Must Have Spices For The Plant-Based Cook

30 May

Whoops, wrong Spices! But seriously folks, I can’t live without my spice cabinet. No Spice= Miserable Food. Here’s the spices I love and have leaned on consistently during my plant-based eating journey. Some of these are somewhat unconventional or, um, not “health food nazi approved” but they work for me.

1. Kelp granules

Vegan faux fish tacos and “tuna” salad represent! I try to not overuse this because of my thyroid, but it does work really well in certain dishes where you want to give things a mock-fishy flavor.

2. Frontier Mexican Seasoning

Normally I like to add spices individually, but this blend has been an old stand-by for me for years. Great in any Mexican dish or on tofu/tempeh.

3. Goya Adobo Seasoning

Yes, it has sodium and therefore is not E2 compliant. Yes, it is probably irradiated. However, it is the last vestige of my childhood aside from coffee left to me, so you will have to pry it out of my dead, cold Cuban-American hands. Besides, I have really low blood pressure. When I don’t eat a little salt every day, I feel like I am going to pass out every time I come up out of Prasarita. No salt = No bueno. Actually, more like No Salt = No Prana.

4. Parsley

Usually thought of as a humble garnish, but works so well in so many recipes. It’s especially good if I need a little bit of a “cool” taste to offset something in a dish. I usually prefer the dried organic flake version to fresh, but there are some dishes where the more intensely “cool”/pungent taste of the fresh works better. An essential ingredient for one of my favorite bowl sauces, Hippie Sauce. Parsley is antimicrobial, contains a compound called apigenin which is thought to have anti-cancer activity and is loaded with carotenoids.

5. Asafoetida or “Hing”

Excellent for Indian dishes, natch. Gives things the critical, secret bitter/pungent accent that is so prevalent in many Indian dishes. Also somwhat umami-esque, which my tastebuds adore. Although I do notice that my sweat is particularly um, unlovely, after I eat this stuff. Putting the “ass” in asafoetida! Apparently Asafoetida is also known as The Devil’s Dung, Stinking Dung AND the Food Of The Gods.

6. Smoked Paprika

Where have you been all of my life, smoked paprika? So yummy!

7. Truffle Salt

Again, not E2 compliant, but truffle salt is so ridiculously good! Imparts a savory, chewy, umami vibe to all sorts of dishes. “Umami” is that savory, meaty flavor that is usually associate with, well, meat. Using spices that give things some umami keeps me from feeling bored and deprived with my plant-based diet.  If you have blood pressure problems or any kind of cardiac issue, talking to your health care practitioner about salt or just leaving it out altogether is probably a wise move.

8. Tumeric

Excellent for tofu scramble and great for inflammation.

9. Liquid Smoke

Fake bacon taste, baby. I’m all about it! Used it the other night in a delicious Cream of Potato chowder (which I should probably post the recipe for). Again, it’s umami.

10. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

If you are not riding this train, you need to get on it. Peppercorns are not only tasty, but interesting. Peppecorns are actually the seeds of a berry (from a vine, no less) and have been used for more than 4,000 years by humans. There’s a patented medicinal preparation of black pepper called BioPerine that is thought to enhance the absorption of whatever nutrients are paired with it in a formulation. The proposed mechanism of action is the increased GI circulation that black pepper causes. Whooops, I’m letting my day job seep into my blog!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices in your cooking. Pick a few and start with a recipe–before you know it, you will be able to adjust the taste of a dish without relying on recipes and you’ll be cooking intuitively, which in my opinion is where it’s at, man. Cooking becomes something that comes straight from the heart and not your head.

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