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8 vegan foods you've never heard of - that will change your life!

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Welcome to vegcurious – the blog for people who are curious about plant-based eating.

You have probably noticed that, like many groups, vegans have their own jargon and words that are used mostly by them. Of course, when it comes to vegans, those words refer almost exclusively to food and, oddly enough, most of them do not sound the least bit appetizing!

I don’t understand why vegans have chosen some of the most awkward sounding words to describe some of the most magical and delicious food, but I don’t make the rules. In this post I’m going to let you in on this secret lexicon so the next time you find yourself chatting with a vegan at a cocktail party, you’ll be able to sprinkle these into the conversation! (You'll find links to lots of recipes for all these foods in each section, by clicking on the pictures, and at the end of this post.)

1. Seitan

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. I’ll wait while you have a quick giggle. Yes, it’s pronounced like the Prince of Darkness but, no, it isn’t in any way evil. Made from wheat gluten, the protein found in wheat, seitan is one of the most versatile, protein dense, low calorie and delicious foods in a plant-based diet

What is seitan?

Like our good friend, tofu, seitan is also thousands of years old. In fact, it was first developed 2,000 years ago by vegetarian Buddhist monks in China who were looking for a filling alternative to meat. And they found it! Seitan is chewy and very meat-like. On its own, seitan has what can be described as a bland, but savoury, taste not unlike chicken, but the magic comes in how easily it can be transformed into mimicking everything from Buffalo chicken wings to grilled steak!

Seitan can be purchased already prepared in a wide variety of forms, but for those who prefer to get creative in the kitchen, it’s super easy to make at home using vital wheat gluten (see #5 below). Use your batch of seitan anywhere you would use meat – bake it, broil it, grill it, or fry it with sauces and spices and there is no end to what you can create using the magic of seitan.

2. Aquafaba

Some things just make me scratch my head. For example…who was the first person to open a can of chickpeas, look at the liquid they were sitting in and say, “I think that will make some pretty delicious meringue cookies!”? Keep reading and I’ll tell you!

What is aquafaba?

It really is that liquid your chickpeas live in while in their can. Most people would just pour that stuff down the drain but not French chef and tenor, Joel Roessel. Back in 2014, Chef Roessel was messing around with the molecular gastronomy of bean water (as one does…) and discovered that the water from a can of chickpeas has many of the same properties as egg whites. I know…so weird, but that’s how it happened and let’s all just be thankful that it did!

Because chickpea brine can mimic egg whites, you can use this liquid gold as you would egg whites. Whipped with some sugar and vanilla, you can make the most incredible meringue for cookies or to top a lemon pie. You can also use it to make vegan versions of ice cream and buttercream frosting. Its magical properties will amaze and astound your friends and then fill their stomachs with delicious, identical-to-egg-white treats!

3. Soy curls

(Note to self: Apply to the vegan powers-that-be to rename plant-based foods!)

Here’s another one whose name doesn’t exactly make your salivary glands spring into action…but it should.

What are soy curls?

Soy curls are one of the most versatile products in a plant-based pantry. They are dehydrated soy protein, made from non-GMO whole soybeans. You can find them under the Butler brand in a lot of grocery stores, whole/health food stores and online. They are high in protein, while low in calories and fat.

These pieces of soy protein are cut into strips, or curls, to look like pieces of animal protein like chicken or pork, that you would put into a stir fry, tacos, a salad, or on a pizza, for example. Soy Curls are so versatile that I’ve even breaded and air fried them to create popcorn chick’n!

Because they are made of soy, on their own they have virtually no taste and will easily absorb any marinade or seasoning you use. And, because they are dehydrated, they do need to be soaked for about 10 minutes, and then squeezed of excess liquid, before using them to get that chewy texture.

4. Agar agar

No, you’re not seeing double, agar agar is the real name of an ingredient in many plant-based mousse-like desserts, vegan Jello and gummy treats.

What is agar agar?

Agar agar is a vegan gelatin derived from red algae that can be purchased in powder or flaked form. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in calcium, folate, iron, and some vitamins, and it can be used as a thickening/setting agent wherever gelatin is used in cooking and baking. Another benefit of agar agar (besides being so much fun to say) is that it has no taste, no odour and no colour, so it can be used anywhere.

5. Vital Wheat Gluten

Another contender for worst vegan food name ever! Don’t be scared off by the name. Unless you have Celiac disease, or an intolerance to gluten, this product might just become your new best friend.

What is Vital Wheat Gluten?

Simply put, vital wheat gluten is the natural protein that is found in wheat. It is responsible for the elasticity and chewy nature of wheat-based foods like bread and pasta. When it comes to plant-based food applications, vital wheat gluten is one of the best substitutes for meat when you want the texture and chew of something like beef or chicken. When made into meat substitute products, the result is called seitan.

In the store, you may see both gluten flour and vital wheat gluten. They are essentially the same thing, and you can use either one in recipes calling for one or the other. But don’t try using gluten flour in place of regular flour in a baking recipe as it doesn’t contain any starch and will yield very spongy results.

6. Tempeh

And…we’re back to soy! But in a completely different form.

What is tempeh?

You can think of tempeh as tofu’s nutty cousin. While both are soy based, tofu is made from condensed soy milk and tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Tofu is prized for its neutral flavour that can become anything, while tempeh has a nutty flavour all its own.

Deep fried, tempeh is a common snack food in Indonesia, where it originated. In the west, tempeh is more often steamed, or boiled and then marinated. It soaks up marinades really well and can be used in all kinds of dishes from stir fries to sandwiches.

7. Black salt (a.k.a. kala namak, or Himalayan black salt)

This one is the strangest things I’ve encountered since becoming a vegan.

What is black salt?

Black salt is a volcanic rock salt that is mined in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and other Himalayan locations. That’s not the weird part. Ready for this? It smells and tastes exactly like eggs! I know…WEIRD! But having this strange property is great for vegans because we can add a sprinkle to a tofu scramble, and it miraculously becomes scrambled eggs! It’s the star of my favourite egg salad recipe! With black salt, a little goes a long way, so if you are a fan of eggs, I would highly recommend buying a jar of this stuff. It’s easy to find in any Asian grocery store or even online from Amazon.

8. Nutritional Yeast

I saved this one for last because it was covered in it's own blog just last month! But in case you missed it…

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch” and "flakes of gold" is a vegan’s best kept secret and a powerhouse of B vitamins. Vegans will sprinkle it on pretty much everything from oatmeal to popcorn, and soups to stews! Nooch has a mild, cheesy taste (some say it’s like Parmesan) but when mixed into heavily flavoured foods like a pasta sauce or salad dressing, you can barely detect it. Then why, you may ask, would you bother to add it? I’ll give 313 good reasons. Just two small teaspoons of nutritional yeast will provide 313% of your daily value of vitamin B12. And that’s just the beginning! If you’re thinking about transitioning to plant-based eating, include some nutritional yeast in your diet to make sure you get all those delicious B vitamins!

And, there you have it. Eight foods you've probably never heard of that might just become your new favourite things to eat.

Looking for recipes:


I hope this blog has helped you find your way to plant-based eating. Remember…the goal is not to be perfect. Do the best you can and enjoy the journey! Subscribe to this blog at

Note: It is strongly recommended that you consult with your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet. This blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to recommend or endorse any particular product, diet or eating plan.

Next post: Vegan School Lunches Your Kid Will Love


Aug 28, 2023

We use aquafaba all the time to make bread and cookies. Works a treat.


Unknown member
Jul 06, 2023

Thank you so much! I hope your friends find my site helpful on their vegcurious journey. ❤️


Jul 06, 2023

What a fantastic post. I have 2 friends who are veg curious and easing their way into becoming vegan. I'm sharing this post in particular and your blog overall with them!

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