First published in The Chronicle (Spring 2016)

Whether you’ve chosen to go vegan as an ethical lifestyle decision or are just trying it out for health reasons, Karma’s got you covered for all of the tough-to-cut favourites and alternatives to items you might be surprised contain animal-derived ingredients.

Sunflower Kitchen pesto

Pesto is a product many new vegans don’t realize contains animal products. While primarily herb- or tomato-based, it’s parmesan that gives it the smooth texture it’s famous for. Thankfully, Toronto locals Sunflower Kitchen have created a delicious line of pestos that have all the flavour and texture of traditional pesto, but none of the cheese! In addition to their classics like Basil or Kale & Oregano, Zest-oh Cilantro will please those looking for a little more kick. Sunflower Kitchen also provides Karma with a range of vegan-friendly soups, dips, and pasta sauces, all of which are free of preservatives, nuts, and GMOs.

Culture City tempeh

Toronto fermenting masters Culture City are changing the game when it comes to vegan protein alternatives. Typically a soy-based product, tempeh is one of the healthiest forms of soy and is incredibly versatile. While Culture City does make a traditional tempeh, they’ve also expanded their range to include soy-free options, including chickpea, navy bean, black turtle bean, and even a buckwheat, sunflower seed, and oat mix. Each of these tempehs has its own unique texture and flavour, giving you a wide range of choice to perfect your tempeh bacon or protein-rich crouton alternatives.

Maison Orphée Caesar dressing

Lighter in consistency than a typical Caesar dressing, Quebec cold-pressed oil purveyors Maison Orphée have cut both the animal products and the guilt from your Caesar salad addiction by turning this dressing into a vinaigrette without sacrificing taste. The most authentically flavoured vegan Caesar dressing yet, it combines perfectly with savoury tempeh croutons, coconut bacon bits, and your favourite faux parmesan.

Pleasantville Creamery ice cream

If their tag line Better. Than. Ice Cream. isn’t enough to get you to try it, the unique flavours in this Toronto-based dairy-free range definitely will. With wild combos like the Elvis (sunbutter, banana, cookie dough, and potato chips!) alongside classic flavours like vanilla bean and mint chocolate chip, this hemp heart and coconut oil-based vegan ice cream has all of the creaminess of dairy.

You won’t even know the difference. Pleasantville’s small batch processing ensures you get the most ice cream for your buck, but this also means it’s a bit denser than conventional ice cream. Leave it on the counter for five to 10 minutes before serving in order to get that classic ice cream texture you’re craving.

Field Roast sausages and Chao Slices

Ask a vegan their favourite brand of meat alternatives and without hesitation many will say Field Roast. High-quality nutritious ingredients, well-balanced flavours and a pea protein base are part of the magic formula taking these sausages far beyond your average veggie dog. Karma carries three Field Roast sausage flavours – Mexican Chipotle, Smoked Apple Sage, and Italian – along with their famous Chao coconut ”cheese” slices. Due to government regulations on vegan “meats”, Canada doesn’t yet have the full range of Field Roast products – which includes small ham-like loaves, breakfast sausages, and roasts – but keep an eye out for new arrivals in this popular line.

It’s Not Bacon! coconut snacks

But you might be surprised how similar it is! Now that the WHO has listed bacon as a carcinogen, it’s not only vegans who may be seeking alternatives to everyone’s favourite processed meat. Coconut flakes lend themselves perfectly to the crisp texture of bacon and are mild enough to welcome the sweet hickory flavour of the traditional smoking process. Karma currently stocks two flavours of It’s Not Bacon! bits – Canadian Maple and Zesty Cheddar. Try them on your next BLT or baked potato, or even by the handful – it’s not bacon after all!

MegaFood supplements

Karma’s only completely vegan B12 supplement, MegaFood Balanced B Complex is made from fortified S. cerevisae, better known as the yeast in nutritional yeast. To ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients that are often lacking in vegan diets, this multivitamin also contains folate and B6, and even a healthy dose of spinach.

Gabriel vegan cosmetics

Brand new to Karma, Gabriel Cosmetics are a favourite with vegan and non-vegan makeup enthusiasts alike. Their Zuzu Luxe line offers a range of colours inspired by the European spa tradition, and we’re currently stocking mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick. In addition to being vegan, all products are free of parabens, propylene glycol, and hydrogenated oils. Try them out and let us know what you think!

by Mandy Hindle