The A-Z of ve­gan food A be­gin­ner’s guide

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast -

It’s been called a mir­a­cle in­gre­di­ent, a se­cret weapon, and the one thing ve­gans have been wait­ing for since the term “ve­gan” was coined in 1944. Aquafaba, or bean wa­ter (the liquor from cook­ing pulses), per­fectly mim­ics egg’s abil­ity to trap air (cue ve­gan meringue), emul­sify (ve­gan may­on­naise), thicken (ve­gan ice-cream) and bind (ve­gan meat­balls). For some­thing that un­til four years ago was only ever drained down the sink, it’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

While a dyed-inthe-wool eggs-and-but­ter baker might blink at the idea of whip­ping up some­thing ed­i­ble with­out us­ing ei­ther, there are end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties for plant-based treats, as the en­tries for flax, aquafaba and yo­ghurt show.

Bak­ing quafaba

With a neu­tral flavour pro­file and rich, built-in creami­ness, cashews are key to myr­iad plant-based takes on non­ve­gan dishes. When soaked and blended in wa­ter, they can be turned into milk, sauces, bat­ters, cheese, ic­ing, caramel …

Ready-made snacks, flavour bombs in savoury set­tings, and nat­u­ral sweet­en­ers for bakes, pud­dings and por­ridge. Many a chef ’s se­cret in­gre­di­ent, and a musthave in the ve­gan pantry.

Dried fruit

The Bosh! boys best ex­em­plify the DIY cre­ativ­ity that makes ve­gan cook­ing so ex­cit­ing. “You name it, we can do it. It’s just know­ing how,” they say. Their takes on pigs in blan­kets and fried chicken are as good a place as any to start.


Ground flax or chia seeds – one ta­ble­spoon mixed with three ta­ble­spoons of hot wa­ter – make an ex­cel­lent egg sub­sti­tute in bak­ing, par­tic­u­larly if you’re aim­ing for “crisp, crunchy bis­cuits that hold their shape”.

Flax seeds

To avoid the un­healthy carb trap of timid ve­gan cook­ing, El­iz­a­beth Turner of Forks Over Knives high­lights whole grains. From mil­let and buck­wheat to wheat berries and wild rice, they pro­vide both a ve­hi­cle for flavour and whole­some heft.


Fresh and bunched, or dried to crum­ble into dishes, it’s all about ramp­ing up flavour (see also za’atar op­po­site).


You’ll need a de­cent blender and/or food pro­ces­sor to make your own milk al­ter­na­tives, nut and seed but­ters, and tahini; to blend cashews, blitz beans and whip up hid­den-veg smooth­ies. Some gad­gets are def­i­nitely worth fork­ing out for.

In­vest ack­fruit

The over­sized, fleshy south­east Asian fruit that has pulled-meat afi­ciona­dos turn­ing ve­gan. Su­per­mar­kets now stock tins of brined pieces, to be turned into the likes of Meera Sodha’s tacos with fried corn and hot cashew sauce.


While kombu (or ed­i­ble kelp) is an un­par­al­leled ve­gan source of umami (try it slow-braised in wa­ter with sweet soy: a rev­e­la­tion), plus the ve­g­an­friendly way to make Ja­panese soup stock (AKA dashi), the other sea plants out there – from hi­jiki and nori to dulse and sam­phire – are as flavour­ful as they are nu­tri­tious.

The Birken­stocks of the food world, and for good rea­son: pulses in gen­eral are cheap, easy to pre­pare, a source of good­ness and very adapt­able (black beans make fab brown­ies, can­nellini a good lemon driz­zle cake, and lentils great crisps).

Lentils (and other pulses)

It’s pos­si­ble to fol­low a soy-free ve­gan diet, but it’s not easy. Be it umami-rich miso paste, soy sauce and tofu, or nutty, freshly blanched edamame as a crunchy snack, the range of soy-based pos­si­bil­i­ties is su­perb.

The Bosh! guys call this magic dust. Heat-treated, it won’t fer­ment your food, un­like the ac­tive yeast in beer and bread, but it will boost its flavour with an ad­dic­tive, nutty, cheesy tang. Buy it in flake form to add to sauces or scat­ter on tray­bakes.

Nutri­tional yeast

Al­ways, al­ways pack emer­gency snacks in case you can’t find ve­gan food wher­ever you land up.

On the go

The one nutri­tional pre­req­ui­site of the ve­gan diet about which non-ve­gans are often the most scep­ti­cal, and yet, from pulses and sei­tan


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