Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful President’s Day weekend, we had a great time here in Austin. It was our first day to reach over 90 in 2017 and it was stunning. We spent this weekend doing a tree planting with Keep Austin Beautiful, catching a show at Independence Brewing, and eating some incredible vegan grilled “cheese” sandwiches at Bouldin Creek Cafe. It was magical. Anyways, back to work right? Today we are talking about the vegan staples everyone aspiring to be vegan should keep in their pantry!
A few months ago I watched the documentary Food Inc. and basically went from carnivore to vegan overnight. If you haven’t seen the documentary, I firmly suggest you give it a watch. It is beyond moving and so incredibly informative in terms of teaching us how disconnected we have gotten from where our food comes from. As a person who was never super into meat, I didn’t struggle too much with meat cravings (other than salami for some reason…I would punch someone in the face for salami…just kidding…sorta), but dairy is another story. I was a big cheese freak and I loved to bake so eggs and butter were key. On top of all of that I used to drink at least one glass of milk a day, so the struggle has been real.
Making the switch to vegan can be really hard, but over time I have found through my research that there are so many substitutes available to us veg-heads. For anyone who is considering making the switch to a vegan diet or for anyone who is just trying to eat a little less animal products, I have compiled a list of all the vegan staples that your household needs. From dairy substitutes, to flavor enhancers, to power-packed protein sources, this list covers all the basics that any vegan has in their pantry/fridge. I hope you find it helpful in your future animal-friendly eating adventures!
16 Vegan Pantry Staples:
1. Liquid Smoke
I had never heard of All-Natural Liquid Smoke before, but after going vegan I started seeing it a lot in various recipes across the web. Basically it is the taste of a grill in a bottle and it is amazing. I use it on grilled tofu or even on veggie dogs for a BBQ taste you are looking for. It goes great with the flavors in buffalo sauces as well.
2. Vegan Mayo
This might just be a personal thing, but I adore mayonnaise and unfortunately, since it contains eggs it is no longer an option. Luckily if you want to make a quick sandwich or whip up some jazzy aioli for a veggie burger, there are vegan options that taste virtually indistinguishable. Hampton Creek Just Mayo is a great alternative, but also the regular old Trader Joe’s reduced fat mayonnaise is magically vegan!
3. Nutritional Yeast
Again, Nutritional Yeast Seasoning is something I had never heard of until I went vegan. Basically it is yeast that tastes A LOT like cheese. It can be used in nacho sauces, mac ‘n cheese, lasagna, alfredo pasta you name it! It has been a true lifesaver as it really does strongly resemble cheese.
While we are on the subject of cheese, Daiya is a great alternative as well. Made from the arrowroot plant, it is the best cheese substitute in my opinion because unlike soy or almond cheese, it melts like real cheese. This makes it the ideal candidate for shredding onto pizza or slicing up for a “cheeseburger”.
The most obnoxious question you get asked about being vegan is “where do you get your protein?”. I hate to break it to my carnivore friends, but I get more protein now than I did as a meat-eater. Quinoa plays a huge role in that. This tiny little tree root contains eight grams of protein per cup. Plus, it’s considered a complete protein, meaning it packs all nine essential amino acids your body needs. I use it basically anywhere you would normally use rice, but it can also be used in cookies or as an oatmeal substitute.
6. Agar Agar
When I found out that gelatin was made from boiled animal tendons and bones, I was pretty grossed out, but more importantly super bummed that I could no longer eat gummy worms and jello shots. That is where agar agar (or japanese gelatin) comes into play. Made from nori seaweed, it works exactly the same as gelatin and has no fishy taste. The perfect substitute for any gummy or gelatin needs, cruelty free!
7. Veggie Stock
Soup is the perfect food in the wintertime, but unfortunately most of the bases for soups are made from animals. Veggie stock is wonderful because it is just as hearty as meat based stocks and it creates the perfect base for soups like turmeric detox soup, white bean puttanesca (sans parmesan of course), or green vegetable curry.
8. Medjool Dates
If you love to bake as much as do, dates are your new best friend. Dates are naturally very sweet, but are not nearly as bad for you as refined sugar. I use them in my protein bites, donut holes, brownies and even ice cream! They can be made to taste a lottt like caramel, which is awesome since caramel is definitely not vegan!
9. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a great milk substitute because unlike rice milk it is pretty hearty and unlike almond milk, coconut milk is not negatively affecting the drought in California. It is perfect for baking and for just your regular old uses like eating cereal or making protein shakes. It is also very nutritious and tastes really rich and creamy.
10. Miso Paste
If you like pho or miso soup, White Miso Paste is just what you need. This stuff has a large amount of protein for its size and serves as a more than just a soup base, it is also great in stir frys, jazzing up onions for veggie burgers and in salad dressings as well.
11. Liquid Aminos
My friend Steph introduced me to Liquid Aminos as a soy sauce substitute. Liquid aminos have less sodium than soy sauce, and way more protein. They are taste almost identical so they are perfect for stir fries, rice dishes, and my personal favorite, on top of chicken seitan strips!
12. Earth Balance
Butter is what makes the world go round, or so I thought when I wasn’t vegan. Now I know that non dairy butter brands like Earth Balance are totally comparable. Made from vegetable oil, Earth Balance is jarringly similar to butter in both taste and consistency. I use it in baking the exact same way I use butter and I have yet to have a problem. I seriously eat this stuff almost everyday.
This might seem like an odd one to throw in, but I actually use applesauce as an egg substitute in baking a lot. I use 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of one egg in any non-vegan recipe, and the result is always a moist delicious baked treat. It is great because it is super healthy too! Just be sure that the applesauce is unsweetened, or if it isn’t just cut down the sugar in the recipe elsewhere.
Chickpeas are my life source. I used to hate them when I was a kid, but now I really see their full potential. Chickpeas are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. They are also a great source of dietary fiber, protein and copper, and a very good source of folate and manganese. So where can you utilize these little powerful peas? They are perfect in chicken salad lookalikes, they totally rock your world in tikki masala, they can be made into “Cheetos“, seriously your options are unlimited. They are so versatile and they can change shape really well. They are my favorite vegan discovery and I don’t know how I ever lived without them.
Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds that most closely resembles peanut butter. It is liquidy, sweet, and salty, with a strange earthiness to it that I am quite fond of. The best part about tahini is that it is just a versatile as peanut butter, in that it can be used in sweet and savory dishes. I sometimes use tahini in curries or stir frys, but it works just as well in chocolate cookies and pies. Also, since tahini is made from seeds, it is very high in protein and it is deemed one of the best sources of calcium available!
16. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is a great pantry item to have on hand because it is very healthy and very flavorful. It aids in flavoring blander substances, like tofu, and is also packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Also, just like tahini, sesame seeds have the highest phytosterol content of all seeds and nuts, which makes them great at preventing cancer. Sesame seeds are also notorious for benefitting hair, eye, liver and oral health.