Learn how to keep a well stocked vegetarian pantry with this list of plant-based essentials. Easy vegetarian recipe ideas and a printable list are included!
Whether you are preparing for the "just in case" moments of life or simply trying to include more home-cooked meals in your daily routine, a well-stocked pantry is key to a plant-based kitchen.
Recipe recommendations are included for items that may not have an obvious use.
What this guide includes
- Best type of vegetarian staple to buy (canned, frozen or dry)
- The best proteins, grains, veggies and fruits to keep on hand for a plant-based diet
- Vegetarian cooking and baking essentials
- Storage container recommendations
How to use this guide
This list is filled with recommendations and a lot of items BUT that doesn't mean you should go out to the store and buy everything on here right away.
Use this list as inspiration for making a more well-rounded pantry, not an end all be all for what you have to have on hand.
I always keep this in mind when restocking my pantry: If you don't think you're going to use it or don't know how you would use it, don't by it!
Pro tip: I recommend coming up with a list of ideas for how you might use these pantry staples before going to the store. That way you can avoid wasting items because you're not sure what to do with them.
What are pantry staples?
When I talk about "staples" I mean either shelf-stable dry goods or items that will last in the fridge or freezer for at least 3 months.
Keeping these items on hand will allow you to serve a flavorful and nutritionally well-rounded meal at any time. Most of the recipes on the blog use the ingredients listed below.
This guide is broken down by staple type: protein, grains, fruit, vegetable, extras, baking essentials, spices, cooking essentials and perishables.
Canned vs. frozen vs. dry
Dry beans will almost always be less expensive than canned or frozen. I keep a few canned beans on hand just in case I don't have time to soak the beans or cook them in my Instant Pot.
If you don't have an Instant Pot, it might be more convenient to purchase canned.
Canned, frozen and dry goods are nutritionally equivalent. Check the ingredients because some canned items may have added ingredients like sodium and seasonings.
Cut down on added salt by choosing canned items labeled "no added salt" or "reduced sodium"
Plant-based protein staples
I like to keep at least 4-5 kinds of beans on hand at a time. Keep peanut butter or edamame on hand for quick snacks and meals.
- Black beans: refried beans, soups
- Chickpeas: soup, curries, chickpea salad sandwiches
- Lentils, such as red, green or brown: lentil curry, veggie burgers
- Kidney beans or red beans: chili mac, red beans and rice
- Black-eyed peas: hummus, bowls
- White beans, such as cannelinni or Great northern beans
- Frozen edamame: quick protein option for bowls
I usually have most of these on hand:
- White and brown rice for fried rice or with tofu
- Quinoa (think quinoa chili or casserole)
- A "fun" grain like barley, millett, or couscous for grain bowls
- Stone-ground grits (best kept refrigerated)
- Pasta: white, whole grain or protein pasta
- Popcorn (great as a snack)
- Rolled oats (great for overnight oats or baked oatmeal)
- Canned diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste for casseroles
- Tomato sauce for quick pasta bakes
- Frozen broccoli, green beans, or green peas for quick meal starters
- Canned green beans (I keep this on hand "just in case") for things like green bean casserole
Fruit is great to keep on hand as a snack, as salad toppings or in smoothies. I usually have at least three of these on hand.
- Dry fruit for snacks such as plums, mango
- Dry fruit for salad toppings such as raisins, cherries
- Fruit canned in juices or water, such as peaches, pears, pineapple
- Frozen fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries, mango (for smoothies or overnight oatmeal)
- Applesauce as a snack or in overnight oats
Extras (fats, seeds, etc.)
Nuts and seeds have a high fat content which means that they can go rancid when exposed to warm air for too long.
To prevent this from happening, keep nuts and seeds refrigerated.
- Cashews: works well as a vegan cheese alternative
- Pumpkin seeds (great as a topping on savory bowls)
- Chia seeds: add to oatmeal or breakfast cookies for extra fiber
- Pecans or walnuts
- Nut butter, such as peanut or almond butter
I believe that spices are one of the most important pantry staples to keep on hand.
Keeping a variety of dried spices on hand means that a flavorful meal is always available, no matter what pantry staples you have.
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Salt and pepper
- Dry herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil
- Bay leaves
- Chili powder
- Curry powder
- Garam masala
- Paprika and smoked paprika
- Ground ginger
- Red pepper flakes
- Cajun seasoning (my favorite brand)
- Fennel (great in pastas)
- Italian seasoning
Use these items for sauces, sautéing and extra flavor.
- Olive oil
- Neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
- Tahini: coleslaw, broccoli salad, goddess dressing
- Mustard (spicy or whole seed)
- Mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise (I always have this on hand for dips and dressings)
- Barbecue sauce: BBQ tofu bowls, tacos, stuffed zucchini
- Soy sauce
- Apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar: baking, marinades, and salads
- Vegetable broth
- Hot sauce
- Nutritional yeast: vegan mac and cheese, tofu scrambles
- Full-fat or lite canned coconut milk
- Yellow or white miso: add to roasted vegetables, sauces and vegan mac and cheese
If you enjoy homemade muffins, pancakes, cakes, etc. then a well stocked pantry should include baking essentials.
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Gluten-free flour (if desired)
- Chickpea flour for muffins or vegan omelets
- White sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Light brown or dark brown sugar
- Maple syrup or honey
- Soy, almond or oat milk
- Butter and vegan butter
- Ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
- Chocolate chips
- Ground flaxseed (for vegan "eggs")
- Cornstarch (for thickening sauces or puddings)
- Molasses for cookies, cornbread and as a sweetener
These are items that either need refrigeration or do not last long at room temp. I consider them staples because I always have them on hand.
- Tofu and tempeh
- Veggie sausages (breakfast patties and Italian links)
- Shredded cheese
- Lemons or lemon juice
- Potatoes (sweet potatoes, Russet or baby potatoes)
Save money (and a few trips to the grocery store) by purchasing from the bulk section. Use reusable cloth bags (this is the kind that I use) to cut down on plastic waste.
I keep most of my dry goods on an open shelf in my kitchen. Because of this, I store staples in Ball jars, Weck jars, and mason jars. You can find these online, at Walmart or most grocery stores and in thrift stores. Most of my jars are thrifted because they last forever and are very inexpensive second hand.
I recently started using these reusable plastic lids for my mason jars because they don't rust or break down like the metal lids.
Printable pantry staples list
This guide includes a list of pantry staples and a blank shopping list.
Pantry staple recipe ideas
Not sure what to make with your well-stocked pantry? Check out my post with 30 Vegetarian Pantry Meals for meal ideas.