Medically reviewed by Blair Persyn, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC
As a vegan registered dietitian nutritionist, there are several vegan pantry staples that I recommend keeping on hand at all times.
When you buy these foods in bulk, you are able to get them for a cheaper cost. And keeping plenty of shelf-stable foods and spices on hand helps you to eat healthy and delicious meals in a pinch!
I've seen other posts about vegan pantry staples and "essentials" that are honestly not all that essential, especially if you're new to the whole plant-based eating thing.
I get it. Seeing a huge comprehensive list about what spices and other items to keep on hand is overwhelming! Which ones are actually essential? Which ones would you buy and then rarely or never use (and end up throwing out)?
I'm cutting out all of the fluff.
Are there some additional things you could add to your pantry and fridge as you gain more experience cooking vegan meals? Sure. But I'm not going to stress you out with all the little specialty things that you won't be using all the time. If you find recipes you make often that use specialty items, by all means, start keeping them on hand!
Otherwise, this list is the ACTUAL bare bones of what any vegan, primarily plant-based eater, or even omnivore (wanting to eat more plants) would need for easy, healthy, and affordable everyday meals (with some baked goods sprinkled in there, of course).
I decided the best way to break down this list (as a registered dietitian) is to organize by proteins, fats, carbs, produce, spices, cooking/baking items, and then fridge/freezer items.
Shelf-Stable Vegan Proteins
As a vegan registered dietitian, I figured it's best I start with the most important protein sources I keep as vegan pantry staples. Some staple meals and snacks I rotate through often are Vegan Buddha Bowls, Black Bean Burgers, 3-Bean Chili, Minestrone Soup, Homemade Seitan, Garlic Hummus, Protein Oatmeal, and Tofu Fried Rice. The list of protein sources below will cover the basics. *Note I put tofu, tempeh, and soy milk on the fridge list.*
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
- Red Kidney Beans
- Vegetarian Refried Beans
- White Beans (Cannellini, Navy, Great Northern)
- Vital Wheat Gluten (For Homemade Seitan)
- Vegan Protein Powder
- Nutritional Yeast
- Nuts & Seeds (See Healthy Fats Below)
- Whole Grains (See Carbs Below)
Carbohydrates For A Vegan Pantry
Yes, I am a dietitian and I do prioritize nutrition in my meals. However, I also prioritize social gatherings and having fun with food and that means also eating cookies and cakes sometimes.
I included essential baking items on this carbohydrates list, because in my opinion, you really can't have a fully stocked vegan pantry without flours and sugars. I firmly believe in intuitive eating and that means also having delicious treats in moderation.
- Quick Oats (The unflavored bulk containers)
- Regular, Whole Wheat, and/or Chickpea Pastas (I regularly use thin spaghetti, penne, elbows, fettuccine, rotini, linguine, and lasagna)
- Rice (whatever kind you like!)
- All-Purpose Flour
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Tapioca Flour (useful when making vegan cheese)
- Granulated Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Maple Syrup (I don't use it often but many vegans do)
Healthy Fats For A Vegan Pantry
I mostly rely on unsaturated fat sources and include those that are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids (looking at you hemp, chia, and flax seeds).
Nuts and seeds are truly spectacular in my opinion. Whether you're making your own vegan butter from coconut oil, delicious dressings out of tahini, creamy sauces out of cashews, or using flax seeds as vegan eggs -- nuts and seeds are so versatile! They also add healthy fats that will keep us full for longer between meals.
- Hemp Seeds
- Tahini (I keep opened jars in the fridge)
- Peanut Butter (I keep opened jars in the fridge)
- Chia Seeds
- Ground Flax Seed
- Chopped Walnuts
- Raw Cashews
- Almonds/Almond Butter
- Roasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
- Vegan Dark Chocolate Chips (I prefer the Enjoy Life brand)
- Refined Coconut Oil (to make your own vegan butter!)
- Olive Oil
- Canola Oil
It's so helpful to have canned produce (especially tomato products) available at all times to cook up yummy hearty vegan meals. Can you get fresh tomatoes and make these from scratch? Sure. But who has time for that on a daily basis? Definitely not me!
- Tomato Sauce/Paste
- Diced Tomatoes
- Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilis (Rotel)
- Pasta Sauce
- Canned Artichoke
- Sweet Potatoes (shorter shelf-life)
- Potatoes (shorter shelf-life)
- Onions (shorter shelf-life)
Staple Spices & Seasonings For Your Vegan Pantry
There are MANY, MANY types of seasonings and spices out there! This is one area where I know I can get really overwhelmed myself. I've cut this down to the bare minimum that I use very often in my kitchen.
- Iodized Salt (I recommend vegans use iodized salt rather than other types of salt)
- Black Pepper (white pepper can also be useful in some dishes)
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Chili Powder
- Curry Powder
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Mustard Powder
Miscellaneous Cooking and Baking Staples
Here are the extra cooking and baking items that are necessary for so many different recipes. You may decide you want to keep more types of vinegar on hand, but I find that I rarely use other types.
- Vegetable Broth (I prefer to keep vegetable bouillon paste in my fridge to reconstitute veggie broth whenever I need it)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Cocoa Powder
- Vanilla Extract
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Quick-Rise Yeast
If you don't have your own fresh herbs growing, that's totally fine! But it does end up being much cheaper and I love having quick access to fresh herbs all the time. Just something to consider if you're wanting delicious meals in a pinch! If you're going to choose only three live plants to care for, these are worth it in my opinion.
Vegan Fridge/Freezer Staples
Alright, alright.. so technically fridge and freezer items are not "vegan pantry staples." However, I think the items that live in the fridge but have a long shelf life can be considered pantry staples!
There are several items that last a long time that I ALWAYS have on hand in my fridge and freezer. They are so helpful when scrounging up meals when you desperately need a grocery trip. I also find that these items are the easier option when I'm feeling lazy and want minimal prep work but still lots of flavor.
- Minced Garlic
- Frozen Onion
- Frozen Spinach
- Vegan Butter (I prefer to make homemade vegan butter and store excess in the freezer)
- Frozen Fruit (I often have bananas, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, mango, and pineapple)
- Frozen Veggies (I often have corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and stir-fry blend veggies)
- Frozen Bread (If we can't finish fresh bread or buns quickly enough, I will freeze them and simply toast pieces as we need them)
- Natural Peanut Butter (opened jars)
- Tahini (opened jars)
- Super Firm/Extra Firm Tofu or Tempeh
- Regular and Unsweetened Soy Milk (unopened will last a while)
- Unsweetened Almond Milk (unopened will last a while)
- Pickled Jalapeños
- Vegan Ranch (I love the Follow Your Heart brand)
- Pasta Sauce (homemade or opened jars of store-bought)
- Vegan Parmesan (homemade with cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt)
- Vegetable Bouillon Paste
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- Vegan Barbecue Sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- Buffalo Sauce
- Dijon Mustard
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
Now You Have All The Necessary Vegan Pantry Staples!
Now that you have this handy dandy list to stock up your pantry, fridge, and freezer with vegan staples, you are well on your way to knowing your way around your vegan kitchen like the back of your hand.
If you keep these foods on hand at all times, grocery shopping becomes so easy -- all you have to do is get a few fresh fruits, veggies, and other perishable foods and you are good to go for the week. I can't wait to hear about what delicious vegan foods you cook up!