01 Jun Vegan Pantry
The thought of setting up a vegan pantry can seem overwhelming, but it shouldn’t. To help out I thought I would give you a peek inside my kitchen.
A good vegan pantry builds over time as you experiment with the recipes you use the most. As you transition into a vegan diet you slowly add ingredients that suit your palate. However the list below will give you some guidance to start developing a pantry that works for you.
The first step in creating a vegan pantry is to take an inventory of what you already have. Many of the basic’s such as vegetable oils, spices and grains will be items you currently use. If you are going straight into vegan like I did, you may have items to donate to your local food bank. However there are no rules with this, many people transition by using up what they have and then only buying vegan as new items are purchased. If this is your journey I would advise that you separate your pantry ingredients. This will help you to make conscious vegan choices.
The next tip is to buy the largest containers you can of oils, grains etc. The bulk buy is often the cheapest so it is worth checking out Aldi and some of the bulk supermarket chains.
If you shop weekly buy one large purchase a week. Tins of olive oil, large sacks of rice and dried beans will be your most economical buys.
If you buy nuts in bulk keep them in the freezer to extend their shelf life.
Canned beans are an easy pantry filler and in a busy lifestyle they make sense.
My three essentials are
Red kidney beans
I always rinse them well with lots of cold water before use.
My other favourite is the Tex-Mex bean ready for easy vegan taco’s these are my easiest “end of week and I am tired” meal.
The option of dried beans is always the healthiest and most economical choice. They just take a little more work in the preparation stage.
A good Sunday food prep nearly always includes a versatile bean dish that can start as a casserole one night on rice, turns into a great in a lunch wrap the next day. Then left overs can be topped on a baked potato or thrown into a tomato soup for extra protein and flavour, even an option on avocado toast as a quick dinner.
I use currants in many of my recipes and on a regular basis. They not only add a sweetly interesting flavour, but they offer a great texture variation, too. Dates are the base for many vegan desserts, for texture and sweetness. In fact, most dried fruits are fabulous to keep stored in the cupboard and can be used to bring plenty of recipes to life.
The dried fruit market is forever coming up with new options – dried apples are great for lunch boxes, dried peaches are a treat on a vegan cheese platter, as are dried muscatels, and dried mango is just a wonderful treat by itself, or sprinkled over vegan coconut ice cream.
While there are plenty of egg replacements around, I am a huge fan of Bob’s Red Mills. It’s so easy to use and it works really well mixed with almond milk. I use it in my food prep every week. The other products that have magic binding powers are Chia seeds and Flaxseed meal.
Both of these can replace one egg simply by mixing in one tablespoon of seed mix to three tablespoons of water. Tip: Always let them sit for 10 minutes before adding to your baking.
My go-to flour choices are firstly spelt followed by wholemeal. I use these the most in my recipes. However, buckwheat, coconut and rice flour are also staples in my pantry, as is chickpea flour, which is great for a lot of savoury dishes.
When it comes to grains, I always buy organic whenever possible. Quinoa and brown rice are the two grains that are absolute essentials for me. I’m not a fan of white rice, except in the occasional risotto. However, I really like to find as many other grain varieties as possible such as millet, wild rice, faro, bulgur and barley, which can contribute to a wide variety of delicious dishes.
Tip:I use my rice cooker for every grain I ever cook. Always rinse grains well before placing in the rice cooker.
You can typically find this in health food stores or sometimes in the supplement or health care aisle of supermarkets. It has a nutty, cheesy flavour that can replace a cheese product in many vegan recipes and can also be used to make your own vegan cheeses (it’s great for Parmesan). It’s packed with B vitamins and its delicious flavour can become quite addictive.
When it comes to nuts, my favourites and I’d say my most essential is almonds. I use a lot of them, whether toasted on sweet and savoury dishes or as a snack with dried fruit. Cashews are a favourite for stir-fries, while walnuts always find their way into my cakes, especially my carrot cake! I also love them in a savoury dish such as the little lentil loaves.
Depending on your budget, you can then get a little exotic. Nuts like pistachios, macadamias and brazil nuts can be added to salads, stir-fries or cakes, or just eaten as a snack, but they can become expensive.
Pepitas are actually a seed, but they are always on my shelf and I throw them on everything from avocado toast in the morning to nourish bowls at lunch.
Almond butter is a favourite for me when I’m cooking, but I also frequently use it on my morning toast with fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries. It’s also yummy with grated carrot and lettuce on a grainy bread roll for lunch. Cashew and peanut butters are also my staples, but if you have any allergies, you may not wish to have these in your pantry.
This Japanese soybean-based paste is a great broth base and ingredient for cooking. With a wonderful Umami flavour, it comes in a variety of strengths, from light to dark. Personally I prefer a lighter mellow flavour, but you might like a stronger taste.
Now that butter is off the menu, you need some good quality fats to replace it in your cooking. Olive oil is probably already in your pantry as it’s undoubtedly the world’s most popular oil. I tend to use lighter versions for cakes and the more full-bodied varieties in my savoury dishes, so I always have a selection on my shelf.
Coconut oil is probably the next most popular oil and in recent years has really gained popularity for its myriad health benefits. It’s available in liquid form and the harder “butter type” version, the latter of which is my go-to for cakes and muffins.
These are my two staples, however I keep well stocked on varying oils and as the months go by, you too can add more exotic varieties such as macadamia nut oil, which is beautiful in cakes, and avocado oil, which is great for salad dressings.
The varieties on offer at your local deli and supermarket are endless so feel free to experiment. Oil is something you only need in moderation in a processed form. I still prefer to get most of my healthy fats from nuts and my all time favourite – the whole avocado, which I use every day.
Dried Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables like kelp, wakame and arame are full of minerals and vitamins, so I like to add them to salads and for a bit of extra flavour, to cooked vegetable dishes. I have a seed mix that contains nori, which I often add to Nourish bowls. It really is a case of experimenting with your weekly menu to see what suits you and your tastes.
Tip:If you’re not comfortable cooking with sea vegetables, you can always consider some vegan sushi as weekly take-away treat so you still get the nutritional benefits in your diet.
You will already have your favourites in this area, however the basics I like to have are:
Allspice, Chilli, Cinnamon,Curry Powder ( I use Keens all the time), Garam Marsala, Garlic, Sumac, Smokey Paprika, Paprika.
From this selection, you can make a wide array of delicious vegan meals. There are also lots of new varieties, which are flavour mixes. I am a huge fan of moroccan spice mix that I also use often. Variety is key in keeping your weekly plant based menu interesting, so I am always scouring the supermarket and health food store aisles for new spices and blends.
My favourite sweetener is Maple Syrup and it’s the one that I believe is is the most versatile. I use it in all sorts of cakes, muffins and breakfast cereal options. It is also an amazing balance in savoury dishes mixed with chilli, soy, seeded mustard, lemon juice and lime juice.
I also like to have rice syrup handy to sweeten my tea or any other dish I might be working on.
Tahini is a Persian condiment that is made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds. It has great binding powers and can be used for sweet and savoury dishes. It is also a fantastic addition to many salad dressings, can be added to dips like hummus or baba ghanoush or even used as dip on its own (add some lemon juice to counter its quite nutty flavour).
I always have these in my fridge and include them at least once a week in stir-fries and nourish bowls. They are both soy products, but the difference is that while tofu is made from curdled soymilk that is then pressed, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans.
There are a wide variety of both products available these days that range from various flavours to different textures. Firm tofu is great in stir-fries, while silken is wonderful to blend in a dressing or used in desserts.
Making your own is always a good idea, as you will probably achieve a less salty product. However, if you’re buying ready-made options, look for the lowest salt products, as these are the healthiest.
Food Coach Catherine Carr