Eating vegan isn’t just about eating fruits and veggies all day long (unless you’re raw vegan I suppose), nor is it just about consuming vegan faux-meats masquerading as animal products. But these food products can come in handy when in a rush, converting to veganism (or vegetarianism), or even just to fill a craving. And many meals can be augmented and protein-boosted by adding tofu, tempeh, or seitan (a versatile beasty made with vital wheat gluten).
In the last year, we’ve prepared and eaten a variety of these foods. In an effort to provide info for replacing a meaty meal with a not-so-meaty meal, I’ve decided it could be fun to review and discuss these foods.
For the pre-packaged foods, I factor in:
- Flavor. It’s got to taste good or else why bother?
- Appearance. Looking like meat isn’t high on my list of requirements, but may be important to some.
- Ingredients. These are all technically processed foods, but if the ingredients are ones you could put together yourself, I’d toss that in the “pro” column.
- Omnivore-friendliness. Not that a vegan’s feelings don’t count, but I don’t want to recommend something off-putting to non-vegans. My goal is to prove that eating vegan can be delicious, so the last thing I want to do is recommend (or feed) an omnivore something tasteless, poorly-seasoned, or oddly textured. At least without warning. ;)
For Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, etc. (technically also pre-packaged), I’ll focus on:
- Pronunciation. OK, tofu is fairly easy, but what about the others? Learning to pronounce tempeh and seitan helped me feel much more competent as a vegan chef. :D
- Appearance and handling. “I have this package of tofu. Now what?” “Tempeh tastes so bitter. Help!” “What’s up with this spongy, bready seitan I just bought? And how the heck do I prepare it?”
- Myths around these products. Soy products, like tofu and tempeh, have gotten a bad rap. Seitan sounds like satan… oh wait, that might be off-topic.
- Ability to make your own. Fun in the kitchen!
- Recipes and omnivore-friendliness. Some suggestions for ways to add flavor and make these foods appealing for anyone who dines with you.
In honor of World Vegan Day (OK, it was just convenient timing), I’ll be kicking off this series today. If you have any products you’re curious about or have seen and are not sure you should try, send your suggestions my way!