As I prepare to move out of my current dwelling in Northern California I have started the arduous task of packing up my kitchen. Moving is crazy - it's exciting, scary, sad, happy, its so damn bittersweet. Mendocino county is the most magical, wild, healing place I have ever been. Visiting here two years ago I could not have expected my life to line up as it did - it has solidified my purpose, inspired my soul and ignited my spirit. With my vision clear I feel called back to the place where I was born, the Connecticut shoreline - to make a difference and share my purpose in the community that is closest to my heart. I could go on but I'll save the sappiness for another post.
As I clean out my pantry I wanted to share with you the things I have kept regularly stocked for the past two years to help inspire your own whole-foods plant-based kitchen. I want to show you that eating this way doesn't have to be expensive, complicated or full of mystery powders and potions - as you'll see below most of my pantry staples are cheap, easy to find and quick to prepare. I buy most of these items in bulk (either online or at the health food store) to cut down on waste - when I can I always try to buy glass containers as opposed to plastic and I recycle my cans and reuse my containers. The items below are things I use at least once a week and that I know you'll get frequent use out of, too! I've linked a lot of the items I love and buy frequently on Amazon for your convince. Check it out and then let me know - what are your favorite pantry staples?
I love experimenting with different flours which I always buy in the bulk section of my natural foods grocery store. In my pantry right now I have chic pea flour (great for savory pancakes), whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour (makes incredible bread), brown rice flour, almond meal (great in baked goods) and Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour. Experiment and find your favorites!
A lot of people are scared of sugar, and I totally get it. While I don't do the whole processed 'white sugar' thing I do like my stuff sweet and I want to encourage you to keep natural sugars in your diet, but in moderation. As you reduce your sugar intake your taste buds balance out. Eventually, it will take less natural sugars to make things taste sweet and delicious; my friends always laugh at me when I remark how sweet a piece of broccoli or romaine is - but thats how I know my taste buds are in check!
- Pure Maple Syrup - I buy this stuff in bulk because it is my #1 go to sweetener and I like my shit sweet. It can be expensive but purchasing a 32 oz. jar every 2 months is better than buying a tinyyyy little bottle for $10 every week. I love it's rich delicious flavor in breakfast, granola and even in my coffee.
- Coconut Sugar - I sub any other form of processed sugar a recipe may call for for coconut sugar. It has a lower glycemic index and a slightly molasses-y flavor akin to brown sugar - YUM.
- Blackstrap Molasses - This stuff is awesome. While it is a bit of an acquired taste it makes a great addition to spiced cakes and other treats. It also has a super dense nutritional profile including iron, vitamin A and much, much more.
- Medjool Dates - Sticky, sweet, and the best little energy boost money can buy. I buy these babies in bulk. I eat them stuffed with cashew butter as a quick snack or use them in baking or raw treats.
Almond, cashew, macadamia, hemp - whatever! Try them all and discover your favorite. You can buy them in the store or make your own (if you have millions of hours to do that kind of stuff). Store-bought unsweetened plant based milks are delicious, fortified, affordable and have no-nasties like hormones and puss (side eye, cows milk). You can get them flavored with vanilla for your cereal or buy them 'plain' to use in savory dishes as well.
- Almond Butter - I use almond butter at least a few times a week - on toast, in baking, in smoothies, or honestly - by the spoonful. I love to make my own using whole almonds and my trusty food processor but when looking for store-bought wait for a sale and stock up as this stuff can get pricey!
- High Quality Tahini - Do yourself a favor and get some high-quality authentic Middle-Eastern-style Tahini. The "Americanized" version does not compare. This pourable liquid gold makes for a great alternative to oil in baking or as the base for the most deliciously creamy dressing you could ever dream of.
- PB2 Powder - If you love peanut butter, go grab this now! With 80% less fat, I find it must easier to work with when adding to smoothies, baked goods or savory Thai-style sauces. The flavor is strong and when you mix it with a little water and maple syrup it makes a great dip for sliced green apples.
I used to be afraid of nuts for their high fat content but as I spend more time experiementing with my diet I have made nuts a staple. They are versatile, delicious and they keep you fuller for longer. I buy my nuts and seeds raw and in bulk - this way I can use them in many applications and keep my costs lower. I often store nuts in the freezer so they don't spoil.
- Cashews - High in nutrients and perhaps the most versatile nut. Sweet, creamy Cashews are great in so many applications - chopped up and added to rice dishes, in smoothies, over oatmeal. When I am feeling extra fancy I soak them to use in as a raw cheesecake base or blended with a little water, salt and garlic to make cashew cream. I also chuck them in the food processor with nutritional yeast and seasonings to make an incredible vegan "parm" that sprinkle over everything savory.
- Walnuts - Rich in omega 3's, Walnuts are a close second to cashews in terms of versatility. You can use them in anything - they're my favorite nut to add to chocolate smoothies.
- Almonds - My favorite nut. I love buying raw almonds in bulk when they're on sale and using them in baking or to make my own almond butter.
- Brazil Nuts - High in essential minerals, I love to snack on brazil nuts wrapped in dates - they are the perfect pre-workout pick me up.
- Pumpkin Seeds - Sprinkled over salads, add in granola, mix into baked goods.
- Hemp seeds - High in protein and super filling, I love the delicate texture of these little gems.
- Chia Seeds - Ohhhhh chia. I use chia nearly every day - in smoothies, in overnight oats, and ground up with a little water in baking to replace eggs. I love these filling fiber-rich seeds.
- Ground Flax Seeds - Flax is similar to chia in that it gels when added to water - I love the body that ground flax gives to smoothies.
Beans (Canned or Dry)
In 'How Not to Die' Dr. Greggor states that research shows us that one of the best things you can do for your health is to eat 1 cup of beans a day because in short, FIBER. While I don't think I eat that much I do love beans - I always add them to salads and soups and often make my own hummus with a bit of tahini. Canned beans are convenient and fast - just make sure you give them a super good rinse!
My favorite beans include, garbanzo beans, kidney beans and black beans.
Other Canned Goods
- Coconut Milk - For use in curries, raw desserts and anything that you want to give a rich, creamy body.
- Tomatoes - Pureed, diced, fire roasted, whole, etc. I ALWAYS keep a variety of canned tomatoes on hand for quick soups, sauces and stews. One of my go-to quick and easy dinners is a can of fire roasted tomatoes, a can of chic peas and a ton of wilted greens spiced with red pepper flakes.
- Pumpkin Puree - While I may not use pumpkin once a week I do use it year round. It makes a great addition to curries, pancakes and even smoothies.
Ohhhh, grains. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with these guys as some of them leave me feeling like a balloon animal (ugh) but they are so versatile, cost effective and full of energy so I think they should play a role in most any balanced diet. I love experimenting with different grains like farrow, bulghur and amaranth - there's something so ancient and human about grains; humanities' great civilizations were founded around their cultivation so yea, I am not on the paleo wagon. That said, I am not gluten free but I do notice I feel a bit better when I limit my gluten intake so here are my top grains...
- Quinoa - You will never, ever find me without quinoa prepped in the fridge. I buy it in bulk and make a few cups every week to use for quick breakfast, lunches and dinners throughout the week. Quinoa, which acts like a grain, is technically a seed that is super rich in protein and other nutrients. It is my #1 go to "grain".
- Rice - Personally brown rice (and lentils) don't digest great for me so I stick to white jasmine rice, black rice or my favorite, Japanese sushi rice (I make a lot of my own sushi). I don't cook it all the time (because I am impatient AF so when I do it's in bulk - I will often portion and freeze it once cooked so I have it ready-to-go.
- Oats - I am a self admitted oats addict. For me, they digest so well and I love the texture - I could eat them for every meal. I often cook down old fashioned oats with cinnamon, mashed banana and a tablespoon of almond butter for an easy, hot breakfast or soaking steel cut oats overnight with cashew milk, chia seeds and maple syrup for the ideal on-the-go treat. I also use oats to make oat flour (great for baking and raw protein bites) and even in smoothies.
- GF Quinoa/Brown Rice Pasta - Because every one wants pasta but not everyone feels great after eating the flour varieties. This brand is so easy on my digestion and it cooks up just like traditional noodles.
- Buckwheat or Rice Noodles - I eat Thai/asian style noodles A LOT so this is something I always keep on hand. Noodles are generally are super cheap - I add a ton of veggies (fresh or frozen) and some peanut sauce and, voila, I have an impressive, whole-foods plant-based dinner.
- Buckinis - I like to add these crunchy little guys to granola or on top of smoothies bowls.
Seasoning ... Spices/Sauces
When people tell me they love meat because of "the flavor" I am tempted to reply, "you know thats seasoned with ah, hem, vegan spices, riiiight?" Flavor is what makes food taste good, so here are my most commonly used...
- Pink Salt or Celtic sea salt - anything but iodized table salt. Salt makes food taste good, we also need sodium to survive but we don't need to consume it in the amounts we so often do. I like larger flakes so I can really see how much I am adding to a dish.
- Chili Powder - I like Mexican food a lot so this gets used often - mixed into beans, sprinkled over corn tortillas, and of course added to a spicy bean chili.
- Curry Powder/Paste - This mix of spices makes for a quick and easy veggie curry. I love trying different brand and varieties - red thai curry paste, yellow curry powder, garam masala, etc.
- Garlic Powder - Because this lazy girl can't be bothered to peel garlic most days.
- Smoked Paprika - This is my latest spice obsession. I sprinkle it into to everything - soup, salad, avo toast. Some varieties are spicy and others are sweet - read the label carefully!
- Turmeric powder - I use this powder for it's color and health benefits. I love the hue it gives to vegan cheese sauces. In order to receive all of the inflammation reducing benefits, be sure to have it with a bit of cracked black pepper for max. absorption (thank you Dr. Greggor).
- Cumin - I add paprika, garlic powder and cumin to potatoes to make THE BEST breakfast hash browns. It's kinda my holy spice trinity.
- Red Pepper Flakes - The quickest way to add a hit of heat to your dishes.
- Cinnamon - As if I needed another reason to add cinnamon to everything (including coffee) it naturally regulates your blood sugar level. Heck yea.
- Cardamom - I am OBSESSED with this sweet, spicy, totally unique flavor. I love adding it to anything sweet as you would cinnamon.
- Vanilla Bean Paste - Worth the extra cash! This thick, rich paste is way more concentrated than it's liquid counterpart and it's flecked with real vanilla bean seeds which honestly makes all the difference.
- Spicy Mustard - I mostly use mustard in dressings - combine a little tahini, maple syrup and spicy mustard with some apple cider vinegar and you've got a super tasty sauce/dressing.
- The Pepper Plant California Hot Sauce - This is my personal favorite hot sauce. When buying sauces, look for a small ingredient list with no added sugars and a limited amount of salt.
Here's all the stuff I couldn't fit into the categories above but use ALL - THE - TIME - vinegars, powders and more! Check it out!
- Nutritional Yeast - Yes, it looks like fish food. But, vegan or not, you need all the B-12 vitamin you can get and this is a super tasty source.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - Here's another one I use nearly everyday. With a benefits list a mile long I love to use it as the base for dressings and sauces. I also like to add a splash or two to some cold water with some hibiscus flowers and a bit of maple syrup - it's like rose for people who don't drink. Make sure you buy a brand that includes "the mother".
- Rice Wine Vinegar - I love adding this slightly sweet, delicate vinegar to asian-style sauces.
- Coconut oil - I generally avoid oil but when I do need to use it (in things like granola) I always opt for unrefined coconut oil. I honestly can't 'taste the coconut' like some people say, but hey, to each is own. BONUS: I have replaced all body lotions and hair oils with this same coconut oil - it works better, is more affordable, stop spending money on chemical laden skin products!
- Coconut Aminos - I use this savory brown liquid as a dip for sushi in as an alternative to way-too-salty soy sauce or as a part of a delicious, savory dressing.
- Maca Powder - I know, I know. This is technically a 'superfood' - which I generally denounce (every plant food is superfood, AM I RIGHT?!) BUT I LOOOOVE the taste of maca - it has a nutty, malted flavor that is great in smoothies and baked goods...and if it increases libido and energy to boot - count me in.
- Cacao Powder - It's raw chocolate powder that you can add to literally anything, I mean, do I need to explain? I use it in smoothies, baked goods and raw treats. Love, love, love the stuff.
- Coconut Milk Powder - I sprinkle this into curries when I don't want to use a full can or to make an incredible hot chocolate base mixed with a little bit of cacao powder and maple syrup - it makes everything thick and rich without the use of oil
- Protein Powder - I love to change up my protein powder each time I run out because there are so many out there to try but this brand is my go-to. It doesn't bother my stomach and touts a great ingredient list. I don't think you need a protein powder to supplement a vegan diet ("But where do you get your protein?!") ... yet as an active person I do like to add them to my smoothies for that extra boost.
- Dried Hibiscus Flowers - Ever get bored of regular water? Add a few of these gems to a pitcher and leave it in the fridge overnight - you'll get a gorgeous rosey-hued iced tea that has an addictively tart flavor and some great detoxing benefits. I find them super cheap at any Latin/Mexican Grocery store.
- Dried Mushrooms - Add these bad boys to the base of soup and they will take it from 0 to 60. Everyone will wonder what the heck you did to get all that flavor in there.
- Roobius Chai Tea Powder - I make a roobius chia tea with this powder and a little almond milk nearly every night, plus I add this to smoothies and baked goods for an extra boost of flavor.
- Nori sheets - I make a lot of veggie sushi but nori is also a great snack. I love to tear it up into a salad for another layer of interesting texture.
- Dried Fruits - I'd rather have my fruit fresh but I love keeping at least one of the following in my cabinet to use over porridge, in granola and as a snack - raisins, dried mango, sour cherries, dried blueberries or goji berries.