Even if you’re a new vegan you’ve probably been asked a few times if all you eat is lettuce and grass? It’s probably one of the most inaccurate jokes in the entire history of human jokes.
Becoming vegan doesn’t mean your diet has to resemble that of a fluffy little bunny rabbit. There’s a whole world of vegan foods out there, some that’ll be new to you and some that you’ve had a million times and didn’t realize were vegan. Hello Oreos, I’m talking about you!
However, it’s true that when most people start to think about becoming vegan they focus more on what foods they’re giving up and less on all the amazing foods they will be eating. Let’s shift that focus and fill your kitchen with all the vegan essentials you’ll need in your pantry to delve into the wide and wonderful world of vegan food.
I’ve created a list of what I consider to be the most essential vegan pantry items. I’ve even added a few cold food items to the list so your kitchen will be fully stocked with vegan goodness.
I’ve also created this Vegan Shopping List that you can save to your phone for reference at the grocery store.
Becoming Vegan – The Ultimate Vegan Pantry List for New (or Seasoned) Vegans!
Vegan Dry Goods
Here are what I consider to be the best dry goods for anyone who is becoming vegan.
- Couscous – this tiny pasta (yes it’s a pasta not a grain) is one of the most convenient things to have in your kitchen because it’s super easy to cook. Seriously all you have to do is boil water, pour it over the couscous, and cover it for five minutes. If you’re not the best cook, stock up on this one.
- Pasta – Most dried pasta, and even some fresh pasta, is totally vegan. You might be thinking “what about eggs?”. Nope, most pasta only contains wheat/semolina and water. Just double check the ingredients on the package to make sure.
- Rice Noodles – these babies are excellent for asian stir-fries and soups, and they’re super easy to prepare too.
- Quinoa – This super food is packed full of protein and other healthy stuff. Plus it tastes great, can be eaten with curry, in a salad, or used to make killer vegan burgers.
- Rice – Explore the world of rice. You’ll be really surprised to find how many varieties there are. Brown, black, wild, Jasmine, sushi rice. The options are seemingly endless with this simple little grain.
- Lentils – Another protein packed pantry staple. Lentils can be used any way you would use beans, but they’re much easier and faster to cook. No soaking, or stewing for hours with these babies.
- Oats – Oatmeal, crumbles, cookies, or even pancakes. Stock up on oats, they’re a great way to start your day.
- Bulgur – You may not have heard bulgur or had a chance to try it yet, but it’s a really nice cereal to have on hand. You can use it like you would rice, or even prepare a delicious and nutritious hot breakfast with.
- Beans (Pinto, Black, Kidney, etc.) – If you can remember to soak beans ahead of time they’re an excellent and easy-to-make source of protein and nutrients. So go crazy! Grab 10 different bags of dried beans the next time you’re at the grocery store. And don’t worry about the price, they’re usually super cheap.
- Pop Corn – Not the microwave variety, but rather dried corn kernels are an excellent pantry staple. Once you master the art of making your own popcorn it’ll be a go-to late night snack.
- Chickpea Flour – Not a necessity but it’s a really good thing to have on hand if you want to try to make a vegan omelette or do some gluten free baking.
- Almond Flour – Almond flour is an excellent, gluten free alternative to regular flour for baking.
- All Purpose Flour – For those of us who don’t have gluten issues, you’ll want a bag of all purpose flour around for when that late night cookie craving strikes.
- Vegan Sugar – Sometimes you really wonder wtf food companies are thinking. Such is the case with refined white sugar (at least in the States anyway). No one want to consume bone char while enjoying their cherry pie, so stock up on vegan sugars instead. Here is a guide to some vegan sugar brands.
Vegan Nut Butters
Here are my favorite nut butters that are great to add to your vegan shopping list.
- Peanut butter – Any good American will already have this in their pantry, but chances are the brand you love is chocked full of sugar. Don’t worry, you can easily replace that commercial brand of peanut butter from your childhood with 100% pure peanut butter at any health food store and most grocery stores. If you’re not from the States and the thought of peanut butter makes you an unhappy camper, don’t worry there are lots of nut butter options.
- Almond butter – Super healthy and perfect on toast or with apple slices for breakfast, if you haven’t tried Almond butter yet then get on that right now! You can thank me later.
- Cashew butter – Cashews are a magical nut…well seed but that’s not important. It has a really high fat content so when you pulverize it into a paste it’s absolutely delightful.
- Tahini (Sesame butter) – Tahini is a necessary ingredient when making hummus (more on that below) which most vegans are totally addicted to. It’s also fantastic for making asian sesame noodles, slathering on sandwiches mixed with Sriracha, or drizzling it over Buddha bowls.
Vegan Spreads & Dips
- Hummus – Hummus, how do I love theeeeee, let me count the ways! This chickpea based dip is a vegan staple. Eat it with raw veggies, pita slices, chips, or slather it on sandwiches and in wraps. This dip is extremely versatile, totally addictive, and 100% vegan (usually, check the ingredients).
- Baba ghanoush – I love Baba ghanoush almost as much as I love hummus. It’s a Mediterranean dip made from eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Delish!
- Vegan Nutella Spreads – Yeah, that’s totally a thing. If you’re in Europe you can find some at DM or Veganz, among other places. If you’re in the states Justin’s makes a chocolate hazelnut butter blend.
- Speculoos – The name isn’t exactly enticing, but once you find out what this stuff actually is, you’ll fall in love. Sepculoos is cookie butter and it’s totally vegan. You can find it in grocery stores across Europe. I’m not sure if it’s available in the States but if not, and you can get your hands on the cookies by the same name you can easily make your own.
- Vegan Cream Cheese – If you’re the kinda person who fancy’s a nice bagel slathered with cream cheese first thing in the morning, don’t despair there are lots of vegan cream cheese brands out there like Follow Your Heart, KiteHill, or SimplyV.
- Vegan Butter – I don’t really need to tell you why you need to have a block of vegan butter in your refrigerator at all times. I prefer the European butter styles like Alsan, but try a few different varieties and decide for yourself.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are one of the most important pantry staples. They’re great for making homemade plant milks and “cheese” sauces, for snacking on, or topping salads with. Here are some nuts I’d suggest loading up on.
- Cashews – Cashews are great to have around to make creamy “cheesy” vegan sauces.
- Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, Peanuts, Brazil Nuts, Macadamia Nuts are all fantastic nuts to have in your vegan pantry to snack on.
- Pumpkin Seeds – Perfect for adding to salads or on pureed soups for a bit of crunch.
- Flax Seeds aka Linseed – Flax Seeds are great for vegan baking and smoothies. You can even make a vegan egg with ground flax seeds.
- Chia Seeds – If you haven’t tried Chia Seed Pudding, you should. It’s a simple and protein packed breakfast staple. Chia Seeds are also nice in smoothies or sprinkled on top of peanut butter slathered toast.
- Sesame Seeds – Sesame seeds are excellent for sprinkling on top of Asian noodles or salads.
Spices & Seasonings for Your Vegan Pantry
I could write an entire article about spices. There are more varieties out there than you could fit into your pantry, so I’m only going to mention the ones that I think are the best to have on hand in your vegan pantry.
- Nutritional Yeast – This stuff is basically worshiped by vegans. It has a cheese flavor so you can add it to sauces, or sprinkle it onto any dish that you want to improve 100 fold.
- Sea Salt and Himalayan Pink Salt – Obviously salt is the most important spice you can have in your cabinet. I prefer sea salt and Himalayan pink salt for cooking, but you do you and get the one you like the most.
- Black Salt – If you want to bring your tofu scramble, or vegan carbonara to the next level black salt is a must. It’s got an eggy flavor and smell, but use sparingly because this stuff is very strong.
- Black Peppercorns – What can I say? Black pepper is awesome so stock up. Just make sure you get whole pepper corns with a grinder for a super fresh taste.
- Red Chili Flakes – If you like a hint of spice red chili flakes are an excellent way to incorporate that into dishes.
- Tumeric – I’ve only recently started using Tumeric. It’s a super healthy root spice related to ginger. Tumeric has anti-inflammatory properties among other things and can be added to tofu scramble to give your eggs that bright orange color, to curry dishes for depth, or to smoothes and fresh juices for a little kick.
- Curry Powder – Curry powder packs such a big punch and is totally necessary for things like…well curries. But don’t limit yourself, get creative and add it to other dishes too for extra flavor.
- Cumin – I use cumin a lot when I’m making beans or anything that I want to have a deep smoky flavor. Just be careful, it’s a very strong spice so less is more.
- Bay Leaves – They’re dried leaves from the laurel tree and excellent for adding a little extra depth and savory goodness to soups, rice dishes, and tomato based sauces.
- Cinnamon – If you’re going to buy only one spice for baking it should be cinnamon. Add it to your crumbles, crisps, or oatmeal to go from good to great!
- Old Bay – Thank the gods Old Bay is vegan. This spice mix is fantastic on french fries, popcorn, or basically anything savory.
- Tony Chachere’s – I grew up in Louisiana where Tony Chachere’s is used in almost everything. You’ve probably never heard of it but I had to include it because this Cajun spice mix is incredible. When I lived in NY I would have my mom ship cans to me because I loved it so much. Unfortunately, I can’t get it here in Europe and you probably can’t get wherever you are, but you can make something similar to it here.
- Liquid Smoke – Liquid smoke is a great panty staple to have on hand to add a smoky flavor to beans or baba ghanoush, or if you want to make Vegan Lox.
- Vegetable Bouillon or Concentrated Veggie Stock – Excellent to have around as a replacement to dishes that require a stock or broth.
- Vegemite – I’ve actually never had Vegemite but I’m adding it to the list because I hear it’s a nice replacement for soy sauce or concentrated veggie broth, and kicks up the umami of any dish you add it to.
Vegan Sauces & Pastes
- Chili Paste – Chili paste is a necessity for a lot of Asian dishes but also great to add to anything you want to incorporate a bit of extra flavor.
- Soy Sauce – If you like Asian food, soy sauce is an absolutely necessary vegan pantry item.
- Tamari Sauce – If you’re gluten free, you’ll want to opt for Tamari sauce instead of Soy Sauce. It’s made only from soy beans whereas soy sauce contains wheat.
- Miso Paste – Miso Paste is a recent addition to my vegan pantry and I don’t really know how I ever lived without it! A spoonful of this stuff is enough to add an extra layer of umami (savory) to any dish.
- Tomato Sauce and Canned Tomatoes – Obviously great for pasta sauce, but tomato sauce is also good to have around if you’re making Mexican food and other cuisines.
- Tomato Paste – Tomato paste can be used in a wide variety of dishes to add a little extra flavor and richness, or as a thicker in pasta sauce.
- Sriracha – If this isn’t in your kitchen already go to the grocery store and get some now! Seriously, this Asian hot sauce can be added to almost anything you want to spice up.
- Cholula Original Mexican Hot Sauce (or your favorite Mexican hot sauce) or Tabasco – Obviously hot sauce is perfect to have around to sprinkle on top of tacos, nachos, french fries, or really anything you can imagine.
Vegan Syrups (Honey Replacements)
If you fancy adding a little sweetness to your life, here are a few of my favorite syrup options for your vegan shopping list.
- Maple Syrup – The king of all syrups. Obviously perfect for pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal, but also nice to bake with too.
- Agave Syrup – A nice alternative to maple syrup that comes with a much cheaper price tag.
- Rice Syrup – I like to drizzle rice syrup over my granola to give it a little bit of extra sweetness but you can also bake with it.
- Date Syrup – Excellent if you want a deeper and richer syrup in your pantry.
Oils & Vinegars – Essential Vegan Pantry Items
- Olive Oil – I’ll admit it, I cook almost everything with Olive Oil. It’s my preferred oil and I always have at least one bottle in my kitchen.
- Coconut Oil – Coconut oil is great if you need to cook at a higher temperature as it doesn’t burn as easily as olive oil. It’s also great for baking with.
- Sesame Oil – Sesame oil is an excellent way to add flavor to a dish, but don’t cook with it. It burns too easily. Instead drizzle a little over asian noodles or dumplings once they’re ready to eat.
- Canola or Rapeseed Oil – Both oils are excellent options for fried foods. I don’t use them that often but still an essential vegan pantry item.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – I use this vinegar a lot when cooking. It is great for sauces or curries that need a touch of acid.
- Rice Wine Vinegar – Essential if you’re going to make vegan sushi, but also great for sauces and curries.
- Red Wine Vinegar – Red Wine Vinegar is excellent to have if you are going to pickle your own vegetables, or make salad dressings.
- Balsamic Vinegar – In my opinion Balsamic Vinegar is the best vinegar option for salad dressings.
Dried Fruits & Veg
- Sun Dried Tomatoes – Sun Dried Tomatoes are great for pastas, couscous salads, or stuffed bell peppers, among other things.
- Dried Fruits – I love snacking on dried fruits or bringing them along on hikes. They are pretty high in sugar though so go easy if you’re watching your calorie intake.
- Dates – Dried dates are an excellent addition to a smoothie and they’re also great for vegan baking.
- Dried Mushrooms – I love adding dried mushrooms to broths to give them depth and extra flavor.
Canned & Pickled Goods for Your Vegan Pantry
- Beans (Pinto, Chickpea, Black, Kidney, etc.) – Canned beans are perfect to have around to add to chili, curries, or on their own with rice or quinoa. They’re super quick and easy to prepare so stock up.
- Coconut Cream – Essential if you’re going to make curries, but I also love coconut cream with granola and fruit, or whipped as a dessert topping.
- Jackfruit in Brine – Jackfruit in Brine is fantastic for making vegan tacos or vegan BBQ sandwiches.
- Capers – Capers are perfect for adding a big burst of salty flavor to pastas or rice dishes.
- Olives – I adore olives. They make excellent snacks and are fantastic in pasta dishes.
- Vegan Kimchi – If you can find vegan kimchi then it’s a superb vegan pantry staple. You can eat it as a garnish with just about anything you want for an intense salty and spicy flavor, and since it’s fermented it’s great for your tummy.
- Sauerkraut – Another fermented item that is excellent for your stomach and perfect for topping sandwiches, vegan hot dogs, or as a garnish.
- Pickles & Pickled Veggies – Excellent with sandwiches, on vegan burgers, or as a garnish.
Vegan Proteins Everyone Becoming Vegan Should Try
- Tofu – Tofu has a bad wrap. Omnivores love to pick on this vegan protein, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan for a long time. However, tofu is now the vegan protein I cook with most. You really just need to make sure you season it properly. It’s excellent for tofu scrambles, curries, fried and added on top of salads, and even for baking.
- Tempeh – Tempeh is by far my favorite vegan protein. It’s also made from soy but is fermented and really good for your stomach. It has a nutty flavor and is an excellent meat replacement.
- Seitan – Seitan is the go-to meat replacement protein. It’s great for sandwiches and burgers among other things.
- Mock Meats – There are a slew of mock meats options out there including burgers, hot dogs, mock chicken, mock beef, and even mock duck.
The Best Vegan Plant Milks
- Almond Milk – Almond Milk is my favorite milk replacement for cereal or smoothies. It has a subtle flavor and creamy texture. I always have a carton in my refrigerator.
- Coconut Milk – Coconut Milk is a nice dairy milk alternative but it does have a pretty strong coconut flavor, so if you’re not a fan of that flavor, skip this one.
- Cashew Milk – Cashew milk is rich and creamy and pretty damn delicious.
- Oat Milk – Oat Milk is great to use as a milk replacement in coffee or lattes. It’s rich and creamy, froths up nicely, and doesn’t curdle like soy milk.
- Soy Milk – Soy Milk is the original non-dairy plant milk. It is great to have to cook with or eat with cereal. You can even make an excellent vegan mayo with it!
There you have it, my Ultimate Vegan Pantry List for New Vegans! Did I leave anything off? If so, let me know if the comments below.
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