Most of us were raised as omnivores (eaters of plants and animals), and depending on our culture and our parents’ preferences, we always seemed to have certain items available in our kitchen. These were usually the type of items that could be used in many different dishes, and they could help us easily whip up a quick meal. Thinking back, you probably now realise that many of those items were not vegan. Obviously, when you go vegan, your kitchen pantry needs to get a do-over too. Let’s re-evaluate the kitchen pantry and pick up some new must-have’s! 

It’s best to think of our kitchens as having two types of foods. First, there are items that have a long shelf life. It’s smart to buy these foods in bulks because it can help us save money! Second, there are fresh items we’ll need to buy on a weekly basis. Ultimately, the better we stock our kitchen pantries the easier it is to stick to healthy eating.

Here is a list of some must-have’s for your vegan kitchen pantry. All of these items have a long shelf life – so stock up!

Legumes

Make sure you have a variety of dried and canned legumes in your pantry. Even if you’re someone who prefers dried legumes to canned ones, I’d still recommend having a few cans handy for when you need to quickly create a meal. Also, always look for low sodium options.

Remember, legumes include chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, split peas & red and green lentils.

Note: Split lentils break up more, thus great for thickening dishes. They cook much faster whereas whole lentils require more cooking time and are better for salads as they retain their shapes after cooking.

Grains

Grains are a great source of important nutrients and can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Choose whole grains such as oats, barley, brown or wild rice, bulgur. Also, though not technically a grain, quinoa makes a great base for many dishes. 

By keeping a selection of grains in your kitchen you can make your meals more interesting.

Pasta

Pasta is not only affordable, but it’s also versatile and makes a great staple. You have so many options to choose from that pasta never gets boring. Always keep a few of your favourite varieties on hand such as spaghetti, macaroni, penne, linguine and much more. Also, be sure to include healthier alternatives such as whole wheat or spelt pasta and buckwheat noodles.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are an excellent plant-based source of protein and healthy fats! They make a great snack or can even be added to salads and porridges. Choose raw, unsalted nuts and seeds to optimise their health benefits. I always have extra bags of cashews in my pantry because they can be used to make creamy sauces for pasta.

And don’t forget to grab some flaxseed and walnuts – both are packed with essential omega 3 fatty acids and should be consumed on a daily basis.

Note: Flaxseed, once opened, needs to be stored in the fridge or oxygen in the air will damage the fatty acids. 

Nutritional yeast

This may be something you haven’t tried before – but you should! Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast packed with minerals and vitamins. It’s especially full of Vitamin B12 (do double check to make sure it’s fortified with Vitamin B12). It has a cheesy, nutty flavour and can be used in sauces or sprinkled on sandwiches.

Note: We only need 2.5 micrograms of Vitamin B12 per day, so two teaspoons of nutritional yeast would meet your daily requirement.

Condiments

Many items in your pantry like ketchup, mustard and soy sauce are probably already vegan. I also recommend adding a few more great additions: apple cider vinegar, vegan hot sauce, curry sauce and lemon juice. Just make sure to check the label and invest in those items with low or no sodium and minimal sugar content. 

Have a bit of a sweet tooth? Maple syrup, date syrup, agave are natural sweeteners and a great substitute for sugar.

Side note: Apple cider vinegar is not a magic bullet for weight loss. There are just not enough studies demonstrating its benefits. The only significant study was done in Japan which showed a reduction in weight, BMI and body fat. One study is simply not enough!

Vegetable stock

Vegetable stocks or cubes offer a great base for many recipes, adding flavour and nutrients. They’re also crucial if you want to cook oil-free. But make sure to look for low-sodium brands, or if you have some vegetable scraps, you can easily make your own vegetable broth.

Frozen fruits and veggies

Keeping a selection of your favourite frozen fruits and vegetables on hand significantly cuts down on your meal preparation time. There’s no need for any peeling or chopping, and you can easily make a smoothie or whip up a stir fry instead of munching on junk food.

Note: Studies suggest that frozen fruits and vegetables are as nutritious as fresh ones!

Spices and herbs

Spices and herbs add flavour to your dishes and make them more enjoyable, especially if you cook without oil. Oils distort the taste of foods, and without it, you can really experiment and discover new flavours. 

Herbs and spices don’t take up much space, so keep a large collection, including turmeric, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, Himalayan salt, sea salt, garlic powder, dill, thyme, and oregano. 

Nut butter

It’s a great idea to have different nut butters stocked in your cupboard. They are high in protein, fibre and full of heart-healthy fats. You can spread nut butter on your sandwich or add them to your smoothies. Also try using them as a dip with a piece of fruit or some veggie sticks as a snack. 

The two most well-known nut butters are almond and peanut butter, but you’ll also love cashew butter and walnut butter.

Oils

I’d like to mention oils. Many vegan recipes call for oil such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil or flaxseed oil.

Remember though, all oils, even extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, are processed. If you’re following a whole food, plant-based diet as recommended by Dr. McDougall and many other notable physicians, then you don’t need any oils in your pantry.

Note: If you use flaxseed oil, make sure not to heat it because heat damages the omega 3.