What is this Mystery Meat?: Vegan Food Demystified

Don’t be scared of vegan food, it’s just food. Ever heard
of tempeh, nutritional yeast, seitan, tofu? Do they sound foreign, intimidating or just plain gross? I have cooked with each of these ingredients but you don’t have to in order to enjoy a delicious vegan meal. If you decide you’d like to venture out, be brave and try something exotic, these foods aren’t going to put hair on your chest (sorry guys) or turn you into one of those weird vegan creatures. Hey look, Mikey likes it! You never know, you might too.

So, what exactly are these specialty items?

vegan food unsplash

Tempeh: [tem-pey]

tempeh is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a patty or block form. It is commonly sliced thinly then fried, baked or grilled, but it can also be crumbled to be used in soups, stews, stir-fries or taco filling. It’s got a somewhat nutty flavor. I am not a huge fan, but I eat it occassionally for a change of pace and because it’s packed with protein.

I buy it at Whole Foods but my local grocer also carries it.

One cup of tempeh has 30.8 g of protein!

Nutritional Yeast:

nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder.

Vegans most commonly use it to make cheese sauces or cheese dips. I made a nacho sauce with it once and my non-vegan niece devoured it!

I like using nutritional yeast so I buy it in bulk – 16 oz. bag Frontier Co-op at Amazon for about $10. – otherwise it can be pricey if you use it often.  Some people complained about the taste and/or smell of this brand.  I guess I got a good batch because mine was fine.  If you want to try it out without buying a whole pound, I recommend Bragg’s – it’s more expensive, but it’s a brand I like and trust.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein (it is a complete protein) and vitamins, especially B-complex.

Seitan: [sey-tan]

seitan is a chewy, neutral-flavored, protein-rich food made from cooked wheat gluten. It is very similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked making it a popular meat substitute.

The store-bought version is generally high in sodium, fillers and other unhealthy additives. Seitan is rather easy to make from scratch, I did it so it must not be too difficult – I’m not a lover of cooking, I cook cause’ I have to eat.

Seitan is versatile – it can be baked, steamed, sauteed, simmered. It absorbes flavors well.

If you don’t want to eat soy, this is a great alternative. If you have a wheat allergy, stay away!

Seitan is high in protein but is not a complete protein, so pair it with some beans and rice.

Tofu: [toh-foo]

tofu is a soft, bland, white cheeselike food, high in protein, made from curdled soybean milk. Mmmm, curdled soybean milk – my favorite! It is also known as bean curd. You’ve probably heard of tofu but have you ever tried it? Tofu gets the brunt of a lot of jokes, but it is a great staple in the vegan world. In fact, I’m going to dedicate a whole blog to TOFU. But for now, a few facts…

Tofu is one of the oldest foods in the world and one of the most nutricious. It contains all eight essential amino acids, is rich in magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. It also contains copper, vitamin B1, calcium and iron.

What I love – it’s high in nutrition, but low in fat! Tofu, I’m so glad I met you. Ok, being honest, I didn’t love it when I first tried it, but it grew on me especially since there are so many recipes using tofu. Breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert – tofu has you covered.

Feeling overwhelmed? Well, here are a few recipes approved by vegan and non-vegan palates. I didn’t include tempeh because it’s not my favorite and I don’t cook with it that often. But if you want a recipe using tempeh, go to Pinterest and you’ll find dozens.

1. Garlic Pepper Soba with Chili-Roasted Tofu http://thefirstmess.com/2014/12/04/garlic-pepper-soba-with-chili-roasted-tofu-recipe/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheFirstMess+(The+First+Mess)

2. Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce https://foodwithfeeling.com/vegan-nacho-cheese-sauce/

3. Vegan Pulled BBQ Seitan

Vegan Pulled BBQ Seitan

I hope this demystifies vegan food somewhat. Don’t be afraid to try some vegan recipes, with or without these strange ingredients. If you don’t like what you prepare, call me – I have a nephew who will eat anything! But don’t give up, try another!

So whether you eat it or give it to my nephew, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Yay or nay – and why.

Eat, Drink and be Vegan!

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