Feb 7, 2017 (Last updated Aug 26, 2022) by Hannah Sunderani
“What’s in your pantry?”
…is a question I get a LOT! Especially as a plant-based food blogger. About a year ago I began my transition to a more plant-based diet, and to be completely honest I was at a bit of a loss in the beginning. I went from store to store stocking up on pantry items from A-Z, some were terribly pricey, and some still remain unopened! But through the year I’ve noticed a handful of ingredients that I turn to time and again when looking to cook and create. And so stocking your pantry with versatile plant-based ingredients helps BIG TIME in sticking to a healthy plant-based lifestyle. The following 5-ingredients are pantry staples that are SO useful in transitioning to a plant-based diet. You can use them to make everything from sweet treats, to savoury spreads and sauces. They’re ingredients that make it super easy to replace animal products with plant-based alternatives. I hope you find them as useful as I do!
1. Almond Milk
I’m not going to deny that I’m a big advocate for making your own almond milk; it’s so rich and creamy! But, this means soaking raw almonds overnight in water, then blending and straining through a nut milk bag; which all takes TIME, and frankly it’s something we’re all short of. So, if you’re too busy for the almond-milk-making-shenanigans it’s good to have a few store bought packs in your pantry. The good news is that this nutty bev is becoming easier to find in grocery stores. I always have a few boxes of unsweetened almond milk on hand; to toss into smoothies, overnight oats, and coffee. Another bonus about the store-bought milk? It’s shelf-stable, which means you can stockpile these pretties in your pantry. And it remains this way until opened. And if you aren’t nuts for almond there are so many alternative milk varieties to choose from, like coconut, oat, cashew, hazelnut or soy the choice is entirely yours, or why not get them all – they’re shelf-stable after all.
Here’s three recipes that I use almond milk to create! You can see just how versatile this bev can be.
Creamy Lentil Risotto
Fried Banana and Almond Maple Porridge
Cha-cha-cha-chiaaaa! You’ve no idea how many people here in France haven’t heard of this magical little seed! I’m considering setting up a stand at the market and handing it out like candy. Because I absolutely LOVE chia. I eat it for breakfast in overnight oats, in baked goods, in pizza, and dessert. You may have noticed that I also sprinkle it over pretty much every recipe I share, cuz it’s just so darn pretty! Looking under my dining table is full evidence that I’m a chia fanatic. And there are so many reasons that I love these seeds. First of all, chia seeds are a complete protein; so any meal with some added chia is going to boost your daily protein intake and help keep you full. This is especially important for us plant-based eaters, as we need wholesome and creative alt-meat options for protein. Second, I love what chia does for my tummy. I suffer from IBS, and incorporating this fibre rich seed has made a BIG difference to my digestion. And third, chia is my favourite egg substitute for cooking and baking. When added to liquid, chia grows substantially and becomes very gelatinous in texture. It binds to each other, and other ingredients, making it may fav egg-sub. The ratios for 1 chia egg is: 1 tbsp chia to 3 tbsp water. Let it sit for 10 minutes and watch the magic happen! I cannot preach more about this magnificent little seed, it’s a pantry must.
Here’s some recipe ideas for what to do with chia:
Almond Meal and Cauliflower Flatbread with Cashew Parsley Pesto
3. Nutritional Yeast
Don’t freak out yet – I know this food sounds so weird but TRUST me, you want it in your pantry. Nutritional yeast is given its name for a reason; because it’s so incredibly nutritious. This superfood is a complete protein, is packed with B vitamins, and is really good for our digestion – I’m not a doctor or RD so I don’t want to get too much into it’s health benefits, but check here for more deets; it’s bonkers! But, the piece de resistance of nutritional yeast is its taste. It’s SO cheesy in flavour. I swear nutritional yeast was made with the plant-based foodie in mind; this cheesy substitute answered our plant-based prayers and spruces up any meal. I love sprinkling nutritional yeast on popcorn, steamed broccoli, or to make cheesy spreads and sauces.
And if that doesn’t convince you, check out these recipes created with nutritional yeast.
Savoury Tomato and Cashew Cream Cheese Galette
Gourmet Toast 4 ways
4. Raw cashews
I am nuts for this nut! Apart from almonds, raw cashews are the nut I need in my pantry at all times. I will dedicate my shopping trips solely on whether I need more raw cashews. And that’s because this nut is SO versatile for plant-based eaters. Of course you get the bonus of it being delish on its own, sprinkled on salads and the like; but the raw cashew can do OH-SO much more. Raw cashews are the perfect base for making nut cheese spreads, cream sauces, salad dressings, pestos, and desserts. If I were stuck on an island, this would be my ingredient of choice. A cup of these beany looking nuts and the possibilities are endless! You might have noticed I say “RAW” cashews here; that’s intentional. Most cashews at the grocery store are dry roasted, and you’ll know this because they’re brighter yellow in colour and crunchy. Although delicious it’s the raw cashews you want to stockpile. Raw cashews are whiter in colour and softer in texture, which is key for making cashew creams, milks, sauces and spreads. Look for the word “raw” on the label when purchasing.
Let me show you just how creative you can get with raw cashews:
Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Bread Crumb and Thyme
5. Plant-based Protein Powder
Although I like to get most of my protein from whole foods like nuts, seeds and legumes, it can be hard to always get the recommended daily amount. So having a quality protein powder in your cupboard is ALWAYS a good idea. These plant-based powders are high in protein, typically 18-24g per recommended scoop! I like to add protein powder to smoothie bowls in the morning Or, if I’m in a rush I’ll toss it in a shaker-cup with almond milk and take it to-go. Try mixing it into sweet treats, like bliss balls or brownies to boost your 3 p.m. snacks. The catch, however, is finding a plant-based protein that suits your taste preferences. I’m not going to lie, I found this really difficult when switching my powder from whey to plant-based. I often find that plant-based protein powders can be too grainy, or over- flavoured in hopes to mask its less optimal pea-protein taste. Good news is I’ve found my match; the Sun Warrior Classic Vanilla. It’s made using rice protein, and has a sweet vanilla flavour that’s much more subtle compared to other brands.I personally find it makes a much tastier and smoother drink when blended with berries and veg than pea protein types. But you make think otherwise. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a protein powder that suits your taste preferences right away; like me – it might be the second or third brand you try. Good news is that plant-based proteins are getting more popular, which means more variety to choose from. I reckon that just as almond milk used to be a rare find, it’s only a matter of time before plant-based protein powders flood those grocery store aisles too.
Two of my fav ways to use protein powder?
Feel Berry Good Smoothie Bowl
So there ya have it! 5 Plant-based Pantry Staples that can help you transition and maintain a more plant-based lifestyle. These ingredients were a BIG help for me as I’ve transitioned, and I hope they are for you too. One more tip; make sure to place these on a shelf within reaching distance, cuz I can promise you’ll be grabbing for them daily.