A well-stocked pantry is always a good idea, and even more so given the current global crisis. With people instructed to limit their outings and stay at home as much as they can, it’s now even more relevant to make sure your food cupboard is full and abundant with shelf-stable items that’ll last you a while. Buying in bulk will also help you save money too. If your pantry is small or relegated to one shelf of cupboard space, consider buying some heavy-duty shelves to add to your wall or put up in your basement.
Home-growing and gardening go hand-in-hand with keeping a full pantry. Consider starting your own herb garden and drying those out, or if you have an outdoor garden, try planting fruit trees and vegetables that you can then preserve for months to come.
It’s easy to go to excess when stocking, especially in these times, but do be considerate of others’ pantries too and only stock what you need. Community is important, and it’s always good to share with your neighbours.
Vegan Pantry Staples
Pantry staples are those essential foods that you’ll be able to use for many dishes, diversifying your home cooking - and they often happen to be vegan. Things like grains, pulses, tinned foods, dried fruits, nuts and seeds are great options that are versatile and nutritious. But you can also keep various oils, nut butters, sauces and spices. And they’re often less expensive than fridge or freezer items with a limited best-by-date. Tailor your pantry must-haves to your own tastes and culinary background, using the guide below for help on what you’ll want to make sure you keep around.
Beans are a fantastic vegan pantry staple. Rich in protein, fibre, and minerals, they pair easily with many foods and can be used in various cuisines. Plus, there are so many types of beans - from white beans to red beans to pinto beans - you can be sure you won’t be bored. For a crowd-pleasing bean recipe, here’s a vegetarian chilli that’ll warm everyone up on a cold day. Or, check out this classic Italian dish for a white bean salad, perfect as a side or for a light meal.
A relative to the bean, lentils are another type of legume chock-full of healthy nutrients like folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and are a great source of fibre. Like beans, they have no cholesterol and are low in fats. From French lentils to split yellow lentils, you’ll be able to use them in everything from Mediterranean recipes to Indian dals. For an easy go-to option,try this vegan red lentil soup.
Another legume, chickpeas are a great source of protein and versatile to eat whole or purée into dips like hummus or baba ganoush. They’re also rich in vitamins and help regulate digestion, as well as contributing to reducing your risk of chronic disease. Indulge in a vegan chickpea meatloafor make a comforting soup to reap all the benefits.
Dried pasta (not fresh, as many fresh pastas contain eggs) is a great vehicle for many a wonderful dish. You can choose from whole-wheat options if you want to avoid refined white carbs, or even go the gluten-free route. Pasta made from brown rice, chickpea flour, and buckwheat can be found in most health food stores. Dried pasta is inexpensive and filling, and just plain comforting.
Rice and grains
Rice is such a universal staple food, it’d be criminal to not have some in your pantry. Of course there are numerous other grains you can have too, each with a slightly different flavour profile and application. Try barley, sorghum, or millet for alternatives to rice that’ll still be packed with whole nutrients. This vegan pea risotto is creamy and satisfying, you won’t even realise the dairy is missing.
Oats are naturally gluten-free, making this a great option for those avoiding the gluten found in pasta or bread (just make sure you check the label to confirm no cross-contamination if you’re allergic). Packed with fibre and other well-balanced nutrients, oats can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. You can eat them for breakfast, but try changing it up and having savoury porridge or making your own oat milk or oat flour instead.
Having a few different flours in your pantry means you can whip up breads, pancakes, baked goods, and pastas of your choice. Standard white flour is a staple, but try branching out and experimenting with spelt and einkorn flours for breads, or chickpea flour for vegan omelettes. Almond flour is also a great alternative for baking sweets and a source of protein for vegans. Just make sure you store your flour in a food-grade container with a tight lid so it doesn’t go rancid or get infested with bugs.
Nuts, seeds and dried fruits
Nuts and seeds are packed with healthy fats and protein, whilst dried fruits are high in vitamins. They’re all great additions to a vegan diet and can be used in a myriad of ways. Nuts are great as nut butters, the most common being peanut and almond. However, alternatives such as pistachio, hazelnut and walnut butter are interesting and tasty too (although go for brands that don’t have any other additives to best reap the health benefits). Seeds too are incredibly concentrated in nutrients and can easily be added to smoothies, baked goods, or as crunchy salad toppings. Quinoa and buckwheat are technically seeds, although they are generally considered as grains and can be eaten whole or used as flours. Dried fruits meanwhile are fantastic sources of fibre and antioxidants, and should be stored in tightly lidded jars in a cool, dark place.
Nutritional yeast is a single-celled organism that is extracted from glucose and then dried out. It’s often fortified with B12 and has some amounts of folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein too. It’s a great replacement for grated cheese in many recipes, with a similar umami salty punch. Use as a topping for popcorn or pasta dishes, or blend up with cashews to make a creamy sauce.
Derived from sesame seeds, tahini is a nutty paste that can be used in a number of ways. You might know it as one of the ingredients in hummus or as a topping for falafel, but it’s also great as a salad dressing or burger sauce, or as a dip all by itself. Or, add into cake batters and cookies and reap all the healthy skin and cell promoting benefits. If you’re allergic to sesame there are options for you too. Other seed butters include pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, and hemp seed butter.
Tomato sauce comes in all shapes and sizes - from canned crushed tomatoes to whole plum, to jarred sauces or pastes, tomato products serve as a base for all types of sauces, soups, and stews. They’re great and inexpensive alternatives to fresh tomato products, and you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in tomatoes out of season. It’s best to choose a brand with no additives like salt or sugar.
In recent years we’ve seen a number of plant-based milks crop up as alternatives to dairy. Soy milk was one of the first, popular because of it’s high protein content. It’s great for baking, cooking, or just having straight. Almond milk is another popular contender, as versatile as soy milk if not a bit thinner in texture. The ever popular oat milk is a great creamy alternative that can be used in baking or in your morning coffee drink, with a wonderful thick texture really similar to whole milk. There’s also rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk. The choice is yours.
A well-stocked spice cabinet is essential for the pantry, vegan or not. There are as many spices and spice blends as there are cuisines, so the options are endless. Universal basics include salts, peppers, and paprikas, while others like cumin, cardamom and turmeric are bold and reserved for stronger palates. There are also dried herbs like basil, tarragon and sage, and even spice blends for pre-mixing so you save time.
With a salty and funky hit, miso is best used in small doses but adds a wonderful bit of umami to soups, stews, and marinades. If unopened, miso can be stored in your pantry as long as it’s cool and dark. Once opened however, it should be kept in the fridge. For a classic recipe using miso, look no further than this tofu and bean sprout miso soup.
Maple syrup and other sweeteners
Maple syrup is known for pancakes and french toast but it’s a great way to add subtle flavour to sweet and savoury dishes too. Try some maple-glazed carrots and parsnips for autumnal vibes, or just stick to using it in your baked goods. Other sweeteners you can try out include coconut sugar, date syrup or sugar, and brown rice syrup.
Coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut butter
Coconut products are good alternatives for dairy creams and milks, although they have slightly different uses. Coconut milk is a good thickener forcurriesand stews, and also works well replacing dairy milk in baked goods or drinks. Coconut cream is thicker and good for recipes that require a heavy cream, and it can also be diluted with a bit of water to imitate coconut milk. Coconut butter, meanwhile, is like a coconut paste made by pulsing the meat of the coconut into a thick butter-like texture. Great as a spread or frosting.