The Contented Vegan Peg's Monthly Newsletter
Hello from London!

by Peggy Brusseau

I hope that, wherever you are, you are enjoying good health as well as a blend of excitement and contentment that is just right for you.

Alex has asked, ‘What plant-based food can I use to replace fish? I want to make one or two recipes that are old favourites, but they call for fish in the recipe.’

I love this! Converting favourite recipes so they are plant-based is very satisfying and creative. It can take one or two attempts before the dish turns out just the way you like it, but then you can enjoy the look and flavours of a familiar dish knowing it is now vegan.

Looking for new ingredients to fill the role of out-dated, animal-based ingredients can be great fun. I have called it Swap Shopping and it’s something I have done a great deal of, over the years. Here are a few possible substitutes for fish:

Seitan is made from a protein in wheat called gluten. It is available in many meat-analogue products because it is easily shaped and flavoured. You can make seitan at home (check out YouTube for videos that demonstrate the process) or buy it canned. Simply shape, chop or slice it then saute, roast or marinate it. Note that some people are allergic to gluten.

Yuba is a thin layer of protein that comes to the surface when making soya milk in a large pan. It is skimmed off the surface and then dried, frozen or stored in the fridge for a day or two until it is cooked. You can make yuba yourself but the process is lengthy; you might prefer to buy it at first. Some products use yuba, but label it simply as soya or tofu. Buy it online, from a health food shop or from a Japanese or Southeast Asian grocer.

Yuba can be used as a wrap for spring rolls or dumplings; or sliced into soups, pasta or casseroles. Folded and layered it makes cakes or cutlets used as a high-protein meat substitute. Marigold Foods sell a canned product called Braised Tofu, which appears to be layered yuba in a light sauce. This product resembles canned tuna and has a texture that can be ‘flaked’ with a fork.

Jackfruit has become popular in recent years as a ‘vegetable meat’ or ‘vegan cod’ because it has a dense, meat-like texture. Some people mix it with tofu and herbs to make a battered ‘fish’ in the classic fish and chips mode. You can create a variety of textures from jackfruit, which is sold fresh, frozen or in cans. Fully ripe, it is sweet. For savoury dishes, the unripe fruit is best.

Photo: Home-made tempeh... always a favourite here!

Tempeh is one of my favourite foods. It is generally made from beans that are cultured with Rhizopus oligosporus and left to form into a dense block. This is then sliced and lightly fried or sauteed. Dressed with freshly squeezed lemon, tempeh is an excellent replacement for fish. It can be marinated or roasted, eaten hot or cold, served crumbled or in distinct shapes. You can make it yourself or buy it in frozen blocks from an ethnic or wholefood grocer.


Tofu is called ‘bean curd’ because it is made from soya milk in much the same way cheese is made from dairy milk. It is very high in protein and can be made with a ‘silken’ or firm texture. A block of firm tofu may be sliced into strips or ‘steaks’ and breaded before being lightly fried. There are many other ways to use tofu, but this method creates a fillet or fishcake replacement.

Photo: A selection of fresh mushrooms from my local farmers' market... don't they look gorgeous?

Mushrooms can be used as a replacement for fish in some dishes. Small mushrooms can be chopped or sliced to provide the desired texture; they can be marinated to adjust their flavour. As a replacement for fillets, puffballs and large Portobello mushrooms can be sliced and breaded before they are sauteed. These are delicious with a tarragon sauce.

Sea Vegetables, such as hijiki or arame, are excellent additions to a dish that used to include fish because they add a slight flavour of the sea. I mention these in particular (there are many more) as they are quick to prepare and delicate in every sense. They do not resemble fish, of course, but you might appreciate their contribution to aroma and flavour.

More on Meal Appeal

I have found that plant-based cutlets, steaks, fishcakes and the like – whether store bought or home-made – can help to create a traditional look to a plate of food. Like many other people, you might not want to do that. But, wait! This simple measure could be useful in the early days of your shift to a vegan diet. For instance, it can reassure your non-vegan guests or family members that the plant-based diet is not a deprivation. The meal you serve them will appeal because it is substantial and also looks similar to meals they are used to.

The plant world makes it easy to increase the appeal of a meal. Plants naturally come in a great variety of colours, shapes and textures; these can be arranged to heighten the visual attraction of any dish. If you experiment with styles of chopping or slicing each food, you can easily create exquisite servings. Aroma also triggers interest in a meal – even before people sit down to eat it. All of the herbs and spices commonly used in plant-based cooking have very pleasing aromas.

Another simple way to boost the attractiveness of a dish is to serve it on plates or in bowls that are chosen for their size, colour or shape – specifically to complement and enhance the visual appeal of the food you are serving. The effect can be stunning. Try it for yourself!


Have a great month...!






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Peggy Brusseau
The Contented Vegan