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The Best 10 Vegan Kitchen Essential Ingredients

If you think that a plant-based diet is monotonous and sad, you're so wrong! The first step to better plan your vegan diet and make the most of your health, but also your taste is to have a pantry full of a wide variety of plant foods. 

If you put the right foods in your shopping cart, you will not only be able to feed yourself at your best and prevent nutritional deficiencies, but also organize tasty and always different menus.

The first step is to plan your weekly shopping: here are the 10 vegan pantry essentials.

1) GRAINS

Grain cereals should be the primary source of complex carbohydrates of any diet (not only of a vegan diet), for this reason, but they are also at the top 10 of our vegan cooking essentials. Cereals are not only a source of complex carbohydrates, but they also contain valuable proteins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins. From these are obtained flours, bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, and baked products. 

Do not limit yourself to wheat, from which the classic pasta is obtained, but range between the various types of cereals, trying to alternate between cereals with or without gluten. Barleycorn, spelt, kamut, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, corn, red rice, black rice, sorghum, and amaranth contain different nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. Consuming a wide variety of them, not limited only to rice or wheat will allow you to make the maximum nutritional intake and cover your needs. 

If you have a good habit of making bread or pizza at home, we give you a little advice: mix different flours; this way you will get a better nutrient profile and always new flavors!

2) LEGUMES

Legumes are key foods in the diet of a vegan. We put them in second place of our 10 vegan essential ingredients, but that is no less important. As in the case of cereals, even with legumes, there is no need to get bored. Nature offers us a wide variety, with different flavors, colors, and nutritional characteristics; for this reason, you can range between the different varieties of beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, but also lupins or edamame to obtain an optimal protein intake, but also complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

The great of legumes is that you can eat them every day, instead of meat, and ensure the coverage of your protein needs, without cholesterol and with a good supply of antioxidants.

Your pantry should be rich in dried legumes, legume flours, or legume flakes that you can use to prepare tasty dishes such as meatballs or vegetable hamburgers, but also legume pasta (great for its low glycaemic impact). If their preparation scares you, don't worry you can also use the canned or frozen ones, and don't forget to buy fresh ones when they are in season!

3) VEGETABLE OILS

Vegetable oils are an excellent source of good quality fats, but also vitamins with high antioxidant power. The king of vegetable oils is extra virgin olive oil, a valuable source of monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E; it has the advantage of resisting high temperatures, and for this reason, it can be used for cooking without producing carcinogenic substances.

Among the plant-based kitchen essentials, however, other oils with a different profile of essential fatty acids with a good intake of omega-3 cannot be missing. This is the case of flaxseed oil, which cannot be missing in the shopping cart of all vegans. Two teaspoons a day is enough for a good intake of these essential fatty acids but remember to use it exclusively raw and store it in the refrigerator and away from light. The poly-unsaturated fatty acids contained in it, in fact, are very fragile and are easily altered, if not stored in the best way. 

4) VEGETABLE DRINKS

Vegetable drinks are not comparable to cow's milk and for this reason, it is not good to call them 'vegetable kinds of milk'. They are drinks with white color, which are very useful, not so much as substitutes for milk at breakfast, but for the preparation of tasty vegan, sweet or savory dishes! Don't get me wrong: they are great with cereals for breakfast, or for the preparation of your favorite porridge, but their usefulness does not stop there, it would be reductive. 

We like to use them in the preparation of mashed potatoes, or vegetable béchamel sauce, but also for the preparation of exotic dishes such as rice scented with coconut milk. Also, in this case, keep in your pantry different types of vegetable drinks, deriving from oats, rice, almond, coconut, but also spelt or mixed cereals. 

Here is an extra tip for vegan athletes: among your essential vegan ingredients do not forget to buy rice milk, which will be useful to you in the post-workout recovery meal; because of its sweetness, in fact, it is great for preparing your fruit-based smoothies and protein powders rich in sugars and proteins.

5) DRIED FRUITS AND OILSEEDS

Almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pine nuts, but also pistachios, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame, flax seeds, or sunflower. They are excellent as a hunger breaker, because of their low sugar content, but also to complete salads or soups, prepare homemade sweets or tasty creams. These foods are rich in essential fatty acids, but also vitamins and minerals and make a small protein contribution. Always enter them for breakfast, for a good balance in nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), whole, added to porridge or yogurt, or in form of creams free of added sugars and preferably organic. Have you ever tried sesame cream (tahini) spread on wholemeal bread? Not only is it delicious, but it's a great source of calcium! Put it on the list of your vegan pantry must-have, you will not regret it!

6) FRESH AND DEHYDRATED FRUIT

At this point, you will surely have understood that varying is important, and this also applies to fruit! Make sure that you always have fresh seasonal and preferably organic fruit at home, so that you can also eat the peel without any fear. The peel is often rich in essential nutrients and fiber and ensures greater satiety, limiting the absorption of sugars. 

Dehydrated fruits such as dates, figs or apricots, are perfect for athletes, due to their precious energy intake, but it can be a good friend in your vegan healthy kitchen to prepare sweets in which you do not want to add refined sugars. 

7) VEGETABLES

Should they be present in your daily menus, for lunch and dinner, and why not even at breakfast? Among the fresh ones choose the seasonal ones: in every season you will always find a wide choice of those vegetables that cannot be missing among your vegan cooking essentials that are rich in calcium, iron and phytochemicals with a protective and antioxidant action, like all green leafy vegetables, cabbage, turnip tops and so on. Fill your refrigerator, and you’ll be healthy.

8) SPICES

An excess of salt, you know, is bad for your health. For this reason, it is useful to reduce its intake, but this does not mean that we are condemned to eat un tastier foods. Spices and herbs are valid allies in the kitchen, allowing you to flavor foods, but also to fill up with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances.

Basil, rosemary, mint, sage, saffron, turmeric, cinnamon: are just a few examples of what the plant world offers us. If you have not done so yet, clear a shelf of your kitchen and fill it with spices and herbs. Your menus will be colorful and super healthy!

9) YEAST IN FLAKES

Yeast in flakes is dried and crumbled brewer's yeast. You can no longer use it to make pizza because it has been deactivated, but it is an excellent source of B vitamins and you can use it to enrich your first courses such as soups based on vegetables, cereals, and legumes, but also dusted on a plate of tomato paste for an extra touch of flavor.

10) OLIVES, CAPERS, AND DRIED TOMATOES

The last 3 essential ingredients that cannot be missing in your pantry vegan essentials are capers, olives, and dried tomatoes. You can use them to flavor your dishes based on vegetables, cereals, legumes, but also to prepare meatballs or vegetable burgers that are always different. No one can tell you anymore that the plant-based diet is monotonous and sad! 

What appliances do you absolutely have to have?

Nothing complicated: the same that should not be missing in the kitchen of those who love to prepare tasty foods with good quality ingredients with their own hands; a small blender, specific knives to cut vegetables, pots with non-stick bottom to be able to cook reducing the amounts of oil and a lot of imagination!

Looking for inspiration of what to cook with these delicious plant-based ingredients? Lucky you - we published dozens of easy-to-make dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even special holiday occasions! 

Click here and start eating not only healthy but tasty!

Author: Francesca Deriu, Nutritionist at Minutro

Further Reading:

Serafini M, Peluso I. Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(44):6701-6715. 

Williams KA Sr, Patel H. Healthy Plant-Based Diet: What Does it Really Mean? J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Jul 25;70(4):423-425. 

Mariotti F, Gardner CD. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets-A Review. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 4;11(11):2661. 

Romani A, Ieri F, Urciuoli S, Noce A, Marrone G, Nediani C, Bernini R. Health Effects of Phenolic Compounds Found in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, By-Products, and Leaf of Olea europaea L. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 1;11(8):1776.

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