the vitamins section of most health food stores.

L:

Laver
See “Nori”

Lentils

  • What: A type of legume that grows in pods that contain either one or two seeds. They are sold either whole or split into halves. The brown and green varieties are the best at maintaining their shape after cooking. Lentils help lower cholesterol, have a high fiber content, and provide high amounts of six minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein–all with virtually no fat.
  • How: Use boiled lentils in salads, soups, dips, or in any recipe that calls for beans.
  • Where to find it: In the dried goods section of any supermarket.

M:

Margarine

  • What: A non-dairy spread similar to butter. There are many non-dairy margarines out there with high levels of trans fat, a man-made fat that increases cholesterol levels, making it much less healthy than most dairy butter. Earth Balance is a company that produces non-GMO, expeller-pressed spread using a natural oil blend (soy bean, palm, canola, and olive).
  • How: Use in place of butter in cooking, baking, etc.
  • Where to find it: In the dairy and butter section of any supermarket.

Molasses (Blackstrap)

  • What: A dark, sticky syrup that is left behind after the sugar has been boiled out of cane and beet juices. This is done in several stages, which yield light, dark, and eventually blackstrap molasses as all the sugar is gradually extracted and the syrup is cooked down. Blackstrap molasses has almost no remaining sucrose and is therefore intensely bitter. High in nutrients like calcium and iron.
  • How: Use with caution: it can easily overpower baking with off-putting flavors. Until you’re familiar with it, look for recipes that specifically call for blackstrap molasses, like rye bread, baked beans, pie, gingerbread, and cookies.
  • Where to find it: In the condiments, sauces, and spices section of most supermarkets.

Miso Paste

  • What: A paste, either rich dark brown (with a strong taste) or sandy in hue (known as white miso, with a relatively sweet taste), made from soybeans, barley, rice, or a combination of these.
  • How: Use in spreads, gravies, or as a soup stock. Mix with water, than add it to soups or gravies during the last phase of cooking to keep the nutrients alive (boiling it removes its nutritional properties). Also add it to salad dressings and sauces.
  • Where to find it: In the refrigerated section of most major supermarkets. Otherwise you can check your local Asian food store.

Mung Bean Noodles (Glass / Chinese Vermicelli / Cellophane Noodles)

  • What: A type of transparent noodle made from starch and water. Available in various thicknesses, sold in dried form, and boiled to reconstitute. Absorbs the flavor of other ingredients well.
  • How: Commonly used in soups, stir fried dishes, or spring rolls. Can also be used as a gluten-free alternative to pasta,
  • Where to find it: The ethnic foods section of most major supermarkets.

N:

Nama Shoyu

  • What: Advertised as “The Champagne of Soy Sauces,” Nama Shoyu is a raw, organic, and unpasteurized soy sauce, similar to miso tamari. Said to have a more delicate and complex flavor than cooked and processed soy sauce. The color is a rich brown and the taste is quite salty, with elements of both sweet and sour flavors.
  • How: Use it as a healthy alternative to conventional soy sauce in marinades, dipping sauces, raw soup stock, and salad dressings.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic food section of virtually all markets.

Nori

  • What: The Japanese name for the edible seaweed species of red algae. It is most typically toasted and salted prior to consumption.
  • How: Use as a wrap for sushi and onigiri, a garnish or flavoring in noodle preparations and soups, or as a standalone snack.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

Nutritional Yeast (aka Food Flakes)

  • What: A food supplement grown on cane or beet molasses which comes in a yellow powder or in flakes. Adds a taste and texture slightly reminiscent of cheese. Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula provides B-complex vitamins, including a naturally fermented, non-animal source of vitamin B-12.
  • How: Use to add a cheesy flavor to dishes, such as macaroni and cheese.
  • Where to find it: In the bulk foods section of health food stores.

Q:

Quinoa

  • What: An ancient grain that was a staple of the Incas. Closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Because it contains all 8 essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal: fluffy, creamy, crunchy, and somehow nutty–all rolled into one.
  • How: Use to make flour, soup, and breakfast cereal.  Most quinoa sold in the Untied States is sold as a whole grain that is cooked separately as rice or in combination dishes such as pilaf. Quinoa flour works well as a starch extender when combined with wheat flour or grain, or corn meal, in making biscuits, bread, and processed food.
  • Where to find it: In the bulk foods or natural foods sections of most supermarkets.

S:

Seitan

  • What: A textured food product derived from the protein portion of wheat, or wheat gluten. Seitan’s firm texture is chewy and “meat” like with a texture which absorbs the natural flavors of whatever dish it is added to.
  • How: Sold in various forms, including strips and crumbles and is commonly used as a meat substitute.
  • Where to find it: In the refrigerator section of most health food stores. Look near the tofu.

Sesame Seed Oil

  • What: A vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. Often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and to a lesser extent Southeast Asian cuisine. Ongoing research shows that the rich presence of antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats in sesame oil could help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • How: Sesame oil comes in two varieties: light (made with untoasted sesames) and dark (made with toasted sesames). Light sesame oil has a nutty flavor and is especially good for frying.  Dark sesame oil has a stronger flavor and should only be used in small quantities for flavoring foods–not cooking.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic foods section of most major supermarkets.

Soy Milk

  • What: A beverage made from soybeans. A traditional staple of Asian cuisine, it is a stable emulsion of oil, water and protein produced by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them with water. Contains about the same proportion of protein as cow’s milk. The coagulated protein from soy milk can be made into tofu, just as dairy milk can be made into cheese.
  • How: Use wherever a recipe calls for milk, or enjoy on its own as a beverage.
  • Where to find it: In the beverage and dairy sections of any supermarket.

Spelt

  • What: An ancient grain that traces its heritage back long before many wheat hybrids. Offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to many of its more inbred cousins in the wheat family. High in manganese, fiber, and phosphorus. The fiber in spelt can help to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels.
  • How: Use in place of wheat flour in baking. Can also be made into pasta or as a substitute for rice or potatoes.
  • Where to find it: In the bulk foods section of most health food stores.

Sumac

  • What: A dark reddish spice that is commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • How: Sumac has a zingy, lemony taste and has long been used to add tartness to many dishes. Also used as an ingredient in zataar, a Middle Eastern spice mix.
  • Where to find it: In the spices section of your local Middle Eastern market or online.

Sucanat

  • What: A brand name for a variety of whole cane sugar.  Unlike refined and processed white/brown cane sugar, Sucanat retains its vitamins, minerals, and molasses. It is essentially pure dried sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated, and cooled, forming small brown grainy crystals.
  • How: Use in place of white sugar at 1:1 substitution ratio.
  • Where to find it: In the baking section of most health food stores.

T:

Tahini

  • What: A thick paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. Primarily used in and Middle Eastern, North African, and Turkish cuisine.
  • How: Use as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva. Also add to sandwiches, salad dressings, and as a typical nut butter.
  • Where to find it: In the deli or ethnic foods sections of most major supermarkets. If not, try your local Middle Eastern of Indian foods grocery store.

Tamari

  • What: A natural sauce made from fermented soy beans. Tamari is thicker, darker, and richer than its more common soy sauce counterpart. It has a more complex, smooth flavor compared to the sometimes harsh, overwhelming bite of a salty soy sauce.
  • How: Use in any recipe that calls for soy sauce.
  • Where to find it: In the ethnic foods section of most major supermarkets or the sauce section of your local Asian foods store.

Tempeh

  • What: A cooked and slightly fermented whole soy bean product that is formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger. Originally from Indonesia, although many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, and also add spices and extra flavors. Very high in protein and calcium, tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor.
  • How: Used in traditional Indonesian cooking; used in the mainstream as a meat substitute.
  • Where to find it: In the natural foods section of most major supermarkets, and in the tofu section of health food stores.

Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)

  • What: Also known as soy meat, TVP is a defatted soy flour product; a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It is made from 50% soy protein but can also be made from cotton seeds, wheat, and oats. Has a protein content equal to that of meat.
  • How: Used as a meat substitute in burgers, chili, tacos, and soups.
  • Where to find it: In the bulk foods or ethnic foods sections of most major supermarkets.

Tofu

  • What: Also called bean curd, tofu is a food made by coagulating soy juice and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is a component in many East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu that has been processed in some way. Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. It has a low calorie count, relatively large amounts of protein, and little fat.
  • How: Extremely versatile and its various textures stands up to nearly any type of cooking: marinated, pressed, baked, seared, diced, crumbled, etc.  Watch a video we made on the very topic.
  • Where to find it: In the refrigerated produce section of virtually all supermarkets.

V:

Vegenaise

  • What: A vegan substitute for mayonnaise.
  • How: Spread on your sandwiches or use to make some nice spreads.
  • Where to find it: Health food stores, but it may be available at some supermarkets.
Sarah Yoo
Sarah Yoo

Sarah Yoo is the associate director of Life & Health but wears a few dozen hats as other this-and-thats, as is the norm in non-profit work. Her favorite part about working at Life & Health is meeting the people that Life & Health content has helped. Ultimately, Sarah dreams of doing humanitarian work in a developing country with her family.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Newsletter Signup

Stay connected!

Please wait...

Thank you for the sign up!

Login

Register | Lost your password?