Top 10 plant-based pantry items
Featured author: Bridget Burns
Bridget Burns is a recipe and lifestyle content creator and more! Bridget shares her top 10 plant-based pantry items today. She is based in Vancouver.
Hi everyone, I am Bridget Burns, the founder of The Vegan Project. The VP began in 2009 when a few friends challenged each other to go vegan for 30 days and blog about it. From there it evolved into event hosting, catering, meal planning, and the launch of the Vancouver Vegan Festival at Creekside Park in 2019.
When I began my vegan journey, meat and dairy substitutes were not nearly as readily available as they are today. I’ve learned so much over the past 12 years through many successes, and failures. Today, for the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform, I’m going to share my top 10 plant-based pantry staples to keep on hand to set yourself up for success.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can also find great resources on VHS’s PlantUniversity Platform and make sure to subscribe to get involved in VHS’s work to help animals, people and the planet.
My favourites are sushi rice for bowls and seaweed rolls, and brown basmati (which has 6 grams of protein per cup) for fried rice and with curries. The best part about rice is that you can make a big batch and it keeps in the fridge all week. Just add veggies, protein and a sauce and you have a well-rounded meal every time. Leftover rice is perfect for fried rice, even better than fresh.
#2: Bean & Legumes
Keeping dried beans on hand is definitely the more cost efficient option, but I still like to keep a couple cans on hand for a quick meal. I usually have dried chickpeas, lentils (red and green/brown) and black beans. For cans, usually just a couple cans of chickpeas for hummus or a chickpea “tuna” salad. Pro-tip: save your chickpea water, aka aquafaba, for an egg substitute. 2 tablespoons is the equivalent of 2 eggs in baking.
I like to have a high heat cooking oil, olive oil, sesame and coconut oil on hand at all times. I also really love flaxseed oil, and check out the link below the video to see what my fav kind is from Alligga that’s specifically made for high heat cooking. I use that for all my roasting and high heat pan frying. I like good quality olive oil for salads and drizzles on rice bowls. Sesame oil goes in all my asian inspired soups and stir fries, and coconut oil is perfect for baking, and I also use it as a general moisturizer too!
#4: Soy Curls
This is an affordable, shelf stable protein that has a meaty texture when rehydrated and flavoured well. Downside is they are not easily found in grocery stores (I don’t know why!?), but a vegan specialty store or online will deliver the goods. The thing about soy curls though is you have to infuse them with flavour when you’re rehydrating them. My go-to is adding faux chicken broth and some poultry seasoning for that savoury flavour profile. Check out this recipe for Vegan Chicken Shawarma Bowls from Lauren Toyota, that uses soy curls as the main ingredient.
Maple Syrup, Agave Nectar and Coconut Sugar are great to have on hand. I typically use agave in my morning coffee, maple syrup and coconut sugar for baking, and sometimes a little maple syrup in a dessert smoothie.
#6: Coconut Milk
In addition to my soy creamer and oat milk in the fridge, I like to have 1-2 cans of coconut milk in the pantry. The thick creamy texture and coconut flavour is an essential ingredient for cream of mushroom or broccoli soup, and it’s a must-have for Thai soups and curries. Cha’s Organic Coconut Milk is really good.
#7: Dried Spices
Having a well stocked spice cabinet is a must.
My top picks are: smoked paprika, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, poultry seasoning, chili flakes, and a really good curry spice blend. In addition, good cracked pepper, and a few different salts are great to have. I like himalayan pink salt, coarse salt and fine grey sea salt is the best little eggy secret for a vegan is kala namak, also called himalayan black salt. Black salt has a sulphuric smell and taste that mimics an egg flavour and will take your tofu scramble to the next level.
Do yourself a favour and make a batch of tofu scram spice mix to have ready to go, like the one linked in the blog.
#8: Nutritional Yeast
Also known as “nooch”, these yellow flakes are deactivated yeast, and add a cheesy umami flavour to soups, sauces and just about everything really. It is also a source of B12, a nutrient that vegans need to make sure they’re on top of.
Check out the recipe linked in this video’s blog for a baked vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole that uses nutritional yeast – it’s delicious! I made this for some non-vegan friends recently and they raved about it for days.
Nuts are tasty, creamy, and good for you. If you have a nut allergy, Hemp hearts and sunflower seeds are a fabulous substitute. Check out the recipe I linked in the blog post for hemp seed cheese I made that won a Health Vegan Cook Off competition.
Tip: If you consume your nuts quickly, storing in the pantry is ok, but if you have bulk amounts or go through them slowly, I recommend storing in the fridge, as they can go rancid after a few weeks.
#10: Flax Seed
Flax is just the best. It is a healthy addition to cereal and oats, smoothies, salad topper, and of course in baking.
I like to use ground flaxseed for better nutrient absorption.
You’ll always have an egg-substitute if you have flaxseed on hand – all you have to do is mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water, stir and let sit for 5 minutes! This is another staple that you’ll want to consume quickly or store in the fridge.
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