My Vegan Pantry Staples

Vegan Pantry

I’ve received a few questions recently about how to stock a vegan pantry. This is one of those things that I think I’ve taken for granted, forgetting that it took me years to develop a well-stocked pantry and get comfortable with a lot of the foods I now enjoy on a daily basis.  When you’re making the switch to veganism (or simply switching to more whole, plant-based foods), it’s helpful to see what other people are buying. And even if you’re not new to this style of eating, it’s always nice to expand your regular food repertoire.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but I tried to be thorough and I hope it gives you a general sense of how I stock my pantry. I like to switch things up every so often; however, these are my staples. I recommend buying in bulk if space allows, and choosing organic when available and within budget.

Vegan Pantry 2

Nuts & Seeds
Raw almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are favorites, and cashews are very versatile when it comes to making desserts, cheese alternatives, and cream sauces. I also use a lot of pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, ground flax, and hemp seeds in smoothies and salads. They’re a great source of protein and healthy fats, and really help to give my meals some staying power. Chia and flax seeds are also particularly useful as egg replacers when it comes to vegan baking. Other must-haves? My beloved raw almond butter and tahini.

Dried Beans/Legumes
Chickpeas, lentils, split peas, black beans, cannellini, aduki…I love them all (well, except kidney beans) and try to mix up what I buy to prevent food ruts. Chickpeas, however, are pretty much always on rotation. It’s much more cost-effective to buy dried versus canned, and I’m now in the habit of soaking bigger batches of beans a couple of times a week (overnight in the fridge). You can also freeze them once cooked.

Seaweed
Kombu for soaking/cooking the dried beans to help with digestion, and dulse flakes for salads (it can be treated as salt, although it’s an acquired taste!). Kelp noodles are a nice (super low-cal, high calcium and iron) option, and I also just recently picked up some sheets of nori to attempt homemade sushi…I’ll report back on that one.

Grains
Gluten-free rolled oats, popcorn (a favorite snack – especially with nutritional yeast or cinnamon), quinoa, millet, and brown rice. I’ve had a mason jar of amaranth forever, and while I like it popped, I’m working up to loving the otherwise earthy flavor. The nutritional stats are awesome, however (really high in iron, protein, and fiber).

Flours, Starches & Gums
Spelt flour is probably my favorite in terms of taste and texture, but it’s not gluten-free. I frequently use blends of brown rice, sorghum, chickpea, and white rice flours, along with potato and tapioca starches to create a lighter texture. I sometimes use xanthan gum as a binding agent for gluten-free baking, as well as to thicken smoothies. Some people have trouble digesting it, but my sensitive stomach seems to be okay with it (knock on wood).

Goji Berries

Dried Fruit
Medjool dates are awesome as pre-workout fuel or in raw desserts, as are prunes…because I’m basically a senior citizen. I also like to snack on goji berries and my new love – dried Turkish figs. I actually didn’t like the dried figs the first couple of times I tried them, but now I can’t get enough. It’s worth paying a little more for them at Whole Foods versus Trader Joe’s in terms of taste.

Protein Powder
It’s pricey, but Vega Performance Protein or Vega One (Chai flavor!) are the best tasting, in my opinion. I like the nutritional profile for the Garden of Life raw protein powders too, but I find them to be a little gritty. Usually, I’ll wait until Vitacost is having a sale to stock up on Vega.

Chocolate!
Raw cacao powder & raw cacao nibs are my chocolate of choice. I used to regularly eat the Trader Joe’s chocolate chips by the handful, but that was creating all kinds of annoying sugar cravings for me. I wouldn’t exactly eat raw cacao nibs by the handful, but they satisfy my chocolate cravings when mixed into other desserts.

Oils & Vinegars
Coconut oil for high temp cooking, and hemp oil for raw recipes and hummus (don’t heat this). I occasionally use extra virgin olive oil for temperatures less than 350 degrees F. In terms of vinegars, raw apple cider vinegar is my go-to for everything from hummus (in place of lemon) to salad dressings, but I occasionally use balsamic and rice vinegars depending on what I’m making.

Sweeteners
NuNaturals stevia is my preferred choice flavor-wise (some brands have a terrible aftertaste), but I occasionally use coconut sugar and maple syrup for baking. Date paste is also great (just medjool dates blended with water). I used to buy agave syrup, but the verdict seems to be out on whether that’s any better than other processed sugars. The only time I use regular cane sugar is for my homemade kombucha.

Homemade Kombucha with Berries

Non-Dairy Milks
Almond is my favorite, and I love light canned coconut milk for homemade ice cream. Full fat coconut milk is incredible for making vegan whipped cream. I like the taste of soy milk, but I figure I eat enough soy in the form of tofu and tempeh.

Canned Goods, Spices & Other
Diced tomatoes, tomato paste, pumpkin puree and applesauce (you can use them in place of oil for baking), and canned beans (in case I forget to soak them in advance). Vegetable broth, particularly the Better Than Bouillon brand, for soups and stews, as well as for giving grains added flavor. Nutritional yeast (an excellent vegan source of B12 and used so often it should probably have its own category), Bragg liquid aminos, hot sauce, and lots of dried spices. I tend to most frequently use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, turmeric (a great natural food coloring too), cayenne, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, and garlic powder.

Beverages
Green and mint teas are my top picks, and Dandy Blend (an alternative to coffee) is also really good, especially served with almond milk, raw cacao powder, and vanilla stevia. Since I started brewing my own kombucha, I tend to have a glass or two every day.

Raspberry Basil Kombucha

I won’t go into produce or perishables in this post, but there are a few foods worth noting:

Avocado
Lends a creamy texture to smoothies, chocolate pudding, and even mashed up with some garlic as a sort of Alfredo pasta sauce. I probably enjoy avocado in some form most days. It never gets old.

Vegan Sources of Protein
Organic, non-GMO tofu & tempeh are staples for me, and I typically incorporate them into my meals 2-3 times a week. Seitan is also great if you’re not gluten-free, and it’s surprisingly easy to make your own.

Frozen Bananas
I always have a couple on hand for smoothies and banana ‘soft-serve’. This was sort of life-changing for me when I gave up dairy-based frozen yogurts.

Vegan Pantry 3

I usually buy things like dried beans and grains from Whole Foods’ bulk bins, flours and specialty ingredients from Vitacost or Amazon, and most other items at Trader Joe’s.

Is there anything you would consider a must-have in a vegan pantry? Where do you tend to do most of your shopping?

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  1. this is such a good, comprehensive list and i loved little facts on each 🙂 I am so new to the nutritional yeast, got some from whole foods but havent used it even once. Popcorn would be a good start!

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Dixya! Nutritional yeast is awesome. I remember thinking it tasted like cheeze-its when I first tried it. 🙂 Popcorn is definitely a good start! I like to add smoked paprika and garlic powder to it too.

  2. Kelly says

    While I’m not vegan, frozen banana chunks and dried lentils are my top 2 pantry staples. Banana can sweeten ANYTHING into a delicious treat, and goes particularly well with chocolate. And lentils are so versatile and don’t even need to be soaked overnight. Never gave nutritional yeast a try but I’m definitely curious!

  3. Danielle Brennan says

    This is so helpful. Thanks! I love those jars. Where did you get them from?

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks! The jars are Ball jars and I think I ordered them on Amazon, along with bpa-free plastic lids (last I checked, the standard metal lids contain bpa). You should also be able to find the jars at most hardware stores, Target, etc.

  4. Deb says

    Oh, I love popcorn and nutritional yeast combined. I usually eat a bowl of the stuff after getting off night shift at the hospital(it’s how I treat myself for a hard night’s work). I really didn’t start using the yeast until I stumbled upon another food blog called Healthy Happy Life, and a lot of the recipes call for the stuff. On a side note, I really appreciate that you make gluten free options on here:)

    1. Amanda says

      Popcorn is such a great snack. I had forgotten about it until recently.
      I’m making an effort to eat gluten-free these days, and I know a lot of other people are too. I’m happy to provide gf recipes and alternatives. 🙂

  5. Kristy says

    Great minds must truly think alike because I did almost the same exact post today! I don’t know how I overlooked chocolate, though! What was I thinking! 🙂

    1. Amanda says

      Too funny! I just read through your post – we have very similar pantries! Chocolate is its own food group for me. 🙂

  6. Rhona says

    Excellent list. It took me years also to really form my pantry. It is still a work in progress sometimes. One little thing I do for beans is to actually soak before work and while I watch tv or am online at night, I cook them. It takes no effort and before bed I am left with cooked beans. I used to schedule this in on days during the weekend but then decided to do them anytime I am going to be relaxing for a while. Now I do not buy canned beans b/c dried is so much cheaper and healthier (although when I do buy I use Eden brand as I think their products are the best in quality, nutrition and taste).
    Also I cannot stand kidney beans. I used to think I hated black eye peas (my mom makes it like once a year and each time I wanted to puke) but for some reason I ate them curried I think and I have been in love since then.
    I have yet to try coconut oil but that is on my list. I try to limit oils in total but sometimes I like just a tad while cooking.

    1. Amanda says

      That’s a great suggestion about the dried beans. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the prep work, but it’s really only a few minutes of active work. The rest is waiting!
      Glad to find someone else who doesn’t like kidney beans! Something about the thick skin – I’m just not a fan.

  7. Hi Amanda:

    Thanks for the look see! I too love your jars. My nuts are stashed in plastic bags. (LOL) My excuse is that I’m just here temporarily, so there is no reason to expend $$ on cannisters just yet. You broke my heart when you said you don’t care for kidney beans. Next to chick peas, they are my fave legume.

    Wishing you a fab weekend.
    Ciao,

    1. Amanda says

      Sorry to disappoint about the kidney beans! haha I’ll eat them in things like chili, but I much prefer pinto or black beans.
      Hope you have a great weekend, Ceil!

  8. I love getting a sneak peek into other people’s vegan pantry! Mine looks very similar.

  9. Catherine says

    Love this!
    Such a terrific combo of colors and flavors.

  10. Megan says

    Black beans + Me = Love.

    I don’t think I could have given up meat without them. In the beginning I ate them on and with everything. I’ve expanded my selection but I’ll always love black beans.

    I love nooch. I thrown it in the food processor with toasted sesame seeds and salt and use it in place of parmesan.

    Thank you for taking the time to write out such a great list. Love the jars!

    1. Amanda says

      You know, I’ve yet to make vegan parmesan with nooch. I just bought some sesame seeds though, so I think I need to change that!

  11. katie says

    *almost* anything in a mason jar seems prettier and more enticing to eat. Almonds are my go to for sure!

    1. Amanda says

      I agree about the mason jars!

  12. Erin says

    I love this article, not only for the ideas of the top things to have in your pantry, but as a great way on how to store your top things in an organized fashion with mason jars!

    1. Amanda says

      So glad you liked the post, Erin! Mason jars are awesome for storing pantry staples. They’re cheap, nice to look at, and it’s great to be able to actually see what you have!

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