Have you just started following a whole-foods, plant-based diet? If you’re new to the game, or even if you’ve been following it for a while but still struggle to find things to cook, today’s article will be the first step to making your WFPB/vegan life a little easier.
Below are some of the top ingredients and food items I keep in my pantry, fridge and freezer on a daily basis. It really helps me stay “stocked up” so I can whip up anything my body might be craving that day.
1. Fruits & Veggies
So this might be obvious, but I always have an array of fresh fruits and veggies in my kitchen. I can throw together a simple veggie stir-fry anytime, or even throw sliced veggies on a pan and bake them. With the right seasonings, you can make just about any mix of vegetables taste good together.
I also eat fruit for my snacks or dessert throughout the day. Instead of snacking on processed foods, grabbing an apple or handful of strawberries is a much healthier option.
2. Beans & Lentils
Since you’re not getting your daily protein from animals, eggs, or dairy products, you should start stocking up on beans and lentils. I can only have beans about once per week (otherwise I get super bloated), but many people don’t have that issue. I love making black bean burgers with sweet potato fries, bean burritos, black bean salsa, taco soup, etc. SO many options if you get creative!
3. Nutritional Yeast
Going vegan, you might have assumed no more cheesy dishes, right? Well that’s not the case. I use nutritional yeast to make cashew queso, a variety of soups, pastas – you name it! It’s a great ingredient to have on hand in case you’re craving some cheesy goodness. (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
4. Nuts & Seeds
Flax-Seeds (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
Can’t have eggs anymore? No worries — you can still make your favorites like pancakes, muffins, waffles etc. with the incredible miracle of a “flax-seed egg.” When ground flax-seeds are mixed with water, it essentially turns into a gel-like substance, which acts as an egg in recipes that usually require an egg.
** Here is the ratio to make a flax-seed egg: 1 Tablespoon of flax-seeds to 2-3 tablespoons of water – Let sit for 10 minutes **
Hemp Seeds (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
Hemp seeds (hulled hemp seeds are what I use) are a little salty to the taste, and are great to add to homemade granola or even to top off a salad. My husband even adds them to his smoothies because they’re super healthy and you can’t taste them once they’re blended into a smoothie.
Chia Seeds (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
Pumpkin Seeds (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
Cashews (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
I learned this trick later in my Vegan journey, but cashews are an incredible ingredient to use for making things creamy or thickening up salad dressing, soup, a sauce recipe, or dip. If you own a high-speed blender, cashews will be your new best friend. I make cashew queso, homemade honey mustard dressing, TONS of soups, pasta sauces… I could go on!
Almonds (Here’s a link to my favorite brand)
I use my sliced almonds in a lot of different things. I’ll roast them and use them in my salads, or I’ll make cashew queso out of them. We also love making homemade granola with sliced almonds. So many ways to get some good nut protein in!
5. Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices are critical to your new cooking routine now that you’re on a whole-food, plant-based, vegan journey. Instead of relying on store-bought, processed foods, you should be focused on WHOLE, fresh ingredients. When you do that, you then need to season them with healthy seasonings like herbs and spices.
Here are a list of my go-to seasonings (links included):
- Cayenne Pepper
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Himalayan Salt
- Onion Powder
- Chipote Powder
- Braggs Herbs & Spices Seasoning
6. Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil
With all the veggies you’ll be eating, it’s important to season them correctly when cooking them on the stove or in the oven. If you’re cooking them on medium heat on the stove, you can use olive oil or coconut oil. If you’re cooking them on high heat in the oven, Avocado oil is best due to it’s high-heat tolerance.
7. Almond Milk, Oat Milk, or Coconut Milk
Since you can no longer have dairy, that also means no milk! Thankfully there are plenty of milk alternatives out there. I personally like organic almond milk, but I also use coconut milk when cooking pasta dishes or making soups.
8. Rolled Oats
Since you can’t eat meat or eggs for breakfast like you used to, having rolled-oats on-hand gives you plenty of yummy breakfast options. I like to make oatmeal with them, or even soak them in some almond milk and vanilla overnight in the fridge to make overnight oats. You can also make oat flour out of them with a Vitamix if you’re needing to go gluten-free as well.
9. Pure Maple Syrup & High-Grade Honey
Living on a Whole-Food, Plant Based diet, I’ve also made a significant cut in my processed (added) sugar. I’ve gone from around 200-300 grams per day (YIKES) to about 20-30 grams per day. Crazy, right? It’s been surprisingly easy, too!
And if you can believe it, I’ve cut out refined sugar 100%. ZERO refined/processed sugar for me! If I’m needing to add some sweetness to a recipe, I simply add either a high-grade pure maple syrup (yup, the really expensive kind — about $18 per bottle), or a raw honey (also super expensive). They might cost more up front, but since I’ve cut my (added/refined) sugar SO much, they’ll last a really long time.
And if you’re wondering, fruit doesn’t count toward my 20-30 grams of sugar per day, because it has the fiber it needs to properly go through my system. But since syrup and honey don’t have fiber, I DO have to count that toward my daily sugar intake. So rather than dousing my pancakes with syrup like I used to, I pour 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup into a tiny dipping bowl, and dip each pancake bite into that bowl. I’ve done the math, and 1 teaspoon of the pure maple syrup I buy is only 4 grams of sugar. Since pure maple syrup is much sweeter than the fake, processed stuff, I actually dont need a lot of syrup anyways, so it works out!
10. Frozen Fruits & Ingredients for Smoothies
I don’t eat as many smoothies as I used to, but when I first started out in my Whole-Foods, Plant-Based journey, I made smoothies ALL. THE. TIME. Mainly because I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know what else to do!
If you’re just starting out, or even if a smoothie has always been an easy go-to, having ingredients such as frozen veggies, frozen fruit, frozen kale or frozen spinach on-hand is SUPER helpful.
We keep all these ingredients in our freezer at all times because it’s an easy back-up if I’m too tired to make something. It’s also a GREAT and easy way to sneak in veggies, seeds and spinach into our kiddo’s diets!
Quinoa is a great source of protein, and a great addition to any meal. It’s not something I would just completely eat by itself, but I love mixing it into my veggie stir-frys, salads, black bean burgers etc. It’s really easy to cook and it’s a healthier alternative to pasta or rice.
Was This Helpful?
So what do you think? Going Whole-Food, Plant-Based doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, when I did it almost a year ago, I was able to turn my experience into a fun and exciting one. I hope this list helps you figure out your kitchen essentials — let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
And if you’re not already, make sure to follow me on social media @amyhorany!