Plant-Based Cooking 101: Mystery Ingredients, Part 3

Submitted by Kim Campbell, director of culinary education.

Today we’ll touch on vegan sauces and condiments, and we’ll also discuss xanthan gum, a crucial component of many dressings.

Photo by Amy Bissinger.

Tamari versus soy sauce

Tamari sauce is the Japanese version of soy sauce and a byproduct of fermented soybeans, with the main difference being the use of wheat. Both soy sauce and tamari add salt and distinct flavors to a recipe. I prefer the flavor of tamari sauce over soy sauce. Tamari sauce is thicker, slightly darker, smoother, and less salty than soy sauce. They are interchangeable, but it’s important to note their distinct differences. I like to think of tamari as the gentler, more mellow version of soy sauce.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Vinegars are sour liquids obtained by acetic fermentation. Vinegars can be made from any fruit or material containing sugar. There are so many different kinds of vinegars on the market today that my recommendation is to try a few and find your favorites. My staple vinegars are rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar. Vinegar does not need to be refrigerated and the shelf life is almost indefinite. I love to use vinegars to build delicious salad dressings and sauces. There are so many uses for vinegar when it comes to delicious food.

Photo by Amy Bissinger.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is a plant-based polysaccharide (type of sugar) that is used as an emulsifier (a substance that makes two usually unmixable liquids blend well) and thickener, and it provides volume to gluten-free baked goods. The Xanthomonas campestris bacterium is allowed to ferment on a sugar; the resulting gel is then dried and milled to create the powder called xanthan gum. Beware: A pinch can go a long way when trying to thicken a mayonnaise or dressing.


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