No matter what your diet looks like, it’s easier to cook when your pantry is stocked with delicious, healthy options that are easy to prepare and exciting to eat. And that’s especially true if you’re trying to eat less meat — or if you’re vegan or vegetarian. In fact, there are a few vegan staples that can get you through the day, and are essential pantry items, no matter WHAT your diet looks like.
These are vegan foods that everyone should have in their fridge or pantry — no matter what.
The Best Way to Stock a Vegan Kitchen with Vegan Staples
So, how do you jam all those plant-based treats into your fridge and vegan pantry? What foods do you need in order to create a varied, nourishing diet? Here is a list of the best foods for vegans to rely on when cooking at home.
It should be noted, fruits and vegetables go a long way. Your kitchen should always be stocked with the freshest fruits and veggies you can find. And when you’re in the produce section, challenge yourself to try new-to-you veggies.
But, to get on with the show, here are the essential vegan staples for your kitchen.
If you’re looking to keep food in your kitchen that will allow you to make a variety of baked goods, whole grains are great foundations for many dishes. And contrary to popular belief, whole grains aren’t limited to wheat, corn, and rice. Check out the following types of grains —
Nutritional Yeast — The Least “Yeasty” Yeast
How do you think vegan cheese is made? If you guessed its made with the help of nutritional yeast then… you’re 100% right! Nutritional yeast is a food additive for a plant-based diet.
The flavor of nutritional yeast (sometimes called “nooch”) is sort of cheesy, or savory-tasting. And often nooch is vitamin B12 fortified to pack an extra nutritional punch. Nutritional yeast is low-fat, gluten-free, and many are preservative-free. But nooch is also rich in the following vitamins and nutrients:
- Folic acid
This fungus grows in molasses, believe it or not. Once harvested, rinsed, and dried, it becomes neutralized, meaning it doesn’t spread like other yeasts.
Feel free to whip up nutritional yeast and sprinkle it on handfuls of nuts for some zing. You can also add it to your soups, sauces, salads, pasta, and other meals. It’s great anywhere you’d use parmesan cheese or Worchestershire sauce.
Yum Yum Hummus
Although chickpeas can also fit in the next category, they definitely deserve special attention. Many vegans consider chickpeas the best beans. And when they’re mashed to make hummus, they can dress a salad or sandwich, like any other condiment. And of course, hummus is the best for dipping.
One of the best facts about hummus, besides its great taste, is how easy it is to make.
Just blend chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and olive oil and you’re done! Add extra garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, or pesto for some zing.
Hummus is full of fiber and protein. If chickpeas aren’t for you, then try making a lentil hummus. You’ll be surprised how smooth it is and you’ll enjoy the hint of savory sweetness.
Leggo My Legumes
As mentioned above, chickpeas and lentils are two types of legumes. But beans are also legumes. Legumes are the nutritious seeds and pods of various plants. Check out the list of popular legumes below…
- Kidney beans
- Cannellini beans
- Northern beans
- Navy beans
- Fava beans
- Cranberry beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Black-eyed peas
Lentils cook pretty quickly. Plus, they’re great when thrown into salads, sauces, or soups. Now, you might be shocked to learn how healthy legumes are. They contain great amounts of…
And legumes are pretty low in fat and cholesterol-free. Get this: just a half-cup of legumes is about 115 calories. Though low in calories, legumes offer 20 grams of carbohydrates, up to 9 grams of fiber, up to 8 grams of protein, and only 1 gram of fat.4
Nuts are tiny powerhouses. They’re nutrient-dense and full of protein, fiber, and minerals. Furthermore, they have wonderful phytochemical content. Recent studies associate the addition of nuts to your diet with reduced heart health risk. And nuts might help reduce incidences of gallstones.
Nuts like cashews and pistachios are so satisfying. But studies also suggest that moderate nut consumption could also provide the following health benefits:
- Support healthy blood sugar
- Support for arterial and cholesterol health
- Defense against oxidative stresses
- Boost blood pressure health
- Metabolic support5
It’s a win-win!
Dried fruit is concentrated fresh fruit. Whether dried whole, halved, or sliced… you can find a variety of delicious dried fruit at your local market. Look for the following:
- Banana chips
- Sun-dried tomatoes
You want to make sure you find dried fruit that is preservative free with no added sugar — it’s already sweet enough.
It’s important, otherwise, you’re just snacking on candy. Dried fruit is convenient and portable for road trips, work, and days at the beach. And dried fruit can kick your favorite baked-goods up a notch. Other snack ingredients just don’t compare.
Furthermore, dried fruit is full of vitamins and minerals, like:
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Frozen Fruit and Berries
It’s summertime. There’s a special superpower among frozen summer fruits… they can really cool you down and give you a refreshing lift on the hottest days. Try freezing mangoes, peaches, and bananas.
Frozen berries are like poppable bites of sorbet. Throw frozen berries on your cereal in the morning or use them to cool down your smoothie. You can even blend them with bananas for a healthy sorbet recipe.
Put Stock in Vegetable Stock
Vegetable stock is versatile and healthy. You can make all sorts of soups and stews with a stock base made of vegetables. Try lentil soup, wild rice veggie soup, and french onion soup with vegan cheese croutons.
If you’ve got the time, you can even whip up homemade vegetable stock. Try making your own stock with ingredients like:
- Salt and pepper
- Nutritional yeast
- Tomato paste (or sun-dried tomatoes)
Season your stock to taste. The best part is, you can make the stock in one pot for easy cleanup.
Time for Tahini
First of all, tahini is one of the best-tasting treats a vegan can enjoy! Made of sesame seeds, tahini contains high-quality oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Tahini is also full of antioxidants. Recent studies report tahini supports liver and heart function.
Tahini is also pretty high in protein, vitamin B1, and dietary fiber. But tahini also boasts the following vitamins and minerals…
The sesamin and sesamolin in tahini are part of a group of beneficial fibers called lignans. Lignans are helpful when it comes to lowering cholesterol. They might also help prevent high blood pressure.7
Sea vegetables and seaweed are savory, salty, and good for you. You can wrap sheets of nori around brown rice for a filling snack. Or you can flavor soups and sauces with seaweed. You can even sprinkle hijiki on your favorite salads or over grilled veggies.
But did you know sea vegetables are pretty rich in sulfated polysaccharides? These sulfated polysaccharides offer the following health benefits…
- Anticoagulant properties
- Antiviral capabilities
- Antioxidative activity8
Coo-coo for Coconut oil
Smooth and sweet, coconut oil offers helpings of vitamin E and beneficial polyphenols. Coconut oil also boosts your HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind).9
Coconut is also wonderfully flavorful. That’s one reason why it helps make pie crust perfect. And if you’re cooking Thai food, you definitely want to cook with coconut oil. Getting hungry?
Facts about Flax
Flaxseeds are bursting with Omega-3 fatty acids. Not only that, but flax seeds are full of fiber. Flax seeds are great tossed on top of your favorite salads, pastas, or grilled veggie medleys. You can also bake them into bread for added texture and nutritional power.
Flax seeds are also a great source of α-linolenic acid. And the fiber and flax lignans in flaxseeds can offer some pretty great health benefits. For instance, flaxseeds might offer support when it comes to:
- Heart health risks
- Imbalanced blood sugar levels
- Joint discomfort10
No stack of pancakes would be complete without maple syrup. But have you thought about using maple syrup to sweeten your cooking? You could also add maple syrup to your ice cream or to sweeten your baked goods.
No Doubt You’ve Heard of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another great vegan staple that comes from the fermenting of apple cider. What happens when apple cider vinegar is fermented? Well, the sugar gets broken down by bacteria. Then the yeast becomes alcohol. Then vinegar.
Once the process is finished, the apple cider vinegar is ready to dress your favorite salads!
Vegan Staples for Your Kitchen In Review
Along with fruits, veggies, and plenty of fresh herbs, good grains like quinoa can go a long way in making you feel full.
Remember too, frozen fruits and berries are an easy and affordable staple for vegan diets. Along with the frozen fruits, dried fruit can make snacking on-the-go super easy.
The kitchen items above are among the healthiest and most affordable vegan options. Enjoy the meatless essentials listed above. And have fun experimenting with variety now that you’ve got a list of great go-to vegan food.
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