What’s That?

An ever-developing list of a vegan’s vital vittles.

Used instead of gelatin for thickening, agar is made from sea vegetables.  Gives crème pies and puddings that familiar gel and texture and imparts the right consistency to vegan cheeses. Check out my Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez recipe.

Agar AgarArame
Arame is a sea vegetable which has been cooked, sliced and dried.  After soaking to rehydrate, it can be used in soups, stews, salads or with vegetables.  You could add some to my Miso-Ginger Soup.


While I prefer using vegetable broth whenever possible, these are handy to have in the cupboard.  Use as a flavor enhancer in soups or stews or dissolve a cube in a couple cups of water and use it to cook your brown rice.  You can also make your own powdered version.  

Vegan Bouillon

Cacao Nibs
Take a deep sniff when you open that bag of cacao nibs.  Pure chocolate.  Nibs are just broken up cacao beans and are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and flavonoids.  Cacao nibs are a nice, crunchy addition to smoothies, added to trail mix or mixed into your favorite cookie recipe.  No sugar in these babies!  Check out my Chocolate-covered Beet Pretzels with Cacao Nibs or Coffee-Cacao-Pistachio Biscotti.

Cacao Nibs

Cacao Powder
Cacao powder is raw chocolate that’s been ground into a fine powder. Think of it as really, really pulverized cacao nibs (see above) – or as a raw form of cocoa powder.  You’ve probably heard about the nutritional benefits of incorporating cacao powder into your diet – it’s high in antioxidant flavanoids, sulfur, and magnesium, and supposedly raises the level of good cholesterol.  Who knows?  I say it tastes good.  You can use cacao powder anywhere you would use unsweetened cocoa powder – in hot chocolate, baked goods, puddings, and smoothies. Try my Puffed Quinoa & Cacao Nib Chocolates.

Cacao Powder

Chia Seeds
Ch-ch-ch-chia! The tiny chia seed is amazing.  I sprinkle it on our hot grain cereal every morning and I use it as an egg replacer in baked goods.  You wouldn’t believe how these tiny seeds thicken in water!  I use them in my Chocolate Earl Gray Shake. They make for a delicious chocolate pudding, too.  Loaded with Omega-3 and fiber.  Cute as bugs.

Egg Substitute: Chia Seeds

Coconut Bacon
Once you taste coconut bacon, you’ll want to put it in everything!  Although it’s available commercially, I recommend making your own.  It’s super easy and requires only a few ingredients.  Use it just as you would bacon.  Check out my Peanut Butter-Maple-Pecan & Coconut Bacon Granola and my Creamy Potato Cauliflower Soup recipes.Coconut Bacon

“Sea parsley” is an alga harvested along North Atlantic shorelines and is used in products as a thickener, or by the home cook to add flavor and texture to soups and stews or on salads or vegetables. It’s high in Vitamin B, has lots of fiber and also a source of protein.  Add some to my Tofu Salad Sandwiches.


Hemp Seeds, Hulled
Another nutritional powerhouse, hemp seeds have a slightly grassy aroma and flavor.  Though tiny, they come packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and are a good source of protein.  Sprinkle on salads, cereals or into baked goods. Check out my raw Cinnamon Apple “Toast” recipe or for something savory, try Sunflower, Pepita, and Hemp Bread Spread.

Hemp Seeds

Another useful product from the sea, kombu is a brownish kelp which is dried after harvesting and is used to flavor broth (it’s a main ingredient in dashi), enhance sauces and sometimes when cooking beans to add nutrients, increase tenderness and to aid with digestion.  The minerals that sometimes coat kombu impart saltiness.


Liquid Aminos
A liquid protein concentrate derived from soybeans (or coconut), it contains 16 amino acids.  It’s used like soy sauce or in salad dressings – and it can be added to casseroles, soup, vegetables – wherever your taste buds and imagination takes you. I admit to an addiction to this stuff.  I add it to almost everything!  It has a wonderful smoky, salty flavor.  One of my favorite ways to use it is to sauté vegetables in place of oil.  Check out my oil-free Red Lentil, Couscous, & Vegetable Stoup recipe.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid Smoke
I’d always avoided this product assuming it was a creepy and cancer-causing concoction, but I’ve since learned it is “all-natural,” and made from water, hickory smoke, vinegar, molasses and a wee bit of caramel coloring. It adds a nice, err, smokiness to soups, chili and stews. Comes in several flavors.  Check out my PB & J Poutine recipe.

Liquid Smoke

Miso, Red & White
White miso is made from fermented soybeans and rice, giving it a light beige color.  Good in salad dressings and for making perhaps the most comforting soup on earth: miso!  Red miso is also made with fermented soybeans along with barley or some other grain, but it’s fermented for longer than white miso and has a richer flavor. Delicious stirred into soups and stews.  Look for yellow and black miso as well, but check labels – miso can contain fish.  =Check out my Oil- and Nut-free Berry-Miso Salad Dressing recipe.

Red Miso White Miso

Nutritional Yeast
The wonder ingredient with the unfortunate name – nutritional yeast is “deactivated” yeast and is often used as a substitute for cheese – when that umami flavor is required.  It’s a taste that requires some getting used to, but I’ve found that it’s an important team player in some recipes.  I especially like it whisked into salad dressings as it gives a nice creaminess and nutty flavor.  Nutritional yeast is made by culturing regular yeast with molasses and sugarcane, then it’s washed, dried and packaged.  It’s a source of B12 and a complete protein.  =Check out my Oil-free Potato/Sweet Potato Chipotle-Cheez Chips recipe.

Nutritional Yeast

In its simplest form, seitan is made from water and vital wheat gluten.  When kneaded for a few minutes it becomes an elastic-y, soft dough which can be formed into patties.  After a period of rest, the “cutlets” are simmered in broth for an hour or so.  The final product is a chewy, flavorful, very meat-like (think chicken) cutlet that can be chopped and added to stews, sliced and sautéed or browned in a skillet. Add herbs, garbanzo bean flour, garlic, ginger, soy sauce or toasted wheatgerm to create your own variations.  Seitan is available in health food markets (such as Whole Foods), but it’s incredibly simple to make your own. Bonus is that you know what’s in it.  You might enjoy my Seitan Hot Dogs or my Seitan Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Plum BBQ Sauce recipe.

Seitan Satay by An Unrefined Vegan


Textured vegetable protein made from soy flour and sometimes other flours – this is a useful ingredient when looking to achieve a meaty texture in stews, chili, or for making sloppy Joe’s or burgers.  It rehydrates quickly in hot water and it’s a good source of protein, too.

Textured Soy Protein

Essentially the same as above, but made from soy beans.  It can be used the same way as TSP.  Another good source of protein.  Both TSP and TVP can be found at Bob’s Red Mill or in health food stores. Check out my Italian “Sausage” and Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches and Brunswick-ish Stew recipes.


The magical soybean again…fermented…again (sometimes with the help of some type of grain) along with water and salt to create a savory distinctive sauce. Tamari is a little thicker than regular soy sauce and is available in wheat-free varieties. Use it in my Okra & Cherry Tomato Stir-fry.


Hailing originally from Indonesia, this rather gnarly-looking ingredient is a mass of fermented soy beans (there’s that phrase again!) formed into a cake.  It has a nutty flavor and crumbly texture that is good in stews or salads – and when sliced thinly and fried, it makes a fantastic substitute for bacon.  It comes in different varieties like whole grain or flax. Check out my Tempeh Gyros with Tofu Tzatziki recipe.

Tempeh Packages

Tofu, Black Soybean
Black soybean tofu isn’t black – but you will see small flecks of black in these firm blocks.  Black soybeans are supposedly higher in antioxidants than their yellow bean counterparts.  Use it just as you would regular, water-packed tofu.  This is not a shelf-stable product.  It must be refrigerated.  Check out my Muffuletta with Smoky Tofu & Olive Salad recipe.

Black Soybean Tofu

Tofu, Silken
Silken tofu is not interchangeable with regular tofu.  It’s super-soft texture (though it comes in soft, firm, and extra firm) makes it perfect for smoothies, cream pies, and salad dressings.  It’s a shelf-stable product that is made and stored in an aseptic carton.  Check out my Mint Chocolate Mint Pudding and my Sweet Potato Maple Mousse Pie recipes.

Silken Tofu

Tofu, Sprouted
Made with soybeans that have been sprouted to ease digestion and to make nutrients more accessible to our bodies – this water-packed tofu can be used just like regular tofu.  Just like unsprouted tofu, you can find this type in soft, firm, and extra firm varieties.  This is not a shelf-stable product.  It must be refrigerated.  Check out my Building Block Recipe: Lemony Baked Tofu recipe.

Sprouted Tofu

Vital Wheat Gluten
This ingredient is used often when making hearty 100% whole grain breads – those recipes going without the textural benefits afforded by including refined flours – to lighten the final product.  And it’s the essential ingredient for making seitan (see above).  Check out my Rosemary Whole Wheat Rolls recipe.

Vital Wheat Gluten

Worcestershire Sauce
Containing yummy stuff like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, mushrooms, a wee bit of natural smoke flavoring and lots of spices, use just like regular old Worcestershire sauce.  The only thing missing is the anchovies…  Check out my Bloody Mary Green Smoothie recipe.

Vegan Worchestershire Sauce

*I am not compensated in any way by the brands mentioned or pictured here.