Vegan Pantry Essentials

I know first hand that the thought of changing over your entire pantry when choosing a vegan diet is super intimidating. It can feel like you need to re-learn how to cook and shop.

First of all, don’t. Just don’t. Don’t throw away things you have already bought. You don’t need to wake up one day and completely purge your previous lifestyle. For one, that is a huge undertaking, and for another, it is wasteful. Start small. Decide “Okay, I’m not buying milk anymore, I’m only buying almond milk.” or next time you’re out of butter, be sure to pick up a vegan replacement instead. In no time, you’ll have a vegan pantry, and it won’t feel like such a big deal.

I’m sure there are some people who do make the switch overnight, and all the power to you if you can/are willing to do it that way! But easing yourself into it is a reasonable choice too. That said, if you are looking to do a big grocery order, here are my Vegan Pantry Essentials!

  • Nutritional Yeast – this is important if you are going to replicate cheese flavour, and also because it is rich in B12 which is really the only vitamin us vegan can’t find in plants.  You can sprinkle it right on to pasta/salads like parmesan cheese, blend it into “cheese” sauces/salad dressings, and I like to mix it into my veggie burger patties too.
  • Vegan Stock/Bouillon – it is important to get flavour into your vegan food, because we can’t rely on the browning or fat of meat. Cooking with veggie stock is a great way to do this. I like to use vegetarian chicken/beef flavoured bouillon to mimic meat flavours when I’m cooking.
  • Spices! Get crazy with spices. I put garlic & onion powder in almost everything I make. Some other often used spices in my kitchen are: chipotle powder, cumin, ginger powder, chana masala spice mix, garam masala, old bay and more! Don’t be afraid to buy spice mixes that are designed for meats either. That is how you will get those familiar tastes. Curry pastes are wonderful too.
  • Liquid Smoke – I didn’t know I needed this until I tried it and now I put it in so many things! It really adds such a lovely depth to vegan chili, vegan cheese sauces and more.
  • Thickening Agents – So you’re going to be making sauces and they don’t really cook down/thicken the same way as they do when there is dairy involved. Fret not, Arrowroot Powder, Tapioca Starch and Corn Starch are your friends. They will all help to thicken sauces with heat. I like to use Arrowroot powder for cheese/cream sauces, and corn starch for Asian stir-frys or ‘custard’ desserts (like my Fresh Blueberry Pie with Coconut Lemon Curd), because it sets with a slightly jello-like consistency.
  • Miso Paste – for some reason, miso paste tastes like cheese? I don’t know. I’ve never felt that way when drinking miso soup, but trust me if you put miso paste in your vegan cheese sauce, its magical. (note: make sure there aren’t bonito flakes in the brand you buy)
  • TVP (WTF?) – TVP is Textured Vegetable Protein. It kind of looks like sawdust, but its awesome. If you’ve ever tried Veggie Ground Round, TVP is a big part of what makes up the little meat-like bits. When you buy it on its own, its dry and needs to be re-hydrated. I like to add it into my pasta sauces, chili, Vegan Shepherd’s Pie or veggie burger patties. It basically sucks up whatever liquid/flavour you put it in.
  • Coconut Milk – I make a lot of curries at my house when I am stuck for ideas and need to use up some veggies. A bit of coconut milk at the end really transforms them. Its also great for vegan desserts.
  • Beans! I typically buy 4 cans each of chickpeas & lentils at a time, and then add in a couple cans of black beans, navy beans and kidney beans for other recipes. I haven’t ventured into the world of buying dried beans yet. One step at a time, jeez. (note: Don’t throw away your drained chickpea water! Put it in the freezer to use in baking as Aquafaba. I’ll do an entire post on that at some point, I promise, but for now check out my Vegan Pumpkin Scones or Vegan Candy Cane Brownies for examples of how to use Aquafaba)
  • Nuts! Cashews are amazing for making creamy sauces, walnuts add lovely texture to veggie burgers. Other nuts are awesome too, but those are the two I consistently buy.  I like to keep a jar of cashews soaking in water in my fridge so its ready to go when I want to blend them into a sauce. Just rinse them and change the water out every other day so it doesn’t get gross.
  • Tofu – Tofu is amazing. Its so versatile. I buy all different types now. I love the smoked kind for stir fries, or making vegan bacon bits, medium tofu is great for Tofu Scramble and firm tofu rocks for marinating, like Vegan Tofu Feta. You can also blend it into dressings and sauces for a creamy factor. (Also: I know this is post says “pantry” but omg I hope I don’t have to say keep your tofu in the fridge).

Don’t feel defeated if you end up buying “fake meats” a lot at first. I know I did. (where my Gardein Chickn Strips at?) But while some of those products are delicious, they are not good for you. They rely heavily on salt.  I am slowly learning how to make those types of things for myself so I can control what goes in them, but in the beginning, don’t beat yourself up for buying vegan junk food. You’ll get better!

Is my list missing anything that you buy/use on a regular basis? Let me know in the comments below!

Main Street: The Arbor

Last weekend I tried out The Acorn’s sister restaurant The Arbor. I’ve seen many, many Instagram posts of their dishes, so I was dying to try it out!


If you’re like me and you follow nothing but food accounts on social media, you may have already seen this insane sandwich. It is the Southern Fried Artichoke Sandwich. Made vegan by substituting macadamia cheese, this thing is ridiculously delicious. Fried artichokes, tangy vegan cheese, grilled eggplant, slaw and jalapeños, its a flavour bomb in your mouth. I know I’ll be going back, and I want to sample the rest of the menu, but I honestly think I’ll just order this forever.


Obviously they have other things on their menu, my friend ordered the tacos, with poblano peppers and crimini mushrooms, and she enjoyed them. The deep fried oyster mushrooms and the broccoli popcorn sound super legit. But 1000% try the artichoke sandwich at some point!

Address: 3941 Main Street

Cost: Appies are $5-8, Entrees are $9-14, Drinks $6-11

Website: www.thearborrestaurant.ca

Top Dish: If you follow just about any vegan Instagram account in Vancouver, you have without a doubt seen the Southern Fried Artichoke Sandwich (pictured above). Its the bomb. Try it. Now.

Vegan? The Arbor is completely vegetarian, with all but one item on having a vegan option listed right on the menu.

Turmeric Ginger Lime Butternut Squash Soup

We get our fair share of grey weather here in BC, so having a plethora of soup recipes to warm your bones is key. This one takes about 20 minutes, its full of healthy ingredients, and it’s delicious too! 


Turmeric Ginger Lime Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 2 inches ginger root, minced
  • 1 tbsp each of fresh sage and thyme, minced
  • 2 cups cubed, frozen butternut squash
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (optional)
  • 2-3 cups veggie stock
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk

In a large pot, saute onion, carrot, ginger and fresh herbs in olive oil, over medium heat. Once the onion and carrot are tender, add in the frozen butternut squash.

Continue to saute, and once the squash has thawed, add the garlic powder, turmeric, lime juice and sriracha.  Toss to coat evenly.

Add in 2 cups of veggie stock and allow to simmer for 5-10 mins (this is meant to be a quick lunchtime soup, but you could let it go longer, up to 30 mins to really meld the flavours together).

Carefully blend the mixture with an immersion blender. Make sure the end is fully submerged. The amount you blend is up to you, I like this soup fairly smooth, but feel free to leave chunky. If you need extra liquid, now is the time for the remaining veggie stock.

Once smooth, stir in the coconut milk for extra silkiness. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk on top, and some croutons if you like. Enjoy!

 

Yaletown: Nuba Cafe 

I find one of the best ways to discover tasty vegan dishes is to try out different ethnic cuisines. Lebanese fare is one of my favourites lately. There is a wide variety of flavourful foods that are meant to be vegan or vegetarian. They didn’t just take away the meat/cheese, the recipe was designed to be delicious without animal products.

With that in mind, I need to warn you, you will become addicted to Nuba. In particular the deep-fried cauliflower dish called “Najib’s Special”. Its crispy, lemony and salty, and so so delicious. I normally order the “plate” which includes hummus, salad, olives, pita, potatoes or rice and tahini/hot sauce. Its $13 and you’ll be so full you’ll want to die (or you can take home leftovers if you’re a total weirdo…).

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Their housemade hummus is worth the trip alone, and the tabouleh salad is a lovely fresh side dish. Apparently they have falafel and a lentil based dish called Mjadra but I’ve always been so blinded by the cauliflower that I’ve never ventured into those. All in all, with 4 locations, Nuba is a must for vegan eaters in Vancouver.

Address: 508 Davie St, right next to Krokodile Pear Juicery and Choice’s Market or one of their 3 other locations in Gastown, Mount Pleasant and Kits.

Cost: “Plates” which include hummus, salad, olives, pita and choice of rice/potato are only $13 ! Items can be ordered a la carte  starting at $5.

Website: www.nuba.ca

Top Dish: Najib’s Special

Vegan? Nuba is not entirely vegan, but they have a variety of delicious vegan dishes.