Beginners Flavour Larder for the Aspiring VeganOn Fri, 6 August, 2021 - 17:45
After years of relying on dairy to enhance my vegetarian cookery, I’ve had to learn lots of new flavour tricks with new and sometimes unfamiliar ingredients on my journey toward veganism.
If you are also embarking on this path, the ingredients below will have you well-stocked to take on a broad range of soups, salads, sauces and tasty garnishes to lift your dishes.
Tamari: more depth and a stronger umami flavour than soy sauce, it is a staple flavouring in many vegan recipes.
Nutritional yeast: another staple, nutritional yeast is commonly used in sauces to give a nutty, cheesy flavour. Also works very well in gravy-type sauces and pie-fillings when paired with tamari.
Sea salt: in flake form or roughly milled, it is particularly good for final seasoning of any dish.
Maple: another staple in vegan recipes, it is frequently used in preference to sugar or honey in sauces and salad dressings.
Agave syrup: a sweeter honey substitute than maple.
Mirin: a sweet, low alcohol rice wine particularly for use in Japanese cookery and salad dressings.
Apple cider vinegar: this has dozens of different uses and is well known for its health benefits. It often appears in vegan recipes to help give a tangy kick to a sauce, as well as in salad dressings.
Balsamic vinegar: used primarily in salad dressings, it can also be used (in moderation) to add punch to big-flavour sauces. I sometimes use a few drops of it in tomato-based pasta sauces, balanced with lots of saltiness (from salt, tamari and/or nutritional yeast) and sweetness (from carrot, sugar or maple).
Dijon mustard: a classic salad dressing essential.
Rice wine vinegar: for use in salad dressings and for pickling, it’s also nice paired with soy or tamari in stir fries, dipping sauces and marinades such as teriyaki.
Vegetable stock: the most important ingredient in my larder/freezer, and the quickest way to flavoursome soups and sauces. As well as the shop-bought cube and powder varieties, I make my own stock by saving veg scraps in a bag in the freezer (tops and tails of onions, spring onions, garlic, herb stalks, carrot tops and root veg skins etc), cooked up with lots of seasoning (including bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks) to use in soups, stews and sauces.
Garlic powder: a dash of garlic or onion powder delivers a delicious flavour boost.
Miso: for adding umami to broths, marinades and salad dressings.
Tahini: an essential ingredient in hummus and various Middle Eastern dishes, also adds nutty creaminess to salad dressings.
Sriracha: adds a powerful tangy hit of chilli to dishes. I always finish my stir fries and ramens with a liberal squirt. Also adds a moreish heat to broths and dipping sauces.
Hot sauce: thinner and paler than sriracha, hot chilli sauces can be used similarly to finish a dish. Cauliflower smeared in hot sauce, generously salted and roasted in the oven is also delicious.
Baking powder: while chiefly used in baking it is also good for lightening the texture in veggie patties/cakes, particularly those prone to wetness (courgette/zucchini, potato).
Coconut oil (also good to have a few tins of coconut milk and cream in your cupboard).
Olive oil (light flavoured for cooking, extra virgin for salad dressings).
Black peppercorns (for fresh grinding).
Cayenne (ground; also smoked cayenne).
Chilli (powder and flakes).
Cinnamon (ground and sticks).
Coriander (ground and seeds).
Cumin (ground and seeds).
Curry powder (or paste).
Garam masala (ground).
Mustard seeds (mild yellow and stronger black. Be sure to bring Kisagotami to mind).
Paprika (ground; also smoked paprika).
Basic dried herbs
I always have a batch of toasted sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds ready to top salads, breakfasts, stir fries, ramens, etc.
Flax and chia seeds are also good for garnishes, as well as being used to make binding substitutes in place of eggs.
Pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pinenuts, cashews are great additions to salads, and can be used to make pestos and other sauces.
To add to Japanese broths or to top off salads.
Ginger, cucumber etc. Nice pops of flavour to top off noodle dishes or salads.
Essential fresh ingredients to always have in stock include onions, garlic, chillies, ginger, lemons, mint, parsley and coriander.
Liz Evers is a member of the Buddhist Centre Online team. She is the author of a number of non-fiction reference books, and currently specialises in biographical research.