Whether you are a newly crowned vegan, a lover of vegan cuisine or a long time member of the vegan community, there are some staple pantry items that are super helpful to have on hand to allow for a smoothly executed vegan meal. This is in no way an exhaustive list. There are definitely other plant based pantry items that people love to cook with, but I wanted to make sure this list reflected what you would see in my recipes as well as what I use on a daily basis. Keep an eye out for upcoming recipes that feature these ingredients (I will update this post with the links to make them easy to find)!
If I’ve missed important ones, feel free to add them in the comments!
I think we all knew this ingredient was going to be on this list. Let’s be real, nutritional yeast is an absolute Godsend when it comes to plant based cooking. For those who haven’t tried it, nutritional yeast is not a live yeast like you use in bread and actually contains a fair amount of vitamins and amino acids. It’s a nice way to get that nutty, savoury, cheesiness without having to rummage through plant based cheese options that admittedly aren’t always the best. It can easily be sprinkled on to popcorn, salads and pasta as well as incorporated into sauces and fillings. Nutritional yeast is often added into the majority of vegan pasta recipes and is definitely great to have on hand for last minute dinners that still hit the spot (like this Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta)!
If you are somewhat of a foodie, I am sure that you have heard about the importance of adding that umami factor to your recipes. That depth of savoury flavour can seem difficult to achieve in vegan cooking due to the absence of animal products, but fear not! Miso paste will save the day. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans as well as other ingredients that differ depending on which blend you get. Though this paste is traditionally Japanese, it’s actually a great ingredient to add to a bunch of different types of cuisine. I love pairing white miso paste with ingredients like mushrooms, lentils and legumes to heighten that umami flavour in everything from pasta to stir frys!
This summer (thanks to a good old quarantine), I became obsessed with cashews. So did my brother actually, but he just preferred to eat them as a daily snack. Like many others, I discovered the beauty of making my own cashew milk and creamer. If you plan ahead by soaking cashews overnight or just quick-soak them in boiling water, they are a great ingredient to blend into plant based white sauces (think bechamel and alfredo). Play with the cashew to water ratio to aim for more of a cashew cream and feel free to add things like cinnamon and dates to spice things up! You will definitely see a lot of pasta recipes on my blog that include cashews but I am also looking to change things up to offer you some nut free options.
I can tell you that tahini is a great ingredient that I add to sweet and savouree recipes alike and that it adds so much depth to every dish. Or I can tell you the truth. I just love to drizzle tahini on everything. Roasted veggies – tahini drizzle. Sweet potato muffins – tahini drizzle. Rice with lentils – tahini drizzle. Tahini is made from ground sesame and is widely known as a staple ingredient in hummus. Think of tahini as a more versatile peanut butter. It is great in baking, pairs nicely with chocolate but also with your favourite fall comfort dishes.
Flax Seeds/Hemp Hearts/Chia Seeds
Seeds and nuts are generally important to include in a plant based diet to gain healthy fats, protein, omegas and other micronutrients. Flax seeds, hemp hearts and chia seeds can be great salad, smoothie and oatmeal toppers, but can also play other roles in a plant based kitchen. Combining flax seeds and water is a great egg replacement in vegan baking recipes while chia seeds thicken up things like coconut milk to give you a great pudding-like result!
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Having a good quality acid in your pantry will be a life saver in more ways than one. Cooking is all about balance of flavours and often you need that acidity to balance out other heavy components in a dish. In plant based cooking, apple cider vinegar also allows us to make a vegan version of buttermilk to give us that extra fluffy outcome while baking. Try using one cup of plant based milk with one tablespoon of ACV (or lemon juice), let it stand for a little and observe how the texture changes to mimic buttermilk. I love using this to add to pancakes and muffins!
This obviously had to make the list, I am Canadian after all! I am not exaggerating when I say I use maple syrup almost everyday. It is one of my favourite ingredients for baking, making dressings, marinades and just simply adding on top of french toast and even in coffee! Note the importance of getting maple syrup and not table syrup (which is basically just corn syrup). Don’t be afraid to test swapping out sugar in recipes for maple syrup, just be conscious of the added liquid! I specifically love it in pumpkin or sweet potato recipes.
I just recently had a conversation with my partner about how soy sauce can be used in much more than just stir frys which made me realize that it should definitely go on this list! Just like miso, soy sauce, tamari and coconut aminos (which can all be interchangeable in most cases), add a nice salty/savoury side to dishes. Coconut aminos are a great soy free and low sodium alternative that add that nice browning affect while being a bit sweeter and thinner than soy sauce. Tamari is a nice gluten free option with a flavour that tends to be a little more balanced than soy sauce – it’s less of that hard hitting salty flavour. These three staples go great with mushrooms, lentils, legumes but are also my favourite ingredient to add to tofu marinades (just like in this recipe)