Spice-Up Vegan Food

The 10 Must-Have Spices
in Every Vegan Kitchen

A common misconception around vegan eating is that the food is flavourless and bland, but we know this couldn’t be further from the truth! Whether you’re new to a vegan lifestyle or a long-time expert in veganism and a clean living way of life, it’s always beneficial to review your spice cabinet for great additions to add flavour to your daily meals. It is no secret that a vegan lifestyle does incorporate some limitations on the ingredients accessible to you but spices are an easy way to elevate your vegan cooking without having to worry about the products you’re using. A new spice can elevate a regular meal in your rotation, add diversity to a common plant-based recipe or even inspire you to try a whole new dish or cuisine!

First things first, let’s chat about the differences between herbs, spices and seasonings. A herb is made from the leafy part of a plant – think basil, parsley, mint and dill.  A spice, by contrast, is made from the remainder of the plant – the roots, barks and seeds. Spices are always dried while herbs can be fresh or dried. All herbs and spices are commonly accepted to be vegan friendly as they are made solely from plant ingredients.

A seasoning blend is a mix of sugars, salts and spices for an entirely unique flavour. An example of seasoning could be creole seasoning which is commonly made from paprika, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, cayenne pepper and pepper. It is important to check the ingredients on all seasoning blends as they may contain animal byproducts.

Now that we’re sorted out the definitions of spices, herbs and seasoning blends, it’s time to get to our list! At Vegan Fit Kit, we’ve compiled our favourite spices to add to your spice rack and infuse flavour into your vegan meals. We hope this guide helps to inspire new recipes in your clean eating and cruelty-free meal plan.

Cumin

Cumin is an incredibly versatile spice and is an excellent addition to any vegan kitchen. A common spice found around the world, cumin has a deep earthy flavour and is the base for most curries or lentil-based foods. It is made from the seeds of a parsley plant and has numerous health benefits primarily focused on digestive health.  Cumin is a popular spice in Indian cuisine and comes in many forms including ground cumin, cumin seeds, black cumin or cumin powder.

Our favourite recipes using cumin:

Oven Friendly Falafel Balls from Elephantastic Vegan 

Chana Masala from Cookie+kate

Black Bean Soup with Sunflower Seed Cashew Cream from Yum Universe

Garlic

Garlic, one of the most popular spices in the world, is great to have at the ready to add flavour to almost any dish! Garlic is not limited to any one cuisine although it is popular in sauces, pasta and salad dressings.  Garlic comes in many varieties including fresh cloves, pre-minced, dehydrated garlic, garlic powder and garlic salt. It is a common home remedy to use garlic to cure symptoms of the common cold or other common infections. A vegan inspired Italian dish doesn’t have to be bland when you have garlic on hand!

Our favourite recipes using garlic:

Garlickly Bok Choy Noodle Soup from Forks over Knives

15 Minutes Wild Garlic Pasta from Elephantastic Vegan

Garlic Dill Sunflower Dip from Minimalist Baker

Turmeric

Similar to cumin, turmeric is also a common ingredient found in Indian, Middle Eastern and Thai cuisines. This savoury spice is part of the ginger family and has a subtle peppery flavour with a hint of orange. Turmeric is often used in tandem with cumin and is often used to bring flavour to breakfast dishes such as tofu scrambles. Turmeric is most commonly found in powdered form but is also available fresh for all your vegan cooking needs.

Our favourite recipes using turmeric:

Golden Turmeric Cracker from Elephantastic Vegan

Tofu Scramble from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower from Cookie+kate

Peppercorns

This might seem obvious but don’t forget about an old-fashioned favourite – peppercorns! Classic table pepper is derived from peppercorns and is considered to be the most common form of peppercorns. However, there are other varieties such as white and green peppercorns to help meet your every cooking need. Black pepper is a great simple way to add flavour to any dish and is easily accessible in any store – no specialty shops here!

Our favourite recipes using peppercorns:

Fermented Golden Beats from Yum Universe

Mushroom Pasta with Creamy Peppercorn Sauce from Full of Plants

Black Pepper Tofu from The Simple Veganista

Paprika

Paprika is a common spice found in Spanish cuisines and boasts rich antibiotics and disease-fighting properties. Derived from a form of dried ground peppers, paprika adds a kick to even the most common of dishes. A widely available form of paprika is smoked paprika which gives a traditional smoky taste. This is the perfect spice to incorporate if you are looking for an earthy flavour with a little bit of extra spice.

Our favourite recipes using paprika:

Vegan Chili from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

American Style Vegan Goulash from The Simple Veganista

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Dried Cranberries from Forks over Knives

Cayenne Pepper

For all you spicy flavour lovers out there – cayenne pepper is for you! Cayenne powder is often used in bean and lentil dishes and chilli recipes for a little extra spice. Cayenne pepper is also one of the common ingredients in drinks that promote internal cleansing. Cayenne pepper is a derivative of the Capsicum annuum and is about 10x hotter than the jalapeno so it is best used sparingly. Cayenne pepper’s health benefits include kickstarting your metabolism and aiding in digestion.

Our favourite recipes using cayenne pepper:

Chickpea Noodle Soup from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

15 Minute Chickpea Curry from Elephantastic Kitchen

Mexican Chocolate Buckwheat Porridge from Full of Plants

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, sometimes referred to as Nooch, is technically not a spice but is often used as a seasoning due to its diverse flavour. Nutritional yeast has garnered its popularity as a quality flavour replacement for rich foods such as cheese. It is a particular favourite of vegans as it’s nutty flavour is often used in vegan cheese products such as sauces, dips and pasta dishes. It is very important to be diligent in reading the packaging of nutritional yeast as some variety may not be vegan friendly. 

Our favourite recipes using nutritional yeast:

Vegan Nacho Cheese from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

Mini Chickpea Flour Frittatas from The Simple Veganista

Tempeh and Pesto Butternut Squash Lasagna from Full of Plants

Mustard Seed

Mustard seed is one of the more uncommonly used spices on our list but it is quickly growing to be a vegan favourite. Similar to cumin, mustard seeds are often fried or toasted to release their flavour and add depth to whatever you may be cooking. They come in a wide range of varieties, with the most common being black, brown and white mustard seeds. Mustard seeds are most often found in Indian cuisines and are the primary ingredient in mustard-based products. They are also great to use to add more flavour to your pickling spice. Holistic medicine has long promoted mustard seeds to cure the common cold and other respiratory issues.

Our favourite recipes using mustard seed:

Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

Colourful Mixed Root Veggie Curry from Yum Universe

Creamy Celery Soup from The Simple Veganista

Cinnamon

Can’t forget about all you sweet tooths out there! Cinnamon is an excellent spice to have on hand to add more flavour to your favourite vegan dessert. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and is commonly recognized as an anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon pairs well with sweeter foods and can be purchased in ground and stick form. Our favourite uses for cinnamon include baked goods and on fruits such as apples! And don’t forget about adding a dash of cinnamon to your flavoured tea or coffee.

Our favourite recipes using cinnamon:

Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Quinoa from Cookie+kate

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Minimalist Baker

Salted Chai Cashew Butter Hot Chocolate from Full of Plants

Nutmeg

Another diverse spice on our list is nutmeg, a sweet and spicy ingredient with hints of clove. This spice is most commonly found in French cuisines and is a favourite in vegan cheese dishes. One of the primary benefits of nutmeg is its versatility between sweet and savoury dishes. Pair with herbs like thyme for a savoury flavour or cinnamon to compliment sweet dishes and desserts. Nutmeg is said to contain many vitamins and antioxidants and is an excellent way to detoxify the kidneys.

Our favourite recipes using nutmeg:

Easy Vegan Eggnog from Minimalist Baker

Homemade Toasted Maple-Pecan Butter from Yum Universe

Vegan Chair Waffles from Elephantastic Vegan

Spices to avoid

Now that we’ve shared our favourite vegan-friendly spices, it is important to highlight the non-vegan spices that may somehow find their way into our kitchens. In order to keep your vegan meals cruelty free, we highly recommend avoiding these spices and seasoning blends in your recipes.

  • Steak or chicken flavoured seasonings – these seasoning blends may include beef or chicken bouillon.
  • Seasoning blends that contain whey are not vegan friendly as whey is made from strained and curdled cow milk.

One of the great things about spices is the ability to buy small qualities to try and test in your everyday cooking. Ever stuck for a meal idea or clean eating recipe? Get creative! We challenge you to pick a spice from our list that you don’t commonly use in your kitchen and try a dish with it. You might even find your new favourite vegan meal!

Thanks for stopping by the blog! What is your favourite vegan spice in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments!

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