Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up good food - it means exploring vegan recipes and finding new, creative ways to make meals you enjoy using plant-based ingredients! Keep your pantry fully-stocked with these vegan kitchen essentials to have a delicious meatless meal at your fingertips, anytime.
Building a vegan pantry doesn’t have to be a costly venture, especially if you’re just beginning to experiment with eating a vegan diet. A few vegan pantry staples are all you need to build a tasty vegan meal that’s sky-high in nutritional value.
Cooking vegan food doesn’t have to be full of unusual, mysterious ingredients - many of the vegan pantry basics are already familiar to us, as they are common items found in a pantry of almost any American household.
A few extra items can round out your existing pantry and fill in the gaps with vegan necessities.
We’ve created a list of the essential vegan pantry items below.
We encourage you to go through your pantry, take stock of what you have, and make a vegan shopping list to build a generous homemade vegan pantry. No need to head to a specialty vegan grocery store - you can find these items at any local supermarket.
Stocking a vegan pantry: Vegan pantry list
We’ve placed our favorite vegan must-haves into categories to make it easier. Organizing your pantry similarly can help you keep a close eye on what you have in the cupboard so that nothing gets lost in the twilight zone at the back for two years.
Beans and legumes
Beans are maybe the food most associated with a vegan diet, and for a good reason - you’re going to be eating a ton of these things. There are many pros and cons of being a vegetarian, and though high protein beans are perfect for your gut, it will take a little while to adjust to the diet's massive fiber levels. You’ll eat so many beans you may even start dreaming about them.
Beans are at the top of the vegan essentials list because they’re stuffed full of lean protein, piles of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Throw beans into almost any recipe, from curries and stews to homemade vegan burgers and even desserts, like brownies made with black beans.
You can use canned beans, ready to go after a good rinse, or dried beans, which can be soaked overnight then simmered on the stovetop. If you have a pressure cooker, you can skip the soaking process altogether.
While dried beans take a little more effort to make, we recommend using them over canned whenever possible, as dried beans cost ¼ of the price of canned beans and taste better, too. If you like convenient cooking, keep both on hand and use the canned ones in a pinch.
The best beans to stock
- Chickpeas (save the liquid from the can for other recipes)
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Fava beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
There are countless varieties of lentils, and they can be used in almost any recipe interchangeably with beans. These vegetarian necessities have a slightly different texture and flavor and are absolutely delicious in classic Indian dishes, like spicy, stewed dahl.
Dried lentils take much less time to cook than beans, as they don’t require soaking and have a shorter cooking time.
The best lentils to stock
- Green lentils
- Brown lentils
- Black beluga lentils
- Red lentils
Whole grains, pseudocereals, and pasta
Not all carbs are created equal, leading to many misconceptions about carbs being “bad” for you. It’s simply not true. Your body needs carbohydrates to function, and whole grains, like brown rice and steel-cut oats, are the way to go, as they contain high fiber levels and other nutrients.
Whole grains are good vegan staples for building satiety in a diet that tends to be a little lighter without dairy and meat.
The best whole grains to stock:
- Brown rice
- Steel-cut oats
- Whole-wheat bread (sprouted, if possible)
Pseudocereals are a funny classification of plant seeds or fruits that are eaten like a grain but are technically not a grain, as they aren’t members of the grass family. This is excellent news for some, as it means they are gluten-free. These cereals tend to be very high in protein and nutritional value, so stock up and eat up regularly!
The best pseudocereals to stock:
- Chia seeds
One of our favorite vegan basics is pasta because you can pair this filling food with almost any protein or sauce, from traditional spaghetti and veggie balls to stir-fries and more. Be sure to grab whole-wheat varieties more often than not, as they’re the most nutritious and contain high levels of filling fiber.
If you’re eating gluten-free or want to eat more whole-grain foods, try grain-free noodles made from quinoa, chickpeas, or beans instead.
The best pasta to stock
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Brown rice pasta
- Red lentil pasta
- Quinoa pasta
- Chickpea pasta
- Black bean pasta
Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
Nuts and nut butters
Nuts are an essential vegan grocery item to help keep you feeling satisfied and satiated. A vegan diet tends to be naturally light on fat since we consume much of our fat through animal sources.
Nuts and seeds provide much-needed essential fatty-acids, a hit of protein, and many nutrients. Grab them by the handful for a simple snack, or include them in your recipes, like cashew alfredo.
Nut butter is a decadent and delicious spread for toast, crackers, or fresh-sliced fruit. For anyone with allergies, skip the peanut butter and opt for almond or walnut butter instead.
The best nuts and nut butter to stock
- Walnuts and walnut butter
- Almonds and almond butter
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Cashews and cashew butter
Seeds are tiny nutrient bombs, naturally designed to give life to a whole new plant. That makes most seeds a great addition to any high-protein vegan diet. You can eat seeds on their own, mixed with dried fruits for homemade trail mix, and use them for baking whole-grain bread and muffins.
Flaxseeds are especially handy, as they can be mixed with water and used as an egg replacement in many vegan recipes.
The best seeds to stock
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
Herbs and spices are the cherry on top of any good recipe - no matter how high the quality of ingredients in your dish, vegan spices used properly will take any recipe from good to great.
Stock your pantry with these essential spices for vegan cooking, and if you like to experiment, head to your local international markets and find some exciting blends to round out your collection.
The best spices to stock
- Nutritional yeast, to add a cheesy taste
- Sea salt
- Kala Namak, to make tofu taste like eggs
- Chili flakes
- Curry powder
Sauces and miscellaneous items
This fermented soybean product is deliciously salty and often used in Asian cooking. You can stock authentic soy sauce or tamari, which is just as rich and entirely gluten-free.
Coconut milk is one of our favorite vegan products because we like to use it to make savory, creamy curries, and the best vegan replacement ever - vegan whipped cream. Coconut milk is high in healthy fats, an essential addition to any healthy vegan diet.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is a fantastic basic for not just the vegan pantry but any pantry. Use EVOO to top salads, add healthy fats into your dish, and for cooking. Its low smoke point makes it ideal for cooking at low temperatures only; for medium to high heat cooking, use other oils, like vegetable oil, to avoid burning.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Combine ACV with olive oil for a dynamite homemade salad dressing, or add some into any recipe that needs a bit of acidity. It has an antimicrobial and antioxidant effect on the body, especially if you buy the unfiltered kind with the mother in the bottle.
Sun-dried tomatoes are salty and delicious in salads, dips, and pasta. Plus, they last a lot longer than their fresh counterparts. Keep a jar in the cupboard to immediately crank the flavor of any dish up to 10.
Vegan mayo is usually made from oil and has a pretty spot-on taste compared to classic mayo. Use this version in place of mayo in any recipe, or instead of chicken salad, make a chickpea salad sandwich with chopped veggies, pickles, onion, and vegan mayo.
Final notes: Whole vegan pantry must-haves
Use this guide to make a shopping list that completes your vegan pantry.
Keep your pantry fully-stocked with some items from each category:
- Beans and legumes, like cannellini, black beans, chickpeas, and green lentils;
- Whole grains pseudocereals, and pasta;
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butter from walnuts, almonds, and peanuts;
- Basic cooking spices, nutritional yeast, and sea salt;
- Soy sauce, coconut milk, and vegan mayo.