Cooking at home (one of your New Year’s resolutions perhaps?) is much easier if you are working with a well-stocked pantry. With some fresh or frozen produce added in, it’s easy to pull together dinners on hectic weeknights. Keeping these 10 vegan pantry essentials on hand lets you throw together a variety of meals without running to the grocery or calling for delivery.
Beans and Other Legumes
Dried beans are super budget friendly, nutrient dense, and go well with just about any cuisine. Whip up some Slowcooker Baked Beans, a hearty pot of chili, some homemade hummus — beans and legumes are amazingly versatile. I also like to keep some organic, BPA free pouches or cans of prepared beans on hand for nights when I forgot to pre-soak beans. Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, navy beans, adzuki, black eyed peas, kidney, pinto, great northern, and split peas are some of the varieties I keep on hand. You can often find bags of dried beans on sale for less than $1 a piece!
Pecans, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts (technically a legume) will always have a place in my pantry. Keeping raw nuts on hand lets you whip up nut milks or butters, spruce up baked goods like Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies, add some flavor and healthy fats to dinner recipes, or just enjoy as a healthy snack. Raw nuts are relatively expensive but a little goes a long way. Buying in bulk helps keep the cost down.
Whole grains like barley, buckwheat, farro, millet, quinoa, oats, and rices form the base for a healthy meal. For breakfast, I love oats or quinoa with nuts and fruit. Beans, some kind of green, a grain like farro or barley, and some spicing make a tasty and inexpensive lunch or dinner.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil (Kirkland makes one that I like) is the most used oil in my pantry and would be my desert island oil of choice. It’s versatile enough to use in everything from salads to stir fries to baked goods. I also stock avocado, coconut, safflower, sunflower, and toasted sesame oils.
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” is how vegans survive without cheese. Nooch is a strain of yeast, typically Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then heated to deactivate it. Sounds delicious right? It actually is, lending a cheesy flavor and a surprising amount of protein and other nutrients to sauces, casseroles, and other dishes. Try it in our Kale Rice Casserole.
We both love pasta and a jarred marinara sauce with some sauteed veggies (like onion, garlic, artichoke hearts, and spinach) and a splash of wine and spices makes for a delicious and speedy weeknight dinner. Look for a sauce with less than 5g of sugar per serving (preferably 3g or less). Stock up when your preferred sauce goes on sale — it’s usually a big discount off the (overpriced) normal price.
We’re trying to move away from canned food as much as possible (BPA…) but organic diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts are amazing little recipe helpers. Look for BPA free packaging or consider frozen options.
Dried Sea Vegetables
Five years ago, I didn’t know sea vegetables existed, much less what flavor powerhouses they are. Arame, dulse, kombu, nori (used to make sushi), and wakame are my favorites. A little goes a long way in flavoring soups and sea vegetables are amazingly rich in minerals like iodine. Wakame is probably the easiest to start with if you are new to sea veggies. Or try making some yummy cucumber-avocado rolls with nori.
Pasta and Noodles
Pasta and noodles (like soba, udon, Japanese curly, rice vermicelli, etc.) are inexpensive and form the base for so many wonderful comfort foods. Nothing beats the ease of pasta marinara or a quick stir fry to get dinner on the table quickly. Done right, they can be very healthy meals. Pastas and noodles, even 100% whole grain ones, are still processed foods so you don’t want to go overboard. That said, I love pasta with almost indecent enthusiasm and it will never leave my diet.
Coconut milk lets you make delicious curries, cream sauces, and even whipped cream without dairy products. It’s richness helps cut the spice in many dishes and there is nothing like whipped cream on a dessert to make a meal special.
What are your vegan pantry essentials for dinner prep?