This post comes requested by some of my readers who are not vegan but highly veganophile (meaning they LOVE vegan food but have not yet made the transition). One big challenge when you transition from carnivore to vegan, and even from vegetarian to vegan, is that you have to “re-learn” about the staples that you should always have in your pantry. We all have some go-to dishes that we make when we lack time or simply when we want something fast that we love. Usually we learn those dishes over time, by trial and error and we make sure to stock up on these ingredients so we can at any time whip up an emergency dish.
In order to save you some time, I put together a list of my 5 go-to staple ingredients as well as some quick recipe ideas that can be made in less than 30 minutes, at any time of the day. These 5 staples are focused on savory foods and there will be a second post on sweet foods coming soon.
Before I start, let me tell you that you should also invest into some basic equipment. My absolute favorite kitchen item (and when I say that, I mean I would rather have this item than a car ) is my food processor. Yes, blenders are great but food processors are better. I use it for dressings, doughs, sauces, dips, soups etc. Also, invest into one or two good cutting knives. The good ones are a bit pricy but they will change your life – and your cooking experience. A 9cm and a 17cm are a good start (for cutting and chopping of fruit and veggies). After that you can get fancy – it’s almost like collecting …
Now, what are the top 5 things you should always have in your pantry?
- Canned Beans – make sure they are BPA free but other than that, you can’t do anything wrong. I usually buy the ones without added salt and stock up on black beans, chickpeas as well as lima beans and butter beans. Canned beans last forever and they are easier to digest than if you make them yourself. They can be eaten as is in salads or transformed into delicious dips. You can also roast chickpeas with some salt and pepper in the oven for some crouton feeling. Finally, they can be added to stews for protein and a denser mouth feel.
- Greens – I always have kale or arugula in my fridge. A) because greens are the best, high in calcium, fiber and vitamins but also B) because you should eat them everyday (see A) and C) because they can be made into salads, chips (coated with some cashew cheese or simply oil, salt and pepper) or delicious pestos to add on top of pasta, grains or just a slice of toast.
- Condiments – Tahini, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and garlic paste are my favorites. I add tahini to hummus, or make a dressing out of it for salads or grain bowls. Soy sauce is great for a veggie stir fry as well as Buddha Bowls and garlic paste tastes fantastic in dips and dressings and it lasts forever.
- Sweet Potatoes – sweet potatoes have a pretty long shelf life and they are extremely nutritious, affordable and versatile. Alternatively, for my European friends I would suggest regular potatoes. Slightly less nutritious but as easy to use in filling recipes. Sweet Potatoes can be used for sweet and savory dishes. I love to just roast them in the oven as a side dish. They are also great in stews or as a dip (you need to boil them first) and really good for pies 😉
- Frozen veggies – It’s a total myth that frozen veggies are unhealthy. People often put all frozen food in the dog house but actually the bad frozen foods are the processed ones such as pizzas or ready-made meals because they often contain high amounts of fat, sugar and additives. Frozen veggies are picked freshly from the field and frozen immediately so all their nutrients are preserved. They are often actually healthier than when you buy produce and let it hang out in you fridge for a week. I usually always have frozen peas, corn and stir fry mixes (without added sauces) in my freezer. I use the peas and corn to make soups or add to pasta dishes and the stir fry mixes can literally just be sautéed with some soy sauce in a wok. Served over rice or with some beans on the side they are a wonderful quick meal.
Bonus: nuts! I love cashews and almonds. I buy them raw and if I want to pimp them up a bit I just add some salt, pepper or spices and pop them into the oven for about 5 min at 400°. They are great in salads.
I usually get fresh produce a couple times a week but except for the greens, you can easily stock up on all the other items and keep them for a while. Check out Thrive Market, this amazing grocery membership site where I buy a lot of my staples at discounted prices. Thrive also gives back – for each regular membership, they give a free membership to an under-priviliged family. I absolutely love their mission!