Ever wondered what a vegan keeps in her pantry? Well, look no further than this – just joking, I’m not going down the route of cheesy blog post opening lines.
Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten ingredients you’ll always find in my cupboard. I eat a vegan diet composed mostly of wholefoods, but this is suitable for anyone who wishes to expose themselves to the joys of eating more plants and having plenty of healthy ingredients within reach.
These items are affordable and many can be cooked in bulk for the week ahead as a means of saving time, money and energy. Moreover, they act as a basis for the majority of vegan recipes out there. When it comes to cooking, I like to plan ahead and will buy ‘fancier’ extras whenever they are required (i.e., those magical superfood powders sourced from the soils of Narnia – I admit I can never hold myself back from diving head first into food trends) but always ensure my kitchen is well stocked with the basics because no one likes getting to their chickpea curry night and discovering they have no chickpeas.
Before I give myself the opportunity to ramble on for three thousand words, here are my pantry staples:
You knew this one was coming. I am in love with my beans and pulses. These contain an abundance of micronutrients such as iron and potassium, and are often the main protein source in vegan diets. As someone who is trying to build muscle, the latter is enough to make me stock my cupboards with an excessive amount of black beans.
I keep both canned and dry in my kitchen. Canned is great for convenience, but I use dry whenever I have a bit of extra time, as they require soaking and cooking, and want a ‘fresher’ taste. My favourites include:
- Black beans – these are a great option for buying fresh and soaking overnight
- Chickpeas – roast them with some agave nectar and paprika and thank me later!
- Cannellini beans
- Red kidney beans
- Lentils: red, green and black
- Dried soya mince – an incredible meat free alternative for spaghetti bolognese!
- Giant lentils
This carb source deserves its own category. I have rice several times a week and it never fails me as a side dish – or even a main because it tastes delicious and sometimes after a hard workout, I crave nothing other than humongous bowl of white rice. It comes in many varieties, including jasmine, basmati, wholegrain and black. Sticky rice is great for when you finally decide to tick ‘master the art of sushi making’ off your bucket list (anyone fancy a tutorial?)
3. Root vegetables
My mum happens to own a cute little allotment, and having access to homegrown veggies is an extra bonus for us: this is probably the most vegan thing I’ve ever said, but everything does indeed taste better when eaten straight for the ground (after appropriate preparation, of course). When we’re not eating our own, we buy our root vegetables from farmers’ markets to help smaller, ethical businesses and live a sustainable lifestyle by reducing waste.
Potatoes, whether white or sweet, deserve to be categorised as a superfood. Whenever I’m utterly clueless in regards to my next meal, my go-to option is a jacket potato with canned lentils in tomato sauce. Sounds a bit unorthodox, but it tastes amazing. Potatoes are the cosiest thing to eat on wintry evenings, whether they’re boiled or roasted as healthy chips. Some of my other root veggie favourites include:
- Butternut squash
- Hokkaido squash
- Kabocha squash
- Beetroot (a great twist to homemade hummus)
4. Noodles and pasta
I am a typical carb-loving millennial. Once, I tried those zero-calories noodles and I’m not going to lie – they tasted like crap. The real thing, however, is delicious and versatile. Both pasta and noodles are inexpensive and just like potatoes, can be turned into hundreds of dishes or eaten by themselves after one of those long days when the last thing you want to do is make a Pinterest-worthy dish. My staples include:
- Noodles: buckwheat, wholegrain, rice (white and brown), soba and udon.
- Pasta: tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne, vermicelli, fusilli, shells, lasagne sheets. If you’re a vegan, be sure to check the ingredients as many pastas contain eggs.
- Spinach pasta deserves a special mention, and if you haven’t tried it yet you’re missing out!
- Edamame noodles
5. Snack bars and protein powder
The existence of vegan protein powders doesn’t imply the impossibility of meeting your protein requirements in their absence on a plantbased diet. However, as someone who is trying to build muscle and increase strength, I need more protein than the average person and always look for convenient way to consume extra calories and protein when I don’t have much time to cook. For most people, however, supplements will not be a kitchen staple as average protein requirements can be met with little second thought.
However, I’d recommend stocking up on healthy snacks as a go-to solution for that post-breakfast, pre-lunch hunger. My top five at the moment:
- Clif Builder in chocolate peanut butter
- Anything from Pulsin
- Trek original oat flapjack
- Beond raw chocolate bars
- Bounce almond and kale balls
I always keep my pantry well-stocked with different grains. Before I went vegan, I didn’t know such a wide variety existed, but as I did my research and taught myself culinary skills, I soon discovered a list which I can only hope to try before my days on this planet come to an end. These can be used to make delicious side dishes, salads or even main courses.
- Oats! I have oatmeal at least three times a week and will never stop. If you’re someone who skips breakfast due to a shortage of time, try an overnight oats recipe as a delicious solution.
- Pearl barley
- Bulgur wheat
- Flour: we keep different types for different occasions, including wholegrain, all purpose, rye, spelt and chickpea (my new obsession!). I use these to make the homemade bread I eat most days for breakfast.
- Buckwheat – I ate this all the time as a child in Russia and finding this in my local Tesco filled my heart with joy.
- Couscous – this works wonders in big salad bowls.
- Rice puffs
7. Nuts and seeds
These add that perfect crunch to any meal or baked goodie, and can come in handy for more ‘exotic’ recipes such as cashew mozzarella or chia puddings (I only understood the hype surrounding chia puddings once I tried one myself).
- Nuts: cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds
- Seeds: chia, linseed, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Ground almonds to use for baked goodies
I guess shredded coconut goes into this category because apparently it is a nut, a fruit and a seed simultaneously?! You really do learn something new every day.
8. Condiments, sauces and spreads
I love adding extra flavour to all of my recipes, and experimenting with different combinations of sauces as my creative outlet. I make quite a few of my sauces myself, such as the tahini dressing I mention in this post, but do love an occasional store brought option.
- Nut butters: one of the advantages to making them at home is price. ‘Natural’ nut butters tend to be pricier than those heavier in preservatives. Homemade nut butters carry more health benefits and do not break the bank, however, in terms of store brought, my favourite brands are Meridian and Whole Earth.
- Tahini, as mentioned above, can be used to flavour anything from falafels to pizza. But as a word of warning, learn from my mistakes and do not eat this by itself!
- Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider, red wine.
- Coconut oil – I mostly use this for my skin/hair as opposed to cooking.
- Olive oil and olive oil cooking spray.
- Soy sauce / Liquid aminos
- Nutritional yeast – after seeing this all over social media, it took me a while to try nutritional yeast myself and now I believe it is a vital constituent of a plantbased diet. Not only does it have a delicious cheesy flavour, but it is a source of B12 and aids digestion.
- Lemon and lime juice – I prefer to use fresh but lemons and limes is always the one thing I forget to buy during my shopping trips.
- Agave nectar. No pancake recipe is complete without my favourite sweetener of all time.
9. Canned tomatoes and coconut milk
These goodies are essential to dozens of recipes and are a definite staple in my kitchen because pasta dishes with tomato sauce, as well as various curries, are staple meals for me. If I know I’m going to have a busy week, I cook up enough spaghetti to last at least five days, and in a separate pot stir a few cans of tomatoes with my favourite spices, before combining them and allocating the mixture to Tupperware boxes with a protein source and salad. Couldn’t be simpler.
I’m someone who hates clutter but tend to hoard spices because, well, they make any dish taste incredible. Anyone who is into their cooking can probably relate to the excitement of discovering a new spice. For example, a tofu scramble wouldn’t be complete without a pinch of turmeric and roasted potatoes go hand in hand with dried basil. I won’t list my entire spice collection (most of them are displayed in the photographs) but my favourites include:
- Paprika and cayenne pepper
- Fenugreek (this one is super underrated)
- Curry powder
- Cinnamon, of course
BONUS number 11 – treats!
‘Treats’ are intrinsic to a healthy vegan kitchen because a healthy diet is about practicing balance rather than completely eliminating your favourite foods. Healthy eating should be fun and include everything in moderate amounts. I don’t like calling these items ‘treats’ because that insinuates guilt (aka a sentiment which shouldn’t be associated with eating in any way, shape or form) but saying ‘treats’ is easier than ‘foods diet magazines would push people to avoid but I do not have a problem with and eat whenever my heart fancies’. I challenge you to find yourself a bae who looks at you how I look at my accidentally vegan Lotus biscuit spread 😉
Now, it’s your turn to share – what do all of you like to keep in your pantries? What are your staple dishes?
(A fridge edition of this post will be up within the next few weeks)
Love, Maria ♡