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Vegetarian recipes and information

Vegetarian recipes bursting with flavour plus information on vegetarian ingredients and substitutions and foods to watch out for.

A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or any slaughter by-products. Vegetarians do eat eggs and some dairy products.

Most vegetarians want to be absolutely sure that they aren't consuming any product or by-product of slaughter. However, there's still some confusion as to what vegetarians do and don't eat, partly because many people who call themselves vegetarian can sometimes turn a blind eye to the small print on labels. Or they may openly include fish in their diet, at which point they are more accurately called pescatarian.

Vegetarian recipes

Main course

Light meals & snacks

Brunch

Starters & nibbles

Side dishes

Desserts

Cakes and baking

Drinks and cocktails

Other

See all vegetarian recipes (5613)

Challenges for a vegetarian diet

Anchovies: beware of anchovies in Worcestershire sauce and shrimp paste or fish sauce in Thai curry pastes.

Animal fats: sometimes found in biscuits and cakes, in the form of lard in pastry or suet in puddings and mincemeat. Animal fats can also be found in margarines, spreads and ice creams. Watch out for chips fried in animal fats.

Gelatine: used in sweets, (particularly chewy ones), nutritional supplements in capsule form, ice cream, yoghurts and desserts such as mousses, jellies and panna cotta. Look out for gelatine in low-fat versions of products such as yoghurts and whipped desserts - it's sometimes added for texture to help the product hold together.

Meat stocks: can turn up in soups, risottos and gravies.

Rennet: found in many hard cheeses. Rennet is an enzyme extracted from the stomach lining of slaughtered calves. Vegetarian cheese can be made using microbial or fungal enzymes. While you will usually be able to find vegetarian cheddars and other common hard cheeses, traditional parmesan is always made with animal-derived rennet. There are, however, some vegetarian parmesan-style cheeses produced in the UK such as Twineham Grange. (For this reason, recipes calling for 'parmesan' are included as 'vegetarian' in BBC Food's recipe database.) Cheese powders used to flavour crisps are often non-vegetarian.

Whey: the Vegetarian Society recommends avoiding whey, which is usually a by-product of the cheese-making process where rennet has been used. Whey is often used as a flavour carrier in crisps.

Alcohol and other drinks: most wines, many spirits and some beers are 'fined' (clarified) or filtered using animal products such as egg white or isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladder of a fish. Some drinks use cochineal (derived from a type of beetle) as a colouring agent. Read the labels carefully and choose drinks that state that they’re suitable for vegetarians and. The good news is that there's a wider range of good-quality drinks than ever.

Vegetarian ingredients and substitutions

There are many replacements for meat or animal by-products that are delicious and fairly easy to find in health food shops and supermarkets. These are not required eating, but they may be useful for substitutions in your favourite traditional dishes.

Textured Vegetable Protein - Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is soya flour that's been processed and dried. A substance with a sponge-like texture, TVP is available either cut into small chunks or ground into granules which resemble minced beef, and can be flavoured to resemble meat.

Wheat protein (seitan) - A useful ingredient for vegans is wheat protein, sometimes called seitan, which is derived from wheat gluten (the protein part of the flour). The gluten is extracted from wheat and then processed to resemble meat.

Nutrition for a vegetarian diet

Here's a quick summary of what you need to eat every day if you're a vegetarian, from the Vegetarian Society:

• 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables

• 3- 4 servings of cereals/grains or potatoes

• 2- 3 servings of pulses, nuts and seeds

• 2 servings of milk, cheese, eggs or soya products

• a small amount of vegetable oil, margarine or butter

• some yeast extract that has been fortified with vitamin B12

Getting enough protein may be a challenge in a vegetarian diet, so here's a quick run-down of foods that are high in protein:

• Dairy products

• Eggs

• Nuts and seeds

• Peas, beans, lentils

• Soya products and mycoproteins

• Wheat protein (seitan)

• Wholegrains (rice and cereals

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