If you keep all of these things on hand I guarantee the meal possibilities will be endless. Plus a few treats here and there. From the pantry to the fridge and perishables that I use on a weekly basis to those that are a rare treat. I didn’t realize how much food we have until I made this list!
There are also links to my favorite products so that you can make up your own mind whether you want to give them a try or not.
Have a suggestion about something I missed? Please let me know in the comments!
Arrowroot powder– this is a great gluten-free alternative to flour if you need to thicken up a sauce. This is probably the best thickener I have used. You can read more about it here.
Baking powder/soda– not just a vegan staple. If you want to be able to bake up a treat on a whim you need to have these on hand.
Beans: dried/canned– Even before going soy-free we ate a lot of beans. Beans are so important for a well-balanced vegan diet. If you are tired of the same old bean dishes and need some inspiration check out this cookbook recommendation. Some of the beans we use most often are: black beans, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), pinto beans, white beans (or Great Northern beans), kidney beans, black eyed peas, green lentils, red lentils, and split peas. We did at one point have canned beans on our grocery list every week until I started making our own. If you buy beans in bulk and make them yourself it comes out to be much cheaper and definitely healthier. I buy a pound or two of one bean each week and cook them in my slow cooker over night. All you have to do is drain and rinse them, measure out portions of 1.5 cups (the amount equivalent to one 15 oz can), then store them in containers in the freezer. It’s super easy to pull out the serving you need the night before so they will be thawed and ready to use in amazingly tasty dishes (including dessert).
Blackstrap molasses– so much more than a sweetener. Make sure you get Blackstrap molasses as other molasses do not have the same benefits. Blackstrap molasses is very high in iron which isn’t always easy to get in a vegan diet. I add a tablespoon to my smoothies and mix a little in pancake batter and use it to sweeten up my oatmeal. Iron dilemma solved!
Canned tomatoes– we use canned tomatoes anywhere from once to three times a week on average. Make sure to have a variety on hand and not just diced. You can do a lot with crushed, whole, and straight up sauce. Don’t forget the paste!!! Also, fire roasted canned tomatoes are a great flavor component to have for dishes like chili. I would recommend sticking with organic. Muir Glen is always good but we do buy the organic variety of the store brand at Sprouts and Whole Foods.
Chia seeds– are good to add to just about anything or you could easily make your own chia pudding! You can use them as an egg replacer, too, by simply mixing with water and waiting for it to gel. Chia seeds offer a source for omega-3 fatty acids missing in your vegan diet. I love to put a tablespoon of them in my smoothie, or add to anything from granola to banana breads. We use Bob’s Red Mill chia seeds. They’re not cheap but they are oh so worth it.
Cocoa powder– unsweetened of course. Whenever I’m in the mood for a little chocolate and the recipe doesn’t call for it I just add a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder and my craving is fixed. I add it to anything from pancakes to chili. Yes, you read that right, chili! Check out this wonderful Sweet Potato Chocolate Chili with Kale recipe from Honk if You’re Vegan.
Coconut– anything and everything coconut! Coconut oil, dried shredded coconut, canned coconut milk and/or cream. We use all of these often. Coconut oil is the best oil for you and has so many more uses and benefits than being confined to the kitchen. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of 50 uses for coconut oil.
Cornmeal– has many uses! I love to make polenta. We also love cornbread and making our own pizza crust. If you’re in search for a good cornbread recipe this is the only one I will make (the chili is pretty good too).
Dried pasta– need I say more? Whether you have a pasta dish planned or not it’s a quick dinner fix. Even if you’re not gluten-free give gluten-free pasta a chance. I love the different flavor and texture they have. Besides, easing up on your gluten consumption will do you no harm.
Flaxseed meal– what a wonderful egg replacer! This is the main reason I keep this on hand. Just take 2.5 tablespoons of flaxseed meal and whisk with 3 tablespoons of warm water to replace one egg. We use Bob’s Red Mill golden flaxseed meal.
Flours: non GF and GF– gluten-free or not there are tons of flours out there. Our favorite brands for flour are Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur. The flours that I have used and like are: white whole wheat, bread, whole wheat pastry, almond, garbanzo bean, buckwheat, and brown rice. These barely cover 10% of the flours that are available so I encourage you to pick one up and experiment with it. We use the white whole wheat whenever a recipe calls for all-purpose. The bread flour is reserved for making bread and pizza dough in our bread machine. I like to use the whole wheat pastry flour for pancakes or anything that requires baking. The garbanzo bean flour could possibly be my favorite. There is an awesome recipe for chickpea omelettes that I love making and I made these while experimenting with it.
Grains– whole grains are where it’s at. Grains have been getting a bad rap lately but I think there is some confusion going on about them. Whole grains are good, refined grains are bad. Too much of anything can be bad for you which is why a well-balanced diet is so important. The whole grains we use most often are: brown rice, arborio rice (strictly for risotto), quinoa (technically a seed), rolled oats, millet, bulgur, and barley. We usually dip into the bulk bins for these grains.
Hot Sauce– one word… CHOLULA! Every kitchen needs hot sauce unless you are some kind of weirdo that doesn’t like hot things (no judgment). There are other brands like Tabasco and Frank’s Red Hot. Whatever you fancy is perfectly fine but we will always be the house of Cholula.
Liquid smoke– great way to add that smoky flavor to recipes without the bacon! Or you could make just about any veggie into bacon like this eggplant bacon. I use the Colgin brand. There are different flavors, try them all and see what you like. My two favorites are hickory and apple.
Liquid sweetener– maple syrup, agave nectar, and brown rice syrup. All of these are great to have since they are good at different times. I prefer dark amber maple syrup but no specific brand. We hardly use agave anymore after discovering that it’s not the best alternative. Brown rice syrup is about the healthiest sweetener there is. I’ve only seen the Lundberg brand in stores so I’ll recommend that by default.
Nutritional yeast– also affectionately referred to as nooch. I have only seen two brands Braggs and the Whole Foods brand. Bob’s Red Mill also has some but I haven’t seen it in stores. We prefer the Whole Foods nutritional yeast because it comes in a huge container and lasts a good amount of time. It can be found with the supplements. Brewer’s yeast is NOT the same as nutritional yeast so make sure you are buying the right thing. Don’t know what nutritional yeast is, check this out. We love to sprinkle it on freshly popped popcorn and you can’t make a decent cheeze sauce without it.
Nuts/seeds– can’t have enough. Don’t get me started on the many uses of whole raw cashews (savory cream, sweet cream, soy-free chorizo, etc.). Just make sure you always have some, you’ll thank me later. Don’t forget about other nuts and seeds though. We use almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower kernels, and pepitas a lot too.
Peanut butter or other nut butter– not just for a PB&J. It’s great to make a peanut sauce for an Asian-inspired dish, flavor oatmeal, or bake something special. There are a few brands that we buy. The Sprouts brand is just as good as Earth Balance or Skippy Naturals. Whatever you like will be perfect. I don’t care for the stir kind but that’s just me.
Spices/extracts– you can never have too many spices. I had to install special racks on the inside of my pantry door so I would have more space for all of my spices. It’s a miracle if I walk out of Penzey’s without spending at least $20 on spices I don’t have a need for yet. The spices, herbs, and extracts I use most often are: garlic, onion, oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, cumin, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, curry, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, almond extract, and peppermint extract. Not to mention a lot of fun spice blends and anything that will make my dinner nice and spicy. Salt and pepper are a given but do try out the different kinds of salt and pepper there are.
Sugar- not all sugars are vegan. When buying sugar it is best to look for vegan certified sugars so that you are certain it is. Any organic and raw sugar will also be vegan. Some examples of what to look for are: evaporated cane juice, sucanat, turbinado, coconut sugar, maple sugar, stevia, etc.
Vegan chocolate chips or carob chips– eat them straight from the bag or use them to make a frosting. Who can say no to chocolate chips? Carob chips are a little different but I use them interchangeably. I like to buy Sunspire or Enjoy Life brands. I know there are some store brands that are vegan as well. Read the label, you may be surprised what you can eat. Just remember even if it is vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Vegetable broth/bouillon– You will always need one or the other to boost that flavor of soups, stews, and so much more. My go to vegetable stock is from Kitchen Basics. I love this brand because there is no salt added and doesn’t have any weird unnecessary ingredients, just vegetables. I use bouillon cubes for two things- when using the slow cooker and making seitan. There was one brand I exclusively used until I opened my eyes and noticed a better one next to it. The brand I recommend now is Rapunzel. I like this brand for the same reason I like Kitchen Basics, there is no added salt and is made with real ingredients.
Vinegar– from plain old white and cider to a fancier balsamic and garlic red wine. Having different kinds of vinegars will prove to be very useful. They’re not just great to make a quick dressing. If you whisk 1 tablespoon of white or cider vinegar with 1 cup non-dairy milk and let sit for 10 minutes you’ll have vegan buttermilk.
Vital wheat gluten is what you need if you want to make your own seitan (a meat alternative also referred to as wheat meat). It is very easy to do but it does take time. There are many recipes in the web world and in a few vegan cookbooks. This recipe is just one example of what to do with vital wheat gluten. If you are also soy-free it would probably be best to make your own seitan since 99% of pre-made seitan is made with soy sauce. We use Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten.
Applesauce– natural unsweetened is best. Not only is it a great snack, maybe sprinkled with a little cinnamon or flavored with some jam, but this makes for a great egg replacer too. There are about a million (possible exaggeration) recipes out there for pancakes and baked goods using applesauce instead of eggs.
Frozen fruit– wonderful for a quick smoothie fix.
Frozen vegetables– great on those nights when you’re not feeling like prepping fresh vegetables. They are easy to throw into soups and pasta dishes too.
Hummus– if you don’t make your own you should at least buy a tub every week. Are we the only ones that go through a tub a week? It’s a wonderfully quick healthy snack with veggies or crackers. We also love to use it on a sandwich instead of mayo.
Miso (regular or chickpea)– if you’re not soy-free great get some miso cause it’s pretty awesome. If you are soy-free don’t fret there is miso for you too. The easiest soy-free miso to find is chickpea and we buy the Miso Master brand. I made this wonderful sauce to top off some breakfast sandwiches using chickpea miso.
Non-dairy butter– some people can’t live without butter. If you happen to be one of them then Earth Balance was made for you. They have all sorts of vegan butters. They even have soy-free. Earth Balance also has them in baking sticks along with vegan shortening.
Non-dairy cheese– whether you are newly vegan and need that transition or you have been vegan for a while Daiya is the best. Whatever you do don’t expect it to be exactly like dairy cheese because it’s not, IT’S BETTER! Daiya keeps coming out with more and more awesome products. They recently released their cream cheese which is soy-free like all of their other products. We love to use their jalapeno garlic havarti wedge for grilled cheese sandwiches. Excuse me while I drool…
Non-dairy milk of choice– every vegan household needs to keep milk on hand. We prefer Silk Unsweetened Original Almond and So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut milk. When I want to indulge I get Pacific Hazelnut Chocolate. When they’re in season So Delicious puts out a great Pumpkin Spice milk and a Mint Chocolate milk that is even great when warmed up. There are a lot of different milks out there though so find what you like and please read what I had to say about trying new milk.
Non-dairy plain yogurt (regular and/or Greek)– eat as a snack, for breakfast, or to cook with. We are partial to the So Delicious line of cultured coconut milk. I use the plain Greek style yogurt to replace sour cream. I can’t tell the difference between that and the real stuff. Give it a try to see if you like it too. It is a healthier option than that Tofutti stuff and it’s soy-free.
Oil– in case you don’t want to use coconut oil for everything keep others on hand. Steer clear of cheap vegetable blended oils. They are just no good for you. I mostly use EVOO. I also like avocado, grapeseed, and sesame oils. After looking through many articles on what oils are good for what I liked this explanation the best. Remember oil is fat though so use in moderation. It is possible to cook and bake without oil. Check out the Engine 2 Diet site for more info and great recipes.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables– does not need an explanation. A well-balanced vegan diet should mostly consist of this. If you’re leaving the store without veggies and fruit in your basket you’re doing it wrong and you will probably feel unhealthy as a result.
Soy sauce– or alternative such as tamari or liquid aminos. For the soy-free vegan find yourself some coconut aminos.
Tahini– great for making sauces and is essential for making your own hummus.
Vegan mayo– we don’t use this often but it is nice to have. Every now and then I get a craving for some pasta salad like the one I made for my very first recipe post. There are a few brands to choose from. Follow Your Heart makes several kinds and has a soy-free one. Earth Balance also has a couple with soy-free options as well. I recently discovered Just Mayo and it’s my new favorite. I’ve heard it’s pretty easy to make your own, but I haven’t tried to do so yet.
Avocado– these babies take forever to ripen and once they do they only last maybe an hour before going bad. You could always make a big batch of simple guacamole and freeze in portions to last longer.
Bananas– not just for snacking or adding to smoothies. Mash one up for another great egg replacer! If you don’t use them up fast enough before they go bad slice them and freeze in ready to use portions for a smoothie or dehydrate them to make chips.
Carrots- great vehicle for hummus. We also like a simple steamed carrot side for most dishes. I like to buy a big bag (since they’re cheap), peel and cut in sticks, and put them in a container covered with water. This makes them easy to grab and they will stay fresh longer.
Celery- everything I said about carrots… ditto.
Garlic– if you haven’t noticed we love garlic. We use it in everything and you should too because the benefits are wonderful (besides the breath). If you’re at all curious about the benefits here is an extensive article explaining them.
Lemons/limes– a lot of recipes call for fresh juice. Even if you don’t use them often they last a while so why not keep them on hand?
Mushrooms– are fun guys! Get it? Fungi. Never mind. Try many different mushrooms, there are so many. We love a good portobello steak. I use cremini mostly but shiitakes are great too. For fun here is a recipe for Shiitake Bacon from Guy Gone Vegan. I’ve made them to top off a loaded baked potato soup and turned them into shiitake bacon bits to incorporate into a batch of black eyed peas I made for new years.
Onions– second most used thing in our kitchen after garlic. Onions also have great health benefits. Here is another extensive article explaining the benefits of onions. I mostly use yellow and sometimes red. We also love green and occasionally indulge with some shallots.
Peppers– I’m talking bell peppers, baby! Red is our favorite but they are expensive so we do get green a lot. I also love having mini sweet peppers around to eat as a snack with some hummus.
Potatoes– russet, red, sweet (technically a squash), and fingerling. Potatoes are just plain good and pretty versatile. They do last a while unless you pick out some bad ones at the store. If you have never tried fingerling potatoes I recommend making this awesome Creamy Fingerling Potato Salad.
Spinach– great to add to just about anything. We buy a huge thing of fresh baby spinach every week. Due to my husband’s weird raw vegetable allergy spinach is the only lettuce like thing he can really tolerate.
Squash– we use different kinds of squash about once a week. My three favorite ones to use are butternut, acorn, and spaghetti. I have tried kabocha, it was okay. It has a different taste than what I’m used to and it seemed a bit drier than the other when roasted. Of course pumpkin is a squash too and who doesn’t love pumpkin? My favorite recipes featuring my favorite squash are: Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze from Oh She Glows, Acorn Alfredo Penne Pasta from Healthy Happy Life, and Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash over Couscous from Eat Drink Better.
Tomatoes– too many to name them all. I like different tomatoes for different things. We usually buy tomatoes on the vine for sandwiches, roma tomatoes for salsas and taco toppings, and grape or cherry tomatoes to cook with or for salads. Heirloom tomatoes are crazy expensive but I love them. This recipe was a fun use of heirloom tomatoes I got a while back.
Faux Meat– a good brat or hot dog every now and then never hurt anyone. Field Roast rocks!!! When I went soy-free I thought we wouldn’t be able to have hot dogs or sausage on our pizza or in our pasta anymore. WRONG! I love field roast not only because they are soy-free but because of their ingredient list. They also have roasts that are great for special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have not tried them but I’m sure they’re amazing. Their newest products are burgers and maple flavored breakfast links (so good). Another wonderful brand is Beyond Meat which make gluten-free chicken strips and soy-free/gluten-free beef crumbles. They’ve been making quite a scene lately and rightfully so since they look and taste like the real thing (kinda scary). I would also like to recommend Sophie’s Kitchen for your seafood fix. They make fish, crab, calamari, prawns, shrimp, scallops, and even smoked salmon. Their newest product is Vegan Toona. I have a review of it here along with a recipe. All are gluten-free and some are soy-free.
Marshmallows– no one NEEDS marshmallows but WHO CARES?! Dandies are my go to marshamallows. They come in regular-size and mini. However, they are not soy-free. I also love Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme. I made some strawberries stuffed with ricemellow creme and covered in chocolate. Let’s just say that was an awesome Valentine’s Day.
Non-dairy cream cheese– I have tried all the different brands that offer a non-dairy cream cheese and Go Veggie is by far my favorite. Unfortunately, it does contain soy.
Non-dairy ice cream– I scream, you scream, everyone should scream for non-dairy ice cream! We usually go straight for the So Delicious line of ice cream because they have a ton of flavors and they also have ice cream sandwiches. The last time we got ice cream we tried a new brand called Coconut Bliss. We will definitely try them again next time. In my opinion they are a lot creamier than So Delicious and their flavors are a little more fancy.
Tofu/tempeh– before going soy-free we ate tofu and tempeh a lot. I know once I’m no longer breastfeeding we will probably go back to eating it but not nearly as much as we did. If you do buy tofu or tempeh make sure you’re getting organic. I really like Nasoya and Wildwood. I also like the marinated tofu from Westsoy. They have wonderful flavors to choose from (if you can find them all) and there is no pressing involved! For tempeh I prefer Lightlife’s organic variety, especially the one with flax. There are soy-free tofus out there. I’ve tried black bean tofu, that was alright. I know chickpea tofu exists, but haven’t had any. My favorite I just discovered is Tempt Hemp Tofu and I used some in this recipe.