The Reason Kudzu Starch Should Be In Every Vegan's Pantry

Gelatin is one of those sneaky additives vegans have to look for when reading over the ingredient lists in everything from sauces to candy. The good news is, much like contemporary gluten-free flour and cooking alternatives, the myriad of vegan substitutions in cooking and baking have come lightyears from their meager beginnings. There are many plant-based gelatin replacements, largely in the form of starches. Agar-agar and arrowroot starches are among the most common of these, but a less likely contender is kudzu.

Kudzu starch is a marvelous alternative to arrowroot starch and cornstarch in any recipe (you'll need less kudzu starch than arrowroot). In fact, it's the best of the bunch at binding thin liquids; try kudzu starch in any soup or sauce recipe to give it more body and texture. Kudzu is also a great egg substitute for some recipes to make it vegan. For instance, you can replace egg or even arrowroot starch in our veggie burger recipe.

Kudzu kingdom

If you live in the southeastern United States, your chances of walking out into the backyard and stumbling (literally) on kudzu are quite high. If you drive any of the main highways in the American South you've definitely seen it growing in real time on the side of the road. Kudzu is native to Japan and southeastern China. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1876 because of its beautiful fragrant blooms as well as a solution to soil erosion. Unfortunately, the plant turned out to be a bit of a pest and took over everywhere it was planted, growing as much as a foot a day with vines up to 100 feet long. Because of this, kudzu quickly became known as the "plant that ate the South". These viny plants have beautifully starchy roots that are milled into fine flours and used as a replacement for gelatin or even other plant-based starches.

Because of its texture and innocuous flavor, kudzu starch is perfect for desserts; one of its most common uses is in the delightful, chewy Japanese confection mochi. Kudzu starch is pretty easy to find, usually available at your local Asian groceries, and can always be found online. So, vegan chefs: Please help trim the South by picking up some kudzu starch.