The Briny Ingredient That Works Wonders As A Vegan Anchovy Substitute

Capers in a bowl
Capers in a bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Anchovies are rich in protein, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin A, offering both flavor and nutrition. These tiny fish can be a delicious addition to umami-packed dips, salads, risottos, pasta dishes, and beef stews, imparting a rich, savory taste. However, since they are animal products, they don't fit into vegan diets. One alternative is to swap them for capers.

Just like anchovies, these small, green flower buds pair well with potatoes, rice, pasta, and leafy greens. They're widely used in Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used as substitutes for olives, pickles, or green peppercorns. Their slightly crunchy texture makes them ideal for bruschettas, sandwiches, or pizza, while their vibrant green color can add a beautiful pop to the dish. Although they do not contain as much protein as anchovies, capers have more fiber and no cholesterol. Plus, capers tend to be lower in sodium than anchovies, but pack just as much umami flavor.

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Capers Provide A Savory Umami Kick

Capers on a cutting board
Capers on a cutting board - Gulcin Ragiboglu/Shutterstock

Capers are the edible flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a perennial plant that thrives in the Mediterranean region. After being harvested, they are left to dry in the sun, and then pickled in brine. Their pungent flavor and aroma stems from a naturally occurring compound called glucocapparin, or mustard oil, while the brine contributes saltiness. The result is a rich, umami flavor that can enhance most dishes.

These flower buds are less salty and slightly sweeter than anchovies, with notes of pepper and lemon. You can substitute them for anchovies at a one-to-one ratio to achieve that sought-after umami taste. For instance, if a roasted cauliflower recipe calls for eight anchovy fillets, which is about one ounce, you would use one ounce of capers to obtain the same delicious flavor. If you wish to add even more complexity and depth, combining your capers with nori flakes, miso, or a bit of lemon will further highlight their savoriness.

How To Use Capers In Vegan Recipes

Vegan dip dish topped with capers
Vegan dip dish topped with capers - IriGri/Shutterstock

With their rich flavor, capers can complement potatoes, pasta, grains, leafy greens, and soy products. For instance, you can combine them with soy granules, garlic, rice, and fresh herbs to create a stuffing for mushrooms or bell peppers. Another option is to mix them with quinoa, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and spices for a delicious Mediterranean salad. You'll also want to try making a vegan potato salad with olives, capers, and mustard vinaigrette, which is perfect for lunch or dinner and takes minutes to prepare.

These green flower buds taste amazing in dips, sauces, and salad dressings. For example, you can mix them with vegan mayo, diced pickles, mustard, and lemon juice to make plant-based tartar sauce. Capers will also kick your pesto up a notch, turning it into a gourmet treat. And if you're in the mood for a quick, savory snack, fry a handful of capers in a skillet — just be sure to drain and dry them beforehand.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.