Flavourful Plant-Based Beginnings: The 3 Essential Seasonings To Always Have on Hand

Layer these three seasonings to add hints of umami throughout your green endeavours | Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Once you cross the threshold into all things plant-based, it becomes immediately apparent how much seasoning matters.

And how important it is for tasty meals that you’ll want to return to for seconds — and possibly thirds.

But who are we kidding? When the meat’s no longer in the picture, you can go crazy with the veggies.

Yet knowing about the diversity of seasoning options available to you is one foot in the door — the other is yet discerning the extent of flavour and vibrancy that each seasoning gives.

Whether you’re attempting plant-inspired replications or cooking standard fare, know that you’ve already got a head start with the usual ingredients and seasonings found inside your kitchen.

But beyond some very standard and poor salt and pepper — see what I did there, S&P? — there are three important foundational seasonings to stock up on.

Beginners, intermediates, and pros: There’s a lot of flavourful interest to infuse in your recipes with these three vegan-friendly seasonings.

1 | Nutritional Yeast

Where would you be without nutritional yeast in a plant-based world? Lost.

It goes without saying that it’s a must-have vegan choice of seasoning.

And it’s the much-loved, go-to seasoning choice of many home cooks, chefs, and dieticians for its delicious nutty and cheesy taste.

Unsurprisingly, it has made its rounds across grocery shelves — and even into the hearts of non-plant-based folks — beyond the little health food store.

With its strong savoury qualities, it can just about season anything, from tackling a dairy-free cheese dip to approximating a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

But it can actually see to a lot more than just cheesy tasks — not because they’re cheesy, of course.

Far from anything of the lame description, nutritional yeast creates excitement around oven-roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes — it’s the perfect way to season them.

It adds umami depth when stirred into risotto or polenta, too.

But here’s the big question: What other type of seasoning, let alone food item, has nutrition embedded into its name?

It isn’t just awarded the unique title for the sake of marketing.

The nutrient-packed ingredient not only activates the flavour of your meals, but it also supplies them with B vitamins, protein, and fibre.

Bonus points: It’s also a great way to forgo the unwanted added sugar, salt, and fat.

And while it still catches the attention of many as quite the unlikely of trendsetters — just scroll through vegan content on TikTok — it’s here to stay for quite a while.

2 | Vegetable Bouillon

Not only does it coincidentally resemble nutritional yeast in colour and in texture, but vegetable bouillon is also right beside it in terms of promising ample flavour.

Concentrated umami, vegetable bouillon isn’t, however, limited to its usual liquid transformation from powder to liquid.

Beyond the usual application, the seasoning powder can yet be added to just about any dish as it is — quickly, conveniently, and reasonably.

You really can’t go wrong with it — it’s lenient, easy-to-use, and affordable.

But timing is key — make sure to add it when the heat is turned on, as it won’t otherwise develop its flavour. It won’t activate.

And so, unlike its yeasty counterpart, which can be added as a final touch of seasoning, vegetable bouillon needs to cook with the recipe.

Give it time with the heat and it will return the favour — flavour — and lots of it, giving the substance that your vegetables need.

Beyond soups and stocks, you can sprinkle as little or as much as you like into virtually any dish. And it works terrifically well in everyday accompaniments, like rice, green beans, and eggs.

Simply put, it’s too exciting to think about the many delicious possibilities that come with it. Especially, when it can ramp up flavour so easily and quickly.

3 | Toasted Sesame Oil

A distinct flavour and aroma synonymous with many East-Asian dishes, toasted sesame oil is one serious player in flavour town — and it’s not just Chinatown or Koreatown.

Toasted sesame oil has a place in any dish. But the most important part of it is that it’s toasty, toasty.

However, make no mistake — it’s still sesame oil.

Where things yet get interesting between the two variations is when you consider their differences in their respective applications.

A step above its regular self, toasted sesame oil is all about finishing touches — just like salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.

Conclude the cooking of your mashed potatoes with a measured drizzle — as one would with cream and butter — and it will blend deliciously with the residual heat.

While you can, indeed, cook with it — adding it at the beginning to sauté your onions and your garlic — its magical properties come alive right at the very end.

With a lower smoke point than regular sesame oil — and the fact that it has already been toasted — cooking with the toasted variety would just cancel out most of its beautiful umami and fragrant points.

In fact, if you overheat it, it can push it towards tasting bitter and burnt. And so, when toasted sesame oil has the final say — it’s umami at play.

And it doesn’t want to play around with heat.

It’ll take some experimenting to get used to its performance — when to add it and by how much — but it is easy to go overboard with it at first, so it’s best to always add little by little of it.

Seasoning then takes place off of the heat — so take your time with adjusting the taste of it in your dishes to your liking.

But it’s worth noting that its pronunciation varies quite a bit between recipes, especially when it’s not at all heated — raw preparations like salads and sauces — so keep that in mind.

And so, simply drizzle your grilled vegetables with it, and they’ll taste irresistible and wholesome — as much as an otherwise pedestrian coleslaw salad with the same treatment.

Related: Pursuing the Plant-Based Lifestyle Right Before the Holidays?

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Jarvis Wai-Ki Clarke

Jarvis Wai-Ki Clarke

A curious creative with an appetite for words and stories, Jarvis covers food and home topics between waltzing around the kitchen and the grocery store.