Commonly regarded as one of the most heart-healthy diets out there, the Mediterranean diet as we understand it today is not so much a “diet” as it is a lifestyle and sustainable way of eating.

Derived from the historic social and eating patterns practiced in various regions of (and around) southern Italy, Greece, Spain, and Turkey, the Mediterranean “diet” is primarily plant-based in that it revolves around fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and, of course, olive oil. For some, a Mediterranean diet also incorporates small amounts of eggs and proteins like fish and white meat.

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The diet itself is associated with lower risks of disease-causing inflammation, mortality, and heart disease, and has been lauded for also being linked with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re interested in how to begin stocking a pantry that is conducive to Mediterranean cooking, read on! We have some suggestions for you.

We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App  — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, plant-based and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help you get healthy! And, don’t forget to check out our Mediterranean Archives!

The Basis of Mediterranean Cooking

The Mediterranean diet actually has its own pyramid, which suggests that all meals should contain three elements: cereals, vegetables, and fruits.

By “cereals”, the pyramid isn’t referring to a box of the sugary stuff you buy in the packaged aisle at the store. It refers instead to bread, pasta, rice, bulgur, couscous, and other kinds of grains, with a preference for whole grain varieties when possible. Check out this easy recipe for 10-Minute Mediterranean Pasta to get started, then move on to these Chickpea Flatbreads With Garlicky Tahini Sauce for more.

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Want something unique? Fellah Köftesi: Turkish Bulgur Dumplings are made with finely ground bulgur, while this Mediterranean Couscous in Red Pepper Sauce is plated beautifully.

Common Vegetables and Fruits

You can’t go wrong with stocking up on plenty of leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, to form the basis of many Mediterranean dishes.

Next, look out for non-starchy veggies. Eggplant, cauliflower, artichoke, fennel, and mushrooms are all commonly used in Mediterranean cookery.

Bell peppers and tomatoes are technically fruits, but are considered vegetables in the culinary sense, and are also big-hitters in Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t forget the olives as well — they’re huge! Check out this recipe Artichoke Olive Tapenade With Za’Atar to see how to use them, or this recipe for a Mediterranean Smashed Chickpea Sandwich.

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The above recipe for Eggplant Hummus Wraps With Smoky Tomato Confit is the perfect Mediterranean meal or appetizer. This gluten-free Buckwheat and Avocado Tabbouleh salad is fresh and bright, while this Roasted Cauliflower Shakshuka makes cauliflower a star.

Legumes

Fava beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans, lentils, and chickpeas are staples in Mediterranean cuisine. Check out the gluten-free Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpea Gyros pictured above, or this recipe for a Mediterranean White Bean Burger With Tzatziki Sauce.

Of course, chickpeas can also be transformed into hummus, a Levantine dip or spread traditionally made from cooked or mashed chickpeas. Try out this citrus-forward recipe for Sprouted Meyer Lemon Basil Hummus!

Another popular spread is tahini, which is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Check out these 15 Tasty Tahini Recipes You’ll Love, like these Cauliflower Crisps and Tangy Tahini Dressing.

Spices and Herbs

Olive oil is typically the favored source of dietary lipids dietary what? in Mediterranean cooking. Flavor comes from the variety of herbs and spices used in the preparation of the dishes. Oregano, rosemary, and parsley are recurring herbs used in Mediterranean cooking, as well as dill, fennel, mint, garlic, citrus agents like lemon and lime, and garlic. When it comes to spices, sumac, Aleppo red pepper flakes, sea salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cumin are oft-used.

Check out how you can infuse herbs into baba ganoush, a roasted eggplant dip, in this recipe for Lemon and Thyme Baba Ghanoush pictured above.

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This gluten-free Chickpea and Almond Meal Falafel With Mint and these Fennel Pies, which are traditionally called Marathopites, also showcase Mediterranean herbs and spices.

Plant-Based Swaps

Occasionally, dairy products show up in Mediterranean diets; we’ve all heard of Greek yogurt, for example. Luckily, the Food Monster App has a variety of different recipes that can stand in for traditional dairy!

Learn Make Your Own Dairy-Free Greek Yogurt at Home, for example, or try out this Homemade Coconut Greek Yogurt recipe if you want to follow a specific recipe.

If you want to drizzle some tzatziki sauce over your gyros, or your falafel, or anything at all (we don’t blame you), check out this recipe for Nutritious Tzatziki, or cut right to the chase and make these Tempeh Gyros With Tofu Tzatziki at home.

Don’t believe a greek salad is any good without plant-based feta? Then make this Tofu Feta Cheese, and then if you’re super hungry go all out with this gluten-free recipe for Feta and Olive Greek Pizza.

Want more? Check out these 15 Mediterranean Recipes That Will Transport You to the Seaside and these 9 Heart-Healthy Vegan Greek and Mediterranean Recipes.

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!

Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammationheart healthmental wellbeingfitness goalsnutritional needsallergiesgut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acnehormonal imbalancecancerprostate cancer and has many side effects.

For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

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