It happens to all of us. The kitchen counter is laid out with ingredients, your cookbook or tablet is open to the desired recipe, and as you’re a third of the way through cooking you realize an essential ingredient is missing. There’s no time to go to the store. So, you suck it up, substitute as best as possible, and finish the recipe with lackluster results.
This situation is frustrating and, even more, produces unsatisfactory results.
The best way to avoid the fatal forgotten ingredient is to always have the basics on hand. One of the true beauties of plant-based cooking is versatility in ingredients. If you regularly have an array of simple plant-based ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator, then you will always have the tools to either substitute or recreate a forgotten or necessary ingredient!
Plant-based recipes are designed around vegetables and therefore this part of your pantry building should be the most laborious in the beginning. Also, seeing as the vegetable is generally the central figure on the plate, it’s beneficial to always have the broad-spectrum staples on hand. Let’s get started on building your veggie palate!
Broccoli and Portobello ‘Beef’/One Green Planet
First and foremost are your cruciferous veggies and dark leafy greens. The major players in your refrigerator should be spinach (large or baby), kale, and romaine, but to diversify your plate try stocking a bit of arugula, mustard greens, and sprouts. Always have a head of broccoli and cauliflower, as well as brussels sprouts and scallions. These veggies are rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and they are chalk full of fiber and antioxidants. On top of that, they are low in carbs and cholesterol and are major inflammation fighters.
‘Tuna’ Stuffed Peppers/One Green Planet
Next, look towards an array of color. Always have rainbow carrots, bell peppers (choose your favorite!), red cabbage, tomato, and eggplant. Vegetables with orange, red, or yellow coloring are rich in beta-carotenoids — antioxidants that are converted into vitamin A in the body — vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium. Purple and blue based veggies also offer up a unique antioxidant called anthocyanins, which is specific to heart health and memory.
Savory Saffron Kombu Congee/One Green Planet
It may seem strange that this is one of the important “must-haves” in your pantry, but dried plant-based vegetables are an incredible weapon when it comes to flavor. Plus, since these items are dried, they last longer and can be stored in your pantry instead of taking up space in the refrigerator. Stock up on dried mushrooms (find your favorite!), dried chilies, and dried seaweed products such as kombu and wakame. These food items are chalk full of magnesium, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron, as well as anti-inflammatory properties and are great for adding a bit of umami to a broth or soup or even pulverizing into dressings.
Goji Berry Golden Milk/One Green Planet
Fruits are an essential part of a healthy and balanced plant-based diet. Not only are they low in calories and high in vitamins and fiber, but they are also a convenient snack alternative to sugar-laced items such as baked goods, crackers, and granola items.
Divide your fruits by area in the kitchen: fresh berries in your fridge, tropical fruits in your freezer, and acidic and dried fruits in your pantry. Here’s how my kitchen looks on a weekly basis: fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in the refrigerator (berries are high in fiber and packed full of antioxidants), frozen mango, papaya, and pineapple in the freezer (containing medicinal bromain and an array of vitamins), and ample lemons, limes, and dried goji berries in the pantry.
Hummus Buckwheat Bread/One Green Planet
While many people have steered clear of wheat and gluten products, grains are a nutritious and complimentary food item for plant-based eaters. Grains are rich in fiber and phytochemicals, plant devices chemical compounds including carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols, to name just a few. With that said, choosing the right type of grains to include in your pantry is important.
Stock your pantry with three basic staples: quinoa (any color), brown rice, and rolled oats. These are incredibly popular in plant-based recipes and can be used to create gluten-free flours, bulk up meatless patties, or are great simply on their own. If you’re looking to diversify your grains, add to the mix or swap out brown rice for faro, bulgur, or buckwheat.
Also, it’s always a plus to have plant-based flours on hand such as almond, coconut, or buckwheat flours. Make sure to check the label before purchasing! Many companies cut these flours with enriched wheat flour, therefore, if you’re going gluten-free, these are not the products for you.
Black Bean Burger With Cilantro Lime Sauce/One Green Planet
Due to their short shelf life, fresh herbs are some of the most difficult items to keep in the fridge. With that said, there’s nothing quite like a freshly chopped herb medley! Choosing the right herbs is overwhelming, as there are over 100 varieties to choose from, all of which seem to offer incredible health benefits including improved heart health and immune system functionality, as well as cancer-fighting properties.
Let’s break it down into the most widely-used, popular, and budget-friendly herbs for your kitchen!
Stock your refrigerator with fresh basil, cilantro, and parsley. Stock your pantry with dried oregano, bay leaf, and dill. Once you get the flow of your kitchen, try mix and matching your fresh and dried herbs to your liking.
Lemon Lentil Turnip Soup/One Green Planet
Along with grains, legumes are a staple in plant-based diets and are oftentimes used very similarly in recipes. There are two routes that you can take for stocking these in your pantry. If you’ve got the time to prep and cook, purchase dried green lentils (most widely-used), chickpeas or garbanzo beans, white beans, and kidney beans.
For those with busy schedules and limited time, you can also purchase and store legumes in the canned form.
Choose your canned foods wisely! While some foods are great to purchase in the canned form — great shelf life, picked at peak ripening state, and incredibly convenient in the kitchen — many companies use sodium in the canning process. Look at the label and see if there is added or a high level of sodium. Oftentimes, companies offer a low-sodium option.
Spicy Asian Cucumber Avocado Onion Salad/One Green Planet
If spice and flavoring is the farthest thing from your mind, bump it into the spotlight. While dried spice and flavor-rich bulbs and roots such as garlic, ginger, and shallots, are oftentimes more expensive and frustrating to cook with, they offer essential nutrients, most widely recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties, and incredible flavoring in plant-based diets.
To begin, always stock your pantry with fresh garlic (improves heart health), ginger (eases stomach discomfort), and shallots, as well as dried spice including turmeric (powerful anti-inflammatory), cumin (promotes digestion), cayenne (reduces hunger cravings), cinnamon (lowers blood sugar), nutmeg (great detoxifier), red pepper flakes (boosts the immune system), and, of course, salt and pepper, the flavoring royalties. Save a bit of money by purchasing your dried spices in the bulk section at health food stores. Luckily, you won’t have to purchase spices on a regular basis, as they last for months!
Raw Pistachio Date Caramel Squares/One Green Planet
You want to avoid sugar, yet what is life without something sweet? Fear not, as a plant-based eater you have a slew of options to enjoy a sweet treat on a regular basis. This rule of natural substitution applies to your favorite condiments, one of the most popular being ketchup, which are generally packed full of hidden sugars.
Stock your pantry with the raw and natural sweeteners, which also happen to be favorite substitutes for plant-based bakers, including raw honey (antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties), dried dates (fiber-rich), and coconut sugar (yes, you read that, a healthier sugar option!). For savory condiments always have apple cider vinegar, gluten-free tamari sauce, and a jar of Dijon mustard on hand.
When it comes to choosing the oils on your shelf, take a moment and breath before reaching for that vegetable oil. Recent studies have shown incredibly negative and damaging effects of ingesting vegetable oils — canola, soy, safflower, sunflower, margarine, etc. — which is largely due to the fact that vegetable oils are created “unnaturally” via human processes. These oils have been shown to contribute to inflammation, damaging of natural fatty acids, and an increase of trans fats in the body.
So, what should you use?
Traditional and naturally produced oils. Stock your pantry with olive oil and coconut oil. It’s as simple as that. With that said, if you’re looking to diversify your oil palate a few other safe options include peanut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and palm oil.
When following a plant-based diet, especially for vegetarians and vegans, finding healthy and natural dairy alternatives is a challenge. Yet, even though it may be challenging to find your preferred alternative, there is an incredible array of options to choose from. Here are my favorites that are always on my shelf.
Homemade Cocoa-Coconut Butter/One Green Planet
Coconut butter is made from the meat of a coconut, therefore many of the nutrients that you would obtain from a coconut you get via coconut butter. The health benefits of coconut butter include weight management, immunity boosting, prevents diseases and wards off viruses, and provides dietary fiber and iron. With that said, coconut butter is most popularly used in smoothies, coffee, or in the frying pan.
Simple Vanilla Oat Milk/One Green Planet
I choose oat milk for a few reasons including its mild-nutty flavor, thick and easily frothed texture, and its high nutrient content. Oat milk also has great health benefits including strengthening bones, boosting the immune system, lowering cholesterol, and helping to fight anemia. With that said, this may not be your cup of tea. Almond, coconut, cashew, and hemp milk are also nutrient-packed non-dairy alternatives.
Raw Almond Parmesan/One Green
Cheese crumble is an optional staple. I personally love throwing a bit of crumble on top of these Chili Lime Lentil Tacos With Spicy Grilled Pineapple Salsa or even adding it to chili, such as this High Protein Sweet Potato Chili. While there is an ever growing number of dairy-free alternative cheeses, my favorite is this Raw Almond Parmesan that you make right at home!
Chia Pudding With Blueberries/One Green Planet
Last, but definitely, not least are your superfood additives! Some of the foods listed above already fall into the superfood category, such as kale, yet there are many natural options to add a kick of super-ness to regular non-superfood dishes. Stock your pantry with flaxseed, chia seeds, raw cacao powder, unsweetened coconut flakes, and, surprisingly, vanilla extract.
Flaxseeds, popularly used as an egg substitute, and chia seeds, known for their use in chia pudding, are a staple in plant-based diets due to their incredibly high and diverse nutritional content. Raw cacao, the ingredient that makes dark and milk chocolate, has a flavanol called epicatechin, which has been linked to beneficial effects on “blood pressure, lipids, and inflammation.” Unsweetened coconut flakes, great for crusts and dessert toppings, are truly the cherry on top, yet this cherry also provides dietary fiber, iron, and zinc. Vanilla extract is one of the most popular, yet misunderstood ingredients. It’s used for adding a bit of vanilla flavor in a variety of recipes, yet it also has amazing benefits including antibacterial and antioxidant properties, reduction of inflammation and cholesterol, and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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