Food Term Glossary

The Physicians Committee

Food Term Glossary

Agar—is a sea vegetable used as a thickener and gelling agent instead of gelatin, which is an animal by-product.  Available in natural food stores and Asian markets.  It may also be called “agar agar.” Agar comes in several forms, including powder and flakes.  The powder is the easiest to measure and the most concentrated form of agar.  If a recipe calls for agar flakes and you are using powder, you will have to adjust the amount you use as follows:  for each teaspoon of powder called for in the recipe, use approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of flakes to substitute.

Arrowroot—is a fine white powder from a tropical plant. It functions as a thickener to replace cornstarch, which is more refined than arrowroot.

Barley flour—is made from the whole grain barley and can be used in baked goods in place of part or all of the wheat flour for a light, somewhat crumbly product. 

Brown rice—is a an excellent source of protective soluble fiber as well as protein, vitamins, and minerals that are lost in the milling of white rice. It is available in long grain and short grain varieties.  Long grain, which is light and fluffy, includes basmati, jasmine, and other superbly flavorful varieties.  Short grain is more substantial and perfect for hearty dishes.  Nutritionally, there is very little difference between the two.  the rice grain is further processed, it become ents.

Bulgur—is a grain made from wheatberries that have been cracked and toasted. It cooks quickly and has a delicious, nutty flavor. Bulgur is high in fiber and protein, contains easily absorbed minerals and vitamins, such as iron and calcium and folic acid. It may also be sold as "Ala."

Carob powder—is the roasted powder of the carob bean, which can be used in place of chocolate in many recipes. One appeal of carob over chocolate is that carob is caffeine-free.

Chickpeas—are also called garbanzo beans. These versatile light-brown beans have a nutty flavor and are a great source of protein, fiber, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and zinc. They are available dried or canned.

Couscous—is a very small pasta, although it looks like a grain.  It is made of durum wheat that has been ground, steamed, and dried. It is available in refined or whole grain forms and cooks quickly (in about five minutes).

Date pieces—are pitted, chopped dates coated with oatmeal flour to keep them from sticking together. 

Fines Herbs— is an herb blend that usually features equal parts of tarragon, parsley, and chives, and may also contain chervil.  Look for it in the spice section.

Green chilies—also called Anaheim chilies, are one of the most commonly used "cooking" chilies and are mildly hot.  These are available canned or fresh.  When using fresh chilies, remove the skin by charring it under a broiler and rubbing it off once it has cooled.

Instant bean flakes—are precooked black or pinto beans which can be quickly reconstituted with boiling water and used as a side dish, dip, sauce, or burrito filling. 

Italian herbs—refers to a commercially-prepared mixture of Italian herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc.  May also be called “Italian Seasoning.”

Jicama (“hick-ama”)—is a crisp, slightly sweet root vegetable and an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is usually used raw in salads and with dips, but may also be steamed, stir-fried, or roasted. 

Miso (“mee-so”)—is a salty fermented soybean paste used to flavor soup, sauces, and gravies.  It’s available in light, medium, and dark varieties.  The lighter-colored versions have the mildest flavor while the dark are more robust. Miso is rich in B vitamins and protein.

Nayonaise— is a cholesterol-free mayonnaise substitute that contains no dairy products or eggs. Look for the fat-free version.

Non-hydrogenated margarine—is margarine that does not contain hydrogenated oils (also knows as “trans fats”). Hydrogenated oils raise blood cholesterol and can increase heart disease risk.  Three brands of non-hydrogenated margarine are Earth Balance, Canoleo Soft Margarine, and Spectrum Spread.

Nori (“nor-ee”)— is paper-thin sheets of dried seaweed that can range in color from dark green to dark purple to black. They have a sweet ocean taste and are generally used for wrapping sushi and rice balls. Nori is very rich in protein, vitamins, calcium, iron, and other minerals.

Nutritional yeast—Nutritional yeast, not to be confused with either brewer’s or baker’s yeast, is cultivated specifically for use as a nutritional supplement. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and has a nutty, creamy, cheesy flavor. Certain nutritional yeasts, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula Nutritional Yeast, are good sources of vitamin B12. 

Potato flour—is used as a thickener in sauces, puddings, gravies, and baked goods. 

Prune puree—, or “prune butter, ”  is a great substitute for fats such as margarine and butter in baked goods. Commercial brands are WonderSlim and Lekvar.  Prune baby food or pureed stewed prunes may also be used.

Quinoa (“keen-wah”)—is a whole grain high in protein that cooks quickly and may be served as a side dish, pilaf, or salad.  Sold in natural food stores.

Rice milk—is one of several 'grain milks' used in place of cow's milk. Because rice milk does not contain lactose, it is also suitable for those who are lactose-intolerant.

Seasoned rice vinegar—is a mild vinegar made from rice and seasoned with sugar and salt.  Great for salad dressings and on cooked vegetables. 

Seitan ("say-tan")—also called “wheat meat,” is a high protein, fat-free food with a meaty texture and flavor. 

Silken tofu—is a smooth, delicate tofu that is excellent for sauces, cream soups, and dips. 

Soba noodles—are spaghetti-like pasta made from buckwheat flour. 

Soymilk—is non-dairy milk made from soybeans that can be used in recipes or as a beverage.  May be sold fresh, powdered, or in convenient shelf-stable packaging. Calcium-fortified varieties are widely available. 

Spike—a seasoning mixture of vegetables and herbs. It comes in a salt-free version, as well as the original version, which contains salt. 

Tahini (“ta-hee-nee”)—is sesame seed butter.  Comes in raw and toasted forms (either will work in the recipes in this book). 

Teff—the world’s smallest whole grain.  Cooks quickly and has a rich nutty flavor.  Delicious as a breakfast cereal.

Textured (or texturized) vegetable protein (TVP)—is a high–protein meat substitute made from soy flour. It also contains a fair amount of fiber, and is low in fat and carbohydrates. The flavor is neutral, so it absorbs the flavors with which it is cooked. 

Turbinado sugar—is also called “raw sugar” because it is less processed than white sugar.

Wasabi (“wah-saw-bee”)—is horseradish paste traditionally served with sushi.  Sometimes sold fresh, but more commonly sold as a powder to be reconstituted.  Look for it where Asian foods are sold.