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    9 Very Doable Tips For Imparting Tons Of Flavor Into Anything You Cook, According To Tabitha Brown

    According to Tabitha, there's one seasoning that matters the most. (And no, it's not salt.)

    If you're somehow unfamiliar with the one-and-only Tabitha Brown — in which case I'm genuinely so thrilled about the joyful journey you're soon to embark on — she's pretty much the internet's most calming, comforting presence...who just so happens to be a totally gifted vegan cook.

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    As a passionate cook myself who's followed her for years (ever since the TTLA...IYKYK), I'd argue that Tabitha's most impressive talent is her unique ability to convey just how undeniably delicious vegan food can be to her massive following, which is just shy of 5M on TikTok. To put it simply: "Bland" isn't a word in her vocabulary.

    Recently, I chatted with Tabitha about her tried-and-true tips for amping up the flavor of plant-based foods, and let me tell you...I learned a WHOLE lot. Here's the thing: some of these might be plant-specific, but all of these tips can seriously improve whatever you're cooking. In other words, get ready to take some notes. Let's dive in, shall we?

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    1. If there's one seasoning you keep stocked in your pantry at all times, let it be garlic powder.

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    To be a fan of Tabitha's is to know (and intrinsically understand!) her deep love of garlic powder — which she calls her go-to seasoning.

    "I love garlic powder, and I traded it in for salt a long time ago," Tabitha told BuzzFeed. "It almost tricks you into thinking you've got a little bit of salt in there. I love it. It gives flavor, and you know I'd never sacrifice my flavor!"

    2. To add a meaty chew and loads of umami to whatever you're cooking, look no further than mushrooms.

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    "There are over 7,000 types of mushrooms," Tabitha explained, "and they're so good for meat replacements." She said that while she'd never been a huge eater of red meat, she missed chicken, turkey, and (most of all) seafood. Discovering how versatile mushrooms are was the key to replicating those foods in her own kitchen. "That's when I started discovering lion's mane mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and even lobster mushrooms," she said. "All these different mushrooms with different textures. They can take on anything that you season them with."

    Take, for instance, her recipe for shick'n, where she thinly slices shiitake mushrooms to resemble chicken, then fries 'em up (with a little bit of her Sunshine Seasoning) until they're golden-brown and suuuuper crispy. "It's just mind-blowing because the texture is so great," she said.

    3. For a decadently-creamy base for sauces and soups, cashews should be the first thing you reach for.

    Tabitha making cashew "cheese"
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    After becoming 100% vegan in 2017, Tabitha leaned on cooking techniques that resulted in familiar textures while implementing entirely plant-based ingredients. Case in point — turning soaked and blended cashews into an undeniably creamy base for soups, sauces, and dips. As Tabitha puts it: "When I became vegan, it became my best friend, OK?!"

    Her recipe for Vegan Chickpea and Rice Soup (that she developed in partnership with McCormick) perfectly demonstrates the next-level creaminess that a puréed cashew base can lend to just about anything. It also showcases her time-saving hack for soaking cashews: Instead of soaking 'em overnight, like many recipes call for, she soaks them in hot water for just 15 minutes, and the results are just as luscious.

    4. But if you're allergic to nuts, Tabitha has some secrets for you, too.

    Tabitha eating a sweet potato drizzled with vegan "cheese"
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    For any folks living with nut allergies, there are some other simple, nut-free ingredients that Tabitha frequently implements when adding creaminess to whatever she's cooking. "You can make a pesto sauce creamy by using pumpkin seeds. You can use beans to make other dishes creamy, or even avocados," Tabitha shared. "There's something about the power of the blender. When you're blending up ingredients together, things just become creamy!"

    5. No matter what you're making, it's crucial to layer flavors and seasonings all throughout the cooking process — not just at the beginning or end.

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    Here's the thing: Fat is actually the most significant contributor of "flavor" to whatever you're cooking, which is why animal proteins don't need as much help in the flavor department as plant-based ingredients do. So, when cooking vegan foods, it's important to supplement with additional flavor wherever you can, whether that's with plant-based fats (olive oil, vegan butter, etc.), seasoning blends, spices, or herbs.

    Tabitha is "big on salt-free seasonings," so she can flavor whatever she's cooking before she seasons it accordingly. "I like to season as I go," she explained. "I start off seasoning before the food is cooked, then after it cooks a little, I add some more. I layer the flavor, so we can taste something in every bite." Her advice here is important regardless of what you're cooking — vegan or not — but it's especially crucial in plant-based put that spice cabinet to good use and start layering those flavors, folks!

    6. Don't be afraid of using meat replacement products in moderation.

    Tabitha holding up a package of meat-free, vegan sausage
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    While the subject of meat substitutes has become a bit of a hot topic in the food world, Tabitha shared that she actually doesn't eat a lot of them as a result of minimizing her consumption of processed foods. However, she does think they're "a great option to have sometimes."

    When cooking for non-vegans, in particular, leaning on vegan meat substitutes can certainly help to bridge the cap between meat-centric meals and plant-based ones. As Tabitha puts it: "I'm not mad at a good ol' Beyond Burger every now and then, honey!"

    7. Get creative with the way you're utilizing plant-based ingredients, and you just might end up with a copycat dish that'll fool even the staunchest of carnivores.

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    When turning plant-based ingredients into dishes that we already know and love — take a hearty pasta sauce for example — it's important to think outside the box and play around with formats in inventive ways. In her recipe for Veggie Pasta Sauce, she takes chickpeas and mushrooms — two common ingredients — and turns them into a "meaty" sauce that could fool pretty much anyone, just by roughly blitzing them in a food processor.

    "Chickpeas are protein, and mushrooms are brain-food, which I love," Tabitha explained, "but that's just one way, right? I make meat sauces out of so many different things. There's so many ways we can substitute meat using plants. We just have to re-think the ways we see food — that's all."

    8. If you're allergic to the soy found in many vegan proteins, seek out alternative products that are 100% soy-free (and 100% delicious).

    Tabitha pointing to ingredients on a vegan product
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    "I used to love tofu before my soy allergy kicked in," Tabitha told BuzzFeed. Now, with the added challenge of staying away from soy, she finds that her vegan-friendly protein options are slightly more limited...but only slightly.

    If you, like Tabitha, have to work around a soy allergy, there are more plant-based, soy-free products to choose from than ever — she even educated me on one that was entirely new to me: Pumfu. "It's just like tofu, except instead of being made with soybeans, it's made with pumpkin seeds," she explained. "You can do the exact same things to it that you'd do with tofu: You can scramble it, use it to make ribs, or even burgers."

    9. When cooking for non-vegans, make the dishes they already know and love — but with a plant-based twist that anyone could enjoy.

    Tabitha cutting into a jackfruit and showing the large seeds
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    Let's be clear: This isn't about "tricking" your friends and family into eating something they normally wouldn't want to — rather, it's all about re-creating the dishes they already love to eat, but with a plant-based twist they can easily get behind.

    "I make pecan 'meat' for tacos," Tabitha explained. "I even make pecan 'meat' for chili, using all the same ingredients I would've normally added to ground turkey or beef. I'll soak the pecans and make 'em soft, then use the food processor to whizz them up. People don't really know! They'll be like: 'This is great, but I thought you were a vegan?'"

    Another ingredient Tabitha loves serving non-vegans is jackfruit, and it's easy to see why. "If you like eating shredded pork or shredded chicken, you can do the same thing with jackfruit," she told BuzzFeed. Like mushrooms, another favorite in Tabitha's go-to ingredient arsenal, jackfruit is relatively mild and can easily take on any flavors you want it to. Shred it up and slather with BBQ sauce for the easiest pulled "pork" sandwiches, or layer with veggies, salsa, and avocado (and wrap it all up in a tortilla) for an ultra-quick burrito.

    If you're vegan (or frequently cook plant-based meals), let us know your go-to cooking tips in the comments! And if Tabitha has inspired you to eat less meat, or ditch it entirely, we'd love to hear why. 🌱

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