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August 24, 2019

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Don’t have a cow: Your guide to non-animal food items

Vegan food

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This vegan spread includes tofu bean curd, grains, crackers, almond yogurt, vegetables, fruit, legumes, cereals, herbs, nuts and seeds.

For years, following an American vegetarian or vegan diet often meant suffering through cardboard-flavored “substitute” foods from health food stores. But as times have changed and options have expanded, going vegan can mean going gourmet.

According to a report by the BBC, the U.S. has seen a 600 percent increase in people following a vegan diet in the past three years. Follow the laws of supply and demand, and it’s easy to see how vegan food has become a lucrative business. According to that same report, the vegan cheese industry alone is expected to be worth $4 billion by next year.

Whether you’re looking to cut down on your meat consumption or go full vegan, here’s a quick look at ways to avoid animal products and still get a balanced diet.

Common substitutes

Eggs

Spotting hidden animal products

While chicken, beef, fish and eggs are obviously not vegan, many other ingredients in processed food packaging can be trickier to spot. If a product does not have vegan labeling, look at the ingredient list for these common non-vegan items:

• Casein: From milk

• Lactose: From milk

• Whey: From milk

• Albumin: From egg

• Rennet: Enzymes produced inside cow stomachs

• Enzymes: Can be derived from non-animal living organisms and animals, but there’s often no specification

• Gelatin: Obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones

• Aspic: Made from clarified meat, fish or vegetable stocks, and gelatin

• Lard/tallow: Animal fat

• Honey: Made by bees

• Royal Jelly: Secretion of the throat gland of the honeybee

• Isinglass: A substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish, and is used mainly for the clarification of wine and beer

• Pepsin: From the stomachs of pigs, an agent used in vitamins

• Flax egg: Combine 1 tbsp. of ground flax with 3 tbsp. of water. Whisk together and place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes. Great for use in baking because it helps add structure and texture.

• Aquafaba: Aquafaba is the liquid goo from a can of chickpeas. Whip like egg whites for 15 minutes to create a meringue or use it to replace eggs entirely in baking and icings. You can also make homemade mayonnaise. To use as a binder, lightly whip the liquid until foamy. Use 3 tbsp. aquafaba for one whole egg and 2 tbsp. for one egg white.

• Egg replacer: Egg replacers are often powders that become egglike when mixed with water. Some combine ingredients such as tapioca and potato starch to create a binding agent, others are made to be more yolky.

• Tofu: Use silky tofu as a thickening or binding agent, or scramble it like eggs.

Meat

• Tofu: High in protein and calcium but low in calories, tofu is made from soybeans and is one of the more versatile meat substitutes. A staple of Asian cuisines, tofu takes on the flavor of anything it's marinated in. Press it to remove any excess moisture before baking or frying.

Real veggie burger

Experiment using hearty vegetables such as potatoes, cauliflower and beets. Who hasn’t seen a portobello burger on a menu? Rich and earthy, mushrooms are great when you want a meaty texture and that satisfying umami flavor.

• Tempeh: Firmer than tofu and a bit grainier, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, has a slightly nutty flavor and is high in calcium, fiber and vitamins. Unlike tofu, you don't have to press it before use.

• Textured vegetable protein:Made from dehydrated soy. It takes on marinade and seasoning with ease. It comes as textured granules or chunks, perfect for replacing ground beef, sausage or chicken.

• Seitan: Known as “wheat meat,” seitan is made using vital wheat gluten and mimics the texture of beef or chicken. It has a dense, chewy texture that can hold up to grilling, frying and braising, making it great for burgers, nuggets and even steaks.

• Jackfruit: When young, this tropical fruit has a mild taste and a texture that’s akin to pulled pork. Jackfruit is used as a meat substitute in many Asian diets, so recipes are readily available. Large—often the size of an infant—jackfruit can be a bit difficult to work with, so check out your local Asian market for the canned version.

• Beans and legumes: Beans and legumes are great sources of protein, especially when used together. Try cooking with black beans or kidney beans, as well as lentils, chickpeas and black-eyed peas. Many packaged meat-replacement products rely on beans and legumes. Keep an eye out for pea protein as a hot newcomer.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.