What exactly DO we buy as vegans at the grocery store? Here's an extensive list of our pantry staples - and we should say, there's no rush to buy them all at once. I usually buy what I'm always eating (like sandwiches & cereal) and then look up a few new recipes to try out. From there I'll see what I don't have and try to fill in the gap. That's how a big pantry can grow from nothing at all! (AKA What we dealt with as we moved into our new work space.) :)
Be sure to check out our full guide to grocery shopping here, or check out our favorite kitchen tools for more help. At the bottom of this post, you can grab a handy free printable to help you out at the grocery store!
- potatoes & sweet potatoes - they can be quickly boiled or baked, they fill out a meal, they're cheap, and last a while in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- onions & garlic - add SO much flavor to any and every dish you'll make. store them similarly to potatoes, just not in the same container as them.
- cabbage, carrots, squash - hearty, long-lasting vegetables that you can use as a base for many meals, and they're usually dirt cheap.
- lemons - multi-purpose kitchen tools, you can use them to flavor dishes, mix drinks, or clean kitchen surfaces.
- greens - essential to any vegan diet, all greens are nutritional stars and can be included in any dish, whether as lettuce in a side salad, spinach cooked into a pasta dish, or collards stewed in a soup.
- cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, or any fresh vegetables you might like - get a few kinds every week to expand your cooking abilities.
- fresh fruit - I usually get two kinds per week, for example enough apples for lunches for the week and some grapes to snack on at home.
bakery & grains
- fresh bread, rolls, tortillas of all sizes - they help bring together quick meals (say, mini chickpea wraps) or round out a big weekend dinner. (like toasting with garlic & serving with tofu ricotta lasagne rolls.)
- pasta - something long & skinny like spaghetti and something short & stubby like bowties or elbows.
- crackers, cereal, tortilla chips
- extra-firm tofu & tempeh - these are a couple of basic protein sources that are so versatile.
- vegan margarine & vegan mayo - good for general cooking & baking purposes
- hummus - for spreading on sandwiches if you don't like processed mayo, or to snack with fresh veggies, and on and on.
- non-dairy milks - we often buy the kind on the shelf, not refrigerated, but most commonly they're found here. we buy rice milk for everyday use, and unsweetened almond & coconut milk for cooking & baking.
- pickles, miso, olives, and kimchi (or other pickled/fermented vegetables) - for flavoring & general snacking
- frozen vegetables, such as edamame, broccoli, corn, pea pods, etc. - usually cheap and very good for a "rainy day" or a "desperate and don't have anything else to eat but don't want to go all the way to the store" kind of meal.
- frozen fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, etc. - good for smoothies, baked goods, and to put into hot breakfasts in cold weather.
- flour - we have probably 20 different kinds of flours in our kitchen and only use a few all the time: unbleached all purpose, whole wheat, self-rising, and cake flour. it's funny that joy the baker wrote this guide about their differences, because they're exactly what we use too!
- essentials - cornmeal, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, corn starch, vanilla extract or beans.
- cocoa powder - people are surprised when I tell them we have multiple kinds of cocoa powder, but they shut up when they chow down on chocolate cookies made with the darkest stuff. start with natural, then go to dutch-processed (my fave), then try out black dutch-processed - that stuff is serious! (can you tell I love cocoa powder?)
- peanut butter & jelly - okay, it doesn't have to be the kid-friendly kind you've always known. make it almond butter and fig jam, if you like. but these are nice to have, for snacking or sticking into cookies! just check before you buy, some nut butters may contain dairy.
- sugar - a lot of sugar isn't vegan, but some is. commonly-found florida crystals labels theirs as vegan, and you can find many other brands here that are as well. alternatively, you can use liquid sweeteners or sweet fruits like dates or bananas to sweeten baked goods.
- extras - I've mentioned in all the other categories ingredients that are good for BOTH baking and cooking. call them kitchen staples, if you will.
- soy sauce - or, similarly, liquid aminos. this is great for flavoring lots of dishes.
- vinegars - essential in cooking & sauce-making. my most-used ones are apple cider, balsamic, and seasoned rice vinegar.
- oils - coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for cold applications, such as salad dressing.
- liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup or brown rice syrup. good for baking and cooking alike. in a pinch, you could make your own syrup just out of sugar and a bit of heat, but that's another post :P
- condiments like mustard, ketchup, salsa (for cooking & snacking), sriracha, liquid smoke (for perfectly smoky flavors.)
- canned coconut milk - this is the full-fat stuff that'll often be in the international aisle. it's amazing in curries, especially, but makes everything taste amazing. you can even make vegan whipped cream with it!
spices & flavorings
- basics - iodized fine salt, coarse sea salt, black peppercorns in a grinder
- vegetable-based bouillon cubes or paste. we suggest bouillon because it's cheaper and less bulky than liquid stocks, but you can make your own boullion paste as well.
- nutritional yeast. I could go on for hours about this stuff, but the short version is that it makes everything taste savory & cheesy, it works in a wide variety of dishes, and it's a great source of many nutrients vegans need.
- base spices & herbs - onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, rosemary, basil, cumin, thyme, sage, dill, curry powder. also this stuff is amazing on avocados, and everything savory in general.
- spices for sweets - cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ginger or powdered ginger, star anise, pumpkin pie spice
beans & legumes
- chickpeas, black beans, black eyed peas, pinto beans, white beans, kidney beans, split peas - for basically EVERYthing. soups, stews, sandwiches, burgers, spreads, tacos, everything. just get a ton.
- lentils - same as above, but these are much quicker to cook from scratch and come in wildly different kinds. green and black lentils are more toothsome and are amazing for burgers. red lentils make a stellar soup base and are lightning-fast to cook.
- rolled oats - SO essential. you can use them in sweet or savory dishes, in baking, or for making your own vegan milk. plus they're beyond affordable, usually under $1/pound.
- all varieties of rice, couscous, quinoa, millet, pearl barley, and any other grain you're interested in. they all taste wonderful when prepared right!
nuts & seeds
- flax seeds - relatively cheap and incredibly useful in baking especially, and it's also really nutritious. you'll need a coffee/spice grinder to use them, or buy them ground.
- chia seeds - for making vegan puddings and tossing into smoothies
- cashews & almonds - for making vegan milk, cheese, & cream, and general cooking/snacking
- walnuts, pecans, shelled hazelnuts - for sweets and baking mostly, but good on/in a lot of stuff!
- my favorites - raisins, cranberries, golden raisins, medjool dates, apple, blueberries, and apricots
- coconut flakes - you can get these in a fine shred or large, sweetened or not. they're great for cooking or baking.
If you're looking for something more in-depth, definitely check out our printable meal planners for a really productive way to grocery shop!
So, did we miss any pantry basics that you love? Let us know in the comments!