Cooking wholesome, plant-based meals isn't too difficult, but often requires regular trips to the produce section of your local supermarket or farmer's market. Cue: the well-stocked pantry. Even on your laziest of days, or when you just can't make it to source any more fresh greens, a pantry full of plant-based delights can help you easily whip up a vegan meal full of flavor and nutrition, and provide a nice home for your wilted kale. Stock these items in your pantry to make plant-based cooking easier on a daily basis.
Canned Beans and Legumes
Perhaps the most famed source of plant-based protein, at least second to tofu, is the humble bean. And while dried beans are delicious, you don't always have hours on end to simmer up a pot of beans. Keep a variety of canned beans, like white beans, black beans, and even vegetarian refried beans stocked in your pantry for the key to very quick meals, like smashed beans on toast.
Pasta is always a perfect quick and easy meal starter, and countless new brands are elevating your pasta night to a nutritious (and delicious) feast. Stock a few shapes of chickpea, whole-wheat, or veggie-enriched pasta to give that go-to weeknight meal an extra boost of fiber and vitamins. Make this cherry tomato sauce with any type of pasta, or go for a real quick and satisfying aglio e olio garlicky pasta.
This sesame seed paste is a must in all plant-based pantries, thanks to its creaminess, richness, and ubiquity. Use it as a salad dressing, drizzled over roasted veggies, blended into a smoothie, or to amp up creamy sauces in both sweet and savory dishes. It's also just good on its own as a dip, and even does wonders for various desserts!
Your favorite nut butter will go far in plant-based cooking, whether it be peanut, almond, or cashew. Of course, you can stock all three, and even some sunflower seed butter if you're big on variety. These sources of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins are just as tasty licked off a spoon as they are for fast vegan meals like quick nutty noodles, almond pomegranate toast, and more.
Whether you're a bouillon pantry or a stock pantry, keep some nonperishable veggie broth on hand at all times. Not only is it great to have in a bind when you just want to sip on some soup, but veggie broth can infuse flavor in cooked grains or quinoa, be used as a braising liquid for tougher vegetables like mushrooms, and of course, work as a starter or base for heartier recipes like red lentil curry or vegetable soup.
Something that differentiates restaurant cooking from home cooking can be the excellent use of acid most chefs are trained to perfect. A squeeze of a lemon or lime can often help with that, but if you don't have fresh citrus on hand, or want a deeper, bolder flavor, vinegar is your best flavor friend. Look for vinegars without sugar or other flavors or colors added, to ensure quality. Use it in vinegar roasted potatoes, to shake up your own vinaigrette, or to make your own pickled onions and condiments.
Nuts and Seeds
Adding texture to plant-based meals elevates a simple pantry dinner to a full-on delicacy. Keep your favorite seeds, like flax, sunflower, or sesame, on hand for decoration, crunch, and a few added nutrients. Nuts are another great way to boost texture, like as a salad topper, or just lightly toasted and chopped to throw on a bowl of soft food, like rice or pasta. Grind up nuts to make a crunchy coating for tofu, or use pantry nuts and blend 'em into a plant-based pesto.