Vegan Essentials

These are some of my favorite vegan essentials for a well-stocked pantry. This can help you feel confident in the kitchen, making delicious plant-based meals, regardless of the time of day.

A collage of two photos of vegan food, one a bowl of soup, one featuring vegan cream cheese on a bagel, has this text: Vegan Essentials between them.

A pantry stocked full of the best vegan essentials is my favorite tool for a home-based vegan kitchen. You could argue that it’s the best-kept secret of any efficient kitchen. And we’re all going for efficiency!

If you’re looking to make your kitchen both vegan and efficient, here are some of my favorite vegan essentials so you can feel confident making healthy, delicious plant-based meals to feed yourself and your family any time of day.

Nuts

Nuts are a vital part of my vegan kitchen because they’re so versatile in their use. Need some sour cream? This cashew cream is an amazing substitute! Want to make some vegan chocolate ice cream? Use this pecan milk to make it creamier.

Here are some of my favorite nuts to have on-hand:

Marly’s Tips

Keep nuts and seeds fresh longer by storing them in your fridge or freezer.

Vegan Milk

Having plant-based milk in your pantry makes cooking and eating food easy and delicious. If you’re not used to plant-based milk, it can take time to orient your taste buds, but once you turn the corner, you’ll never want to go back!

I have a mixture of storebought and homemade plant-based milk in my pantry. Here are my go-to favorites:

  • Soy Milk — I find soy milk is the best for creating a frothy topping to my hot beverages, like vegan hot chocolate. I typically buy plain, unsweetened soy milk, so that I can use it for both sweet and savory recipes, like vegan mashed potatoes.
  • Almond Milk — We almost always have almond milk in our pantry to add things like berry smoothies and more.
  • Vegan Creamer — I like the rich and creamy texture of vegan creamers even though I don’t drink coffee. I will use creamers to make things like the pudding for this vegan banana cream pie.
  • Vegan Buttermilk — Some people may drink buttermilk in a glass (it does have some health benefits), but I stick to baking with my vegan buttermilk and it adds both rise and flavor to most desserts.
  • Coconut Milk — I always keep a few cans of rich, full-fat coconut milk in my cupboards (and also in the fridge). You can use coconut milk to make everything from vegan truffles to chickpea curry.

Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings

Having the right herbs, spices, and flavorings around makes a huge difference in my vegan kitchen. You can turn any boring dish into something amazing with the right seasonings.

The good news is that most of these ingredients have a fairly long shelf-life, when stored properly. Want to check if your spices are still good? See if they past the sniff test. Most herbs are aromatic, so if you can still smell them, they’re still good to use.

  • Salt (both sea salt and table salt)
  • Basil (both fresh and dried)
  • Oregano
  • Poultry Seasoning (don’t worry, it’s vegan!)
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Cumin
  • Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cinnamon (both ground and cinnamon sticks)
  • Curry Powder
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dehydrated Onions
  • Cocoa Powder (both natural and Dutch-process)
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Turmeric
  • Taco Seasoning

Refrigerated Items

I find keeping these items on hand means I have lots of options for creating on-the-fly meals:

  • Vegan Milk (see above)
  • Vegan Butter — for store-bought I use primarily Earth Balance or Miyokos. I also make homemade vegan butter
  • Vegan Yogurt — I prefer plain vegan yogurt (unsweetened) because it’s the most versatile. I use it to make vegan ranch dressing (I’m a salad freak) and use it in place of sour cream on my vegan tacos.
  • Vegan Mayo — I usually keep some Hellmans Vegan Mayo on hand because it’s affordable and available at my local grocery store. I use mayo to make things like vegan tuna salad or tofu egg salad.
  • Mustard (both yellow and brown)
  • Carrots — We keep carrots in the fridge to use in our green smoothies and other (more indulgent) recipes like vegan carrot cake
  • Avocados — This multi-purpose powerhouse can be used to make a quick avocado toast or vegan guacamole. I also use it as a condiment on my sweet potato black bean burgers.
  • Vegan Cheese — We keep an assortment of vegan cheese in our fridge. We mostly use Follow Your Heart Mozzarella for our vegan pizzas. I prefer Daiya cheddar (in blocks, slices, or shreds). And the Field Roast cheese is amazing too. There are new brands of vegan cheese coming out all the time and I love trying them out!
  • Miso Paste — I always have mild miso paste in the fridge to make some miso soup or to add salty, umami flavors to my vegan dishes.
  • Extra Firm Tofu — I keep extra firm tofu in the fridge and when it’s unopened it keeps for a long time.
  • Lemon Juice

Frozen Items

I like to keep a variety of frozen fruit and vegetables in our freezer because frozen is the next best thing to fresh! In fact, some studies indicate the frozen may actually be better than fresh because the veggies are usually frozen at the peak of ripeness. Here’s what you can usually find in our freezer:

  • Ground Flax Seeds — We keep these in our freezer to keep them fresh for longer.
  • Spinach — I usually add a package of frozen spinach to lentil soup or vegan minestrone.
  • Power Greens — We keep the power greens (kale, spinach, and chard) that we use for our smoothies in the freezer. This helps reduce the number of trips to the store. As long as the greens are in the freezer, they’re great in a smoothie!
  • Berries — We keep a big bag of frozen mixed berries that we buy on our vegan shopping trips at Costco. Berries are healthy so we like adding them to smoothies and for making things like blueberry overnight oats.
  • Corn — I like the taste of frozen corn over canned and I use it to make corn salsa.
  • Plant-based Meats — We like to have vegan meat products on-hand for quick meals. For us, that typically means Gardein products, but we also like Bocca and any of the recent vegan meat substitutes.

Oil, Vinegar, & Sauces

If you want to take your plant-based recipes to another level, adding the right sauces can make all the difference. Vinegar can add zing, and oil can add lovely consistency. Most of these have a long shelf life, making them perfect vegan essentials for your kitchen.

  • Oil — We keep vegetable oil, olive oil, sesame oil (toasted and regular), and non-stick cooking spray
  • Vinegar — apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and rice vinegar
  • Tamari — This is a gluten-free soy sauce and I use it exclusively (regular and reduced-sodium), however soy sauce is another option if you don’t have issues with gluten.
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce — The standard Worcestershire sauce is made with fish, so finding a vegan version is important.
  • Hot Sauce — I have an affinity for all things spicy so I usually have sriracha on-hand in addition to Tobasco sauce
  • Hoisin and other Asian Sauces — We like marinated tofu and sometimes I make a homemade sauce and other times I use bottled sauces.

Dry Goods (Cans, Jars, etc)

We keep our pantry stocked with canned goods, including the following:

  • Tomatoes — Everything from tomato paste to diced tomatoes can be found in our pantry. I prefer to buy organic or top brands like Muir or Cento Zan Marsano because they don’t use BPA in the can linings.
  • Beans & Lentils— These days we use a mixture of both dried and canned beans in our pantry, and enjoy cooking with both. Beans are a big part of our vegan diet and we use them to make things like vegan meatloaf and even black bean brownies.
  • Chia Seeds — I keep chia seeds on hand to make things like chocolate chia puddings or chia seed jam. I also use them as an egg replacer in vegan peanut butter cookies.
  • Pumpkin — You never know when the urge to make some pumpkin donuts or vegan pumpkin cookies will come on, so I always keep canned pumpkin around.
  • Pasta Sauce — We like to make Italian recipes like vegan baked ziti, so having jars of pasta sauce in the pantry is important.
  • Broth — I do have cartons of vegetable broth, but mostly I use Better than Bouillon Vegetarian or No-Chicken base.
  • Applesauce — Unsweetened applesauce is a great egg replacer.
  • Sweetener — agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar.
  • Grains — oatmeal, quinoa, rice (brown and/or white)
  • Silken Tofu — Not all tofu has to be refrigerated. Silken tofu is sold in tubs that don’t have to be refrigerated. However, if you don’t use it all, you’ll want to refrigerate the leftover
  • Aromatics — We always have a few onions and garlic available.
  • Flour — I usually have all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and regular whole wheat flour, granulated sugar
  • Oats — Rolled oats are my favorite, but we keep instant around too.
  • Baking Ingredients — baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch.
  • Vegan Sauces— Mayo,instoes, russet potatoes, red potatoes
  • Bananas—fresh or frotzen
A closeup of a bowl of vegetable soup has this text above it: Vegan Essentials for your vegan kitchen.

That’s it — my comprehensive list of vegan essentials for your kitchen pantry. I rely on these staples from day-to-day to make the best vegan meals and desserts. If you have more than you include in your kitchen, I’d love to hear from you!

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