These picks have been selected for their versatility and convenience in vegetarian cooking, not to mention their fabulous taste. If you're a new vegetarian or vegan, be sure to try these if you haven’t already. After all, exploring new tastes, textures and flavors is half the fun of going vegetarian! Look for these foods at natural foods stores and well-stocked grocery stores.
01 of 07
Tofu sometimes gets a bad reputation because it is rather colorless and tasteless on its own. Don’t be fooled—this is tofu’s best quality! Like a sponge, tofu will absorb whatever flavors and spices you marinate or cook it in, making it quite the chameleon. Try pressing tofu and marinating in your favorite marinade or sauce before adding to a stir fry. See also: Quick and Easy Tofu Recipes
02 of 07
Although it is made from wheat, seitan has little in common with flour or bread. Also called “wheat meat”, “wheat gluten” or simply “gluten”, seitan becomes surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked, making it a popular meat substitute. Asian restaurants often use seitan as a mock meat, and it is also the base for several commercially available products such as Tofurky deli slices. Prepared seitan can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, or you can also make your own seitan. See also: Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Seitan Recipes.
03 of 07
Egg replacer is a must if you’re baking without eggs. While many people use flax seeds, bananas or even silken tofu to replace the eggs in a baked recipe, Ener-G egg replacer works best and is economical and easy to use. Made from a variety of raising ingredients, egg replacer can be used in cookies, cakes and brownies as well as pancakes, waffles and more. See also: How to Use Egg Substitutes
04 of 07
05 of 07
Texture vegetable protein, TVP for short, is a high-protein meat substitute available in a variety of flavored and unflavored varieties, as well as different sizes. It has a similar texture to ground meat when cooked and absorbs spices and flavorings well, much like tofu, so it is extremely versatile. Try adding a half cup dry TVP to your favorite soup, chili or pasta sauce while cooking, or sautee rehydrated TVP with diced tomatoes, an onion and chili powder for an easy taco filling. Pictured: Ten-Minute TVP Tacos
06 of 07
Tempeh is made from cooked and fermented soybeans and formed into a patty, similar to a firm veggie burger. If you absolutely hate tofu, tempeh has a similar protein and calcium content, as well as beneficial isoflavones, but tastes nothing like tofu, as it has a textured and nutty flavor. Tempeh can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores.
07 of 07
Vegan Ice Cream
Ok, so this pick isn’t exactly an essential ingredient for the vegetarian kitchen, but vegan ice cream is showing up in grocery stores across America for a good reason—it’s as rich and creamy as dairy-based ice cream with about half the fat. My personal favorites are Soy Delicious Purely Decadent Chocolate Peanut Butter Zig Zag and Temptation's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.