Fantastic Vegan Ingredients and Where to Find Them

The first step is always the hardest – to make it at least a little easier for you if you want to switch to a vegan diet, we've written a few articles on the basics. They are about how to get the nutrients you need when being vegan, non-vegan ingredients to look out for, and vegan pantry essentials. Find all our articles here.

Vegan cooking and baking don’t have to be complicated. Hopefully we prove this quite automatically with many of our recipes. Whenever possible we try to avoid special ingredients that you don’t necessarily find in your supermarket next door. After all, not everyone lives in Berlin where you can even shop in a vegan supermarket.

Sometimes, however, there are certain ingredients that we like to use which are only available in organic stores or online. Sometimes these are even ingredients which you have to search for online to understand exactly what they even are. Since we keep getting questions like "Do I really need this?", "What is that even good for?" or "Where do I get this?", we've put together a list of a few fantastic vegan ingredients and where to find them (Harry Potter fans hopefully get the article title).

Of course this list is always in progress and can never be complete. So if you have any suggestion for a special vegan ingredient that you've come across in our recipes, feel free to post it in the comments below, so we can add it.


What is aquafaba?
What sounds like an exotic ingredient is actually something that you might already have in your kitchen as we speak. Aquafaba is the canned liquid of legumes. These are usually chickpeas but theoretically you could also use beans and lentils. During their production process, the chickpeas are cooked which is when they are releasing starch and proteins into the cooking water. This liquid ends up in the can as well. When this liquid is being whipped, the proteins build up and turn out to be as foamy as beaten egg whites. The starch stabilizes them – it's a vegan wonder of nature!

So do all desserts made with aquafaba taste like chickpeas? Fortunately, no. Aquafaba doesn't taste quite appetizing on its own – and it's certainly not sweet. But by adding some sugar and flavors, the slightest taste of chickpeas is quickly covered up.

Where to find aquafaba:
Everywhere where you can find canned chickpeas (or other legumes).

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Gingerbread Mousse with Caramelized Oranges
Vegan Almond Cake with Nougat Cream and Peanuts

R493 Vegan Almond Cake with Nougat Cream and Peanuts


What is agar-agar?
Agar-agar is a plant-based substitute for gelatine. Since gelatin is made from the connective tissue of skin and bones (e.g. from pigs and cattle), it's definitely not suitable for a vegan diet. Agar-agar, on the other hand, is made from dried seaweed and works just as well as a gelling agent – no worries, it doesn't taste like seaweed but is neutral in taste. We like to use it for any kind of jelly, cake glazes, but also for a fluffy mousse and pudding.

When preparing it, it's best to follow the package instructions – it usually needs to simmer with some liquid for approx. 2 minutes before it's stirred into the remaining ingredients. Agar-agar is most commonly available powdered, but you can also find it in the form of sheets similar to gelatine. The package should also tell you how much agar-agar substitutes how much gelatin, so it's a great way to veganize recipes.

Where to find agar-agar:
Whether you're checking in at a supermarket, organic store, Asian supermarket, or any online shop: the plant-based alternative to gelatin should actually always be easily found in a baking section.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce
Vegan Peaches and Cream Cake
Vegan Raspberry Cake
Vegan Jaffa Cakes
Vegan No-Bake Raspberry Yogurt Cakes
Vegan No-Bake Blackberry Cake
Vegan Coconut Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce
3-Ingredient Vegan Dark and White Chocolate Mousse
Vegan Swedish Princess Cakes
Vegan Boiled Eggs in Creamy Mustard Sauce with Potatoes

Nutritional Yeast

What is nutritional yeast?
You've definitely worked with yeast while baking, no matter if you used fresh or active dry yeast. However, nutritional yeast is no leavening agent at all, but a seasoning. To produce it, cultivated yeast is dried into a powder which also means that it's no longer active and will not help you in baking. Nutritional yeast is also quite healthy as it contains a rather high amount of protein as well as vitamins B1, B2 and B5, B6, and folic acid. It contains most nutrients when it's not heated.

Nutritional yeast tastes mildly tangy and nutty and has a cheese-like flavor, which is why we love to use it whenever we want things to taste "cheesy". You might have heard of "nooch sauce" which was one of the first plant-based cheese sauce options long before companies offered vegan cheese substitutes. But nutritional yeast can add an umami flavor to all kinds of dishes, so you can also use it for soups, stews, and other dishes – just sprinkle it on top right before serving.

Where to find nutritional yeast:
We've already found nutritional yeast in some larger supermarkets, but you should definitely find them in organic stores. The price range of different products can be quite big though.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Creamy Leek Soup with Soy Meat
Creamy Gnocchi with Nooch Cheese Sauce, Beans & Mushrooms
Vegan Cheese Fondue
Vegane Mac'n'Cheese
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Vegan Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce
Veganer Queso Dip
Vegan Palak Paneer
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
Vegan Rice Noodle Soup (Pho)


What is jackfruit?
You might have seen jackfruit more and more often while shopping, but most likely as a packaged product and not in the fresh produce section. I've seen fresh jackfruits on my vacation in Sri Lanka and believe me, you're not able to oversee them. The fruits can weigh more than 30 kg. In South and Southeast Asia, where jackfruit trees grow, they aren't used specifically as a meat substitute, but simply as a side dish. However, the fact that the trees don't grow in Europe also means that the transport ways for jackfruit are long, which one should keep in mind in terms of its carbon footprint.

Because its texture is so fibrous by nature, it has become one of the most popular meat substitute options, along with tofu and seitan. It's not necessarily "tasty" on its own, but you can easily season and marinate it to your liking, then fry it, bread it, or let it simmer in a sauce of your choice. If you use two forks to pull the jackfruit chunks apart, you can enjoy a vegan version of pulled pork.

Where to find jackfruit:
Supermärkte haben immer öfter Jackfruit in der Dose oder anderweitig verpackt, man findet sie aber auch im Bio- und Drogeriemarkt. Teilweise sind sie pur, manchmal aber auch schon vorgewürzt oder eingelegt. Die günstigste Jackfruit gibt's aber in asiatischen Supermärkten. Achte nur darauf, dass du unreife Jackfruit kaufst – die gelbe, reife Sorte schmeckt nämlich süß und eignet sich nicht als Fleischersatz.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Jackfruit Fricassee with Rice
Vegan Jackfruit 'Chicken' Nuggets
Vegan Jackfruit Biryani
Vegan Jackfruit Pot Pie

R222 Jackfruit fricassee with rice

Kala Namak

What is kala namak?
Before we went vegan, we haven't used kala namak neither. But then we heard about this Indian black salt with a slightly sulfurous taste, that is supposed to be THE secret ingredient for plant-based egg recipes. And since we tried it for the first time, it's indispensable in our spice rack. In our opinion, it belongs to every vegan egg recipe, because it actually makes a huge difference. You can smell it right away when you get closer to any dish that's seasoned with the black salt, we promise. Smells like someone if cooking fried eggs here... wait, that's vegan?

Kala namak isn't the cheapest spice ever, but just a tiny amount will already be enough to give your dishes the egg-like flavor. So far we haven't found any alternative to it, so if you don't have it at home for a recipe, rather just leave it out completely. Instead of only sprinkling it on "eggy" dishes, you can use kala namak also on veggies or whatever dish you like. In Indian cuisine, it's often used for chutneys. And don't be surprised: although it's called black salt, it's often rather purple.

Where to find kala namak:
We've rarely found the black salt in regular supermarkets so far. Therefore, we usually go and buy it in vegan supermarkets or organic stroes. You will find it online for sure.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Scrambled Tofu
Vegan Egg Salad
Vegan Chanterelle and Leek Quiche
Vegan Breakfast Bagel with Avocado-Vegg Salad
Vegan Omelet Made of Tofu
Vegan Boiled Eggs in Creamy Mustard Sauce with Potatoes
Vegan Eggs Florentine
Mashed Potatoes with Creamed Spinach and Vegan Fried Eggs

Chickpea flour

What is chickpea flour?
If you're on a gluten-free diet, chickpea flour may already be part of your pantry, but it's also a staple in our kitchen. The flour is made of peeled and ground dry chickpeas (and therefore contains a lot of protein). However, we don't use it as a substitute for wheat flour, but mostly as a binding agent.

When you mix it with water, it turns into a slightly sticky slurry. The yellowish color comes from the chickpeas themselves and the flour itself also has a mild flavor of its own. But since you don't need much of it as a binder anyway, it shouldn't affect your result much. Still, some people prefer to use it in savory recipes only. To substitute eggs, you can mix one heaping tablespoon per egg with two tablespoons of water.

Where to find chickpea flour:
You shouldn't have any problems finding chickpea flour in organic stores, but also larger supermarkets offer it more and more often.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Scrambled Tofu
Vegan Hot Dogs with Homemade Veggie Sausages

Coconut Chips

What are coconut chips?
We all know shredded coconut, but the flaky version is less common. Even though they are called coconut chips, they have not much in common with potato chips as they are not crispy but rather soft chips with coconut flavor. This makes them a perfect snack or topping for your cereal, porridge, but also for cakes, cupcakes and more.

However, the sweet coconut flavor doesn't always have to be that present. You can also marinate the soft chips with stronger, salty flavors, then bake them until crispy to turn them into a kind of vegan bacon. Still, it's also important to keep in mind that they're not very sustainable due to the long transport routes.

Where to find coconut chips:
You can also find coconut chips in organic stores and larger supermarkets.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Tahin Granola
Asparagus and Potato Salad with Wild Garlic Gremolata
Vegan Coconut Bacon
Vegan Bacon Donuts

Coconut Sugar

What is coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar has become famous as a kind of healthy sugar substitute in recent years. Although of course it must be said that any kind of sugar is not really "healthy". It's obtained from the nectar of coconut palms, which is simmered until as much water as possible has evaporated. What remains is the crumbly, brownish sugar, which is not refined and thus contains more nutrients than refined sugars. These nutrients include iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc, as well as the dietary fiber inulin, which slows down the absorption of glucose and thus doesn't raise blood sugar levels as quickly. Compared to refined sugar, this makes it "healthier", but you would have to eat a VERY large amount of coconut sugar to absorb enough of these nutrients and that again wouldn't be healthy at all. And of course, please note that coconut palms don't grow in our area. The sugar mostly comes from Southeast Asia, which means that long transport routes are needed which isn't good for its carbon footprint.

Actually, you can always use coconut sugar when regular sugar is usually used. Just note that it dissolves more slowly than white sugar. What makes it so special is the caramel-like flavor that comes with it (which is why we love to use it for vegan caramel) when in fact, it doesn't taste like coconut at all.

Where to find coconut sugar:
Larger supermarkets, drugstores, and organic stores should usually have coconut sugar on hand. You can also order it online, of course.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Caramel
Vegan Caramel Cheesecake
Vegan Berry Rolls with Cardamom
Caramel Shots with Pretzel Topping
Vegan Almond Millionaire Bars

R142 vegan caramel

Liquid Smoke

What is liquid smoke?
When it comes to questions about ingredients, we've probably gotten the most questions about liquid smoke so far – mainly because it's not that easy to find it in stores. But once you find and purchase it (it's unfortunately also a bit pricey), it lasts for a very long time very, because you only need a few drops of it to turn your kitchen into a smokehouse... without you actually having to smoke your ingredients.

We like to use it for carrot dogs, vegan "smoked salmon", and for all kinds of vegan bacon. But it's all about flavor here – while you can preserve food by smoking it, this won't happen with liquid smoke. Liquid Smoke comes in different flavors (some are milder, some are more intense), so it's best to always read the package information and maybe opt for a slightly milder liquid smoke when you're using it for the first time.

Where to find liquid smoke:
It seems to be the easiest to find liquid smoke online, but in Berlin, we also can buy it in vegan supermarkets, sometimes even in larger supermarkets. Since it's also very popular for meat dishes, however, it's always tricky to tell you exactly WHERE in a supermarket you would find it.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Pasta All'Amatriciana
Vegan Coconut Bacon
Sandwich Bites with Vegan Salmon and Tuna
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
Vegan BLT Sandwich
Vegan Bacon Donuts
Grilled Soy Steaks in Spiced Marinade
Carrot Dogs with Two Toppings


What is miso?
Miso has been an essential part of Japanese cuisine for centuries with miso soup probably being the most famous dish for it. It's made from fermented soybeans, various extra ingredients and adds umami flavor to your dishes. If we sometimes feels like there's "something" missing in a soup, a stew, a sauce, or even a marinade, miso usually solves the problem. It just seasons perfectly and since you don't need much of it, a package of miso paste lasts a long time.

However, there's not only one type of miso, but many varieties, which are made from soybeans, rice, or barley malt, for example. The bright varieties taste milder than the dark ones and are therefore good for the start, if you want to get used to the taste. Some types of miso also taste slightly sweet and can be used for sweet dishes. So it's best to try different types of miso and also to have several different ones at hand.

Where to find miso:
Die besten Adressen sind natürlich asiatische Supermärkte, wo es auch die größte Auswahl an Misopasten gibt. Danach folgen Biomärkte, wo man üblicherweise mindestens eine Sorte Misopaste findet. Mittlerweile kann man aber auch in größeren Supermärkten Glück haben, wenn diese länderspezifische Abteilungen haben.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Miso Ramen with Smoked Tofu
Vegan Fish Sauce
Vegan Instant Ramen Soup
Quick Spring Pasta with Wild Garlic and Lemon
Golden Coconut Soup with Rice Noodles
Vegan Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara

Panko Breadcrumbs

What are panko breadcrumbs?
We're pretty sure that you know what breadcrumbs are, but we actually prefer the Japanese version of it: panko breadcrumbs. They can be used just like 'regular' breadcrumbs, so you can always substitute one with another. For it's preparation in Japan, mostly white bread without a crust is used which is why panko is so light in color.

The biggest difference, however, is the texture, because panko breadcrumbs are much bigger and more chunky, but the single "flakes" are more tender and crunchy than the teeny tiny regular breadcrumbs. This gives you much more crunch and your breading will be much crispier.

Where to find panko breadcrumbs:
So far, we haven't found panko breadcrumbs in supermarkets or organic stores, so we always buy them in large packageges at Asian supermarkets. You could also order it online.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Soy Cutlets with Potato Salad
Vegan Katsu Sando
Vegan Broccoli Tater Tots with Herb Dip
Vegan Deep Fried Crispy Sushi Taco Rolls
Herb Crusted Tofu with Lemon Mustard Sauce, Boiled Potatoes, and Peas

R307 Vegan Mozzarella sticks

Rice Flour

What is rice flour?
The next flour on our list of fantastic ingredients is rice flour. With few ingredients, we get asked more often whether it's absolutely necessary to use it and if it can't be substituted. The answer to that is: yes, you can usually use other flours instead but since we read about this tip by our friends from Krautkopf, rice flour is always our number one pick when we prepare vegan hash browns.

They simply become crispier with a bit of rice flour – the fact that this also makes them gluten-free happens to be just by accident for us, but can of course this can be very important to some people. Unfortunately we can't tell you if it's also possible to replace wheat flour with rice flour in other recipes as we simply don't know enough about this. Rice flour can also be used as a binding agent to substitute cornstarch.

Where to find rice flour:
We've found rice flour in drugstores, organic stores, larger supermarkets, and Asian supermarkets – even more often than we would've expected.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Kimchi Pancakes with Gochujang Dip
Vegan Savory Spinach Pancakes
Vegan Crispy Potato Waffles
Vegan Sweet Potato Pancakes with 3 Ingredients
Vegan German Potato Pancakes with Apple Sauce

Silken Tofu

What is silken tofu?
Silken tofu is a type of tofu, but its consistency is quite different to natural tofu or smoked tofu. This is a result of how it's made. To make tofu, soybeans are soaked and then squeezed out to extract soy milk. The soy milk is heated and curdles. After that you can produce tofu by pressing the mixture and removing as much of the moisture as possible which makes it solid. However, this is not what happens with silken tofu which isn't pressed that heavily and still contains approx. 80% water which makes it so creamy and tender.

Just like natural tofu, silken tofu is quite neutral in taste which means that you can generously season it to your liking – whether you want to eat it in a sweet or savory dish. You can blend it and use it as a plant-based cream or even as an egg substitute. Just note that it can't function as a binding agent. To give it a rather firm texture it's best to mix it with agar-agar. Because it's so soft, we really love to use it for dips, creams, sauces, and even as the base for our vegan fried egg.

Where to find silken tofu:
If you're not lucky at any larger supermarkets, you should find silken tofu in organic stores and Asian supermarkets.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Pigs in a Blanket
3-Ingredient Vegan Dark and White Chocolate Mousse
French Vegan Crème Brûlée
„Strammer Max“ (Dark Bread with Vegan Fried Egg)
Vegan Chanterelle and Leek Quiche
Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo

A106 5 recipes with silken tofu (and how to prepare properly)


What is seitan?
Besides tofu, seitan might be one of the most popular meat substitute – many even prefer it because of it's consistency. Instead of soybeans, it's made from wheat gluten and absolutely no new invention. In Asian cuisine, people have been cooking with seitan for centuries. Nowadays, you can find it in numerous ready-made meat substitutes, but you can also make seitan yourself quite easily, which will give you the opportunity to season and prepare it to your very own liking.

When making it at home, you can chose between boiling, steaming, or baking it, giving it exactly the shape and texture you're aiming for. You can also season it exactly to your taste by adding spices to the dough and with the help of marinades and sauces.

Where to find seitan:
You can find quite a large selection of products made from seitan in organic stores. Same goes for Asian supermarkets and bigger supermarkets. The wheat gluten itself is most likely to be found in organic stores, but you could also wash out wheat flour and make it yourself.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Goulash with Seitan, Bell Pepper & Pasta
Vegan “Sauerbraten“ (Marinated Seitan Roast) with Spaetzle & Red Cabbage
Vegan Reuben Sandwich

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

What is TVP?
Before companies started to produce "raw vegan minced meat", we usually prepared everything that was supposed to resemble minced meat with TVP. It's made from defatted soy flour that is shaped into different forms. You can buy it in the shapes of soy granules, but also as large TVP steaks, medallions, cubes, or else.

The preparation is the same for all of them: first, the dry pieces need to be soaked. You can add flavor to them directly by using not only hot water, but also some broth or spices. After approx. 10-15 minutes the TVP should be softened. Drain it and squeeze our as much liquid as possible to make sure that the consistency won't be squishy later. Afterwards, season it again, marinate it, and use it according to your recipe – you can grill it, fry it, cook it, whatever you like. Its fibrous texture provides a meat-like consistency.

Where to find TVP:
You can find TVP quite easy, but it's not always available in every shape. The most common are probably fine granules, which you can also find in supermarkets. When checking out organic stores, you should also find larger chunks. We also like to go to Asian supermarkets for large TVP steaks. And of course you should easily find every shape of TVP online.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
Grilled Soy Steaks in Spiced Marinade
Vegan German Meatballs (Frikadellen)
Vegan „Minced Meat“ Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Stuffed Soy Steaks with Dumplings & Sauerkraut
Vegan Cheesesteak Sandwich
Vegan Creamy Leek Soup with Soy Meat
Vegan Turkish Pizza with Herb Yogurt Sauce
Vegan Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce
Vegan Gatsby Sandwich

R137 Vegan Classic Burger with soy meat

Soy Flour

What is soy flour?
Come on in, here's the next gluten-free flour that we actually don't use for this reason. Soy flour was more like the first egg substitute that we knew of and we still like to use today. You can replace 1 egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of soy flour with 2 tablespoons of water. Soy flour on it's own can also be used to thicken sauces and soups if you don't have wheat flour or starch at home. As with all soy products, you should make sure to use organic products to make sure that there's no genetically modified soy in it. Depending on the recipe, you could also replace soy flour with other egg substitutes.

Where to find soy flour:
You will actually find soy flour more often than you think, e.g. in organic stores, drugstores, and larger supermarkets.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Vegan Wild Garlic Dumplings with Creamy Leek Sauce
Sweet Vegan Potato Pancakes
Vegan Potato Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce
Vegan „Königsberger Klopse" (Meatballs)
Vegan Nut Wedges
Vegan Chicken and Waffles

Tapioca Starch

What is tapioca starch?
We admit that 'tapioca starch' sounds like an ingredient that is super fancy, really expensive and not even that necessary. We also admit that we're not using it every day. Not even every week. But there are a few recipes where you do need it and can't replace it that easy. Tapioca is made from cassava roots and it's often found powdered as starch or flour, but you can also get it in the form of pearls. If you've ever tried bubble tea, you most likely also have been chewing on tapioka pearls. W're more interested about tapioca starch here but since we're not a gluten-free blog and don't know much about the subject, we can't tell you much about tapioca flour as a wheat substitute, as we use it mostly for vegan cheese.

Like other starches, tapioca starch provides binding and thickens other ingredients – just in a very chewy, stretchy way. Exactly this characteristic is very interesting for vegan cheese because all of a sudden cashew mixtures can pull strings like 'real' cheese. You probably understand now why it's therefore difficult to find a proper substitute, and why we always keep tapioca starch in our pantry.

Where to find tapioca starch:
Check out organic stores to find tapioca starch – it's a bit pricey, but you won't need much of it, so it should last for a long time. Often you can also find tapioca starch much cheaper in Asian supermarkets.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Caprese Salad with vegan Cashew Mozzarella


What is tempeh?
While tofu is quite common in Germany, only a few are familiar with tempeh: tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and just like tofu, it's quite neutral in taste, but it actually has a stronger (slightly nutty) flavor than natural tofu. Still, you can season and marinate it yourself to give it the taste you want.

The consistency of tempeh is definitely different from tofu. Since it's made of whole soy beans it's chunkier, but at the same time tastes quite tender. It can be fried, deep-fried, grilled, but also steamed and can thus be eaten as a side dish rich in protein – actually, whenever you would otherwise want to use tofu or another "meat substitute".

Where to find tempeh:
We haven't found tempeh in supermarkets yet, but always go for organic stores and Asian supermarkets when we need it. You can get it plain or pre-seasoned, sometimes jarred and sometimes vacuum-packed.

Found it? Then let's cook some of these recipes:
Lime Rice with Tempeh and Mango Avocado Salsa
BBQ Tacos with Tempeh and Garlic Dip

R400 Lime rice with tempeh and mango avocado salsa

More Vegan Basics

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