Interesting Food Buys

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Veganism is fantastic.

It opens you up to a world of meals that you’ve never made before, or would usually skim over on a restaurant menu because you’re unsure about them. The ingredients are diverse, numerous and delicious. Many vegans state that the contents of their fridge are much more varied than as a meat eater, and we agree!

There may be an ingredient or two that you don’t know anything about – what it is exactly, where to buy it, how to use it, or what to pair it with. We’ll walk you through this, as well as pricing and handy recipes to get started.

Not checked out the basics yet? Pop on over to our Common Foods page, PLUS print out your shopping list, before diving in here.

Nutritional Yeast

We’ll start with the funny sounding one. Yes, the marketing genius who thought of this name was clearly having a bad day.

nutritional yeast vegan b12

Although in all fairness, it is yeast, and it is nutritious. Nutritional yeast appears as yellow flakes and has a cheesy nutty taste. Many people use it as a seasoning/cheese replacement. We love it stirred into a pasta sauce, or sprinkled onto pizza – basically anything you would usually pop cheese onto. The very best thing about ‘nooch’ is that it’s the only reliable food source of vitamin B12, so feel free to load up on it!

Here in the UK, you can find the Marigold brand in Holland and Barrett, or Ocado/Waitrose for around £3 per 100g.

Meal Ideas – cauliflower cheese, pizza topping, cheesy pasta, loaded nachos, a healthy substitute for croutons on soup, homemade biscuits or crisps, in scrambled tofu, baked or mashed potato topping.

Easy RecipesCheesy Chickpeas, Cauliflower and Wild Rice Soup, Baked Tofu Fingers.

Tahini

Tahini is a beige coloured paste/condiment made from ground sesame seeds, and full of protein and fat. You’ll also find B vitamins, calcium and more. It may not sound appetising (and most vegan tahini in jarwouldn’t eat it straight from the jar as it’s a little bitter), but it’s a key ingredient in houmous, and is beautiful in many sauces or stirred into soup. Mixed with a little water and Dijon mustard, it makes a healthy dip for veggies.

Be aware that you can sometimes buy darker coloured tahini, often made from unhulled sesame seeds and therefore thicker and more bitter.

Tahini is usually found in the Herbs, or World Foods, section of larger stores. You can buy a 300g jar for around £2.50 – most major supermarkets do own brand.

Meal Ideas –  a dressing on salads or pittas, homemade houmous sandwich, stirred into noodles or pasta, used as a dip for roasted cauliflower, falafel or crackers.

Easy Recipes – our favourite Tahini Dressing (you can google even simpler ones too!), Tahini/Raspberry Overnight Oats, Glazed Tempeh.

Tempeh

Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. However, with tempeh, the beans are cultured and fermented to give a stronger and nuttier flavour. The fermentation process helps us to digest the soy more easily too, so if you do have bloating/gas/indigestion when eating soy, give tempeh a try. It also has more protein, vitamins and dietary fibre, but less fat, so definitely one to try out for good health. Tempeh is firmer than tofu, so many people enjoy it as a gluten-free meat replacement, notably in ‘bacon’ form or chopped on salads.

difference between tofu and vegan tempeh

Tofu and tempeh are different in appearance and taste. Top: tofu, bottom: tempeh.
(photo by Chelsea London Phillips)

Tempeh actually pairs nicely with pomegranate on a fresh salad, and suits both tomato-based sauces or creamier dressings. Depending on how it’s seasoned, it is very versatile.

Tempeh can be purchased plain in a jar or vacuum packed in a container (around £5 per 150g) so that you can slice and season it yourself. Tofurkey also sells their own ready-made tempeh bacon, that you can now buy in Sainsbury’s for around £3.50.

Meal Ideas – plain tempeh marinated in soy sauce and black pepper, baked and added to a salad, Tofurkey bacon sandwich with avocado, tempeh and sweet potato curry, added to a stir fry.

Easy RecipesTempeh Fries with Curry Mayonnaise (this one is great for kids!), Vegan BLT – I can definitely vouch for this, Garlic Teriyaki Tempeh and Broccoli.

Seitan

Seitan is another odd-sounding meat-replacement that’s good for your health. It’s high in protein and minerals such as iron and selenium. Plus, it’s not soy based, so a great option for those with an intolerance. It’s made from vital wheat gluten – where wheat flour dough has the starch washed from it, leaving insoluble gluten. Some call it the wheat meat! Seitan is firm, meaty, and has that slightly spongy/chewy meat texture too. It pairs nicely with rice, soy sauce, most veggies, mustard, and hot bread rolls. Just buy it plain, chop and add to your meal, or get it pre-marinated.

seitan vegan meat replacement

LoveSeitan chicken-style deli slices

If you’re in the UK, you HAVE to try out LoveSeitan. They deliver it straight to your door in the form of burgers, pieces, deli slices, bacon, or just plain. Their prices are excellent (deli slices for less than £2!) and delivery is free if you spend £20 so it’s worth putting in an occasional order and stocking up.

Otherwise, you can buy it with your regular food shop at Ocado (marinated, jarred from £2.75) or Holland and Barrett (seitan ragu or mock dock for approx £2).

You can also make your own seitan, but it is an art form, and most don’t get it perfect first time! It’s fun to try though. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go and send us pics!

Just a warning: by its very name, seitan is full of gluten, so if you’re sensitive/intolerant to gluten you may want to give it a miss, or start with a modest portion.

Meal Ideas – roast dinner with seitan, mashed potatoes, veg and gravy, chopped seitan tacos with onion and salsa, seitan salad baguette, seitan fried rice, crumbled into tomato pasta.

Easy RecipesCurried Seitan Salad, Vegan Steak, Classic Pastry Pie.

Quinoa

At first glance, quinoa looks like the child of rice and couscous, but it’s a delicious grain in its own right. It’s free from gluten and soy, but high in protein, magnesium, all 9 essential amino acids… the list goes on. Quinoa has fewer calories than rice, but more protein and dietary fibre, so it’s a fantastic substitute. It’s lovely and fluffy, so is often used as cereal in place of oats, in salads, or a side to chilli/curry.

Quinoa is really easy to prepare too. Just rinse off a cup of dried quinoa, add to a saucepan with 2 cups of water, and cook for around 15 minutes. It expands, just like pasta or rice, so be aware of this when considering portion size.

The best thing is, you can buy it pretty much anywhere. Every supermarket sells it in their dried food / whole food section, including Aldi (£1.29 for 300g!), or you can buy an organic variety from Holland and Barrett. It can even come in a microwavable sachet all ready to eat, so there’s no reason to exclude it from your diet.

Meal Ideas – in a salad with avocado and houmous, inside warm wraps, as a porridge with almond milk and berries, in a stuffed butternut squash with peppers, made into breakfast cereal bars.

Easy RecipesQuinoa with stir-fried Winter Veg, Chocolate Porridge, Cauliflower Quinoa Pilaf.

vegan meal with quinoa and avocado

Photo by Prudence Earl

Coconut Cream

I know, this probably seems like an odd one. But work with me for a second.  Coconut cream is a simple ingredient that can enhance a number of dishes, from soups to marinades to curries to desserts! Even garlic mushrooms get a look in here.

vegan coconut cream pudding

This is because it has a mild taste that can adapt well. People often think that using vegan ingredients for sweeter recipes is hard, but coconut cream is about as simple as it gets.

The best part is, you can just buy it in a can and pour it into whatever dish you’re making. All major supermarkets carry it for a reasonable price (approx £1 at Tesco), either in the oriental or cooking sauces section. Don’t confuse it with coconut milk – cream contains less water and is much thicker. But if a recipe calls for coconut milk instead, you can dilute down the cream and still use it in its place. Likewise, if you only have coconut milk but need the cream, simply pop your can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When you open it, you’ll have a layer of cream on top!

Meal Ideas – added to a spicy soup to mellow the flavour, in a Thai curry, used as whipped cream for a cake topping, replacing butter in pie crusts, to make ice cream.

Easy Recipes – Coconut Whipped Cream, Savoury Sauce, Butternut Squash Curry.

 

Phew!

Are you ready to get started with these ingredients? Great! Why not show us what you made! Tag us @learnervegan on social media, or drop us an email and your pics could be shared by us! You can also get some handy advice about surviving your first food shop as a new vegan.

If you’re in the mood for more recipe ideas, head over to our page for Learner Vegan budding chefs! Or if you want to know more about vegan alcohol, you’ll want our quick and easy 5 minute guide to these beverages.

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  • I love experimenting with plant milks. As well as the common soya and almond milks, you can also seek out cashew, pea and hemp milk! The possibilities are endless.⁠
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So what do we buy?⁠
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👍Oatly Barista - this is the only thing my husband will have in coffee. He loves it.⁠
👍Soya milk - this is often fortified and a little sweet, so kids love it. My 4-year-old daughter has it on cereal every day.⁠
👍Coconut milk - great in porridge, overnight oats or a tropical smoothie.⁠
👍Almond milk - my personal preference for tea as it's quite mild.⁠
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You can see more of my favourite dairy and egg swaps in my FREE 'Easy Being Vegan' pack! Including baking substitutes, cheeses, and chocolate. YUM.⁠
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You also get a shopping list, easy meal plan, and personal action points to keep you on track as a new vegan.⁠
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Who wants the link? Give me a heads up! I'll drop it in my bio.⁠
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  • We have a few new lovely Learner Vegans here, so allow me to re-introduce myself!
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When I was 24, going vegan seemed impossible for me. I had all these preconceptions...
Veganism is expensive, right?
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I had no other vegans around me and my husband ate meat - it's not practical, is it?
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I didn't want to live on salad or be nutrient-deficient. I wasn't sure I could make a difference. The list goes on...
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But it turned out these were imaginary roadblocks. Some created by my own mind, others by a society that puts profit over compassion. When I finally decided that I couldn't contribute to animal cruelty and environmental damage anymore, veganism was much easier than I ever imagined.
🥰🥰
My food bill didn't go up. I could eat filling meals like pad thai, tacos and the occasional vegan cookie. I was healthier than ever. I found great new friends and support through events and online communities. My spouse was happy to try my vegan offerings.
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My only regret? That I didn't do it sooner.
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6 years later, there are still myths surrounding a vegan lifestyle. The great thing is that there are more vegan food options out there than EVER before. 💚💚
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A private Facebook group for those hoping to go vegan. Designed to help the vegan-curious, transitioning and new vegan on their journey! ⭐️The FREE 'Easy Being Vegan' pack - 
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  • We all need a little extra help sometimes.⁠
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When I first decided to go vegan, I went through so many changes. Dealing with family’s opinions, living with a (then) non-vegan husband and daughter, wondering about nutrition, and changing my whole mindset. ⁠
I've had my share of mistakes - milk in salt and vinegar pringles? Who knew!⁠
I’ve also been through two healthy vegan pregnancies, eating plant-based for health, and now helping others to go vegan.⁠
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One-on-one coaching can be ideal! Sometimes you don’t want to keep using google and staring at a screen… it’s nice to connect with someone, have an open conversation, get answers to YOUR specific questions, and hear a friendly voice!⁠
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  • Worried about societal pressure...⁠
Is this you? ⁠
😎😎⁠
Those around you may never understand why you are vegan, but they don’t need to. The important thing is that you can calmly and confidently explain why you are vegan, and why that isn’t changing any time soon. Would your loved ones really want to see you forgoing your morals, or feeling less healthy, just because of convenience to them? If so, it’s time to evaluate who you keep close to you. Harsh, but true! ⁠
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The people that matter take a little time to adjust, but they do. My family are so wonderful at making vegan cakes and thinking of me! ⁠
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We can also mitigate stress by calling ahead at restaurants, letting friends know which eateries can cater for the whole group, or bringing out delicious vegan treats with us for everyone to try. Chocolate lattes and rocky road treats, anyone?⁠
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  • Cheese, cheese, who loves cheese without the cruelty?!⁠
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You can buy vegan cheese sauce mixes nowadays, but where's the fun in that?⁠
😉😉⁠
I use this recipe ALL THE TIME. For macaroni cheese, cauliflower bake, or as a dressing. Just don't leave it to stick to the bottom of the pan as I do sometimes! What can I say, I like to multitask when I cook.⁠
⬇️⬇️⁠
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Ingredients:⁠
1 cup unsweetened soya or almond milk⁠
6 tbsp nutritional yeast⁠
2 tbsp cream cheese⁠
1 tbsp butter⁠
1 tbsp plain flour⁠
2 tsp dijon mustard⁠
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Instructions:⁠
1. Melt the butter in a pan.⁠
2. In a bowl, whisk the flour and milk together. Add this to your butter on a medium heat.⁠
3. Add the nutritional yeast, mix together as it comes to the boil.⁠
4. Turn down the heat slightly and add your mustard and cream cheese. Allow to simmer and thicken for around 5 minutes.⁠
5. Your sauce is all done! Add to the dish you are making and enjoy.⁠
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  • That's right... there's no such thing as a perfect vegan!
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What you can do to start your journey...
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