I have been cooking with “weird ingredients” for so long now that sometimes I don’t realize they are “weird” until someone asks me what it is. I made a list of the top ten “weird” ingredients I use regularly with a brief explanation of what each one is and why I use it. You SHOULD be able to find all of these ingredients in your local grocery store. I have two grocery stores I go to regularly, and I can find all of these ingredients at both- usually in the natural foods section. I included some recipe links below each “weird ingredient” –so check them out!
1. Nutritional Yeast– Yeast is a member of the fungi family. This is a big one that you will find in a lot of vegan recipes because it provides a umami and some-what “cheesy” flavor. I like to use it in sauces or as a topping for pasta or even popcorn.
2. Miso Paste- Miso is fermented soybean paste. It’s used in a lot of Asian soups and sauces to provide a savory, umami taste. It’s a little pricey, but most recipes call for a small amount and one container will last you a very long time.
(Zoodles with Lemon Cream Sauce & Roasted Tomatoes | V, GF)
3. Tahini– Tahini is sesame seed paste. Many people know tahini to be an ingredient of hummus, but it can be used for a lot more than that. I use tahini in lots of sauces and salad dressings, but you can also bake with tahini or add it to a smoothie.
4. Cacao Powder– Cacao powder is far less processed and contains more antioxidants than standard cocoa powder. I use cacao powder because that’s what I keep in my pantry, but you could substitute cocoa powder if that’s what you have on hand.
5. Arrowroot Powder- Arrowroot powder is essentially used as a thickener. You can use cornstarch and arrowroot powder interchangeably. If you’re concerned with using GMO ingredients, arrowroot power is preferred over cornstarch as most cornstarch is made with genetically engineered corn. Which one to use is a personal decision and I actually keep both stocked in my pantry.
6. Chia Seeds- This is probably the most known “weird ingredient” on my list because in recent years chia seeds have become quite common. I use chia seeds in smoothies, overnight oats, and puddings to amp up the omega-3 fatty acid and protein contents of my food without adding bulk.
7. Hemp Seeds- Hemp seeds come from—surprise: the hemp plant. Hemp seeds contain all 20 amino acids and a high percentage of protein. I use hemp seeds in smoothie bowls, energy bites, and oatmeal.
8. Flax Seed- I use flax seeds in the same ways I use hemp seeds, with the addition of flax “eggs” in baking recipes or veggie burgers. Flax seed is a great source of Omega-3s, fiber, and antioxidants.
9. Tempeh- Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It’s a fabulous source of vegetarian protein and it has a more appealing taste and texture than tofu (in my opinion). Tempeh is also less-processed than tofu and has a higher protein content. Make sure to choose a non-GMO brand!
(20-Minute BBQ Tempeh Bowls | V, GF)
10. Tamari– Basically soy sauce, but gluten free (always double check your brand, though, if you are following a strict gluten-free diet). Use it anywhere you would normally use soy sauce, or to add a savory taste to vegetarian soups and sauces. I love using it in gravy recipes!