When I first made the decision to go plant-based five years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure how I would stock my pantry (and the rest of my kitchen) to make a plant-based diet work for me. I decided to start simply and to focus on foods that I was already familiar with and knew I enjoyed. I wasn’t accustomed to cooking or spending much time in the kitchen, so I kept basic items on hand that I knew I would be able to prepare easily and would be happy to eat regularly. I still like to keep it simple, but I have branched out and tried many new foods over the years.
So here are my suggested basics to get started, along with bonus items that I didn’t necessarily use much in the beginning, but have come to use quite often.
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Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes
I love potatoes. I have always loved potatoes, but before going plant-based and cutting back on processed foods, I ate a lot of bagged french fries and greasy potato wedges from the supermarket. We always keep potatoes on hand for baked fries, mashed potatoes, hash browns, and baked potato chips.
In the beginning, we never kept sweet potatoes around. I wasn’t too familiar with them and wasn’t a big fan. Over time, I came to really enjoy sweet potatoes! We always keep them in our pantry now. They are so versatile any easy to combine with savoury and sweet dishes. They are now one of my favourite foods!
Onions & Garlic
So many different types of dishes are enhanced with onions and garlic. They add delicious flavour to many different types of dishes. Adding onion and garlic will boost the nutrition and enhance the flavour of almost any dish. I love adding onion and/or garlic to many dishes including: marinara sauce, stir fry, soups, chilis, and curries.
I have always kept bananas on hand. They are great for a quick snack on the go, but are also so versatile and can be used in many ways. We like to use them in pancakes, waffles, cookies, smoothies, and nice cream.
There are many different options when it comes to whole grains. In the beginning of my plant-based journey, I kept quick oats and brown rice on hand. I also kept whole grain pastas and cereals in the pantry. After a while I switched to rolled oats and tried steel cut oats as well as oat groats. We also tried quinoa and fell in love with it! Quinoa is really yummy and as an added bonus, it cooks up very quickly in the Instant Pot. We often keep other types of rice on hand (wild or black rice). Other whole grains we sometimes have on hand include farro, bulgur, millet, and even popcorn! Not that I want to load up on popcorn, but I was thrilled when I found out that popcorn is a whole grain after reading Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die. We use our microwaveable popcorn popper, and it always makes delicious popcorn with no oil required.
Legumes have not always been my friend. I strongly disliked them in the past and had major texture issues with beans. After going plant-based, I kept canned black beans and kidney beans on hand for chili. Shortly thereafter I discovered lentils which I hadn’t eaten much previously. They were a great stepping stone to incorporating more legumes into my diet. After a while, I started to try other beans and started to really enjoy them!
We now keep both canned and dried legumes on hand. Canned beans are convenient for times when we want to put together a dish quickly, and dried beans are great for batch cooking when we have extra time. We usually keep canned black beans and chickpeas, and a wide variety of dried beans such as green lentils, red lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and pinto beans.
Canned/Jarred Tomato Products
I like to keep lots of canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste on hand. I have kept these items in our pantry since the beginning of my plant-based journey. They are great to include in soups, stews, chilis, curries, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, pizza hummus, and more!
Sauces and Condiments
With most sauces and condiments, I store them in the fridge. It can be nice to have back-ups available when I’m about to run out of something or catch sauces on sale. There are also some items that I keep in the pantry (vinegars). I like to keep back-ups of:
- Herdez Salsa
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- Coconut Aminos or Tamari
- White Vinegar
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar
Nutritional yeast (also known as nooch) is a deactivated yeast product that is a complete protein and contains B vitamins. It is also often fortified with vitamin B12 and other vitamins. It has a nutty “cheesy” flavour profile and is often used in vegan sauces, tofu scrambles, and sprinkled on top of veggies and popcorn. We especially enjoy it in our vegan cheese sauces:
- nut free nacho cheese – great for topping refried beans, tacos, nachos, burritos, as a veggie dip
- easy cheese sauce – great for mac and cheese, vegan eggplant parmesan, pizza, toast
I’ve kept cocoa powder on hand since day one! I’ve always loved chocolate and I used cocoa powder to flavour smoothies and oats in the beginning (and I still do to this day). We also use cocoa powder in our chocolate date sauce, chocolate peanut butter energy balls, nice cream, and our chocolate zucchini cupcakes.
We love to use spices to jazz up our meals. There are so many different spices to flavour dishes in a myriad of ways. Everyone will have different taste preferences and will enjoy different seasonings. If there are spices you know you already enjoy, then keep them on hand! We have a very fully stocked spice rack now, but when we weren’t used to making home-cooked meals often, we had fewer spices in our kitchen. We started with:
- black pepper – great for topping almost any savoury dish
- chili powder – great for chilis, soups, refried beans, potatoes, and rice
- smoked paprika – a tasty smoky spice that is nice to add to many dishes including veggies, hummus, bean burgers
- Italian seasoning – a yummy addition to pasta, pizza, garlic bread
- cinnamon – tasty in oatmeal, on top of applesauce, in baked goods
We love lots of other spices and have expanded our spice rack a lot over the years. A few other favourites that we always have on hand now are: garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, curry powder, cumin, ginger, and turmeric.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! If you’re just getting started on a plant-based diet or are not a big fan of cooking, keep it simple. Start with ingredients, spices, and flavours you know you already enjoy and branch out from there. Let me know what your pantry staples are and what your favourite spices are.