These are the things that every good vegan should have on hand in their kitchen. I use most of these on a daily basis and don’t know what I would do without a single one of them. They will help you add flavor, texture, and protein to any dish. If you’re looking to improve or spice up your vegan cooking, add these vegan staples to your next shopping list and push yourself to use them. If you’re just getting started on a plant-based diet, fill your pantry with these vegan staples and you will find transitioning all the easier.
In recent years with the growing popularity of vegan/plant-based diets, great innovations have been made in developing replacements for most of the meat-eaters staples. In my experience, many are superior in not just their health benefits, but also in taste and texture, especially in the dairy sector.
Here is our tried and tested list of the most essential vegan pantry staples:
1. Nut Milk
There are so many varieties of nut milk, every vegetarian/vegan I come across seems to prefer a different one. For many people just transitioning, rice milk is the favorite and for those who are avoiding soy for health reasons, almond milk seems to be the go too. When it comes to needing a thicker and creamier consistency cashew milk is king. Whatever nut milk you need or prefer it is a must to have in the fridge at all times, I even like to keep sealed longer life version in the cupboards in case I run out.
I have mentioned macadamia milk a number of times on this site, in particular, the Milkadamia brand is just incredible and worth a try.
2. Vegan butter
I don’t know how, I guess I just thought making vegan butter was impossible so never looked, but vegan butter is in fact a thing and it is delicious! I prefer it over traditional butter. There is really only one option here Earth Balance Buttery Spread it available just about everywhere and comes in a few different flavors. But the original flavor is the one you will need most, its perfect for buttering morning toast and throwing on top of some popcorn.
3. Soy Protein
The perfect meat substitute. I am not a huge fan of trying to replicate meat dishes, however, when it comes to creating something that looks and has the texture of meat, soy protein is the perfect ingredient. It is so easy to cook it’s laughable and I it absorbs sauce so perfectly. I use it all the time in stirfries, poke bowls, on rice, you name it, soy protein will work.
4. Chia Seeds
I don’t want to get too much into the health benefits of chia seeds here, but I will say they are a great source of hard to get nutrients like Iron, Calcium and Omega 3 fatty acids to name a few, all packed into a tiny little versatile seed that you can put in just about anything. When soaked in water they expand into an almost jello like ball and I use them in my morning shakes or breakfast bowls, I often make chia pudding for a quick snack and they are great in muffins, bread or any baked item, in energy bars/balls and so on, the uses are endless.
5. Dairy Free Chocolate
Just because your a vegan does not mean you cant enjoy chocolate, in fact, the opposite is true. Vegan chocolate tastes way better than milk chocolate and you can find it just about anywhere. Most bean to bar dark chocolates don’t contain dairy, but you need to check the ingredients label to make sure, some brands like Lindt Chocolate are the worst for this, they use dairy in most of their chocolates.
You also have a lot of options for more milky chocolates like the coconut milk chocolate by charm school.
Keep an eye out for bean to bar chocolates that don’t contain soy lecithin as many of them do if your avoiding soy.
Tempe is made from soy but it is processed in a way that makes the texture more versatile. I use it a lot in places where you would usually find meat and its almost always on my shopping list. It is very quick and easy to cook, in a frypan you can brown it on all sides just like a steak. On its own tempe has a nice nutty flavor, however, I almost always marinate it in some kind of source or I just buy it that way. It will keep for upto 2 weeks in the fridge. For people who are just starting out on a vegan diet or for those just looking to replace meat every once in a while Tempe is for you, it has a weight to it that will help you feel fulfilled long after your done eating. I love it on top of a salad for this reason.
Dips, dips, dips, any good dip worth righting home about probably has a good foundation of tahini and seeing as vegans snack a lot, dips are the perfect healthy food to always keep on hand along with some bread or thinly chopped vegetables. You can even make your own, just roast 1 cup of sesame seeds in a pan and then add it and three tablespoons of olive oil to a food processor, it’s that easy.
8. Vegan Nut Cheese
When I first started eating plant-based, there was no such thing as a vegan cheese unless you made it yourself. Nowadays every grocery store I go to has 3-4 options at a minimum and some health food stores stock piles and piles of the stuff. With good reason, it is delicious and so good for you. If you leave a chunk of it on a bench with bread near it, don’t expect it to last long,
9. Vegan Mayonaise
Have you tried vegenaise yet? If not you are truly missing out, it should be called “way better than mayonnaise” because it is, you will find yourself using vegenaise in places you didn’t even use regular mayo before.
The originator of the term “vegenaise” was the Follow Your Heart brand, it has dominated the market for years. It sells 5 varieties including soy-free, reduced fat, grapeseed, original and USDA certified organic. In addition to that, it also comes in several flavors, I personally love the horseradish one.
There are other good brands out there, earth balance is what I use, Hampton Creek and Nasoya are also good brands.
10. Nutritional Yeast
This sneaky little ingredient is used in so many recipes if I tried to list them all I would probably break the internet. It is so versatile and full of flavor. Its main use is as a thickening agent, add it to soups, sauces, and dips when they’re too watery, it will fix them right up, you just need to be aware that it is quite salty so don’t go overboard, however its saltiness also makes it a great sprinkled topping on anything that needs salt e.g popcorn.
11. Vegetable Broth
Ok, this may be a really obvious one, but seriously the amount of vegetable stock I go through in a week is astounding! I do try to make it myself sometimes and keep it in the freezer, but for the most part, I just use store bought, I like to keep at least a few tubs in the cupboard at all times. It a recipe calls for water, feel free to substitute with vegetable brother for a little more flavor.
12. Cacao Butter
A healthier alternative to traditional butter and oils coconut butter is one of my favorite ingredients and can be used in place of oils and butter in just about every case however it is most commonly used in baking. If you’re looking for the best vegan chocolate, it without doubt has a base of coconut butter. If vegan baking is something you do a lot of cacao butter is essential, buy it in bulk if you can.
Other Vegan Ingredients Worth A Mention:
- Dried Fruits
- Beans and Grains
- Maple Syrup
- Flaxseeds (ground)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Sesame Seeds And Oil
We hope you found this list of essential vegan foods beneficial, I wish I had it on my first trip to the grocery store after deciding to become vegan, it would have saved me a lot of time. If you’re making a first-time vegan shopping list, you cant go wrong with these staples, these items will give you the foundation for the best vegan shopping list. If you vary your recipes even just a little, I promise you will use everything you buy and then some. These are without question the most essential vegan ingredients.