This guide on pantry essentials is designed to assist you in building a useful vegan grocery list, ensuring your kitchen is stocked with the right basic ingredients. In Part One, we’ll explore everything from beans and legumes to oils and vinegars. Stay tuned for more in this series that will help you stock a vegan kitchen.
Building a well-stocked vegan pantry is essential for plant-based cooking. Having a variety of key ingredients readily available not only simplifies meal preparation but also inspires creativity in the kitchen.
A pantry filled with a diverse range of beans, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds is the key to creating meals that are both nutritious and full of flavor. This approach to stocking up is not just about having ingredients on hand; it’s about laying a solid foundation for being able to prepare a wide variety of dishes at any notice.
Navigating the essentials for a well-rounded vegan pantry might initially seem overwhelming, but that’s where a well-thought-out vegan grocery list comes in. It’s your blueprint for stocking up, ensuring you have all the foundations to make cooking and meal planning a breeze. By understanding what makes up essential pantry items, you’re setting yourself up for success, able to bring a variety of budget-friendly and nutritious dishes to life.
How To Build Vegan Grocery List: Essential Pantry Items
In this guide, we delve into the essential components of a vegan pantry. You’ll discover the significance of each item, from the humble lentil to the versatile almond, and learn how these ingredients can be transformed into delicious, nourishing meals. This isn’t just a list—it’s a practical guide for both beginners and seasoned vegan cooks.
Ultimately, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to make vegan cooking an enjoyable and rewarding part of your daily routine. Whether you’re whipping up a quick weekday dinner or preparing a special feast, a well-planned vegan pantry is your best ally.
Let’s get started with these pantry essentials. In this ongoing series, we’ll cover topics like fresh produce, refrigerator staples, plant-based proteins, and helpful organization tips. Every article provides a piece of the puzzle to complete your vegan grocery list and stock your vegan kitchen. Stay tuned!
Pantry Essentials To Add To Your Vegan Grocery List
These pantry items are essentials for any vegan pantry. Find them in the bulk section at Whole Foods, health food stores, and pre-bagged at most grocery store chains. Keep all of these items in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to preserve freshness.
Beans And Legumes
Adzuki Beans: These are small and reddish-brown with a sweet flavor. They’re commonly used in Asian desserts, like red bean paste, or can be added to salads for a nutritious boost.
- Vegan Tip for Adzuki Beans: Try using adzuki beans in a vegan red bean ice cream for a unique dessert twist. The natural sweetness of adzuki makes it a great alternative to traditional sweeteners.
Black Beans: Medium-sized and oval, black beans have a creamy texture and earthy flavor. They are versatile, and great for making soups, adding to tacos and salads, or forming the base of vegan burgers.
- Pro Tip: For a twist, try using black beans in brownies for added moisture and nutrition.
Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils): Small, black, and rich in flavor, these lentils hold their shape well. They are excellent in salads, burgers, as a side dish, or added to vegan stews for extra heartiness.
Black-Eyed Peas: Known for their distinctive black spot, these peas have an earthy flavor. They are a staple in Southern and African cooking and can be used in dishes like Hoppin’ John or added to hearty stews.
Brown Lentils: The most versatile and mild in flavor, they maintain their shape well and are suitable for a variety of dishes. Use them in soups, stews, or in a vegan Wellington.
Cannellini Beans: These large, white beans are nutty in flavor and excel in Italian cuisine. They are perfect for Tuscan bean soups, bean and tuna salads, or mashed as a spread for bruschetta.
- Pairing Suggestion: Combine with rosemary and garlic for a flavorful spread. This garlic confit is fantastic!
Fava Beans: Fava beans are large, flat, and light green, with a creamy texture and slightly bitter taste. They’re common in Mediterranean dishes, can be mixed into salads, or made into a flavorful fava bean dip or falafel.
- Fun Fact: Ancient Romans believed fava beans contained the souls of the dead!
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas): Round and beige, these beans have a firm texture and a nutty taste. They’re ideal for making hummus, adding to curries, and tacos, roasting for a crunchy snack, or forming falafel balls.
- Did You Know? Chickpea water, known as aquafaba, can be whipped like egg whites and is a popular vegan baking substitute.
Great Northern Beans: Medium-sized and white, these beans have a mild flavor, making them perfect for absorbing flavors in slow-cooked dishes like white chili or added to vegetable soups.
Green Lentils (French Lentils, Puy Lentils): Small and peppery, they have a firm texture. These lentils are perfect in salads, falafel, or vegan burgers.
Kidney Beans: These are large, kidney-shaped, and robust in flavor. They are a key ingredient in chili and stews and work well in burritos or added to rice dishes.
Lima Beans (Butter Beans): Known for their buttery texture and mild taste, they’re excellent in casseroles, soups, or simply seasoned as a side dish. They also blend well into creamy spreads.
Mung Beans: These small, green beans are sweet and tender. They are often sprouted for salads and sandwiches, used in Asian soups, or made into sweet bean pastes for desserts. Use them to make a homemade version of JUST Egg!
Navy Beans: Small, white, and creamy, navy beans are ideal for homemade baked beans, adding heartiness to soups, or blending into a smooth bean dip.
Peas (Green, Yellow, Split Peas): Green peas are sweet and starchy, ideal in split pea soup or as a side dish. Yellow split peas are mild and earthy, commonly used in Indian dhal or pea soups.
Pinto Beans: With their earthy flavor, these are a staple in Mexican cuisine. They can be cooked and mashed for refried beans, added to chili, or used in burrito fillings.
Red Beans: Small, red, and creamy, these beans are essential in Creole dishes like red beans and rice. They also work well in soups and as a salad addition.
Red Lentils: These cook quickly and become soft, making them great for thickening soups, making dahls, blending into spreads or vegan pâtés, and making fritters.
Soybeans: These come in various colors, including green, yellow, and black. The most commonly found are the mature, dried soybeans, which are yellowish-beige. Mature dried soybeans have a subtle, nutty flavor and a firm texture that becomes creamy when cooked. They can be incorporated into soups, stews, and chili. They’re also great in salads and can be mashed to make spreads or dips.
- Vegan Tip for Soybeans: For a homemade vegan yogurt, blend cooked soybeans with water, then add a probiotic capsule and let it ferment overnight. It’s a great dairy-free alternative with a rich, creamy texture.
Yellow Lentils: Milder than red lentils, they are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. They hold their shape better than red lentils, making them suitable for curries and salads.
Consider adding these to your vegan grocery list when making your weekly meal plan! Save time and buy them canned if you’d like for more convenience.
Nuts And Seeds
Almonds: Almonds are small, light brown nuts with a smooth texture and a distinctive, slightly sweet flavor. They are incredibly versatile, perfect for snacking raw or roasted, adding crunch to salads or in muesli, and using in baking. Ground almonds or almond flour can be used in gluten-free recipes, and almond butter is a delicious spread for toast or an addition to smoothies.
- Did You Know? Almonds are seeds of the fruit of the almond tree.
Brazil Nuts: These are large, crescent-shaped nuts with a creamy texture and a rich, slightly earthy flavor. They’re often eaten raw or roasted and are known for being a good source of selenium. Brazil nuts can be chopped and added to trail mixes, and salads, or used in desserts.
Cashews: Cashews are kidney-shaped nuts with a soft texture and a sweet, buttery flavor. They are commonly used in vegan cooking to create creamy sauces and dairy-free cheese alternatives. Roasted cashews are a popular snack, and they also make a great addition to stir-fries and curries.
Chia Seeds: Small and oval, these seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. When soaked, they absorb water and form a gel-like substance, making them perfect for creating chia pudding. They are also commonly used as an egg substitute in vegan baking or sprinkled over breakfast bowls and smoothies for an extra nutritional punch.
- Vegan Tip for Chia Seeds: Make a vegan-friendly egg wash substitute by mixing chia seeds with water until they form a gel-like consistency. Brush it over pastries before baking for a glossy finish.
Flaxseeds: These tiny, flat seeds have a mild, slightly nutty flavor. Ground flaxseeds are often used as an egg substitute in vegan baking and can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt for fiber. Whole flaxseeds can be sprinkled on salads or used in homemade granola.
- Pro Tip: Grind flaxseeds just before use to enhance nutrient absorption. Do this in small batches to ensure freshness.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are small, round nuts with a rich flavor and crunchy texture. They are often used in baking and desserts. Roasted and chopped hazelnuts add a wonderful flavor and crunch to salads and baked goods.
- Pairing Suggestion: Pair with vegan chocolate for a classic flavor combination.
Hemp Seeds: These small, soft seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. They are a great source of plant-based protein and can be sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies, or used in baking. Hemp seeds also make a nutritious addition to granola or yogurt.
- Vegan Tip for Hemp Seeds: Hemp seed pesto is a fantastic vegan condiment. Blend hemp seeds with basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, and olive oil for a nutritious and tasty sauce.
Macadamia Nuts: These are small, round nuts known for their creamy texture and rich, buttery flavor. They are often eaten raw or roasted, used in baking, or chopped and added to salads. Macadamia nuts are also used to make dairy-free cheese and butter alternatives.
Millet: Millet is a small, round seed with a mild, slightly nutty flavor. It can be cooked and used similarly to quinoa or rice, as a side dish, or added to soups and stews.
Pecans: Pecans are oval-shaped nuts with a rich, buttery flavor and a slightly chewy texture. They are a staple in many dessert recipes, particularly pecan pie. Pecans can also be added to salads, used in baking, vegan cheeseballs, or candied as a sweet snack.
Pine Nuts: Small and elongated, pine nuts have a delicate, buttery flavor. They are a key ingredient in pesto sauce and are also delicious toasted and sprinkled over pasta dishes, salads, or used in baking.
- Fun Fact: Pine nuts come from the cones of certain pine trees.
Pistachios: Pistachios are small, green nuts known for their distinctive, slightly sweet flavor. They can be eaten as a snack, either raw or roasted, and are often used in baking, especially in Middle Eastern desserts. Chopped pistachios also make a great topping for porridge, salads and pasta dishes.
- Culinary Use: Add chopped pistachios to vegan yogurt or oatmeal for a crunchy texture.
Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas): These flat, oval seeds have a chewy texture and a subtly sweet, nutty flavor. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and make a great addition to salads, bread, or granola. They are also delicious toasted as a snack.
Sesame Seeds: Small and flat, these seeds come in a range of colors from white to black. They have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and are commonly used as a topping on bread and bagels, in salads, or Asian dishes like stir-fries, tofu, and sushi.
Sunflower Seeds: These are small and flat with a mild, nutty flavor. They can be eaten raw or roasted and are often added to salads, bread, and granola. Sunflower seed butter is a popular nut-free alternative to peanut butter.
- Vegan Tip for Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seed cheese is a delicious vegan cheese alternative. Soak sunflower seeds, then blend with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and spices for a creamy and flavorful spread.
Walnuts: Walnuts are large and wrinkled with a rich, slightly bitter flavor. They are often used in baking, added to salads, eaten as a snack, or even on pizza. Walnuts can be toasted to enhance their flavor and are also used in making vegetarian meat substitutes.
- Fun Fact: Walnuts are one of the oldest tree foods known to man, dating back to 7000 B.C.
When making your vegan grocery list, stock up on these items for convenience and nutrition.
Spices And Herbs
Basil: A fragrant herb with sweet notes, basil is a cornerstone of Italian cuisine. Originating from India, it grows in warm, tropical climates. Perfect for fresh pesto, it adds a vibrant flavor to tomato-based dishes, and salads, and is excellent on vegan pizzas. Fresh basil can transform a simple pasta dish with its aromatic presence.
Cayenne Pepper: A hot spice that originates from South America. Made from dried and ground red chili peppers, cayenne adds a fiery heat to dishes. It’s ideal for spicing up vegan soups, stews, and chili. Use it sparingly to add depth to dishes without overwhelming the palate.
Cinnamon: A warm and sweet spice, cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of trees from the Cinnamomum family. Native to Sri Lanka, it’s used in both sweet (like baking and oatmeal) and savory dishes (such as in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking). It adds a comforting warmth to vegan baked goods and is great for spicing up plant-based milks.
Coriander/Cilantro: The seeds (coriander) and leaves (cilantro) of the same plant are used in cooking. Coriander seeds have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, perfect for spice rubs and curries. Fresh cilantro leaves are commonly used in Mexican, Indian, and Asian cuisines, adding a fresh, tangy flavor to salsas, curries, and noodle dishes.
Cumin: With its earthy, slightly bitter flavor, cumin is a key ingredient in many global cuisines, including Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern. Harvested from the dried seed of the Cuminum cyminum plant, cumin is essential for flavoring curries, spice rubs, and bean dishes. It adds a depth of flavor to vegan tacos and falafels.
Curry Powder: A blend of spices including turmeric, coriander, cumin, and chili, curry powder is a staple in Indian cooking. It adds warmth and depth to curries, soups, salads, and vegan stews. Each blend can vary in heat and flavor, offering versatility in cooking.
Dill: Dill has a unique, tangy flavor that pairs well with potatoes, mushrooms, and salads. It’s especially popular in Eastern European cuisine and is a key herb in making vegan tzatziki and other creamy dressings.
Garam Masala: Translating to “warm spice mix,” garam masala is a blend of ground spices like cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, and cardamom. It’s used in Indian cuisine to add warmth and sweetness to dishes, perfect for flavoring lentil soups, vegetable curries, and other plant-based dishes.
Garlic Powder: This spice offers a milder and less pungent flavor than fresh garlic. It’s made from dehydrated garlic cloves and conveniently distributes garlic flavor evenly in soups, sauces, and marinades. A great staple for adding a savory depth to vegan dishes without the hassle of peeling and chopping.
Onion Powder: Made from dehydrated and ground onions, onion powder offers a sweet, yet sharp flavor. It’s a convenient way to add onion’s essence to dishes without the need for chopping. Great in soups, stews, and for seasoning plant-based meats and vegetables.
Oregano: A staple in Mediterranean and Mexican cooking, oregano is a robust herb with a slightly bitter taste. It’s often used dried and adds complexity to pasta sauces, pizza, and marinades. Oregano’s strong flavor is perfect for enhancing vegan tomato-based dishes.
Paprika: Made from dried and ground bell peppers or chili peppers, paprika varies from sweet to smoky. Originally from Central America, it’s now a staple in Hungarian and Spanish cuisines. Paprika is great for adding subtle warmth and color to vegan soups, spice rubs, and roasted vegetables.
Parsley: Fresh parsley has a peppery flavor and is more than just a garnish. Originating in the Mediterranean region, it’s a versatile herb great in salads, soups, and sauces. It adds a fresh touch as a finishing garnish and is excellent in vegan tabbouleh and chimichurri.
Rosemary: Known for its aromatic, piney scent, rosemary is native to the Mediterranean. It’s commonly used in Italian cooking and pairs wonderfully with potatoes, bread, and roasted vegetables. Rosemary adds a fragrant touch to vegan focaccia and roasted root vegetables.
Smoked Paprika: Made from smoked, dried, and ground red peppers, smoked paprika adds a distinct smoky flavor to dishes. It’s great for adding depth to vegan barbeque sauces, shiitake bacon, roasted vegetables, and Spanish dishes like paella.
Thyme: Thyme has earthy, lemony, and slightly minty notes. Native to Southern Europe, it’s a versatile herb in cooking. Thyme pairs well with beans, soups, and roasted veggies. It’s also a great addition to vegan stews and pot pies, providing a subtle layer of flavor.
Turmeric: A vibrant yellow spice, turmeric is native to Southeast Asia and a staple in Indian cuisine. It’s harvested from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. Great in curries, rice dishes, tofu scrambles, and even in smoothies, turmeric is known for its potential health benefits and adds a brilliant color to any dish.
As you make your vegan grocery list, consider visiting your local Asian and Indian markets to source the freshest herbs and spices.
Oils and Vinegars
Apple Cider Vinegar: With its tangy, slightly sweet flavor, apple cider vinegar is great in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. It’s also popular in health and wellness circles for its potential health benefits.
Avocado Oil: Known for its buttery flavor and high smoke point, avocado oil is excellent for cooking at high temperatures. It’s also wonderful in dressings due to its smooth, creamy texture.
Balsamic Vinegar: Aged balsamic vinegar has a complex, sweet, and tangy flavor. It’s excellent for salad dressings, drizzling over roasted vegetables, reduced in a glaze, and adding depth to sauces and reductions.
Canola Oil: A versatile and neutral-flavored oil, canola oil is suitable for baking, frying, and salad dressings. It’s a good all-purpose oil for various cooking needs due to its light flavor and high smoke point.
Coconut Oil: With its high smoke point and distinct tropical flavor, coconut oil is ideal for baking, frying, and in Asian and Caribbean cuisines. It can add a rich, creamy texture to vegan desserts and curries.
Olive Oil: A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is known for its rich, fruity flavor. It’s great for salad dressings, sautéing vegetables, and as a base for sauces. Extra virgin olive oil is perfect for drizzling over finished dishes.
Red Wine Vinegar: With a sharp and tangy taste, red wine vinegar is ideal for salad dressings, marinades, and pickling. It’s a key ingredient in Mediterranean dishes.
Rice Vinegar: Mild and slightly sweet, rice vinegar is used in Asian cooking, especially in sushi rice, dressings, and slaws. It’s less acidic than other vinegars, making it suitable for subtle flavor enhancement.
Sesame Oil: A key ingredient in Asian cooking, sesame oil has a nutty, rich flavor. It’s used in stir-fries, tofu dishes, marinades, and dressings. Toasted sesame oil, with a more intense flavor, is best used as a finishing oil.
White Vinegar: Known for its strong acidity and sharp flavor, white vinegar is commonly used in pickling, marinades, and as a natural cleaning agent. It’s also used to add acidity in vegan baking.
Be sure to include some of these oils and vinegars to your vegan grocery list, as they are so versatile and used often.
In conclusion, a well-stocked vegan pantry is more than just a collection of ingredients. It’s where good cooking begins and creativity follows. The diversity of beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs, oils, and vinegars we’ve discussed provides a solid foundation for making filling and nutritious plant-based meals. Each ingredient, with its unique flavor and texture, offers an opportunity to make an endless array of dishes.
With this guide, we hope to have inspired you to explore new recipes and discover new pantry essentials to add to your vegan grocery list.
Stay tuned for more guides in this vegan grocery list series. Next up, we’ll go over produce ingredients and all the ways you can use them in your cooking. (It’s a lot, but so much good stuff!) Until then, hope you’ve found something helpful here!
A well-thought-out vegan grocery list ensures that your kitchen is equipped with all the essential pantry items, making cooking and meal planning easier. By having a variety of key ingredients readily available, you can prepare a wide array of budget-friendly and nutritious dishes with ease.
Budget-friendly vegan staples include dried or canned beans, lentils, tofu, brown rice, oats, pasta, and frozen vegetables. Buying in bulk, choosing store brands, and focusing on whole, unprocessed foods can also help save money.
For beginners, essential vegan pantry staples include various beans (like black beans, chickpeas, and lentils), whole grains (such as quinoa and brown rice), nuts and seeds (like almonds and chia seeds), and basic spices (such as garlic powder, cumin, and paprika). These items provide a strong foundation for a wide range of vegan recipes.
Most items for a vegan pantry can be found in a regular grocery store, especially staples like beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and spices. Some specialty items like nutritional yeast or specific vegan alternatives might require a trip to a health food store or an online purchase.
All images in this article are sourced from Canva.