Happy New Year — it’s 2020 and suddenly we can all see perfectly! Ok, that joke is already old, but maybe your eyes have been opened to the prospect of becoming more plant-based this year. Or maybe you are resolving to go completely plant-based — Veganuary is trending! To assist you in your efforts, here are some must-haves for your plant-based pantry that will help you prepare delicious and nutritious meals. A well-stocked pantry will make this New Year’s Resolution one you will actually keep!
Dry or Canned Beans
Dry or organic, low-sodium canned beans are an inexpensive protein source and are great in a grain bowl or added to a salad. Plus, they provide tons of fiber, which is so good for your digestion. Stock your pantry with your favorites from the following: black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas (garbanzos), great northern beans (cannellini), pinto beans, kidney beans and lentils.
Whole grains and beans are a match made in heaven. Add some leafy greens and veggies and you’ve got a meal that’s a nutritional powerhouse. Keep your tried and true grains on hand but don’t be afraid to try out a new one from time to time. Some suggestions are: oats, barley, bulgur, couscous, millet, brown/wild rice, quinoa, wheat berries, 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat bread and pasta products.
Canned Tomato Products
Tomatoes are the backbone for many great sauces and soups. With cans of tomato sauce, tomato puree, and diced tomatoes in your pantry, you are one huge step closer to a fantastic homemade chili or Italian night for dinner. Take a few minutes the next time you are at the store to explore your canned tomato options—you’ll be glad you did!
Dried Herbs and Spices
You will be amazed at how much flavor and kick herbs and spices add to any dish, not to mention nutrition. Keeping a good selection of regularly used spices on hand will elevate your cooking and make it so much easier to create delicious, restaurant-worthy meals at home. This is how you let your creativity shine! Individual tastes are different but some favorites that I regularly use are: cinnamon, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, garlic powder/salt, chili powder, black pepper (freshly ground), Celtic sea salt.
Oils and/or Vegetable Broth
Plant-based oils are wonderful for dressing salads, sautéing vegetables, even baking! Unrefined coconut, avocado, and extra-virgin olive oils are all staples you will want to have on hand. Keep vegetable broth on hand if you prefer cooking oil-free. Plus, it’ll quickly become a staple for the base of soups and cooking stove top meals like stir fries and sautéed vegetables.
Nuts and Seeds (and their Butters!)
It’s time to think beyond peanuts! Cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts are delicious, satisfying, and provide great nutrition. And never underestimate the power of seeds — flax, chia, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds all provide protein and healthy fats. I like to buy nuts and seeds in bulk when they go on sale and store them in small amounts in glass jars in the pantry or fridge while keeping the extras in the freezer.
For nut and seed butters, read labels carefully for any added ingredients that you don’t want like added oils and sugars. Then taste-test and pick your favorites from among natural/organic peanut, cashew, almond, pecan, sunflower, and tahini (sesame paste).
Mixed with oil for a vinaigrette or added to a veggie stir-fry, vinegar yields a lot of flavor in a small amount. Try these and see which ones speak to you: balsamic vinegar, red wine or white wine vinegar, rice vinegar (for Asian-style cooking), or organic apple cider vinegar.
Aminos and/or Tamari
Make any meal tasty in-a-snap with a little douse of either coconut amino acids, Bragg Amino Acids or Tamari. Pro tip: Precook your grains and wash/cut your vegetables on the weekend and place them in the fridge for use throughout the week. When you get home from a long day at work, simply steam the veggies in a wok or stovetop pan with veggie broth and aminos or Tamari, add the grain with some nuts or seeds then top with green onion, cilantro or basil. If you want to add more taste and nutrition to the meal, pop mustard or fennel seed after warming the veggie broth and aminos or Tamari for 1-2 minutes on medium heat before adding the veggies. Popping these fragrant spices releases the delicious flavor and healing fatty acids.
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Ground sesame seeds create a creamy, nutty calcium-rich butter that deserves its own category. Mix tahini with garlic and lemon for a delicious dressing or with Tamari and ginger for a spicy sauce. Pro tip: make a large jar of tahini dressing or sauce to keep in the fridge all week and use it in salads, vegetable bowls, stir fries and in wraps. It also makes a delicious on-the-go snack! Grab a yummy tahini chocolate chip bite recipe here.
Cashew’s high fat content lend to their famous versatility in making everything from savory cheese to creamy sauces to sweet whipped desserts. Soak cashews in water for a least four hours then drain before adding them to your food processor with ingredients that will magically make them into whatever you’d like. Check out cashew cream stuffed shells and creamy cashew pudding recipes.
Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will give you a great starting point for setting up your most successful plant-based pantry yet. Here’s to a healthy and Happy New Year!
Hey y’all! My name is LuAnn Parker and I am a graduate student in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition at Georgia State University, on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian. I am super excited about this opportunity to learn more about helping and educating others on improving their health through nutrition. I am especially interested in working with those affected by cancer, as I have experienced this in my own family. Jesus follower, wife to Greg, mama to 3 beautiful girls, plant-based lover of food! “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin