I get asked from time to time by the newly vegan or vegan-curious what my absolute must-have vegan pantry staples are. My answer varies by season and what my most recent flavor obsessions are (the month of February brought a loooot of almonds, chocolate, and black beans), but I have certain staples on which I always fall back. I live in Wisconsin, so I am well-versed in living off pantry items when the fresh produce is just a vague memory. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a start!
Quinoa - You’ve heard the hype about this ancient grain, but it’s a nutritious (& delicious) staple which can be ready in about 20 minutes and mixed with anything.
Canned Tomatoes - These make for a super quick dinner. Throw a can of tomatoes, 2 cans of beans, a few teaspoons of spices, and maybe some onion/pepper into a pot and you’ve got chili. They’ve flavorful and bring a taste of summer into food
Oats - My go-to breakfast most days of the week. I also make tons of granola, which is usually as simple as oats + coconut oil + maple syrup + dried coconut.
Flax Oil - Flax seed is a rich source of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Plus, this stuff tastes nutty and is good drizzled on salads or in smoothies!
Dried Beans – WaaaaAAAaaay cheaper to buy in bulk than canned beans (which are already pretty cheap). If I know I’m making a big batch of chili I will buy a bunch of kidney and black beans, soak overnight, them boil them up when I’m making soup. The same goes for dried chickpeas when I make a big batch of falafel or hummus.
Farro - Nutty, earthy, and satisfying to chew! I love making salads with this stuff, especially in the summer when I can chop up fresh herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers and mix them in. I’ve experimented with Trader Joe’s parboiled grains, which are very quick to boil up when you want to make some grains up in a pinch.
Popcorn! – A quick, healthy, and tasty snack you can zest up with a drizzle of olive oil, a few teaspoons of nutritional yeast, and Sriracha. If you haven’t tried this combo YOU HAVEN’T LIVED. Seriously. Try.
Maple Syrup – A low glycemic natural sweetener that works well in muffins, oatmeal, mixed in with blended frozen bananas for “ice cream,” etc etc etc! Maple syrup is proved to contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help prevent several chronic and inflammatory diseases. SWEET!
Steel-cut Oats - Same as oats above, but with a chewier texture and nuttier taste!
Coconut Oil - Awesome for cooking/frying because it’s got a high smoke point. Great for baking, stir-frys or as a dairy free replacement to butter. Coconut oil is also an unreal moisturizer, chapstick, makeup remover, etc.
Spelt Flour - I’ve experimented a lot with healthier whole-grain alternatives to all-purpose flour. Spelt flour contains some gluten, so it’s fairly easy to substitute it into all wheat cookie, bread, etc. recipes, where you will get to enjoy the flavor and higher nutrient profile of spelt without compromising the texture of your baked good. I am also a big fan of buckwheat flour (pancakes!) and almond flour (cookies!).
Brown Rice - Rice is one of the most universally eaten foods in the world and I am no exception. I love making stir fries with seasonal veggies, tofu, tempeh, and whatever else I have lying around and mixing it up with some brown rice. The process that produces brown rice removes only the outermost layer, the hull, of the rice kernel and is the least damaging to its nutritional value!
Chia Seeds - They are the richest plant source of omega-3 (they contain more than salmon!) and are awesome additions to smoothies. I like making overnight oats (mix oats, almond/soy/rice milk, and chia seeds together to create a no-cook tasty breakfast that’s ready in the morning).
Sriracha - I couldn’t create a list of pantry items without including the hot sauce to end all hot sauces. I slather this stuff on everything and anything I can get my hands on. Whatever your hot sauce of choice is, I think a bit bottle is necessary at all times!