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!