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When transitioning to, or experimenting with, a plant-based diet, it is important to keep the kitchen stocked up with healthy and tasty options. While having a variety of grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a wholesome, plant-based diet, there are several unexpected staples that can effortlessly take your vegan chef game to the next level. Here are 10 unexpected staples that you need to snag during the next grocery run!

1. Nutritional Yeast

Hefeflocken Naturatahefeflocken_naturata/Wikimedia

If you’re new to a plant-based diet, it’s possible that you’ve never heard of this amazing health food, but it is time to start incorporating it into your kitchen. Nutritional yeast, known by its loving nickname, ““nooch,”” is loaded with B vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. Its cheesy taste makes it a must-have for vegan cheese sauces. It can be blended, emulsified, sprinkled into dishes, baked, and more. In short, nutritional yeast can be added to basically every savory plant-based dish for some added nutrition and cheesiness. Try using it in this Raw Almond Parmesan recipe!

2. Miso Paste

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Miso paste is a great staple item that adds a sophisticated, salty flavor to your dishes. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and comes in a variety of colors; white, yellow, red, and brown (be sure to avoid varieties with bonito flakes (aka fish flakes). Miso paste can be used as a ramen or soup base, and can furthermore be integrated into salad dressings, sauces, cheeses, and marinades that could use umami flavor. For more information about miso, check out Facts About Miso, With Tips, Health Benefits and Recipes. For miso-influenced meals, try out Miso Vegetable Pad Thai or Miso Kimchi Nachos with Cashew Cheese.

3. Black Salt

8710220866 Bd3524486f Hfred_v/Flickr

Black salt has a flavor that is just as unique as its appearance. With a sulfur-y smell and taste, black salt is an incredible ingredient to use for adding egg-like flavor. This ingredient will single-handedly amp up any tofu scramble, vegan ramen, or any egg-emulating dish. What’s even better is that black salt is very inexpensive and healthier for you than table salt, given its lower sodium and digestive aid properties. Definitely, do not be intimidated by this awesome ingredient! A great introduction recipe for working with black salt is our Eggy Bread with Kala Namak.

4. Cashews

Spicy Golden Turmeric CashewsSpicy Golden Turmeric Cashews/One Green Planet

Cashews are complete game-changers in vegan cooking! Healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants are abundant in this super-food. Cashew milk is a delicious, dairy-free option and is relatively easy to make at home. Blended cashew cream can also stand as the base to vegan cheeses, sour cream, sauces, and desserts that will wow dinner guests. Pro-tip: keeping soaked cashews in your refrigerator is helpful so they are ready-to-go when you need them. Soaking cashews in water for two hours or boiling them for 3-4 minutes makes for easy blending. In no time, you’ll be whipping up Tangy Cashew Tofu Ricotta or Raw Spiced Cashew Cheese.

5. Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas Feat ImageOven Roasted Chickpeas/One Green Planet

Chickpeas are a great source of healthy protein and vitamins that will keep you full and satisfied for hours. A can of chickpeas is normally under $1 and if you buy dry garbanzo beans, they are an even greater bargain. Chickpeas are the key to hummus, but they can also be mashed into Veggie Packed Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad that is a perfect meal on-the-go. If you’re feeling fancy, seasoned and roasted chickpeas add extra crunch and protein to salads or Buddha bowls. Adding chickpeas into curries or stews is also fantastic. Try our Buffalo Roasted Chickpeas and Roasted Chickpeas with Chipotle and Lime for chickpea based snacks! These little beans are great to keep on hand for quick, satisfying meals.

6. Dates

You Can Do What With Dates?! 10 Decadent Date Dessert RecipesQuinoa Date Nut Truffles/One Green Planet

With dozens of varieties, dates come in countless shapes, sizes, and textures. Dates are sweet, fiber-rich fruits that provide a variety of health benefits. With a long shelf life, dates can be kept on your counter without fear they will spoil soon (avocados — take some notes). They are a healthier alternative to processed sweeteners given their natural sweetness. Adding dates to smoothies and blended drinks will add caramel-y sweetness to your morning routine. Dates are great snacks that can enhance trail mix or granola bars. For more ideas on how to use dates, check out 20 Awesome Things You Can Do With Dates.

7. Veggie Bouillon

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Whether you choose to make your own bouillon cubes or pick up a block at the store, veggie bouillon will make cooking soups, stews, marinades, and gravies simple. Bouillon cubes are great for those on a budget, given that bouillon cubes yield huge portions of stock for the same cost as a quart of vegetable stock. Plus, portioning bouillon cubes for how much veggie stock is needed will avoid leftover veggie stock sitting in your fridge.

8. Vegan Mayo

Homemade Vegan Mayo 982x800How to Make Homemade Vegan Mayo/One Green Planet

As the plant-based movement grows, more companies are offering vegan options of omnivore favorites. Vegan mayonnaise, in particular, has become available for those seeking a familiar, cholesterol-free condiment. Creating sauces, aiolis, and spreads is no problem when you have vegan mayo on hand. From stepping up vegan sushi, to binding your chickpea “tuna” salad together, to creating custom dipping sauces or sandwich spreads, a vegan mayo creation can jazz up your favorite recipes. While it is certainly not a health food, vegan mayo enhances the richness and comfort of your healthy meals. Everything in moderation, right? If you’re down for DIY vegan mayo, try our Homemade Vegan Mayo and our Rutabaga Fries with Basil Mayo.

9. Canned Coconut Milk

Make Your Own Coconut MilkMake Your Own Coconut Milk/One Green Planet

With one cup of coconut milk containing substantial amounts of the daily-recommended vitamins and minerals, this inexpensive and convenient ingredient should stay stocked in your pantry. Chilling coconut milk will allow you to separate and utilize coconut cream for non-dairy ice cream and cream sauces. Try adding a twist on rice dishes by subbing coconut milk for half the required water (rice-cooker friendly). Coconut curries, soups, smoothies, or marinades are a few different ways that canned coconut milk can make your plant-based meals easy and interesting. Our Nourishing Potato Curry with Kale and Roasted Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream are just a few of the easy recipes that use coconut milk.

10. Soy Sauce / Tamari

TamariTamari Health Benefit Tips/One Green Planet

From stir-fries and sautées to marinades and dipping sauces, soy sauce (or its gluten-free counterpart, tamari) is a must-have in your pantry. When cooking your veggies, especially mushrooms and onions, try using soy sauce instead of an oil to provide a deeper flavor. Getting familiar with soy sauce will introduce you to Tempeh Bacon Salad with Marinated Mushrooms or this Chow Mein Noodle recipe. If you are a lover of salty, savory, and flavorful foods, having soy sauce in your refrigerator is a necessity!

What vegan staples do you always have stocked in your pantry or fridge? Here’s a list of 12 Must-Have Items for Your Vegan Pantry to check out by downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day!

Lead image source: fred_v/Flickr

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