Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples for Wholesome Plant-Based Meals: Part III

Here is my list of Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples. With these pantry staples, you’ll be able to whip up wholesome, delicious, satisfying plant-based meals.

Let this in-depth guide help you build your dream of healthy, plant-based kitchen and pantry!

This is part 3 of a three-part series.

Welcome to Part III of My Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples series! If you want to know the condiments I always have on hand, check out Part I, and for some of my favorite beans, legumes, and grains and tips on how to use them, check out Part II.

Nuts and Seeds

Let’s start today’s post off with one of my favorite food groups (and my all-time favorite word): nuts.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I have the maturity of a pre-pubescent boy. And with that, let’s talk about the nuts I always keep in my pantry (or fridge or freezer).


If you talk to a vegan foodie, chances are they cashew-obsessed. And for good reason. Cashews have a smooth buttery texture, they are an incredibly versatile nut, and they taste hella good.

Here are just some of the dishes I use cashews in: vegan cheesecake (this baked chocolate cheesecake is a must make), vegan desserts, cashew cream, cashew parmesan cheese, cashew cheese sauce, cashew sour cream, cashew mylk…are you getting the point?

Baked Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

And if you’re more into savory applications for cashews, check out my cashew cream blog post and my cashew sour cream recipe can be found in my crunchwrap supreme blog post.


Almonds are high in protein, fiber, and lots of vitamins. Plus, Barack Obama used to snack on exactly 7 almonds every night before bed, and he was in excellent shape.

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In addition to snacks, I use almonds to make homemade almond butter (sooo good), toast them for salad or grain bowl toppings, add them to bliss balls, and use almond meal or almond butter in certain grain-free baked goods.


If cashews are the nuts I cook with the most and almonds are the nuts I snack on the most, then walnuts are the nuts I wish I ate the most. They’re an excellent plant-based source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which support your brain, heart, and mental health.

And here’s a pro tip for you: the texture of walnuts is softer than almonds, so if you want to make nut flour or nut butter but don’t have a high-quality food processor that can finely crush almonds, it’ll be easier to use walnuts.

Sweet Potato Baked Oatmeal with Sweet and Sticky Topping


I’m just going to say Nutella and leave it there.

Okay, I’ll say a bit more. Hazelnuts are probably my favorite nut, and I’d eat them all the damn time if they weren’t so expensive.

Next time you buy hazelnuts, go home, take them out of the bag, and toast them. It will smell like someone has put a huge fan next to a vat of Nutella, and the resulting aroma is permeating throughout your house. Literally the best smell ever. Toasted hazelnuts go well in both sweet and savory dishes, from salad toppers to rich chocolate desserts like these No-Bake Nutella Fudge Bars.

Sunflower Seeds

Honestly, sunflower seeds remind me of gross people spitting them out at baseball games. But once you get over that image, they’re really a great seed to keep in your pantry. A ¼ cup serving provides you with over 80% of your daily Vitamin E needs, which is the secret to beautiful skin and hair. So, indulge your vanity and eat some sunflower seeds. Or try this Creamy Chipotle Pasta that uses sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes to naturally thicken the pasta sauce.

I like to add sunflower seeds to granolas, loaf breads, muffins, and as a salad topper. And sunflower butter is the best replacement for peanut butter if you have a nut allergy.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are the walnuts in the seed category. Like walnuts, pumpkin seeds have incredible health benefits but are so underrated. They’re packed with magnesium and zinc and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

So, when fall rolls around, don’t discard the inner seeds from a pumpkin. Pick them out, toss them with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast them in the oven for a crunchy, healthy snack. Or just buy them at the store and save yourself some time.

Flax seeds

I’ll keep this section short since I already talked about flax eggs in this post about vegan egg replacers in baking. In addition to baking, I top salads, pastas, and grain bowls with a hefty sprinkling of flaxseed meal to boost my daily intake of Omega-3 fats.

Blueberry Banana Bread with Streusel Topping

Hemp seeds

No discussion of seeds would be complete without my favorite seed, the hemp seed. I love the nutty taste and soft texture of hemp seeds and, better yet, they are a “perfect protein” containing all 20 amino acids + 9 essential amino acids.

I typically use hemp seeds as a topper for salads, smoothies, pasta or quinoa, but you can also make hemp mylk or yogurt out of hemp seeds!

Chia seeds

Not only can you make incredibly popular chia pudding by combining these seeds with plant-based milk, you can also make an egg substitute out of chia seeds + water, similar to flax eggs. Or add them to your smoothies. They help regulate things down there, if you know what I mean (poop-wise).


No discussion of a vegan pantry would be complete without mentioning superfoods. Why? Because vegans love trendy shit like superfoods.

Dulse Flakes

What the hell are dulse flakes, you ask? Dulse is a type of seaweed, a red seaweed to be specific. Unlike the wet stuff in the ocean that gets tangled in your legs and momentarily makes you think that an octopus has trapped your leg, this stuff comes in dried flake form, somewhat similar in texture to nutritional yeast or dried herbs.

I use them in my vegan tuna sandwich that tastes remarkably like tuna!

Aside from its potential bacon implications, dulse contains fiber, protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. I like to sprinkle dulse flakes on all kinds of savory dishes, but especially dishes that that complement the flavor of ocean (i.e., I use it as a soup topper or sprinkle it over popcorn with some nutritional yeast and sea salt). Seriously, though, it adds a unique, slightly earthy depth of flavor to your dishes. I buy my dulse flakes on Amazon.

Spirulina Powder

Spirulina is a great item to keep in your pantry because it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Like dulse, spirulina is also a seaweed-based food, a blue-green microalgae to be specific.

Spirulina comes in tablet form or a dried powder (which is what I use). A tablespoon of this stuff has 4 grams of protein (a complete protein), lots of B vitamins, as well as iron and copper, and just 20 calories, making it possibly the most nutrient-rich food in the world. It also boasts anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Basically, you should consume as much spirulina as you can.

Except beware because it’s pretty concentrated and has a funky ass smell. If dulse smells like a faint trace of a summer’s ocean breeze, then spirulina smells like the depths of the deepest seawater in which Ursula brews her poisonous ink clouds.

I put a teaspoon or so of spirulina powder in smoothies, but if your tastebuds are more daring, you can just mix it with water and drink as is. And if you’re adventurous, you can even add a little bit into your desserts. Just add a little though – nobody wants to eat cake that smells like microwave-reheated fish. Btw, if you’re one of those people who microwaves fish in an office kitchen, you should be fired.

Raw Cacao Nibs

Moving away from the ocean and all related odors, let’s talk about raw cacao nibs, which are roasted cacao beans that are are removed from the husk and then broken into smaller pieces. Cacao nibs are a superfood, as they’re packed with fiber (9 grams in 1 ounce), magnesium (one of the richest sources of it), antioxidants, and feel good chemicals (natural ones, of course). To summarize: chocolate is a superfood and you can eat as much of it as you want.

I like to add cacao nibs too all kinds of desserts and as a topper for smoothies or porridge, but you can even eat them raw as  a snack. It won’t be the same as eating a bar of chocolate, but you can’t always have your cake and eat it too.


I have many more “superfoods” in my pantry, but at the risk of completely boring you, I will end with turmeric because it holds a special place in my heart as an Indian person. When my sister was a child and sprained her ankle, my aunt–instead of wrapping her ankle in an elastic bandage–spread a turmeric paste onto her ankle and wrapped it in a plastic grocery bag. When I’m sick, I drink hot water with turmeric and lemon. And when my mom wants to make her famous “yellow rice” dish, she throws in a shit ton of turmeric.

If you got lost in my anecdotes, to recap, turmeric has anti-inflammation properties, increases your body’s antioxidant capacity, and has a beautiful golden color. It can also protect your body against various cancers, heart disease, Alzheimers, and diabetes.

While I prefer fresh turmeric to the dried powder, it can be hard to find the fresh variety in ordinary supermarkets and the dried powder is much more convenient. Just be sure to add slowly and don’t add to cold food or beverages, as it won’t mix in and will have a chalky taste.

Occasionally, I use turmeric to make the ultra popular “golden milk” (my ancestors would be rolling in their graves right now if they had graves, but they were cremated). More often, however, I add it to curries, soups and savory dishes.

Golden Milk Turmeric Latte

Golden Milk Turmeric Latte


Because I like to end my day with something sweet, I’ll end this blog post with something sweet as well.

Maple Syrup

My pantry would be sad and lonely without maple syrup. Maple syrup is my go-to sweetener for desserts and breakfast alike. I buy pure maple syrup because it has an amazingly rich flavor and I don’t want any nasties in my maple syrup.

Raw Coconut Nectar

Raw coconut nectar is the sweet sap that comes from the coconut palm blossom. Unlike maple syrup or agave syrup, it’s raw, which means it’s perfect for fully raw vegan baked goods. It’s also a low glycemic sweetener with a GI Index of just 35 (in contrast, white sugar has a GI index of roughly 60).

I also love the thick, viscous-y texture of raw coconut nectar. If you’re looking for a substitute for honey but finding that maple syrup is too watery, raw coconut nectar or brown rice syrup are great substitutes.

Medjool Dates

I’m saving the best for last because dates are one of my favorite foods. Mostly because they taste like adult candy. I know that “adult candy” sounds a bit risqué, but I mean it in the most G-rated sense.

My favorite easy dessert is to slice open dates, stuff them with almond butter, and top with sea salt and cinnamon. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll drizzle on melted chocolate too.

I also use dates as a sweetener in raw vegan desserts (both in the crust and filling), as well as in bliss balls.

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

I hope you enjoyed this final series on My Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples! If you did, drop me a line – would love to hear from you.



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14 comments on Vegan Pantry Essentials and Staples for Wholesome Plant-Based Meals: Part III

  1. Caryn

    Thank you for all the wonderful recipes and ideas. I know that you had a recommended source for spices online – but I cannot find it.
    Also wondering if you have updated this list at all – for instance are you still a fan of spirulina?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      From Nisha: “Hi there, I love all the spices from Burlap and Barrel. They ethically source a wide variety of single-origin spices around the world, and are an amazing company. The spices are much more flavorful than typical spices so you get more bang for your buck. I also really like the spices from Diaspora Co.

      I haven’t updated this list in quite some time, but I am working on a new pantry list that should be out later this year. I no longer use spirulina regularly, as I don’t consume that many smoothies or smoothie bowls like I used to when I wrote this post. That said, I don’t dislike it and still think it’s very nutritious.. It’s just hard to incorporate into my diet outside of smoothies.”

  2. Christine

    How do you have so much food in your pantry and USE it all without it going bad? For instance nuts – they can get rancid pretty quickly, even if you store them properly. I’m just starting out (I’m currently on a medical weight management program, and I’m getting ready to transition from their products back to ‘real food’ and I am planning to transition to a 75-80% whole food plant based diet, to ease into things), and I emptied my kitchen of everything (I’m a single person living in a room rental so the term “kitchen” is being used loosely here), and I’m wondering what of the pantry items is truly essential for starting off your kitchen? Because I don’t want to buy items for my pantry only to discover that I’m not cooking with them often enough. I’m mean, it’s just me. I’m hoping to prep at the beginning of the week (and limit my take-out to once a week, if that)…but the pantry essentials idea is kind weirdly intimidating to me.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Christine, this is just a rough guide as many people eat different amounts, have different preferences, etc.

      This blog post is intended to be a guide of all the things we stock up on in the Rainbow Plant Life kitchen where we are cooking a lot through the week. You can buy things like nuts and oils in smaller quantities if you’re only cooking for one person. You can also prolong the shelf life of nuts by placing them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 months.

      Once you start cooking more, you should begin to get an idea of which staples are essential for your daily/weekly routine. We wish you the best of luck!

  3. DDockery

    Do you have any recommendations for seaweed? I’m just starting my journey and have not quite switched over to full veganism so I know very little about this entire process. I read that adding seaweed is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Is there a brand in particular that you would recommend?

  4. Jennifer Mitchell

    Thank you for all three Pantry Essentials, these are the key to my journey with you now I’m all set THANK YOU💕

  5. Lesley Kenny

    Thank you, these posts are so helpful to newbies like me!
    I just spent all afternoon watching your YouTube videos!

  6. Lili Azari

    Hi Nisha,
    I just found your channel, subscribed after the first 5 mins of the first video (lentil shepherd’s pie) and have been going from one link to another for the past two hours lol. I’ve been vegan for almost four years and love cooking but your content still has lots of new things I want to try :) so I’m using this opportunity to say thank you! I really enjoyed reading your blog too and will keep coming back!!
    Happy new year!! ✨🥂

  7. Darcy Cogdell

    Glorious! Thank you Nisha.

  8. Sherry

    You are so knowledgeable and very funny, too!
    You’re photographs make me want to try everything!
    So glad you chose food over law. 😘

    1. Nisha Vora

      Aww thank you Sherry! You are so sweet. I am very happy with my decision too! Thank you for stopping by :)

  9. Will Carlton

    Thank you for all your hard work. This series on pantry staples and your book is helping me finally get the pantry up and running.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Will, thank you for stopping by and for your kind feedback. I am so happy that my cookbook and this series on pantry staples is making things easier in the kitchen :) Happy cooking!

  10. Rasika

    I just finished reading your 3-part vegan pantry series, Nisha.. what a great list! I had never heard of dulse flakes and have never tried spirulina.. my interest is piqued :) Some additions in my pantry are spices (loads of them!), as well as lots of Indian grains and flours such as poha, sooji or semolina, besan etc. We can’t live without the spices :)

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