No matter what your cooking level is, it’s important to be familiar with the terms used in recipes. These words and phrases often seem like a foreign language if you’re not used to them. But, with a little knowledge, you learn them which enables you to cook like a pro! In this post, we’ll define some of the most common culinary terms. Therefore, the next time you’re in the kitchen you’ll know just what to do.

Our Culinary Terms Used in Recipes  

We’ve compiled a list of culinary terms you may see in our recipes. Yet, some of these terms appear more common than others. You may have a slightly different understanding of some of these. However, we use these meanings when we refer to the culinary terms given.


Please Refer Back to This List From Time to Time as We Add to Our Terms.


culinary terms

Vegan pasta with Vegetables


The First Culinary Term Begin With an A

Al dente – An Italian expression that literally means “by the tooth.” We use it to describe pasta cooked for a slightly shorter time, creating a slightly chewy texture. Al dente may also describe vegetables cooked to a crisp tender by stir-frying, steaming, or boiling.

Next Ones Start With a B

Bake – We use this term to describe cooking in the oven. Baking differs from roasting (see roasting below)

Baste– When we moisten food during cooking, we call it basting. Basting prevents food from drying out and adds flavors. Common bastes include pan drippings or a sauce.

Beat – Beating a mixture of food is done with a hand mixer or electric mixer. Beating food quickly adds as much air as possible and creates a smooth mixture.

Blanch – To loosen skins, firm flesh, or brighten color and flavor, we use the technique of blanching.  If a recipe instructs to blanch a food, it means to dip into boiling water for a short amount of time, usually a few seconds. Remove from the boiling water and dip under cold water to stop cooking.

Boil – Liquids heated until they are bubbling when a recipe calls for boiling. When bubbling is vigorous and continues, we call it a rolling boil. Braise – Braising, also known as stewing, requires cooking in a small amount of liquid. Cooking by braising concentrates the flavors in the liquid, which can then be used to make a sauce.

Bread – To bread, we coat the surface of a food with flour or bread crumb mixture before cooking. Breading creates a crunchy surface.

Broil – Broiling uses a direct heat source, such as an oven broiler or gas flame, to cook food quickly. Expect a nicely browned exterior from broiling.

On to the Culinary Terms Used in Recipes That Start With the Letter C

Caramelize – Cooking over low heat to release natural sugars in food causes a caramelized effect. Caramelizing produces a more intense flavor and aroma. Carrots and onions caramelize well.

Chop – Chop, dice, mince? Chopping results in larger pieces. See the video below. Using the correct knife and ensuring it is sharp results in a better cut.

Cream – To cream ingredients together, work them against a surface such as the side of a bowl, until they are smooth with an even consistency. Creaming ingredients such as shortening and sugar in baked goods forces tiny bubbles into the mixture. Also, these air bubbles contribute to the fluffiness of the end product.

Cube –  To cube food, we cut it into small pieces about the size of dice.

Cure – We cure food using a variety of different methods. This is done to preserve it. Pickling is one example.

Video Credit: @BrunoAlbouze

Starts with a D

Deep-fry – To deep-fry, food is cooked fully submerged in hot oil.

Deglaze – Adding a liquid to the pan to loosen it and combine with the cooked ingredients and juices after sauteing or roasting. This adds flavor to the resulting sauce.

Dice –  When we dice, we cut foods into smaller pieces, roughly the size of 1/4 inch.

Dredge – To dredge food,  coat it lightly with dry ingredients, such as flour, before cooking.

Drizzle – Pour a liquid over food in a thin stream to create a drizzle.

Culinary Terms Used in Recipes That Start With an E, F, or G

Etouffee – A French term meaning “to smother or suffocate,” this is a method of cooking food over low heat with a minimal amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Flambé – To Flambe,  ignite a sauce or other liquid so that it flames. This is typically done with liquors such as brandy since they ignite easily.


culinary terms

chopping onions

Fine Dice – A cube-shaped cut 1/8 inch in size.

Fold – To fold dry ingredients or batter into a whipped product, without deflating the light and airy texture essential to the finished product requires a special technique.  Using a rubber spatula, reach down through the center of the whipped product to the bottom of the bowl and lift up some of the batters on top of the foam. Lastly, as you turn your wrist to deposit the batter on top of the foam, you turn the bowl a few degrees, repeating the process until the mixture is homogenous.

Glaze – To glaze, brush food with sauce, icing, or another topping to create a shiny surface.

Grate – To grate or shred food, use a grater.

Grill – A gas or charcoal grill is usually used for grilling. Using a special grill top inside offers another option.

Starts with an H, J, M, or N

Hull – To hull nuts or seeds, remove the outer covering.

Julienne – To julienne food, cut it into thin stick-shaped pieces.

Marinate – To marinate, soak food in a seasoned liquid mixture, allowing it to absorb the flavors of the marinade. **Macerate is the term for soaking fruit in a similar manner.

Mash – To mash food, you crush, beat or squeeze it using a fork or a masher.

Match Cut – Match cut requires a long thin cut, like match sticks, approximately ¼ x ¼ x 3 inches.

Mince – To mince, cut into very fine pieces using a knife, food grinder, blender, or food processor.

Culinary Terms that start with a P

Panfry – Pan-fry means to cook quickly in a small amount of hot oil. Pan-frying technically means to cook larger pieces in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Parboil – Parboil by cooking in boiling water until partially done.

Pare – Pare by cutting off the outside skin. on food such as potatoes and apples.

Peel – Peel by stripping or cutting off the outer covering of food such as oranges, bananas, and tangerines.

Poach – Poach by cooking in a liquid that is held just below boiling (simmer)

Puree – To puree, grind, chop, or mash cooked food into a thick paste. Use a blender or sieve to create a puree.

Starts with an R

Reduce or Reduction – We reduce a liquid by cooking to allow some of the water to evaporate, creating a concentrated product. Reduction concentrates the flavor of a broth or sauce and helps thicken the sauce.

Refresh – Refresh just-boiled vegetables by rinsing them under very cold water to stop their cooking.

Roast – Roast food in an uncovered pan in the oven to produce a well-browned exterior and a moister, cooked interior. Roasting is done dry; that is, no liquid (such as water or broth) comes into contact with the food. While roasting is often considered the same as baking, the terms are actually different. Roasting requires cooking food at a higher temperature to brown the surface of the food quickly.

Roll – Similar to dredge, roll involves coating the food lightly with a fine powdery substance such as flour.

These Culinary Terms Used in Recipes Start With an S or W

Sauté-  Sauté means to cook quickly in a small amount of hot liquid, such as water or broth. Some people use a small amount of oil to sautee.

Score – Score food by making shallow or deep cuts in a decorative pattern with a point or a knife. Scoring ensures food cooks evenly.

Shred – Shred food by cutting it into many, very fine strips or pieces.

Sift – To sift,  shake through a fine sieve. Sifting combines dry ingredients and adds air to the ingredients.

Slice – To slice food, cut it into even slices.

Snip – To snip food, cut it into small uniform lengths using kitchen shears.

Strain – To strain a liquid, pour through a strainer, sieve, or cheesecloth to remove unwanted particles or to separate out solids.

Wedge – A wedge is a wedge-shaped cut of food, often a reference to a cut from an apple or lemon.

Exploring Vegan Culinary Terms and Techniques


When it comes to discussing vegan culinary terms, it’s important to differentiate them from traditional culinary words that often involve animal-based ingredients. Vegan terms specifically refer to ingredients and techniques used in plant-based cooking. Instead of focusing on meat and animal products, vegan culinary terms emphasize the use of vegetables and plant-based substitutes.


In vegan culinary terms, there are numerous unique phrases that describe specific techniques and ingredients used in plant-based cooking. For example, “melted butter” is replaced by alternatives like “melted plant-based butter” or “vegan butter.” This substitution ensures that the dish remains free of animal-derived ingredients.


While traditional culinary terms often revolve around cooking meat, vegan culinary terms center around creating delicious and savory dishes using vegetables and plant-based proteins. These terms help vegans navigate the world of plant-based cooking, enabling them to create flavorful meals without compromising their dietary choices.


By embracing vegan culinary terms, individuals can expand their culinary vocabulary and explore new ways to prepare and enjoy plant-based meals. Whether it’s learning to sauté vegetables or discovering innovative plant-based substitutes for traditional ingredients, understanding these terms allows individuals to fully embrace the rich and diverse world of vegan cuisine.


Are these chef terms or just for home cooks?


Culinary terms are used by professional chefs and by home cooks. It helps to establish a common language so that anyone who cooks understands these terms.


Are these vegetable terms in culinary usage?


Yes, whether a chef or home cook is creating vegan foods, vegetarian, or even meats, the culinary terms do not change.


I’ve heard the cooking process changes our food. Is that true?


Yes, cooking does change more than the texture. In fact, while some foods leach important nutrients during the cooking process, others actually improvie the availability of the nutrients they provide. For instance, many vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, cabbage, and asparagus offer more antioxidants and carotenoids when gently steamed than they do when eaten raw.


Is the boiling point for water the same as the boiling point for other liquids? Does adding salt change the boiling point?


The boiling point of water is 212°F (100°C) but when you add salt, that actually raises the boiling point a bit. The actual amount depends on the amount of salt added. Similarly, adding other ingredients affects your boiling point.


What happens if I add lemon juice to plant-based milk?


Lemon juice is very acidic and therefore will cause your plant-based milk to curdle. If your recipe calls for plant-based milk and lemon juice, follow the directions on when to add each for the best result.


What is the best cooking method to use for maximum health benefits?


This will depend on the type of food. For many vegetables, lightly steaming or broth sautéing might be best.  Roasting is excellent for many vegetables, too, as it retains most nutrients, especially if slow-roasted. We suggest you avoid oil-based frying, opting for another method. Air frying is a good substitute for oil frying. Also, some vegetables and fruit are best consumed in their natural, raw state.


Is Olive Oil better to use than other oils?


Sometimes you might want a touch of oil. The type of oil does matter, somewhat It offers a cholesterol-free option with a mild flavor. However, it is still oil. As such, it will add fats that your body does not necessarily need. We prefer to get our needed fats from plant sources. Want a little olive taste? Add a few olives! Then, for frying, try sautéing in water or a flavored broth. You might find you enjoy this smoother, less oily cooking method.


Are these culinary vocabulary words helpful in everyday life? How can these gastronomic terms help?


Yes, culinary vocabulary words such as baking powder, cook foods, and bread crumbs can be incredibly helpful in everyday life. Baking powder, for example, is a leavening agent commonly used in baking to help dough or batter rise. Knowing how to properly use baking powder can result in fluffy and light baked goods, such as cakes, muffins, and biscuits. Similarly, knowing how to cook foods can help one prepare delicious and nutritious meals at home, saving money and improving overall health.


By understanding different cooking techniques and terms, one can elevate their home cooking and impress family and friends. Lastly, bread crumbs are a versatile ingredient used for coating and adding texture to dishes such as meatballs, fish cakes, and casseroles. Understanding how to use bread crumbs can enhance the flavor and texture of dishes and make them more visually appealing. Knowing culinary vocabulary and practices can help one cook better and enjoy meal prep.


What are some common culinary terms and ingredients used in traditional cooking that vegans may need to substitute or avoid when cooking plant-based meals?


In the world of vegan cooking, understanding culinary terms is essential to creating delicious, plant-based dishes. One common ingredient in traditional cooking is tomato sauce, but for vegans, it’s important to ensure that the sauce doesn’t contain any animal products. Instead of using egg yolks for thickening, vegan chefs might use plant-based alternatives like cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Similarly, soy sauce can be substituted for fish sauce in many recipes. For those looking to create vegan desserts, whipped cream can be made with coconut cream, and parmesan cheese can be replaced with nutritional yeast. By familiarizing themselves with vegan cooking terms and ingredient substitutions, cooks can create mouth-watering dishes that are both ethical and delicious.

Use These Culinary Terms Used in Recipes

Culinary terms often seem confusing and seem like they are only meant for chefs in high-end restaurants. But, by understanding the definitions and when to use certain techniques, you learn to cook amazing meals at home without fear. Have you tried any of the techniques we talked about today? Also, Leave a comment below or shoot us an email with your questions. We’re always happy to help!

Other Culinary Terms


culinary terms

Preparing a Vegan Meal Together


If you find culinary terms that you are not familiar with in our recipe section, please contact us. We respond quickly! Moreover, knowing and understanding these culinary terms will help you truly enjoy the experience of cooking!   Keeping these culinary terms close at hand when cooking helps ensure proper usage. Moreover, knowing and understanding these terms will help you truly enjoy the experience of cooking!

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