2020 is an incredible time to be a vegan; there are plant-based substitutes (and delicious ones at that) for just about everything now. Here are a few quick examples to give you an idea of what’s available: crab cakes, tuna, bacon, eggs, sausage, hamburgers galore, pizza, ham, chicken nuggets, pork, beef tips, and so on – all vegan. All of this wealth of food options is actually not what this section of the protein guide is about though; be sure to look for any of those products in stores.
Rather, this guide is about the fundamental prepared foods: tofu, silken tofu, tempeh, seitan, nutritional yeast, and TVP (textured vegetable protein). Some of these you can prepare at home yourself whereas others are more difficult to create and best purchased commercially. Either way, most of these foods are considered staples of a standard vegan diet due to their nutritional content and versatility. If you are new to plant-based eating, definitely give each of these a few taste tests.
Full guides for each of these are coming soon, but for now, here’s a quick introduction.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is is the common name for pressed bean curds. It’s traditionally made from soybeans and has a very mild flavor, which is why it’s often marinated or seasoned. A great source of protein, iron and usually calcium as well, tofu is often called “the other white meat”. Bake it, pan crisp it or even grill it; tofu is very versatile.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a block of plant meat made from fermented soybeans that is exceptionally high in protein. Similarly to cheese, a specific mold culture is used to ferment the cooked soybeans. Tempeh has a mild savory flavor that can work well with almost any sauce as a dipping snack or meal option.
What is Seitan?
Seitan refers to wheat gluten that has been extracted from wheat dough by repeatedly washing it until all of the starch has been rinse away. Once the starch is gone, what remains is a very ‘meaty’ (if you will) solid product that can easily be seasoned and formed into various shapes, such as sausage, large roasts or thinly sliced lunch meat. While not a good choice for the gluten sensitive obviously, seitan is still a good source of nutrition for some.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Fondly known as “nooch” to vegans, this is the ingredient you will often see in cheeses and cheesy recipes that helps give them a – you guessed it – cheesy flavor. However, nooch can simply be sprinkled over your dinner like salt and pepper to grab a whopping serving of B vitamins (plus a little extra protein) along with that savory umami flavor profile. Nutritional yeast is, well, yeast; it’s the same yeast that is used for bread but it has been cooked (and therefore deactivated so it can no longer help bread to rise).
What is TVP?
Commonly referred to as “TVP”, textured vegetable protein is the crumbles of plant meat that remain after soybean oil is extracted from soybeans. As soybean oil is a very common oil used in commercial products, TVP is a highly nutritious byproduct that provides a great way to keep resources from being wasted.