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In this article, I will show you just how easy it is to add amazing spices to your vegan cooking. You will learn the many health benefits which adding spices to plant-based meals can bring. It takes simple vegan food to another level! I have added a wonderful Coconut Milk Chai recipe for you to enjoy at the end of this article!
Each spice has an important role to play when it comes to cooking and with a few helpful tips, you can experience the flavour of vegan cooking with spices in your home. Interested in learning more?
In the culinary world, spices are products that flavour our food which come primarily from the root, stem, seed, fruit or flower of a plant. Spices do not come from the leaves of the plant as these are referred to as Herbs.
Spices, for example, include cinnamon (the bark of a tree) and clove (a dried flower bud). Spices have been used over centuries in traditional medicine, food preservation and flavouring food around the world.
Read on to see what spices are essential and how you can use them in your next vegan meal.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Spices?
Vegan meals are incredibly healthy when you use raw, plant-based ingredients such as fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices and incorporate healthy fats and fibre from lentils, beans, chickpeas, avocados, nuts and seeds. Our food should be enjoyable to eat, filled with nutrients to make us feel good.
Research Nutritionist Diane Vizthum, M.S., R.D. for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine states, “There are more than 100 common spices used in cooking around the world. Spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants".
By using spices in every meal in a variety of ways, you will increase your overall wellness and enhance the flavour of your plant-based food. Spices are synonymous with our culinary journey around the world and the recipes of spiced dishes can take us to another destination without ever leaving home!
Essential Vegan Spices
Spices can vary from everyday basics such as rock salt and black pepper to the exotic flavours of saffron and nutmeg. There is an overwhelming number of spices and blends to choose from, so here we have a mixture of everyday spices, as well as a few you might not have thought about cooking with at home.
Black & White Pepper
Pepper comes from the peppercorn and is widely used to flavour food. Use ground black and white pepper in anything from soups, curries and salads. It is considered high in antioxidants and is suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties. Add ground black pepper to a Garlic and Black Pepper Vegetable Stir-Fry served with Tofu and Steamed Rice.
Ginger is a zesty, tangy and refreshing spice that you can also use in powdered form making it easy to keep in your kitchen for cooking. Dried ginger in a sealed jar can be stored for up to a year. Add ginger powder to soups, curry, tea, smoothies, juice, stir-fry’s and in marinades. Ginger's health benefits are well-known in ayurvedic medicine for soothing digestive issues. Add powdered ginger into your overnight oats or a morning smoothie.
Chances are you have already enjoyed a vegan meal with garlic as it forms the base for so many vegetable dishes including curry pastes and sauces, stir-fries, rice and lentil dishes, soups, stocks, and salad dressings. Garlic is easily renowned for being one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Add powdered garlic into any flavour of vegetable soup. If you are unable to consume garlic along with other ingredients such as onions due to dietary reasons like the FODMAPS meal plan; you might like to check out an ingredient called Asafoetida.
Asafoetida is a Low FODMAP alternative to ingredients such as onion and garlic as it replicates a similar flavour. It is a gum that comes from a type of fennel and is then made into a powder which can be added to savoury meals. The taste is very strong so be sure to read the cooking instructions and use only as directed. It is common for Asafoetida to be blended with turmeric and rice flour to dilute the strength of the original powder. Try using asafoetida in your vegetable stew or curry to create a savoury taste without the need for onions or garlic.
Powdered chilli pepper or chilli flakes can be used to add spice to your meals at any time of the day. Add dried red chilli flakes to sautéed vegetables, add as a seasoning to top off any dish you like if it is not spicy enough, make your vegan curry paste. Incorporate dried red chilli flakes into your fried rice or noodle dishes for an extra kick.
Cumin is considered one of the oldest spices and is much loved in both Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Cumin can be used as a ground spice added straight from the jar. Add cumin to fried potatoes, roast vegetables, lentil dahl, stews and curries. Sprinkle some cumin into your guacamole or hummus to enhance the flavour of your vegetable dips.
Turmeric is a rather mild flavour but it combines amazingly with almost every other ingredient. Known for health properties such as fighting disease, reducing aches and pain, relieving sinus and colds, healing the skin and other infections and soothing the stomach; turmeric is an essential spice to have in your kitchen. Much like cumin, you can add it into anything from soups to curries, marinades, curry pastes and more! Blend a teaspoon of turmeric into your smoothie for an immunity boost each morning.
Cloves are commonly mixed with other sweet aromatic spices like cinnamon and cardamom and are used to make famous Indian Masala Chai or Golden Milk. If you choose to cook with whole cloves remember to remove them before you serve your meal as they are not pleasant to eat and are best used for flavouring curries, rice and soup. An easier option is a ground clove powder. Mix ground clove into your Indian lentil soup or dahl and serve with roti bread or naan bread.
Cinnamon is a great addition to tea, chai, golden milk, vegan cookies, overnight oats, chia seed pudding, granola and can be used to bake banana bread, spiced muffins or any other sweet treat. If you are looking for ways to add cinnamon to your next dinner menu try using it in dishes from Morocco or the Middle East. Sprinkle it over roasted pumpkin or sweet potatoes, add it to soups or stews with lentils, rice pilaf or season chickpeas.
Sprinkle cinnamon powder on fresh fruits such as papaya or dragon fruit to bring out their natural sweetness.
A fantastic and easy way to start cooking with spices is to use a blend of spices such as a curry powder that is easy to use in any meal. Remember that curry powders and blends usually vary from a mild, medium and hot spice range so choose accordingly and check the amount of chilli powder in each blend. Curry powder is great on roast vegetables, especially potatoes or used to make the base of a vegetable curry pie or curry puffs.
How Do I Store My Spices?
The good news is that storing your spices is simple! The easiest way to manage your new love for spices is to get organised! No matter the size of your kitchen space or your budget; there is an option out there for you. Why does it matter? If you have invested your money into purchasing your spices you will want to preserve them and lock in the nutritional benefits for as long as possible! Air, light and moisture will reduce the nutritional benefit and flavour, so sealing spices and herbs in glass jars is the safest way to keep them ready to use. Store your spices out of the way, off the bench with this unique Stainless Stell Wall Plate by Gneiss Spice Store.
If you are a cook, travelling foodie or simply love the idea of taking your favourite spices with you on the road, check out this Portable Spice Jar Organizer by Utaly. This adorable storage bag is lightweight and portable so it is perfect for the Home Kitchen, Party, Wedding, Camping, BBQ, Picnic, Travelling, or Hiking!
Vegan Meals From Around The World
For many, spices are considered crucial in vegan cooking. Spices are the base for many delicious and healthy plant-based meals and can easily be adapted to personal taste. If you are looking for some inspiration, here are just a few examples of recipes you could try out at home!
Yellow Dahl and Garlic Naan
Mixed Vegetable Biryani
Spicy Potato Masala Dosa
Gado Gado Green Vegetable Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce
Mixed Vegetable Curry with Tofu
Traditional Sambal Chilli Paste
Spiced Couscous Salad
Mixed Vegetable Tagine
Traditional Hummus with Paprika
Stir-Fried Thai Vegetables with Jasmine Rice
Thai Mussaman Curry with Potatoes and Tofu
Spicy Green Papaya or Mango Salad
Vegetable Penang Curry with Coconut Milk or a bowl of Vegetable Noodle Soup
How Do I Add The Spices?
The next step is to think about how you can use these amazing essential spices in your everyday vegan meals.
There is no general rule for cooking and adding spices to your food because it is a personal preference when it comes to the level of flavours you enjoy. However, most vegan recipes clearly show the recommended amount of each spice that should be used to reach the ideal flavour of the dish.
Adding spices can be done either at the beginning of the meal (to blend the flavours) or at the end (to avoid cooking off all the flavour) again depending on preference. Curry pastes can be made before cooking and added to the pan at the beginning of the meal to cook off the spices, whole spices are also used at the start of the meal and fried in oil. Additionally, powders can be added during the cooking process as can salt, pepper and chilli.
When it comes to salad dressings, sauces and marinades, these can be made ahead of time and kept aside to infuse the flavour and develop. Serve them fresh with each meal. Too spicy? If you have added too much chilli or spice to your dish consider adding either a sweet element like brown or palm sugar, maple syrup or rice bran syrup or in a curry you can use coconut or coconut cream or a form of vegan plain yoghurt to calm to the level of spice to your desired level.
To release the aromatics and revive your spices you can simply fry them on a low heat in a dry pan to release their flavours before adding them to your meal. Remember, cooking with spices is fun and makes a meal look incredibly beautiful. The colour of your dish can transform with a little turmeric or paprika!
So, that's it! Even if we can not travel at this time, we can embrace the spices, health benefits and recipes from around the world by cooking in our own home. Share a meal or have a small at-home cooking class, encourage your friends and family to add more spices to their plant-based meals by sharing this article!
Spiced Vegan Chai Tea With Coconut Milk
Don't worry, I did not forget the add this amazing recipe for you! It is perfect for days spent at home, for a healthy boost of energy or as a comforting coffee alternative. It is simple and a great way to make good use of some of the most delicious and nutritious spices. Chai is one of my all-time favourite things to order whenever I am travelling or when I simply want a gentle reminder of all the places I have sipped a cup of chai.
All you will need is:
1-2 Cups of Unsweetened Coconut Milk (or any plant-based milk)
2 Small Dried Cinnamon Sticks
1 Star Anise
2 Cardamom Pods
2-3 Teaspoons of Black Tea (or 2 black tea bags)
1-2 Teaspoons of Coconut Sugar (depending on sweetness)
There are two options and it depends on how you prefer to make this chai. Firstly, you can boil all of the spices and tea on the stove in a pot with the coconut milk on a low heat for 5-7 mins (until aromatic), strain and serve. Or, you can boil the spices and tea in water over a longer period of time (for additional strength of flavour), strain, and pour into 2 cups, then top them up with warm coconut milk, mix and enjoy.
Additionally, if you enjoy chai but don't have the time to create your own with the individual spices, try out this amazing Chai Tea Latte by Coconut Cloud which is both vegan and healthy. Simply add hot water and it is ready to serve. It makes a great option for travellers or to take with you to the office. The Coconut Cloud Chai Tea Latte is vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO. It is still packed with the traditional chia tea spices!
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