Three Vegan Ingredient Essentials
August 19, 2021
Whether you indulge in plant-based alternatives like Beyond Meat’s burgers, NU Food’s Queso, or start from raw ingredients to make your own meals, chances are you do a fair amount of cooking at home. While mainstream restaurants have come a long way in their vegan offerings, the one or two menu items offered get pretty stale after a while and a longing for that homecooked goodness grows just too great. If this sounds like you, then it may interest you to know that there are a few prized plant-based ingredients that sit high above what you may find in your common vegan kitchen. On the surface, these items may seem peculiar, but they are treasured by home-cook gurus and professional chefs alike for their almost miraculous qualities. Most peculiar is that these ingredients aren’t praised nearly as much as they should be, leading to unawareness of their very existence by the vast majority of people. Today we’re spilling the beans on three culinary powerhouses as NU Food prepares you for some fine plant-based dining!
Aquafaba, or Baker’s Delight
Baking is already a difficult task for those who don’t do it on a regular basis, even more so for vegans through the choice to not use animal products. Most keenly missed are eggs and their ability to form stiff peaks, lighten batters, and emulsify mixtures. However, there is an excellent substitute hidden in the most unlikely of places— the liquid in canned chickpeas. That’s really it, and yes, it must be chickpeas and it must be from a can. Known as aquafaba, descriptions stop just shy of reaching snake oil proportions (nearly every article you’ll find will use the word “magical” at least once). Enlightened bakers tout its ability to do just about anything that eggs can, from making brownies fluffier, to whipping up into a smooth foam for creamy topping. And unlike eggs, which are the antithesis of durable, canned chickpeas can last months, if not years before use.
Chia Seed, or Plant Gelatin
We’ve talked about this wonderful little seed before, but there’s a superpower hidden within them. No, it’s not the fiber, or the antioxidants, or the protein. It’s actually the chia’s ability to absorb nine times its weight in water, forming a gel in the process. If you’ve ever bought a Chia Pet, you’re familiar with this stuff. Besides making a great desk ornament, the chia seed and its gel make for a wonderful alternative to gelatin, which is composed of animal remains. Not to mention, it has much more nutrients than gelatin. It also sets well in nut milks, providing a custardy consistency.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes, or Pseudo-Cheese
NU Food fans will recognize this somewhat unfortunately named dry good as one of the ingredients of our Queso and the main ingredient in our Nooch Popcorn. The reason for that, and for its immense popularity in certain circles, is that nutritional yeast flakes (or nooch) tastes almost exactly like cheese. This has led many an intrepid vegan to put nooch on just about anything missing a cheesy flavor: popcorn, bagels, macaroni, baked potatoes, pizza, etc. Despite mimicking the flavor of cheese very well, it doesn’t have nearly as much fat and zero cholesterol. The fact that it can be finely ground also makes it very easy to incorporate it into any dish, whether it be in a powder or a sauce.