Similarly to one of our previous posts about raw dessert cupboard essentials, I thought that it might be a nice idea to compile a little collection of some of the things that I think make up a good base for starting out on a vegan diet. Aside from fresh fruits and veggies, these things are great to make sure that you have in the kitchen cupboard and I find help me to be able to add that little something extra to a meal and insure that I’m always prepared! Some of these items are probably things that you already have at home and some might be a little more unusual. What’s great about lots of them is that they’re really versatile and can really help to transform your cooking and make food a little bit more exciting!
Beans and pulses: I mentioned these in a few of the previous vegan posts on here, but i’ll say it again, beans and pulses are such a great staple to have in a plant based diet and can literally be used to create hundreds of different dishes. They’re a great source of fibre and you can easily add them to soups, salads, stews, pastas and so much more! You can buy these both dried or in a canned form and are really handy to have in your kitchen cupboard, as they’ll keep for quite a long period of time. Buying these dried does usually tend to work out more economical, but you will have to soak and cook them prior to using- so requires a little more organisation.
Canned coconut milk: This is probably one of my favourite ingredients and I always make sure that I have at least a couple of these in my store cupboards at all times. It’s an amazing substitute for cream and can be used to make desserts, curries, drinks, soups etc. Coconut milk is incredibly rich and creamy, with an amazingly smooth coconut flavour and is also a great source of healthy fats. You can add this into soups, stews and curries to create a really creamy sauce and add a hint of natural sweetness without any added sugars. It’s also really handy as a cream substitute for desserts and you can even whisk it up to create a coconut whipped cream!
Tinned tomatoes: This may seem like a bit of a mundane item, but tinned tomatoes are such a handy ingredient to have around as they can be an excellent base for a whole host of dishes. They’re really affordable and easy to store so are a great item to stock up on in bulk so that you always have some on hand. I typically use these to create stews, curries and pasta sauces and it just makes cooking that little bit easier as well! Simply add some veggies, kidney beans and seasonings to a can of tomatoes and you’ve got yourself a delicious vegan chilli to serve alongside some brown rice or in wraps in next to no time at all!
Nut butter: Nut butters are such a staple ingredient in my diet, I honestly don’t know how I managed without them for so long! There are so many different flavours and brands out there and hundreds of different ways to use them! My favourites would currently probably be pecan butter, almond butter and cashew butter! When shopping for nut butters, I always make sure that I opt for a brand that doesn’t add any artificial ingredients or sweeteners in there. Meridian Foods are one of my favourite brands that we sell in store and their nut butters contain 100% nuts, so are completely natural. These are great for spreading on toast & rice cakes, as a snack, adding to porridge, serving with fruit and even using in baking! They add an incredible hint of nutty flavour and are also a good source of plant protein and healthy fats! You can also incorporate them into both sweet ad savoury dishes- I love to use cashew and peanut butters in curries and to make a home made satay sauce. It’s also really easy to make your own nut butters if you have a food processor and you can get creative and customise all different flavours: adding coconut and vanilla is always a winner!
Nutritional Yeast: This is one of the slightly more unusual ingredients that I’ve mentioned here, but can usually be found in most health stores! This is a bit of strange one if you’ve never used it before and it has a really flakey texture to it. Despite the appearance and name, nutritional yeast actually has a really cheesy flavour and can be added to soups, sauces, pastas, stews, salads etc to add an extra boost of flavour. You can also use it to make a vegan cheese alternative using soaked nuts like cashews. For me ingredients like this are so useful to have on hand, to help spice up a meal and add just generally make things taste a lot more flavourful and interesting. Nutritional yeast can also be a source of Vitamin B12, which is something that can be slightly harder to get join a plant base diet.
Nuts and seeds: These are probably something that you’ll already have in your cupboard already and they’re such a staple for me, even though I don’t lead a plant based lifestyle. Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and plant proteins. They’re so easy to sprinkle on salads and other dishes to increase the nutrient value of your meal and also make really quick and convenient snacks.
Plant based milks: Technically this could also be a fridge item, depending on whether you purchase fresh or long life milk, but dairy free milks are an absolute essential for me! My favourites are coconut, cashew and almond milk and I use these in my coffee, recipes, to make porridge and also to make cacao hot chocolates! You can now get so many different varieties of plant based milks, so you’re pretty spoilt for choice- so give a few a try and see which one works best for you.
Protein powders: Another thing that I would recommend looking into if you’re starting out on a vegan lifestyle would be a good quality plant based protein powder. These are a great way to up the protein content of your meal and can easily be added to things like smoothies, baking and porridge. I always have protein porridge for breakfast during the winter months and just find it such a warming and satisfying breakfast. Oats are a great source of slow releasing carbohydrate, as well as being a good source of fibre- so combined with the protein powder make for a great post-workout breakfast! Again, these are all things that can easily be stored in your kitchen cupboard and you can whip up so many different dishes with them, so you won’t be stuck for variety. Some of my go-tos are: porridge, protein bites, smoothies and protein pancakes.
I hope that you enjoyed the last post in our Vegan month series and that you hopefully found these posts interesting and helpful. We always love hearing about your thoughts and experiences, so if you have any particular products or dishes that you love, then please let us know!