In Part I of this series on my Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples, I talked about some of my favorite vegan condiments that I keep in my pantry. Today, I’m dishing on some of the other staples in my plant-based pantry. And when you’re done here, head to Part III of the My Vegan Pantry Essentials series!
My earliest memory of beans is this childhood rhyme on the playground:
Beans, beans, the magical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot!
I’m not gonna lie. This song had a nice ring to it, and sometimes I still get that jam stuck in my head.
Farts aside, beans are a vegan’s best friend. They’re a completely natural source of protein packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
I highly recommend cooking beans from scratch, especially if you have an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker. With an Instant Pot, you don’t have to soak beans (though sometimes I still do because it can help minimize those aforementioned farts), and you don’t have to babysit the pot to make sure the beans don’t burn.
I put beans in everything, from salads and stews to pasta dishes and even desserts (when I’m trying to be healthy).
Black Beans and Pinto Beans
Black beans are best in Latin-inspired dishes, IMO. I like to make my own spicy refried black or pinto beans with pre-cooked or canned beans. You can check out how to do that in these pantry tacos or pantry quesadillas!
Is there anyone who doesn’t like the humble chickpea? Chickpeas are so versatile. You can add them to salads, grain bowls, and pastas, or you can turn them into hummus, use them to make gluten-free brownies or blondies, or bake them in the oven until crispy.
For more chickpea ideas, check out this blog post on every way to use canned chickpeas!
PS: you can even use them in these buffalo chickpea quesadillas, because, well, look how good these look!
These are mellow, soft white beans that are quite versatile. They have a very creamy texture, which is great for making bean dips and purées. When I get tired of the usual hummus, I simply substitute cannellini beans for chickpeas for a white bean hummus.
I especially love pan-frying cooked white beans because it gives them a crunchy, crispy exterior but the beans still have that rich, creamy interior.
I love beans, but I might love lentils even more. The jury is still out on this one.
They’re incredibly cheap, packed with protein and fiber, and can be used in a wide range of dishes, from curries and salads to soups and stews (like this flavor-packed, plant-forward Mushroom and Black Beluga Lentil Stew).
But you should know that not all lentils cook in the same way. For instance, black beluga lentils hold their shape during cooking, making them ideal for salads, grain bowls and side dishes. In contrast, red lentils get mushy, making them perfect for Indian dals.
Lentils also cook well in the instant pot so I highly suggest you give that a try.
Most weeks, I make a big batch of whole grains using my Instant Pot so that I can enjoy veggie grain bowls throughout the week.
This is one is a bit obvious, I know. Is there a single vegan out there who hasn’t eaten quinoa? I mean, what is this, 2007? However, I couldn’t write a pantry essentials list and not mention quinoa.
My tips for quinoa are (1) toast your quinoa if you have the time – it tastes nuttier; (2) use a bit less than a 2:1 liquid:grain ratio, as more water makes for soggy quinoa; (3) try cooking your quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water and add in flavorings like smashed garlic, peppercorns, and fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs.
Quinoa is extremely versatile. You can use it as a base in grain bowls, use it to stuff bell peppers, tomatoes or winter squash; replace rice with it in a pilaf; cook it in plant-based milk and mashed bananas to make a breakfast porridge; or add it to granola bars, soups, chilis, or burger patties.
I know some of you may avoid pasta because it contains gluten and refined grains, but these days you can find all kinds of pasta varieties, from whole grain and spelt to quinoa- and bean-based pasta. I always keep a variety of pastas on hand to make random spur-of-the-moment weeknight meals possible.
Farro is an ancient grain that has a very nutty taste and a complex texture that is both firm and soft. It’s my favorite grain but under utilized in most kitchens.
My favorite way to use farro is in a grain salad. I like to mix cooked farro with a light vinaigrette, a protein, vegetables, and add-ons. One of my favorite combinations is farro with chickpeas or cannellini beans, toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, dried cherries or apricots, chopped parsley, and a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, orange juice, maple syrup, and extra virgin olive oil. You can eat the salad alone or stuff it into baked winter squash, tomatoes, or bell peppers.
And I also love using farro instead of rice for an equally creamy but healthier version of risotto!
This is another obvious one, but I couldn’t not mention every vegan’s favorite breakfast food. Oats are naturally gluten-free but may be contaminated with gluten during processing. Luckily you can buy gluten-free oats, including at Trader Joe’s, which sells a 2 pound bag of gluten-free rolled oats for like $3. In addition to making oatmeal and porridge, I also add oats to smoothies. It adds bulk and nutrition, which helps me stay full.
Canned or Jarred Goods
My list of canned/jarred goods could easily be longer, but I will limit it to just a few of my faves so I don’t bore you to death. I know some of you may be freaking out about canned goods and BPA lining, but the good news is many of these goods are now offered in glass jar form and/or in BPA-free cans.
I am almost always too lazy to cook a whole artichoke, but I will lay into a jar of artichoke hearts like nobody’s business. You can find canned or jarred artichoke hearts, the latter of which are typically marinated in some type of oil. They have a meaty texture, so they feel substantial when you eat them. Plus, artichokes have higher antioxidant density than blueberries or kale or even dark chocolate!.
These are another life-long favorite of mine. The chewy texture of sun-dried tomatoes is just amazing, and I love the rich umami flavor they impart. Even my tomato-hating boyfriend loves sun-dried tomatoes.
Unsurprisingly, I add sun-dried tomatoes to pasta, but I also use them in sauces and dips, like sun-dried tomato pesto and sun-dried tomato cashew cream. For sun-dried tomato cashew cream, simply add 3-4 chopped sun-dried tomatoes to my standard cashew cream recipe (cashew cream recipes here).
I use canned coconut milk in everyday cooking as well as in baking. I use it in Thai and Indian curries, to give soups a velvety finish, and to give smoothie bowls that luscious thick texture (this Thai-inspired butternut squash curry is a must-make).
If you’re calorie conscious, you can try lite canned coconut milk or a coconut milk beverage (“drinking milk”), but it won’t be as creamy. I also use it in lieu of ingredients like milk and cream in baking applications with delectable and equally indulgent-tasting results. Like in this incredibly lush and rich (yet healthyish) Salted Chocolate Cream Tart.
Hope you enjoyed Part II of My Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples! What kind of essentials do you keep in your pantry? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!