So many people have asked me how to set up a plant-based (vegan) pantry that I decided this subject merits a permanent place on VegKitchen. Whether you are a newcomer to a vegan/vegetarian diet, or someone who wants to have a greater variety of healthy ingredients at hand, this list can serve as your handy guideline.
Now, no matter how time-crunched life gets, you can be sure that a healthy, nearly effortless meal awaits at the end of the day! Of course there are other items you might like to keep on hand, but these are the basics that are my household staples.
Though fresh produce counts as staple food, it would be cumbersome to list everything I keep on hand here, so for more info on keeping your fridge stocked, go to Stocking Your Refrigerator for Everyday Healthy Meals. Produce is the food I shop for most frequently, since I like to have it as fresh as possible. Though the seasonality of produce has been stretched by imports, I like to stick with what is truly seasonal as much as possible. Please support family farms by shopping at local farm stands and farmers markets if you have access to them. Cast a vote for organic produce and buying locally when you can.
Look for good-quality beans, without additives, or better yet, organic canned or jarred beans from natural food stores or co-ops, including your favorites from the following:
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Chickpeas (garbanzos)
- Great northern beans (cannellini)
- Pink beans
- Pinto beans
- Red or kidney beans
If you're inclined to cook beans from scratch, so much the better. Black beans, adzuki beans, and navy beans are particularly good cooked from scratch; there's also pink, kidney, red, and large white beans; brown and red lentils, and split peas.
WHOLE GRAINS AND WHOLE GRAIN FLOURS
If you store whole grains at room temperature, don't buy more than what you will use up in about 3 months. During hot summer months, refrigerate them—especially flours.
- Rice (long-grain brown, basmati, arborio, quick-cooking, etc.)
- Whole grain berries (like wheat berries, triticale, etc.)
- Wild rice
Whole grain flours (if you like to bake)
- Specialty flours (quinoa, teff, rice, etc. - especially good for gluten-free)
- Spelt flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole wheat pastry flour
HERBS AND SPICES (dried)
Keep a good range of commonly used varieties on hand; seasoning blends, especially an all-purpose salt-free herb-and-spice blend, a good-quality curry powder, as well as an Italian herb seasoning blend, are especially useful.
- Coconut oil (organic, extra-virgin)
- Dark sesame oil
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Safflower, sunflower, or other light-flavored oil
for baking and high-heat cooking
PASTAS AND NOODLES
Keep a good supply of different sizes and shapes of pasta in your pantry. Some useful shapes to have on hand include angel hair, thin spaghetti, spirals (rotini), ziti or penne, fettuccine, and linguine.
Asian noodles, such as udon, soba, rice noodles, and bean thread noodles, are available in natural food stores and well-stocked supermarkets, are nice to have on hand as well.
NUTS, SEEDS, AND NUT AND SEED BUTTERS
Keep what you like on hand from among peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. All nuts and seeds should be kept in the refrigerator during the summer as they will go rancid otherwise. Chia, hemp, and flaxseeds should always be refrigerated.
As far as nut and seed butters, choose from among natural, organic peanut, cashew, almond, sunflower, and tahini (sesame paste).
SOY SAUCE OR TAMARI
Buy a good natural brand for best flavor. Some people prefer the milder taste of Bragg's Liquid Aminos.
TOMATO PRODUCTS, CANNED
- Diced, in 14- to 16-ounce cans (try fire-roasted or Italian-style for extra flavor)
- Crushed or pureed, in 14, 16, and 28-ounce cans
- Tomato sauce
- Balsamic (dark and/or white)
- Red wine or white wine vinegar
- Rice vinegar (for Asian-style cooking)
- Organic apple cider vinegar (all-around vinegar, and very healthful)
PREPARED CONDIMENTS, SAUCES, AND SUCH
- Barbecue sauce (great for broiling or stir-frying tofu, tempeh, or seitan)
- Pasta (marinara) sauce —this comes in so many natural and flavorful varieties
- Salad dressings (choose natural, low-fat varieties of your favorites if you don't make your own)
- Salsa, tomato-based, mild to hot as you prefer
- Salsa, tomatillo (Salsa verde)
- Thai peanut sauce
- Stir-fry sauce and/or other Asian sauces like hoisin and black bean sauce
PANTRY VEGETABLES AND TOFU
- Onions (yellow, red, or both)
- Potatoes (keep potatoes refrigerated during the summer)
- Sweet potatoes (same goes for sweet potatoes)
- Silken tofu in 12.3-ounce asceptic packages (firm and/or extra-firm)
For lots more features on healthy lifestyle, explore VegKitchen’s Healthy Vegan Kitchen page.