Whether you’re shopping on a tight budget or trying to avoid the grocery stores (hello COVID-19), you’ll want to have some pantry items that can serve multiple purposes. Whether you’re vegan, plant-based or not, these items can help you do more with less. Read on to learn about these hard-working pantry staples and all the different ways you can use them.
Things you can make from oats:
Oatmeal – Oats aren’t just for breakfast anymore. While you might be familiar with a breakfast bowl topped with fruit, oatmeal can also be prepared in a savoury way. Top with sautéed veggies, wilted greens and your favourite seasonings for a savoury twist on a breakfast classic.
Cookies – Mix with a few other ingredients for a quick and healthy cookie that you’ll feel good about feeding your kids (or enjoying yourself). Looking for inspiration? Check out these delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Related: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Granola – Store-bought granola tends to be pricey and full of sugar or other ingredients that you may be avoiding. Grab that bag of oats and some of your favourite granola ingredients and make your own. Check out my recipes for chocolate pepita or peanut butter granola to get you started.
Granola Bars – This is another item that can get pretty pricey in the stores, especially the healthier ones. Make your own at home instead of scrutinizing the mile-long ingredient list in the store-bought versions.
Oat Flour – Run out of flour? No problem. You can make a healthy and nutritious flour from rolled oats. All you need to do is pulse them in your blender or food processor until you reach the consistency of a fine flour. Check out this post for a full tutorial.
Related: How to Make Oat Flour at Home
Oat Milk – If you find yourself running low on plant milk, you can make more if you have oats on hand. Grab your blender, some water, a nut milk bag or clean tea towel for straining and you’ll have some delicious oat milk ready to go in minutes. Add some dates or vanilla if you like a sweeter milk or toss in some hemp hearts to take the nutrient content up a notch. Oat milk is one of the most sustainable milk alternatives available today and a really tasty option to top your cereal, lighten your coffee or use in your baking and cooking.
Chickpeas are an inexpensive pantry staple that packs a lot of nutritious bang for your buck. These little gems come packaged with protein, fibre, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and more. Dried chickpeas are pretty inexpensive, or grab them canned for the convenience. This versatile ingredient can be used in so many ways.
Things you can make from chickpeas:
Hummus – Practically a food group in most plant-based kitchens, hummus itself can be used in tons of ways. Anything from a dip or spread, to a sauce or dressing. All you need is chickpeas and a few other simple ingredients to whip up a delicious hummus that you’ll want to use on everything. Check out the recipes below for some inspiration.
Curries, Soups & Stews – This versatile plant-based protein is a popular choice for delicious one-pot meals. Toss them in a flavourful curry, a hearty stew or your favourite soup for a filling dose of added nutrition.
Related: Roasted Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup
Roasted Chickpeas – If you’re looking for a crunchy snack, toss some cooked chickpeas with your favourite seasonings and roast them in the oven or air fryer until golden and crunchy. Perfect to snack on or use them to top your salads and nourish bowls.
Cookies – Yep, you can absolutely make cookies from chickpeas. They come out soft-baked and absolutely delicious. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these double chocolate mint cookies. Just be forewarned, they will disappear quickly! If you’re more of a cookie dough gal, skip the baking step and eat it with a spoon. No judgement here!
Related: Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
Chickpea Flour – Grind your dried chickpeas down into a nutritious flour that can be used to make everything from flatbreads to vegan quiche. It’s easy to do, check out this post for a complete tutorial. If you want to see the kinds of things you can make with chickpea flour, check out the related recipes below.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide lots of good nutrition to a plant-based or vegan diet. They provide protein, fibre, healthy fats, and some also contain essential omega 3 fatty acids. They’re also extremely versatile and can be used to make lots of different things.
Things you can make from nuts and seeds:
Plant Milk – It’s no secret that there are tons of varieties of plant milk available today. Many of them are very easy to make at home. All you need is a blender and, for some types, a nut milk bag. Make yourself a batch of homemade plant-milk from almonds, cashews, pepitas, hemp seeds and more!
Nut or Seed Butter – If you’ve got a blender or food processor, you can make a simple and delicious nut butter at home without all the additives found in store-bought varieties. You can also make seed butter, which is a great substitute for those who are allergic to nuts. Use your homemade nut or seed butter on toast, in dressings and sauces, or in baked goods.
Cheeses – If you’re new to a plant-based or vegan lifestyle, you’ll be relieved to hear that you can make delicious cheese alternatives from different nuts and seeds. Cashews are a popular choice for this, but other nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds work well too. You can make a firm sliceable cheese, spreadable cream cheese or a delicious cheese sauce to drizzle over anything you like.
Related: Vegan Garlic & Chive Cream Cheese
Dressings & Sauces – Remember all of those creamy sauces you thought you couldn’t have once you gave up dairy. Think again my friend, nuts and seeds make the basis of many creamy sauces. Whether a garlicky alfredo, a cheesy sauce for your pasta, a vegan ranch or Caesar dressing to drizzle over your salad. You can also use your nut or seed butter as the base for your dressings.
Flour – You can pulse nuts into flour using a blender or food processor. The flour can then be used as a breading or in baked goods. Almond flour is the most common type, but you can make flour from other nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and more. Making nut flour at home is also less expensive than store-bought versions, so this is a very budget-friendly option.
White potatoes, sweet potatoes, doesn’t matter. This pantry powerhouse can be reimagined in so many ways, you’ll never get bored. Well loved and highly satiating, they make a great base for a quick meal.
Things you can make with potatoes:
Loaded Potatoes – Bake up some white, yellow or sweet potatoes and use this as a base for a meal. Toss some beans or lentils, sautéed veggies and a delicious sauce over the top and dinner is served.
Fries – Who doesn’t love french fries? Slice your spuds into sticks and then bake or air fry them for a delicious side. Or load them up with all the toppings for a meal that everyone will love.
Soups & Stews – Is there anything quite as cozy as a warm bowl of soup? I think not. Adding potatoes or sweet potatoes to a soup or stew will help to make filling and hearty. Not a bad deal considering spuds are usually pretty cheap. A great way to stretch your meal when you’re pinching pennies.
Looking for inspiration? Check out the recipe for my fully loaded potato soup, it’s filling, delicious and perfect for the picky eaters in the family. Just don’t tell them about all the veggies you’re blending into it. 😉
Related: Loaded Potato Soup
Potato Salad – Another hearty side option is a delicious potato salad. Potato salad makes a great option for picnics and potlucks. It’s also completely customizable, dice up the veggies you love most, whip up a killer sauce and you’re ready to make a crowd-pleasing potato salad.
Baked Goods – Wait, what? Yes, my friend, you can use potatoes in baked goods. Sweet potatoes are amazing for this. Use baked sweet potatoes to add some flavour and nutrition to things like cakes, brownies, pancakes and more. You can even turn leftover mashed potatoes into waffles.
That’s just the tip of the potato iceberg. You can also enjoy them mashed, scalloped and roasted. Turn them into hash browns, casseroles, homemade tots, deviled potatoes and so much more!
This high protein pseudo-grain has become a common pantry staple in many kitchens today. For good reason too. It’s easy to prepare, and a good source of protein, fibre and iron. Quinoa’s neutral flavour makes it a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a number of ways.
Things you can make from quinoa:
Breakfast Bowl – Move over oatmeal! Mix cooked quinoa with some fruit and plant milk for a delicious breakfast that will get you started on the right foot. Add things like cinnamon, vanilla or cacao powder to amp up the flavour and top with your favourite slivered nuts or seeds to add a little crunch.
Soups & Stews – Quinoa makes a great addition to many soups or stews. It can be used to add some filling heartiness to your favourite cozy bowl. You can even season and add it to your favourite marinara sauce in place of ground meat.
Taco Meat – I have to admit, I was skeptical of this one at first, but I was not disappointed! Sautee up some onions, peppers or whatever veggies you like, then add some cooked quinoa to the pan with taco seasonings and a splash or Braggs, tamari or soy sauce. This simple mix makes an awesome plant-based taco filling.
Quinoa Balls or Patties – Similar to taco meat, you can season cooked quinoa, add some veggies and form into balls or patties. Add baked quinoa balls to pasta or nourish bowls, or form into a patty to enjoy in a burger or wrap.
Quinoa Flour – Like some of the other hardworking pantry staples on this list, quinoa can also be ground down into a flour. Use it to make flatbreads or add some extra nutrients to your favourite baked goods.
One can, so many options. Tomatoes are a common ingredient in many dishes. If you don’t have access to fresh ones, canned tomatoes make a great stand-in. You can get them in many varieties as well. They come as whole tomatoes, crushed, diced, fire-roasted and more. Just watch the sodium content. As a general rule, you want to aim for unsalted canned goods. Then you can add the amount of salt you wish during cooking.
Things you can make from canned tomatoes:
Chili – This classic dish starts with a can of tomatoes. Add your beans, vegetables, seasonings and some vegetable broth and you’re well on your way to a hearty and satisfying dish.
Soups & Stews – Similar to chili, many soups and stews also incorporate tomatoes. This is a great way to experiment in the kitchen and clear out any produce that is getting overly ripe.
Tomato Sauce – This versatile ingredient can be used in a number of ways. Add it to cooked pasta, spread it over a pizza crust, or simmer your meatless balls in it to add to pasta or make an epic meatball sammie.
Salsa – While most people prefer to use fresh tomatoes in salsa, you can absolutely use canned in a pinch. Aim for diced to take some of the work out of it for you, and strain off the excess liquid so you’re salsa isn’t too watery.
Sloppy Joes – This family favourite is super simple and cost-effective too. Add some lentils, veggie broth and seasonings and let it simmer. A simple dinner is just around the corner.
This is a pretty common staple in most plant-based kitchens, and for good reason. Vegetable broth can be used in a number of ways. It’s definitely one hardworking pantry staple.
Ways you can use vegetable broth or bouillon:
Soups & Stews – This one is a no-brainer, you’re never far away from a delicious soup or stew if you have vegetable broth on hand.
Dressings or Marinades – Get the jump on a flavourful dressing or marinade by using vegetable broth as the base. Add your favourite herbs, spices and condiments to get just the flavour you’re looking for.
As an Oil Substitute – Vegetable broth is excellent to have on hand if you’re avoiding oil in your diet. A splash of vegetable broth makes an oil-free sauté an easy feat. You can even use it in sauces or dressings that typically call for oil.
Cooking Grains – Looking to add some flavour to your whole grains? Cook them in vegetable broth instead of water. Whether you’re using rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur wheat, etc. It adds a nice umami flavour to otherwise plain grains.
Lentils are a seriously nutritious ingredient. They’re high in protein but low in fat which makes them an excellent, heart-healthy meat alternative. A good source of fibre, potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins, they do not disappoint in the nutrient department. Add to that the fact that they are extremely versatile and you’ll quickly understand why I’m mental for lentils. 😉 This hardworking pantry staple is a must in my whole food plant-based kitchen.
Ways you can use lentils:
Soups, Stews & Chili – Add these little gems to your favourite soup, stew or chili. They make a great jumping-off point for anyone who has trouble with the texture of beans as they are smaller, but just as nutritious.
Breakfast – You may be thinking I’m crazy here, but adding split lentils (like red or yellow varieties) to your morning oatmeal or porridge is a great way to add some additional protein and make your breakfast more satiating. Split lentils cook quickly and will break down if you cook them long enough, so you won’t even notice them.
As a Meat Substitute – Lentils are an easy substitution for ground meat in things like bolognese sauce, shepherd’s pie and more.
Taco Meat – Cook up a batch of lentils and simmer with taco seasonings to make some epic vegan tacos. Seriously yum.
Lentil Balls, Burgers or Loaf – These little gems make excellent shapeshifters. Mix them with some other ingredients and seasonings and then form them into meatless balls, lentil burgers or a yummy lentil loaf.
Sprouts – If you think lentils are nutritious, sprouted lentils are a whole new level. Sprouting lentils increases the nutrient content, makes those nutrients easier to absorb and makes them easier to digest. Add sprouted lentils to your salads, bowls, sandwiches and wraps.
The Bottom Line
There you have it, 8 hardworking pantry staples that I highly recommend for any kitchen. You can save a lot of money on your groceries by stocking foods that serve many purposes. You’re never far away from a simple meal if you keep these handy items around.
What are your favourite plant-based pantry staples? Let me know in the comments below.