For those of you who are on the fence about veganism, or are worried about knowing what to cook with, this blog post might be your answer. I have compiled a list of my go-to pantry staples and things that I keep around all the time to make cooking vegan fun, easy, and delicious.
While vegan food lacks dairy products and meat, there are endless flavor combinations and ingredients that will make you forget about dairy and meat all together. The first two questions I get from people when I tell them I am vegan are "How do you get your protein?" and "How do you bake without eggs?".
Unfortunately, the meat and dairy industry has conditioned us to believe that all of our meals must be centered around a large-portioned protein source and the FDA has emphasized it even more. While I am not a nutritionist or certified health coach (yet), I do know (from personal experience and from listening to peoples' stories) that it is possible to get more than enough protein from a plant-based diet. With that being said, here are a few ingredients that make adopting a plant-based lifestyle much easier.
15 Must-Have Vegan Pantry Staples:
I use flaxseed meal regularly in my vegan baking because when combined with water, you can create a flax "egg". I sometimes like to add 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal to my smoothies as well for a good source of healthy Omega-3 fats. To make one flax "egg", combine 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes and use in recipes as needed!
Creamy, salted peanut butter
Now this is just my personal favorite because I absolutely cannot live without peanut butter and I eat it at lease once a day. Not only is it delicious but it is a great source of healthy fats. I eat it on top of a piece of toast with banana slices, cinnamon, and a drizzle of agave syrup!
Black beans (and all legumes) are an excellent source of plant-based protein. You can easily throw them into soups, salads, and TACOS! (Try my taco recipe in my I'M HUNGRY cookbook to see how I incorporate beans into my meals).
Coconut oil is perfect for baking, cooking, and frying. I like using coconut oil because it is incredibly versatile and doesn't add (or take away) any flavors from a recipe.
Oats oats oats! Perfect for breakfast, baked goods, and shockingly, in vegan cheeses! Stay tuned for more recipes using oats. You can also find my recipes for Oatmeal 3 ways in my cookbook!
Unsweetened almond milk
Another thing I use on a daily basis is almond milk. It goes into all of my smoothies, most of my pasta sauces, and with my fruit and nut granola! (Tip: melt a little chocolate, heat some almond milk up on the stove, and whisk together for a yummy hot cocoa!)
Yet another way to add a little sweet & spice to any recipe. I use cinnamon more often than not in baked goods, on toast, and in smoothies.
This is an ingredient that most people are unfamiliar with. Some of the main benefits of nutritional yeast include:
It is a complete protein: Nutritional yeast contains all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food. One tablespoon contains 2 grams of protein, making it an easy way for vegans to add high-quality protein to meals.
It contains many B vitamins: One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 30–180% of the RDI for B vitamins. When fortified, it is especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Consuming nutritional yeast can be an effective way to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency while on a vegan diet.
It has a cheesy-like flavor which makes it a great addition to pasta sauces and soups. (Tip: sprinkle it on top of popcorn with some salt for some added flavor depth).
While maple syrup is excellent on pancakes and waffles, it also acts as a great sweetener in recipes including my Sweet n Spicy Salsa Verde and my Vegan Banana Bread! (In the cookbook as well).
Vegetable broth is a staple in any savory recipe. It adds so much flavor and can help thin out sauces, soups, and stews. I haven't tried making my own but if any of you attempt to do so I would love to hear how it turns out!
Whole wheat flour
Breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, scones, gnocchi, pasta, pizza, cookies, CARBS!!! If you are a gluten-free person, than obviously the whole wheat route isn't for you. But I would recommend coconut flour – It is rather tasty and fun to bake with!
I think dates are extremely underrated. While some people fear them for being a slightly enlarged raisin, I would have to say that they are a splendid way to sweeten up any recipe without actually using sugar. The natural fructose from dates make them a perfect way to incorporate some natural sweetness AND fiber to any recipe.
What can I do with dates...?
Throw a handful (pitted, of course) into a banana smoothie to make a banana-date shake!
Cut a few partially open, remove the pits, fill them with creamy peanut butter, a sprinkle of shredded coconut, and melt some chocolate over the top. Freeze for 10-15 minutes and voila! You have a delicious, easy, mid-afternoon treat or evening dessert!
Chop into pieces and toss into some homemade granola! (Check out my granola video here).
Eat alone for some quick fuel. Dates are a great snack to bring on a hike!
Coconut is so dreamy, decadent, and creamy and will bring a new depth to your dishes. I use coconut milk frequently in my Thai Green Curry, Curried Cauliflower Soup, and in my Coconut Cream Pie. It also makes an excellent whipped cream alternative when refrigerated and whipped with some vanilla and organic powdered sugar.
My favorite use for it lately has been in my coffee! I made my own coffee creamer by combining 1 can of coconut milk with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. I added all of these ingredients to a mason jar and store it in my fridge to enjoy in my coffee every morning!
Whole raw cashews
I never thought I would use cashews as much as I do when I went vegan. I knew that cashew "cheeses" existed and that sometimes they were used to make cheesecakes but I never realized how versatile they are in recipes that typically call for heavy cream. Cashews are used in numerous pasta sauce recipes and can be an awesome way to make dairy free Alfredo or mac and cheese sauce. They can also be used for pie crusts, to make Tzatziki sauce for my falafel bowls.
Typically, recipes that use cashews will have you soak the cashews overnight or for several hours at a time so I like to keep some soaking in my fridge to save time.
A couple of fun cashew recipes I have been using lately:
Short grain brown rice
I cannot tell you how much I have grown to love rice and rice bowls. Once there was a time when I was afraid to eat more than 1/2 cup of it at one time and wow was that a crazy time. Rice is a great source of carbohydrates and makes an excellent pre-race fuel source. (And just a general life fuel source). I love how I can turn just about anything into a rice bowl and the rice brings the whole meal together. Try my Teriyaki Bowl Recipe or my Thai Green Curry over a big bowl of rice!
Stay tuned for more vegan pantry and food staples from me next month, and if you have any questions and/or suggestions, contact me here.