Given the vast number of emails, posts and comments I get asking “what are those strange ingredients and where do I get them?”, I have a suspicion that a lot of you will find this Ingredients Guide totally useful. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
There’s a few ingredients in my recipes that you may not be familiar with. They make healthy eating easier, and in the case of baked goods especially, they make eating healthy possible. So we love them. There aren’t many, and I try very hard to minimize the number of new things you need to stock your pantry with to enjoy a healthy eating lifestyle; but there’s a few things we need to bridge the gap. So here’s the brands I use and where to get them.
What are those strange ingredients and where do you get them? These are your new pantry staples!! Welcome to your handy-dandy Ingredients Guide.
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Almond Flour / Ground Almonds / Blanched Almond Meal (white)
Almond Flour is almonds that are ground after the skins have been removed, and they are creamy-white in color. Almonds with the skins removed are also called Blanched Almonds. I use almond flour (ground almonds, blanched almond flour) a lot in baked goods. Almond flour is not regularly available in most grocery stores in the US, although it is sold in all supermarkets as ground almonds and / or blanched almond meal in the UK and Australia. Because it is not easy to find in regular stores in the US, and because I get through huge quantities as I develop and test new recipes for you, I buy it online and in bulk because it’s a lot cheaper per pound that way. I store it in the freezer. The brand I use is Honeyville, because it is the best there is in the US. I buy the 25lb box, but it is also available in smaller quantities. You can also purchase almond flour in several stores that have the bulk-buy bins – PCC, Whole Foods, etc. iHerb: almond flour Amazon: almond flour
Almond Meal / Natural (or Raw) Almond Flour (speckled brown and white)
Almond Meal is almonds that are ground with the skins still on, and they are speckled white and brown in color. You cannot swap these in recipes that call for almond flour as the skins have a material effect on the result, so make sure you use the kind that a recipe states. Almond meal is readily available online. In the US you can buy it at Trader Joe’s and many regular grocery stores, especially those with bulk bins. You may also find it called Natural or Raw Almond Flour. Amazon: almond meal
Apple Cider Vineger (ACV)
Apple Cider Vinegar is magical, and you can read about it’s powers all over the interwebs. The mother of all ACVs (hands up if you get the pun!) is Bragg’s, and it’s what I use. Amazon: apple cider vinegar
Avocado Oil / Avocado Oil Spray
Avocado oil is a great oil for cooking because it is extremely stable when heated and can withstand very high temperatures. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids and has a very light flavor, so whatever you use it with not be altered by the taste of the oil. It is readily available online. iHerb: avocado oil Amazon: avocado oil
Avocado oil is also available as a spray, for handy dandy prep of baking trays and anywhere else you would use a spray oil. Amazon: avocado oil spray
Chia seeds are readily available online, and increasingly available in regular grocery stores. Trader Joe’s, PCC, Whole Foods, and most stores that have bulk bins have them. Black or white, chia seeds are all-awesome. Don’t worry about the tiny nutritional differences between the two. iHerb: chia seeds Amazon: chia seeds
Cocoa Powder / Cacao
Cocoa Powder is roasted cocoa beans, with much of the cocoa butter removed, ground into a powder – not to be confused with hot chocolate mix or sweetened cocoa powder. Because I am a chocolate snob and a pastry chef I use Valrhona cocoa powder – it is the best in the world – and I buy it online in bulk because it is a lot cheaper that way. Other brands of cocoa powder are readily available online. You can also find cocoa powder in most regular grocery stores. Just be careful to check the label and only buy unsweetened. iHerb: cocoa powder Amazon: cocoa powder
Cocoa nibs are smashed up roasted cocoa beans. If you just finished reading about cocoa powder above, it will not surprise you in the least to know that I use Valrhona cocoa nibs and I buy them online and in bulk because it’s cheaper that way. Other brands of cocoa nibs are readily available online. In the US you can find cocoa nibs at Trader Joe’s, PCC, and Whole Foods, and increasingly in the “natural” or “health food” sections of regular grocery stores. Make sure they contain nothing but cocoa beans. iHerb: cocoa nibs Amazon: cocoa nibs
Used to partially replace wheat flours in baking, coconut flour is a tricky little devil, and needs care when using, because it sucks up water like blotting paper and can make a big mess of your baking. Use it cautiously unless you have a great recipe that you know works. Swapping out coconut flour for wheat flour or almond flour will almost always end in tears otherwise. A little goes a very long way, so I wouldn’t buy too much at one time. Keep it in the freezer. iHerb: coconut flour Amazon: coconut flour
Coconut Milk – THICK / Coconut Cream / Cream of Coconut
Thick Coconut Milk aka Coconut Cream or Cream of Coconut is coconut meat made into a thick, creamy paste. It gets tricky because coconut milk and coconut cream seem to have a huge variety of meanings to different people. When I include “thick coconut milk” in a recipe I am referring to the coconut milk that comes in a can and is extremely thick, and it is unsweetened. If you open the can without shaking it, you have an almost solid white mass with some clear “water” on the top. You can find other brands in regular grocery stores, and also in specialty stores such as Asian and Indian. I use Thai Kitchen brand. Amazon: thick coconut milk
Coconut Milk – THIN
When I use “thin coconut milk” in a recipe I am referring to the coconut milk that comes in a carton and is exactly like cows milk in color and thickness. Coconut Milk is the #1 cows milk alternative. I use Trader Joe’s brand, but most supermarkets have other brands. Always make sure it is unsweetened.
Coconut oil is the #1 oil for cooking. It is very stable when heated and does not taste of coconut, although you will doubt that until you’ve tried it because it smells heavily of coconut. Coconut oil is packed with MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) which are highly beneficial to our bodies. It is readily available online. You can buy coconut oil in most grocery stores. Check the cooking oil section, or the natural food section. Amazon: coconut oil
Coconut Oil Spray
Coconut Oil Spray is used to grease baking trays and dishes for baking. It is readily available online. You can also buy this is regular grocery stores and you will find it along with the other baking oil sprays. Amazon: coconut oil spray
Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Cold brew coffee concentrate is a great way to get some coffee in your cooking without brewing your own and then chilling it. Being concentrated you also use less to get the same intensity of flavor. It also has a very smooth flavor because it is not heated like regular brewed coffee. I use Trader Joe’s. Because Trader Joe’s. Amazon: cold brew coffee concentrate
Egg Whites – powdered
Absolutely the easiest and cheapest way to get egg whites is to use them in powdered form. They are readily available online. Reconstituted they work exactly like regular egg whites – they even make great meringue – except you don’t have to crack them and separate them, and you don’t get left with a whole pile of egg yolks. iHerb: egg white powder Amazon: egg white powder
Erythritol is a natural sweetener to replace sugar. There are many erythritol “blends” on the market now, such as Swerve and Pyure, but these are a lot more expensive for no extra benefit. Many of them also contain other ingredients which may or may not be beneficial to you health-wise, so I recommend sticking with plain erythritol – way cheaper and now hidden nasties. I typically use Now brand erythritol. iHerb: erythritol Amazon: erythritol
For a deep, dark espresso flavor without the hassle (or water) involved in brewing beans, some of my recipes utilize espresso powder. I use Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso Coffee in my recipes – it has a great flavor and is a great price compared to many others available. Amazon: espresso coffee powder
Extracts / essences
Extracts and essences are concentrated natural flavors – the base used is typically either alcohol or oil – that allow the addition of a whole lot of flavor without adding a whole ton of stuff. Extracts are regulated and required to be made from things that were once alive and kicking, so extracts are not a chemical s*** storm like imitation flavors. My go-to source for extracts is Olive Nation, which you can get for the same price from Amazon but without the shipping. Amazon: extracts
Glucomannan Powder or Konjac Flour is a fiber made from Konjac Root and it is my go-to thickener instead of corn starch (cornflour) or wheat flour in sauces and gravies. It is readily available online. You use much less glucomannan than you would use corn starch or flour, so a little goes a very long way. iHerb: konjac/glucomannan Amazon: konjac/glucomannan
Glycerin / glycerine
Glycerin is a sugar alcohol that has a negligible glycemic load, being digested differently to regular sugars. Glycerin is 60% as sweet as regular sugar, and derived from fats, typically coconut if it is vegetable glycerin. Glycerin performs wizardry in recipes where it is included. Yes, I know you are a little wary of strange ingredients you haven’t used before, but you cannot swap out or leave out the glycerin from a recipe and still get a successful result. The recipes that use it rely on it to do their thing. I use vegetable glycerin in my recipes – make sure it is food grade – which is readily available online if you cannot find it in local stores. In stores it’s best to just ask because sometimes it is with the skin care, sometimes it is with the supplements, sometimes with the first aid, and sometimes in the pharmacy. This stuff gets around a bit. I use Now brand. iHerb: vegetable glycerine Amazon: vegetable glycerine
Guar Gum is an emulsifier and thickener. It is readily available online. In the US you can find it in a lot of grocery stores now. It is not cheap, but you use tiny amounts in recipes so it will last you a long, long time. Store in an air-tight jar. iHerb: guar gum Amazon: guar gum
Hemp milk is cows milk alternative made from hemp seed. It has a slightly thicker texture and a few caramel-y undertones. I use this in dessert and other sweet recipes rather than savory dishes. I use this mainly for various flavors of ice cream. It is readily available online. In the US it is increasingly available in grocery stores. Amazon: hemp milk
Kirsch (Cherry Liqueur)
Licensing laws prevent internet sales of booze, so for this you’ll have to wander down to your grocery or liqueur store. Unless you are going to use it for drinking as well as cooking, I suggest getting a mini bottle since the quantities involved in each recipe are very small.
Liquid Smoke is not, as you might suppose, some chemical s*** storm of noxiousness. It is smoke that has been condensed into a liquid and bottled – literally liquid smoke. I use Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke in my recipes. Amazon: liquid smoke
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride. MCT Oil is a great source of good fats for energy and helping folks get into ketosis. It is mainly used as an additive to coffee. I use Now brand. iHerb: MCT Oil Amazon: MCT OIL
By sugar-free syrups I am referring to the clear syrups sold primarily to flavor coffee and other beverages. These are readily available online. In the US you can buy them at Starbucks and many grocery stores such as Safeway, Fred Meyers, IGA,etc. Amazon: sugar-free syrups
Xanthan Gum is a thickener and stabilizer. It is readily available online. In the US you can find it in a lot of grocery stores – PCC, Whole Foods, Safeway, IGA, etc. It is not cheap, but you use tiny amounts in recipes so it will last you a long, long time. Store in an air-tight jar. iHerb: xanthan gum Amazon: xanthan gum
Xylitol is a natural sweetener to replace sugar. It is readily available online. I buy it in bulk because I get through so much of it in recipe development that it is a lot cheaper per pound that way. Make sure that you get xylitol that is made from birch bark and not corn. I typically use Xyla brand xylitol. NOTE: Like chocolate, xylitol is harmful to dogs, so please be sure to keep any xylitol-containing goodies away from them! iHerb: xylitol Amazon: xylitol
What did I forget? See something in one of my recipes that is strange to you? Let me know and I’ll add it to the Ingredients Guide above!
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