Plant-based pantry staples. Which ones should you have in your kitchen? Whether you’re new to the predominantly plant-based life, or just looking for some ideas, we want to share some of our absolute favorite vegan staple foods fit for feeding the whole family.
While we would kind of love the world to believe that our kitchens are beautifully stocked with all the fresh foods on a regular basis, we’ll be the first to tell you that this isn’t always possible in parenthood.
What we can say, however, is that stocking our kitchens with staple foods is always a life saver. Especially on those nights when you have 30 minutes to decide on and make something, but can’t do anything but stare into the refrigerator.
That’s why we put together this list of some of our most frequent go-to plant-based pantry staples. We like that they’re tasty, nutritious, versatile, and have long shelf lives.
12 Best Plant-Based Pantry Staples
Here are some of our favorite plant-based foods and ingredients to keep stocked in the kitchen.
1. Ground Flax Seed
Flax seeds are an excellent source of ALA, an omega 3 fatty acid that acts as a precursor to DHA and EPA. They also offer fiber, protein, and an array of vitamins and minerals.
We love using ground flax seed to make “flax eggs” (1 Tbsp flax + 2 Tbsp water) in baked goods. Flax can also be sprinkled on just about anything, from salads to pasta dishes and pancakes. We regularly add it to smoothies, too.
If you purchase whole flax seeds, be sure to grind them up before using as they’re much better absorbed and utilized in ground form.
2. Plain, Unsweetened Applesauce
Applesauce is a nice pantry staple because not only does it make for a quick snack or addition to a packed lunch, but it can be used in baking to replace butter, eggs, or oil in most recipes.
Note that most applesauce has added sugar, so look for varieties that are unsweetened.
3. Plain, Unsweetened Plant Milks
We have a variety of unflavored plant milks on rotation in our households.
Why? Plant milks are great, but it’s important to know that their nutrient compositions can differ significantly between types, and even brands.
Some are high in protein, while others have barely any. Some have been fortified with vitamin B12, while others may be a better source of calcium or vitamin D. The calorie content can vary as well.
We typically choose organic soy and pea milks as these have the highest protein content. We also like to rotate in oat, cashew, and hemp milk sometimes.
All of them are great to use in smoothies, sauces and dressings, baked goods, soups, or even by themselves.
4. Canned Beans
Beans are so versatile, so we love to keep a variety in our pantry at all times.
Look for organic, no-salt-added beans in a BPA-free can whenever possible. To reduce sodium content even more, drain and rinse the beans before using them.
Some of our favorite beans to keep on hand include kidney, black, garbanzo, cannelini, and great northern or navy. We also love canned green beans and black-eyed peas.
You can use all of these in pasta dishes, soups, burritos or enchiladas, bean salad, quesadilla, or even just served heated up on the side with a little seasoning.
Canned chickpeas are also a surprisingly awesome substitute for canned chicken! Check out this recipe for chickpea salad sandwiches.
Note that dried beans are also an option here, they just need to be sorted and soaked before cooking.
5. Nutritional Yeast
Also known as “nooch”, nutritional yeast is nutrient-rich food that can be added to just about anything.
It has a cheesy, nutty flavor that lends well to vegan cheese sauces, salad dressings, soups, on top of pasta or pizza, or shaken onto cooked veggies. We’ve even seen some recipes that use nutritional yeast in smoothies.
Why is nutritional yeast a plant-based staple? It’s an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins like vitamin B12.
6. Nuts, Seeds, and Butters
Raw nuts and seeds – meaning unsalted with no oil added – are great staples. You can use them to make homemade almond or cashew milk, blend them up to make your own nut and seed butters, or eat them raw alone.
Throw some raw nuts and seeds onto a mixed green salad, mix them into morning oatmeal, or add them to a stir fry dish.
You can blend raw cashews with water or vegetable broth in a 1:1 ratio to make cashew cream, which can then be used to thicken soups, sauces, and dressings. Cashews are also a great base for making homemade vegan cheeses.
Some of our favorites to keep on hand include almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
You might find Brazil nuts in our pantry from time to time as well. These are amazing sources of selenium, a micronutrient important for brain function and reproductive health.
However, note that a single Brazil nut will meet your recommended daily limit for selenium, so it’s important not to go overboard with these.
7. Tofu and Tempeh
If you don’t open these right away, they tend to last in your fridge for at least a month or two.
We like to buy organic soy products as much as possible, and one of our favorite things about tofu is that it often costs under $2 a package.
Tofu and tempeh are great sources of iron, calcium, and plant-based protein.
Once tofu is opened, store it in an airtight container with a little water to keep it moist. Change the water every day to keep it fresh. As for tempeh, store unused portions in a plastic bag or airtight container.
These will keep for 5-7 days if stored properly, but you can also freeze them for later use.
8. Frozen Fruits and Veggies
As much as we would love to have a fridge and counter top fully stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, this doesn’t always happen.
Instead, we keep our freezers stocked with a variety of fruits and veggies that can easily be pulled out and used in minutes.
Frozen fruits, like berries, mango, peaches, and cherries, can be used for smoothies or even stirred into oatmeal. You can of course also chop up your own fruit and freeze it, like bananas and strawberries. This is a great option for when fruit is on sale but you might not use it all at once.
We like to have frozen veggies like peas, edamame, organic corn, chopped kale and spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower on hand. Frozen greens are super easy to add to smoothies, pizza, soups, and sauces.
You can find riced veggies, like a mixture of sweet potatoes and cauliflower, to add to casseroles, tofu scramble, or pasta while it cooks (and your kids will be none the wiser).
We’ve even seen veggie noodles in the freezer section, like beets, butternut squash, and zucchini.
9. Whole Grains
Quinoa, millet, barley, oats, amaranth, and wild rice are some of our favorite whole grains.
These are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are super easy to prepare.
Incorporate them into soups, grain salads, burritos, homemade veggie burger patties, veggie meatballs, or as a base for stir fry. You can also use whole grains to make delicious breakfast dishes.
10. Alternative Flours
We love to bake, so our pantries are full of ingredients to make breads, muffins, cakes, and biscuits.
We enjoy an array of flours, like whole wheat, spelt, almond, buckwheat, and oat. Incorporating multiple flours into a recipe is one of our favorite baking challenges! Plus, they are a great way to add extra fiber and even protein to a recipe.
We’ll also include vital wheat gluten in this category. This can be used to make homemade seitan, a protein-rich meat alternative you can use in stir fries, soups, and sandwiches.
11. Dried Pasta
While we love whole grain pasta, we also like to have some alternatives in the pantry. Many of our favorite pastas are also a nice option for our gluten-free friends.
There are so many protein-packed pastas made from plant bases like peas, chickpeas, black beans, and red lentils. We also like pastas that pack in the greens, like spinach, kale, and broccoli.
12. Dried Sea Vegetables
Dried seaweed is one of our favorite snacks for kids. It’s also a great pantry staple for adding iodine and other important micronutrients to meals.
Other ideas are dried nori, kelp, and dulse flakes, which can add nutrition and flavor to dishes like stir fries and soups.
Stocking your kitchen with some of the plant-based pantry staples above can help you save time, money, and effort while feeding your family well.
Chime In: What pantry staples would you add to this list?
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