Written by Dora Pavić / Mar 28, 2021

Vegan Pantry: Top 5 Ingredients All Vegans Need on Hand

Let's jump right into this: here is a list of five staples for every vegan pantry. All items on the list are available absolutely everywhere, cheap, and can be stored for a long time, which makes them perfect staples regardless of your eating habits.

Oats

That’s right, the first item on our little list is good ol’ oats. When you first start looking for vegan meal ideas, chances are you’ll see oats in every other recipe. And for good reason! This species of cereal grain can be used everywhere: entrées, main dishes, and especially desserts. Oats can also enrich smoothies, as well as shine on their own.


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Oats are popular for many reasons. Here are some. Neutrality: you can combine them with sweet or savory ingredients. As they are so neutral in taste, they won’t overpower other ingredients, they will just add to the texture and make the whole dish more nutritious. Price: oats are a widely-available and rather cheap staple, especially if bought in bulk. Versatility: use them in porridges, as a binder in veggie patties, as a thickener in stews, grind them into flour to make simple pancakes if you avoid wheat. You can even have a go at making homemade oat milk! The leftover pulp can be used in baking. As they can play many roles in cooking, oats are always handy to have in the pantry.

Nuts

If you’re into bodybuilding or trying to gain weight, you’ve probably come across nuts as a good source of calories. That’s the reason for including them in this list. Nuts are a good snack when you only have a few minutes and need to get enough calories to sustain you for the next few hours. Grab a handful of any nuts and you’re good to go. Sure, you may not feel completely full but at least you won’t starve.

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However, many people are allergic to nuts. Luckily, seeds of all kinds are similar to nuts in terms of calories and use. If you find nuts and seeds plain, you can roast them (careful, they tend to burn if unwatched!), and toss them together with some salt or spices. Of course, you can also make delicious nut butter with them. Some nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, are excellent for making homemade milk. There are many kinds of nuts and seeds which differ in price. If you’re feeling posh, treat yourself to some pecan nuts, brazil nuts, or cashews. But, for everyday use, consider stocking up on cheaper nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pepitas. All of these can also be turned into an amazing nut or seed butter.

Jarred pasta sauce

This section is going to be a short one as there are usually not too many health benefits to jarred sauce. But hey, you don’t always have half a day for slowly simmering marinara. Nor the will to cook, of course. If you ever have one of those days where you just feel too exhausted to function, you know how tempting it is to just skip a meal. Jarred pasta sauces are a godsend for such occasions. Boil some pasta for ten minutes, mix it with a store-bought sauce, and you have a nice meal. The self-care movement is picking up steam, and this is a great example of self-care. Try to treat yourself to something easy and accessible when it seems impossible to do so.

Other than for the time-saving properties, having a back-up pasta sauce is also good if you don’t have a lot of cooking equipment, for example, a blender for making pesto. Having a jarred pasta sauce in your pantry means that you can get a gourmet meal in a matter of a few minutes. Jarred sauce also doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, it depends on the ingredients. But, even if your favorite sauce does contain a fair amount of sugar, salt, and fat, it’s not a problem, everyone deserves comfort food from time to time.

Canned beans

A bit less glamorous star of every vegan pantry: a can of beans. Beans often make an appearance in vegan meals because they are filled with protein, cheap, and easy to incorporate into all sorts of lunch or dinner dishes. However, cooking dried beans from scratch can be a bit bothersome. First soak them for 12 hours, then cook them for several hours more before you can even use them in another dish where you’ll also cook them further. Granted, there isn’t much active cooking time, but you still need to work cooking beans into your schedule in advance. Well, no such fuss with canned beans.

Grab a can, rinse the beans, heat them, and flavor them – that’s it. The best thing about canned beans is their shelf life. They can be stored for up to three years. So, if you find your favorite canned beans at a discounted price, buy them even if you don’t need them at the moment. Your future self will be grateful when you find yourself on a Sunday evening, with all stores closed, whipping up a stew with all the forgotten things found in your freezer and pantry. We’ve all been there and it usually turns out better than expected! Basically, canned beans are great to have on hand for those occasions where you need a quick and easy base for a filling meal. Just be careful when buying them. If a can is deeply dented, don’t buy it because bacteria may have entered the can, so it’s better to stay on the safe side.

Plant milk

Once considered a luxury, now an everyday staple, plant milk is a great example of the principle of supply and demand. It used to be a novelty product, but since the demand has grown, you can now find plant milk in almost every store. Sure, it can be hit or miss, but once you find your favorite type, you know in which direction you can explore. Some people love soy milk, and others can’t stand it. The same goes for other varieties such as oat, coconut, almond, rice, hazelnut, and any other plant milk.

Although it’s completely possible to live without plant milk, it was made an honorary guest on this list because it can make all sweet (and probably some savory) food better. You can drink black tea on its own, but with a splash of milk, it becomes a fancy treat. Pancakes with water and flour? Doable, but plant milk is what brings the flavor and richness. Use plant milk in beverages, smoothies, and in absolutely any kind of dessert or baked goods. Unopened plant milk can also be stored for quite a long time. Some brands tend to be pricey, but are often on sale, and that’s how you can always have a few cartons in your pantry without breaking the bank. One additional benefit of plant milk is that some brands sell fortified milk, which is great for those who forget to take their B12 supplement from time to time.

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Oats, nuts, jarred pasta sauce, canned beans, and plant milk are seemingly humble ingredients. But don’t be fooled, each one of them is a valuable staple to have. They are convenient, affordable, and nutritious. Don’t overlook them just because they may look plain or basic. These are the qualities that make them so practical! If you have oats and plant milk, you have pancakes. If you have canned beans and pasta sauce, you have a filling meal. Nuts can be added to absolutely everything or enjoyed on their own for a calorie-dense snack.

The main takeaway is that if you have any of these five in your pantry, you won’t need to get takeout.

Dora Pavić

Hi, my name is Dora. When I’m not busy teaching English or grading exams, I enjoy cooking, reading, hiking, and watching cheesy TV shows. I’ve been vegan since 2017.