Learn how to keep a well stocked vegetarian pantry with this list of whole food essentials. 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 staple to buy (canned, frozen or dry)
- The best proteins, grains, veggies and fruits to keep on hand
- Cooking and baking essentials
- Storage container recommendations
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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"
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
- Quinoa (think quinoa chili or casserole)
- A "fun" grain like barley, millett, or couscous
- Stone-ground grits (best kept refrigerated)
- Pasta: white, whole grain or protein pasta
- 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)
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 "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
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)
- 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-fate or lite canned coconut milk
- Yellow or white miso: add to roasted vegetables, sauces and vegan mac and cheese
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Gluten-free flour (if desired)
- Chickpea flour for muffins or vegan omelettes
- 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.
- 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.
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.