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5 plant-based ingredients that make meatless meals more delicious

It seems that just yesterday the very idea of ​​phasing out meat sparked skepticism or derision from our friends, who thought we had all switched to crispy granola. While we are all talking about granola (especially our homemade granola with peanut butter) plant-based eating is totally common now, and we have to say that … it’s a relief. No matter where we turn, these days we have options at our disposal, whether it’s for take out, a Michelin star restaurant, or just a quick and easy dinner at home. Whether you’re a full-time vegan or a flexitarian with the occasional forays into a delicious baked wild salmon recipe, there’s a plethora of options now available to you. And that’s awesome!

And yet… there are still some skeptics. A few people who aren’t just wondering “Where do you get your protein from?” (Ugh …) but also claim that ‘vegetarian food is just not filling / tasty / consistent enough’.

Of course, we all know it’s ridiculous, but in an effort to help you decisively prove your friends wrong (or just add a little more flavor and gluttony to your usual meatless concoctions), we bring you five of our all-time favorite ingredients. that make meatless meals even more filling and tasty.

1. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast has become a mainstay in many of our pantries, but it bears repeating: this flaky substance (which, yes, looks a bit like fish food) is an essential in any toolkit. plant loving person looking to add a rich, umami flavor to their meals.

Nutritional yeast is a form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (try saying this five times faster). While unable to rise your bread or ferment your beer due to its deactivated nature, many of the health benefits of nutritional yeast are linked to its many essential B vitamins, which are often lacking in vegans’ diets. and vegetarians. Some brands are even enriched with even more vitamins and minerals 1.

From a flavor standpoint, nutritional yeast has a nutty, savory and tangy flavor that resembles that of Parmesan. It’s no surprise that it’s an essential ingredient in vegan bechamel sauces or vegan macaroni and cheese. Try it in our Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup or our Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe with Sweet Orange Butternut Squash, or shake up our vegan four-ingredient Parmesan Recipe to sprinkle everything from pasta to homemade pizza and more. again.

2. Eggplant

Longtime vegetarians know that nine out of ten times, whether you’re attending a wedding reception or even just going out to a restaurant, the vegetarian option will be eggplant. And that’s no surprise! Eggplant tastes closest to meat without the, well, the meat. And when perfectly cooked, it also takes on a nice creaminess that makes it the perfect star of any dish.

The secret to cooking eggplant well is to first season it generously with salt, to remove any excess moisture. Pat it dry, removing any visible salt, then it’s ready to cook. Whether you choose to cook it or sauté it, just be careful not to add it to cold oil – the eggplant is a sponge and will absorb it quickly, becoming oily rather than soft and tender.

Considering the natural marriage of eggplant between bitter and sweet flavors, this is a no-brainer on the grill (check out our guide to perfectly broiling eggplant every time); top with tomatoes and feta (see our recipe for grilled eggplant, tomatoes and goat cheese) for even more flavor. It’s also delicious in a traditional French recipe (make our plant-based ratatouille recipe) or simply cubed, fried and mixed with your favorite pasta sauce.

From organic authority files

3. Lentils

Lentils are definitely one of those ingredients that feel stereotypically vegetarian, forming the basis of many veggie burgers. And why not? Rich and mineral – not to mention loaded with protein – lentils are a phenomenal choice for adding bulk and nutrients to your plant-based meals. And there are so many different kinds to choose from!

The yellow and red lentils, abundant in Indian dals, for example, tend to cook creamy and tender, forming a sauce more than the chewing of the meal. Use them in a five-lentil dal, where they’ll provide a creaminess to coat the tastiest chickpeas, or simmer them in a creamy but uncreamed red lentil dal.

Brown and green French lentils, on the other hand, are much more likely to hold their shape when cooked, making them the perfect choice if you want to chew up your recipe a little more. Taste them in a salad with other veggies like radicchio and carrots, or use them as the base for a nutrient-packed shepherd’s pie. You can also simply top them with a savory mint yogurt – plant-based or not – for a hearty, easy-to-make vegetarian main dish on a weeknight.

4. Seitan

Another classic of vegetarian and vegan recipes since time immemorial, seitan, aka wheat gluten, is a great meat substitute. With its mild yet savory flavor and chewy texture, it’s no surprise it’s a staple ingredient for store-bought meat substitutes, from turkey and bacon to hot dogs.

At home, you can use seitan in a variety of recipes, from curries to “chicken” wings for sautéing. Since it doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, it’s the perfect vehicle to soak up spices, sauces, and more. We love it as a base for plant-based tacos or a taco salad, and for dinner, especially during the holidays, it’s the perfect centerpiece with this vegan roast seitan stuffed with chestnuts.

5. Sun-dried tomatoes

One of the most naturally rich ingredients in umami is sun-dried tomatoes. The tomatoes themselves already have a more greedy quality that you can eat them all summer long, but when dried in the sun that flavor intensifies, becoming a sweet and salty wonder that adds a lot of flavor to your meals. favorite recipes.

Their concentrated flavor makes sun-dried tomatoes the perfect base for a raw marinara sauce, served over your favorite spiral noodles. They also add a lot of flavor to homemade veggie burger patties, giving depth and richness to the lentil base. And of course, thinly sliced ​​sun-dried tomatoes are especially welcome in any salad you love.

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